The long running BBC science fiction television series Doctor Who has had a major transition. The latest regeneration of time and space traveling “Doctor” has him coming back as a “female humanoid”.

Actress Jodie Whittaker has taken the role of the 13th official Doctor since the first, William Hartnell, in 1963. Jodie Whittaker replaces the excellent Peter Capaldi. Of her official male forerunners, John Hurt, only appeared as the Doctor in one adventure, while Peter Cushing also played an “unofficial” Doctor on film during the 1960s.

Long term fans have reacted in two ways.

Some traditionalists are unhappy that this normally male character has been changed. Others are suspicious that the BBC’s “diversity agenda” is making an attempt at indoctrinating feminist ideas to the audience, perhaps to make good the BBC’s own poor record in the treatment and pay of its own female presenters.

However, other diehard fans point out that there have been female timelords in the series before and that the Doctor can change in the same vein. They hope that the Doctor’s new gender will give the an exciting new facet to the character.

Jodie Whitaker herself has tried to calm fears over the character’s gender change during the controversy. The true test for most fans, of course, will be when Whittaker’s Doctor comes up against the Daleks in a blocked corridor and how she handles the situation.

Despite the Timelord’s gender change (is she now a timelady?), some worry that sexism and ageism is still present on the show – an allegation made ever since the Doctor was given young attractive female assistants to travel with him in his Tardis. These critics openly question why was not an older, less attractive, female actress that was chosen for the Doctor Who title role?

They might have a point.

New Doctor: Jodie Whittaker has been anxious to calm fans over the character’s change of sex. Courtesy: BBC

 

Comment by David Todd: This move is fair enough – and Ms Whittaker should be given a chance – just so long as it was not ordered by the hypocritically self-righteous BBC high command, and came instead from the writers themselves.

However, even they are not immune from sometimes veering into “preachy political correctness” as they portray situations and events as how they would like them to be, rather than how they actually are/were in an attempt at social engineering.

For example, there was a debate recently amongst the Doctor Who writers after one of them, Mark Gatiss, found himself, despite being pro-diversity, uncomfortable with the inclusion of a black (Afro-Caribbean) actor playing Victorian-era British Army soldier in one episode. Gatiss objected on the grounds that this was not historically possible, even in a work of science fiction. Gatiss was later relieved to find out that he had been wrong – albeit only just. There really had been a black soldier in the Victorian British Army (just one, by the way) who had joined as a bandsman.

You have to have a little sympathy for film and television makers here as they are often criticised for not doing enough to increase the ethnic content of a production.

Nevertheless, its more often that not in historical productions that a “rewriting of social history” occurs to reflect modern social mores.  Sometimes such a rewriting is done to hide views and methods from past history that are uncomfortable for modern day writers and viewers alike. For example, film and television writers often cover up the fact that past generations of Western nations (not just in Nazi Germany) often had misguided views espousing “racial superiority”.

Less seriously, sometimes such historical rewriting occurs to make a television series or film more accessible. For example, very posh (RP – received pronunciation) accents have been unrealistically usurped from period dramas like Downton Abbey, no doubt to make the characters more sympathetic to modern ears. While the Lords and Ladies portrayed still sound “upmarket”, none of them says they are “going orf (off) to their country hice (house)” anymore. It is a way of speaking that perhaps only Her Majesty Queen makes use of nowadays, and language analysts report that even she has toned it down.

Post Script: While not quite RP, when it came to good speaking, actor and the fourth Doctor (Who), Tom Baker, was so good, that Seradata forerunner, Airclaims, hired him for the voice over of their corporate videos.