Confession time: I used to religiously watch Doctor Who. I was a Whovian. A hardcore one. One that would go to the mat for “my” Doctor (Christopher Eccleston). I even used to recap the show for work. But over the course of the last 12 years since the BBC reignited the series, something happened. Maybe it was the way minorities (especially minority companions) were treated as disposable. Maybe it was the way the Doctor’s female companions after Doctor Donna treated him with the kind of reverence that felt a little too much like old man wish fulfillment. Maybe it was the exhausting history of casual sexism and garbage endings for most companions that permeated the series. Probably it was a combination of all of the above. But whatever the reason, I fell off the Doctor Who bandwagon in 2015 and never looked back.
Then the BBC announced Jodie Whittaker will by the 13th Doctor (or 14th or 14.5th, depending on your Whovian math) and suddenly I care again. It doesn’t hurt that Moffat is stepping down as showrunner either. For all the good he did for the show, his treatment of non-white dude characters was a mixed bag at best. But I didn’t want to get my hopes up. There was still a chance the BBC could muck it all up. But now, the Radio Times has revealed in an interview with David Bradley that Doctor Who is leaning in on feminism this season. And who is David Bradley? The actor cast to play the first incarnation of the Doctor (originally played by the late William Hartnell) in the upcoming Christmas special. From the interview:
“[The First Doctor] goes into the Twelfth Doctor’s Tardis and says ‘it’s a bit dusty around here, it’s in an awful state isn’t it? Where’s Polly? Shouldn’t she give it a spring clean?’ And then Peter’s saying ‘you can’t say that.’He’s just talking [as if] the [companions] are there just to help out, and do the dusting and do all the domestic chores.”
Bradley goes on to reveal the “casual chauvinism” of the 1960s won’t sit well with Capaldi’s Doctor, leading to a clash of values. The actor doesn’t come out and say the First Doctor’s behavior and attitudes towards women directly effect Capaldi’s regeneration, but that kind of thumbing his nose at his past selves (combined with several years of interacting with Missy) surely holds some sway over the Doctor as he transforms into a she.
So if you were concerned Doctor Who would sweep the realities a female Doctor will face under the rug in favor of lighter storytelling, there’s now hope the new showrunner Chris Chibnall will lean in and really challenge the views of certain segments of the Whovian fanbase. If the Christmas episode is any indication, the message Doctor Who will be sending longtime fans in 2017 is “Evolve or die.”