GeekPlanetOnline's resident Doctor Who Correspondent Martin Thompson takes a deeper look at the adventures of a mad man in a box, along with his friends, foes and fandom. With over fifty years of rubber monsters, changing faces, dented police boxes, exterminations and pointed goatees to look at, he has more than a few things to say on the subject...
Earlier this week, my parents asked me if I was going to a Doctor Who convention. I said I was unaware that there was one on but they had definitely heard something about Doctor Who this weekend. Evidently, it turned out to be one of the most important weekends in Doctor Who history.
The speculation over the identity of the next Doctor is one my least favourite parts of the fandom as there will always be plenty of moaning about the choice and not just because they don’t think they will be a good fit for the role but because they are/are not a certain colour or gender. So I’m glad then that a mere couple of weeks after The Doctor Falls aired, the identity of the actor playing Thirteenth Doctor has been announced as Jodie Whittaker who will also be the first woman to take on the role in the television series, finally proving Tom Baker right after 37 years.
The announcements have gotten bigger over the years and I’m pleased that we didn’t get the live studio hoopla of 2013 when Peter Capaldi was cast. It just didn’t seem, to me anyway, to suit the show. This time the casting was announced in much the same way as the casting of Bill Potts was last year with a short scene in the middle of a sporting event. Before that though, on Friday 14th July a short trailer showed the number 13 appearing in various places with a key taking the centre spot in the middle of a stone before disappearing. Unfortunately, no hand was out reaching out for it therefore denying the fans the chance to run comparisons with the digits of every actor on the planet. At the end we were told that the casting would be announced on television after the Wimbledon Men’s Finals but unfortunately no specifics were given. Apparently this was directly after the final however I thought this was after the whole programme and dutifully switched over just before the news. For a moment I thought this would be more in line with the old days when the announcement simply be another item on the news.
The scene in question sees a hooded figure (possibly wearing Peter Capaldi’s clothes) heading through a wooded glade to the TARDIS. A key appears and the hood goes down the reveal Jodie Whittaker (at first I thought it was Jemma Redgrave. Now there would be a twist) Although this is simply a video made for the announcement, I had little dark fairytale vibe from it much like Steven Moffat’s first year, so I wonder if this is a feel of what the 11th series will be like but it’s of course much too early to speculate. According to Chris Chibnall, he was always going to cast a female Thirteenth Doctor and Whittaker was invited to audition for the part. Apparently the code word ‘Clooney’ was devised for keeping the secret. To be honest I barely remember her name being mentioned in connection with the role, certainly the rumours placed Kris Marshall and Phoebe Waller-Bridge at the top, but over the weekend her odds improved and she was in the papers the day before the announcement as the possible heir to the TARDIS.
So who is Jodie Whittaker? Well, she was born in Skelmanthorpe, West Yorkshire on 03rd June 1982; a mere nine weeks after part four of Time-Flight concluded the 19th series of Doctor Who. She may have been born a few months before Matt Smith but at 35 she will be nearer David Tennant’s age of 34 when he first took on the role. Whittaker graduated the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2005 (that year sounds familiar) with a gold medal for acting. Her most high profile role to date has probably been that of grieving mother Beth Latimer in three series of Chris Chibnall’s own mystery drama Broadchurch between 2013 and 2017) which starred many Who alumni. To genre fans, she also starred in 2011 chavs v aliens film Attack the Block and TV shows such as haunted house drama Marchlands and an episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror anthology (both 2011) entitled The Entire History of You. Lighter fare has also included the 2007 St Trinians reboot and its sequel as ditzy secretary Beverly and over the last day I have been pointed in the direction of 2016 short film Adult Life Skills which sees her play Anna, a woman who lives in her mum’s shed making videos starring her thumbs as actors. She was also Izzy Huett in a 2008 adaptation of Tess of the D’Urbervilles and appeared in a 2006 episode of medical soap Doctors.
There will obviously be some who will not like the change of actor, but then there always is. The title of this column is taken from the comment of a Daily Mail reader, which has been doing the rounds on Twitter for the past few days; the hashtag #NurseWho has also unfortunately cropped up and I fear it will not be the last of such poor taste. There is no doubt that the viewers gained will be many more than those lost (or who say they will not tune in anyway) with most brought in by the new broom sweeping in a new Doctor, companion and showrunner. No word yet though on who that companion will be or even if they will be male or female. I would simply like to appeal for tolerance at this time on both sides of the argument.
For myself, I am in no doubt that she’s a good actress but I wonder if she’ll be able to carry off the otherworldliness that the role requires. She wouldn’t be my first choice but it is of course too early to tell and I look forward to seeing how her Doctor takes shape and how she will approach the role although I note that she’s dyed her hair blonde. Having worked with her for three series on Broadchurch Chris Chibnall obviously has no doubts she’s the right person to play the Doctor and he’s about to take the 54 year old show into fresher territory than ever before.