I’ve been a Doctor Who fan for as long as I can remember. The origins of this site lay in a Doctor Who fan site. Writing about Doctor Who, reviewing novels, toys and DVDs was how I got into writing online.
And all my experience of Doctor Who fandom meant I knew the day the show’s producers finally cast a female lead would bring out a small but vocal segment which would find the news hard to process.
The anger on social media and in certain forums proves that, unfortunately, I wasn’t being overly pessimistic.
To see – in 2017 – adults describe themselves as “seething” because of a casting decision in a show about an alien with two hearts who can travel though space and time in a police box which is dimensionally transcendental is truly something to behold. And absolutely not in a good way.
That Whittaker had to use a BBC statement to urge fans “not to be scared by my gender” is just messed up.
I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender. Because this is a really exciting time, and Doctor Who represents everything that’s exciting about change. The fans have lived through so many changes, and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one.
I am surprised the BBC cast a female lead because they will have known exactly how loud and vicious a furore would be heading their way and, more specifically, at their new lead.
And I don’t resile from the comments I made when the row about the Ghostbusters casting broke out – I think broadcasters and studios have an obligation to their audiences to put the effort into creating new, successful franchises with diverse casts and i think gender swaps are an easy out for those who don’t want to put that time and effort in.
The BBC itself has two female and LGBT led Sci-Fi shows in Torchwood and Class but seems utterly disinterested in commissioning more. It also doesn’t seem aware of how poor it is that three successive white male lead characters in Death in Paradise get to be cleverer than their female and BME colleagues.
Casting a female Doctor does not allow the BBC to declare itself a producer of progressive or equal drama. It has a long, long way to go to put its house in order.
But the fact that adults are getting angry today because of this piece of casting means it simply had to happen.
Because as much as I still believe investment should be made in more diverse shows, equality should not be – indeed, by definition cannot be – something which exists in a silo which certain parts of the audience can choose to opt out of.
The segment of Doctor Who fandom which is so sexist that it can be “absolutely seething” with rage is a segment of the TV audience whose prejudices need to be tackled head on. Fearlessly and bravely.
A bit like the Doctor when he takes on the Daleks.
If you really believe the show is broken or “over” because Jodie Whittaker got cast instead of Kris Marshall then it was the need to tackle your worldview that caused it to happen in the first place.
Seethe in rage. Stamp your feet. The casting won’t be undone. It shouldn’t be undone.
In fact it should be repeated until the gender of the lead is no longer an issue that you can think it’s OK to be “angry” about.