“Doctor Who” is one of the longest running shows in television history. In fact, the show dates all the way back to 1963, which means the show is older than the Super Bowl.
Of course, when a show is that old, you can certainly count on the fact that it’s undergone several changes. “Hawaii Five-0” can’t hold on to all of the cast members from 2010, let alone the original cast members from the 60s.
Most shows, however, are reluctant to change actors in lead roles. When Michael J. Fox was forced to leave “Spin City” due to health concerns, the writers didn’t try to recast his role. They introduced a new protagonist in the form of Charlie Sheen, at which point the show went south (that’s a different concern though).
But when a show runs longer than fifty years, it’s necessary to recast the titular character. In fact, “Who” has recast their main character twelve times. Twelve different actors have played Doctor Who, and there’s about to be a 13th. When you look at the list of the twelve actors whom have played the Doctor, you’ll quickly notice a common thread: they’re all men.
This, of course, has been a source of controversy for the show. Ever since the show’s resurrection back in 2005, some fans have questioned the casting. Not because the actors that have been cast have been bad–Peter Capaldi has been a popular doctor–but because there hasn’t been enough diversity.
The upcoming season of “Doctor Who” will be the first to feature a woman in the title role, as the producers have cast Jodie Whittaker.
Who’s Jodie Whittaker?
Not to sound too much like an Abbott & Costello routine, but who is the new Doctor Who?
A lot of fans had never heard Whittaker before the news broke. In fact, even though I’m a self-proclaimed pop culture aficionado, I also had to look up her credentials.
Her breakout came in 2006, when she was cast next to legendary actor Peter O’Toole for his Oscar nominated work in “Venus.” I saw that film when it first came out, and although I remember being enchanted by the lead actress, I didn’t remember it was her.
Since 2006, she’s been attached to some impressive projects. She was in the 2011 cult hit “Attack the Block,” along with John Boyega. She is probably more known to British audiences, thanks to her role on the BBC hit show “Broadchurch.”
Even if you have never seen an episode of the show, you might be aware of the fact that “Doctor Who” fans can be, um, passionate. What they lack in numbers they make up for in obsession.
So unsurprisingly, “Who” fans are pretty vocal, at least on social media. They stayed true to form when Whittaker was announced as the new doctor.
And most of the reaction from fans was positive, noting that this was an overdue change for the show.
A myriad of celebrities weighed in. Here’s Gillian Anderson from “The X-Files:”
Kumail Nanjiani of “Silicon Valley” fame can always be counted on for a humorous take:
And as you might expect, actors who have previously taken on the role of the doctor were asked for their input. The last Doctor Who, the always great Peter Capaldi, said, “Anyone who has seen Jodie Whittaker’s work will know that she is a wonderful actress of great individuality and charm.”
But of course, fans of the show weren’t the only ones who had an opinion. On Twitter, everyone is magically an expert on everything. People with an egg for a profile picture and six followers get to express their opinion on basketball just as much as Kevin Durant does.
And unfortunately, the misogynistic trolls of Twitter pounced. It’s almost like they have nothing better to do.
They savaged the casting as pandering to the politically correct crowd.
Because trolls feast on attention, I’m not going to link to or highlight examples. Just do a search on Twitter for #doctorwho or #doctor13 and you’ll see what I mean.
Thankfully, because the internet is the internet, the backlash inspired a backlash. Here’s Mark Hoppus from the band Blink-182:
When it comes to “Doctor Who,” I’m personally indifferent. I don’t dislike the show, but I hardly keep up with every episode either. It would be a lie if I told you that I get worked up about the show’s casting.
Overall, I think this is the right move for “Who.” I’m not an expert on Whittaker’s filmography, if for no other reason than her filmography is rather scant.
However, I’m absolutely for more diversity in casting.
Doctor Who is a fictional character. I can’t believe I have to say that, given that the character is a time traveler, but it’s important to point out that fact in this context. Any fictional character can be cast in any way.
This reminds me of the Bond “controversy.” For years, Idris Elba has been the subject of many rumors suggesting he might be the next James Bond. This upsets a large swath of fans, insisting that the Bond created by Ian Fleming is white. It may be so that Fleming originally wrote Bond as a white male, but…
James Bond is *not* a real person. And his skin color is thoroughly unimportant in the context of the Bond storyline. And I’m always going to be in favor of casting Idris Elba. If Elba was the new Who, I might be more inclined to watch every episode next season.
It’s time that producers and studios are more inclusionary when they cast their movies and shows. In fact, it’s beyond time. And given that Doctor Who is a time traveler, it makes sense that they are helping to break the mold.