The news that the BBC had decided to cast actress Jodie Whittaker to play the first female Doctor Who has people in Britain and beyond apparently as divided on the matter as the Brexit vote to leave the European Union.
Hundreds of thousands joined in the debate on social media and in fan forums over the casting of Whittaker as the 13th Doctor, the first woman to play that role in the show’s six-decade run.
While some talked about the great role model that the new female replacement for actor Peter Capaldi will be for girls and women, others were firmly in the camp that the Doctor was only ever meant to be male, the BBC reported. Doctor Who has previously been embodied by actors Tom Baker, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith.
Prime Minister Theresa May is among the thousands pleased with the decision, Downing Street said.
Parents of daughters were especially delighted, including multimedia journalist David Owens, who wrote: “My 8-year-old daughter pumped her fist and shouted “yes!” when the new @bbcdoctorwho was revealed. Think that tells you all you need to know.”
My 8-year-old daughter pumped her fist and shouted “yes!” when the new @bbcdoctorwho was revealed.Think that tells you all you need to know.
— David Owens (@asoundreaction) July 16, 2017
Others talked about how much they or their daughters loved the all-female reboot of “Ghostbusters,” another casting decision that led to outcry among fans of a beloved franchise. And still more fans said it’s about time that a popular work of science fiction will feature a woman in a prominent role.
“The lack of women, and lead women, in sci fi is embarrassing. Doctor Who just made a step in the right direction,” wrote one.
Among those not so happy were two women who said the show was giving into political correctness.
“I like Jodi,” wrote Nicki Murphy on Facebook, referring to Whitaker, best known for playing the mother of a murdered boy in the detective drama “Broadchurch.” “I think she is a terrific actor but I’m sorry, this is an exercise in pleasing the PC brigade. How about writing some new, quality roles for females… this is an attempt to meet some quota!!!”
Some long-time fans even said they would stop watching if the show bucks what they believe is its own tradition:
“The doctor is a time LORD. Not a time LADY,” wrote one.
But one very notable person who thinks that people’s complaints about a female doctor are all nonsense is actor Colin Baker who played the sixth incarnation of the doctor from 1984 to 1986.
In a commentary for the Guardian, Baker said he’s often been asked about the prospect of a woman playing the doctor:
“I have never been able to think of any logical reason why an alien being capable of regenerating in extremis would necessarily retain all or indeed any of the characteristics of his (or her) pre-renewal self,” wrote Baker, who says he’s also the father of four daughters.
He pointed out that the forms and personalities taken on by the different incarnations of the Doctor have included “young and old. … grumpy, feckless, patrician, barmy, innocent, brash and potty.” But he points out, no Doctors has ever female, which he has always found “problematical.”
“That’s because the world we live in has a history of male domination, of stereotyping, of resistance to change, of playing it safe,” he continued.
“Doctor Who has never been about that,” he said. “The Doctor in all his incarnations has always been a passionate defender of justice, equality, fairness and resisted those who seek to dominate or destroy.”
Baker expects that the show may lose some fans but will gain many more “when it’s not just little boys in the playground (or bigger boys in the acting profession) saying: ‘I want to be the Doctor one day.’”
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