The BBC announced the actor who will play the 13th Doctor on season 11 of Doctor Who today: Jodie Whittaker. After some fans had been complaining about the string of white males cast as The Doctor throughout the show’s 50+ year run, the BBC cast a woman as The 13th Doctor. Diversity is fine and everything, but I have the same reaction to the news of the 13th Doctor as I did to the 12th: Please let this one be better than Matt Smith.
After Christopher Eccleston was a fantastic and underrated Doctor, and David Tennant was the best Doctor ever, Matt Smith came in and failed spectacularly. Peter Capaldi was better than Smith, but not by much until this latest season when he really hit his stride as The Doctor. This was partly due to the actors themselves knowing (or not knowing) how to play that role, and partly due to the change in showrunner from Russell T Davies to Steven Moffat. While Moffat had written several great episodes of Doctor Who under Davies, once he became showrunner he just failed.
Moffat did not know how to write The Doctor, and he knew even less about how to write female characters. Amy was fairly stupid and annoying, and Moffat turned Clara from a smart individual to a stupid one, and Bill was the stupidest companion we’ve had (there is only one moment in her entire season where she showed any intelligence).
Going forward, with Whittaker as The Doctor, Chris Chibnall will be taking over as showrunner. Chibnall has written several good episodes of Torchwood, a fantastic episode of Doctor Who, and the worst episode of Doctor Who ever: “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”. Chibnall has the capacity for greatness, but also the capacity for stupidity. But here’s hoping his capacity for stupidity was only prompted by Moffat as showrunner.
My biggest worry with any new Doctor is that the character will not be written well, and the actor will not play the character well. An added worry about a female Doctor is the fact that it would be very easy for the writers to write the character as more nurturing and less commanding, because female, without even intending to (because of ingrained sexist ideas about women that manifest in their writing unconsciously). Under Moffat, I absolutely believe that that would happen – he just does not know how to write female characters. I am hoping under Chibnall that it doesn’t.
With any Doctor, The Doctor needs to be The Doctor. The Doctor is intelligent, articulate, confident, and commanding, but not malicious and not judgmental. The Doctor is so full of life and hope, even when full of sorrow and anger. The 13th Doctor, like any Doctor, needs to be able to walk into a room, gain everyone’s trust almost immediately, and command that room, all while not being too egotistical to take intelligent input from others.
Here’s hoping that Chris Chibnall can write The 13th Doctor correctly, and that Jodie Whittaker is more of a David Tennant than a Matt Smith.