When Peter Capaldi announced his departure from Doctor Who, any attempt to celebrate the 12th actor to inhabit the role were promptly dashed by fans and bookies’ offering their best guesses about who would replace him. Considering the show’s nearly 55-year history, and that Broadchurch creator Chris Chibnall is set to take over as showrunner, the resulting hot takes, discussion forums and social media posts weren’t all that surprising. Maybe the new creative blood would help Doctor Who finally address one of the fans’ most vocal (and frequent) complaints. “Maybe the 13th Doctor won’t be played by another white male,” they said. “Maybe — just maybe — it’s next hero / role model will be a woman, a person of color, or both.”
As Capaldi’s debilitated Doctor put it in “The Doctor Falls,” when the Master (John Simm) asked him whether the future will be all female: “We can only hope.” Sure enough, news of Broadchurch alum Jodie Whittaker’s casting as the 13th Doctor sent most fans of the long-running science fiction television series into a tailspin of delight. There were plenty of YouTube comments to suggest some weren’t too happy with Chibnall’s decision, of course, but their misdirected ire ignores the fact that the titular Time Lord’s next regeneration is a huge step in the right direction, not just for contemporary viewers clamoring for change, but for the next crop of Whovians to come.
The Sixth Doctor himself, Colin Baker presented this point clearly with a succinct reaction on Twitter. “Well I never,” he began, “the BBC really did do the right thing and let the Doctor be in touch with her feminine side. As a father of daughters – result!” At the core of the 74-year-old English actor’s tweet isn’t high praise for Whittaker’s acting abilities, or Chibnall’s promise as the incoming showrunner, but acknowledgement of what recasting an historically male character female could mean to his daughters. More than his being a literal part of the Doctor Who canon, Baker believes the best part of Whittaker becoming the next Doctor is what it could — and will — mean to current and future female fans.