As you surely know by know, the BBC made history this month when it announced that it’d be filling a role previously occupied by 12 successive men with Jodie Whittaker, the first ever woman to take on the character of Doctor Who.
The response from fans has been mixed, with many, many viewers expressing genuine joy with the glass ceiling-shattering casting decision, and others lamenting the end of a 54-year-long male supremacy run with a slew of sexist remarks.
At a Comic-Con panel on Thursday, former “Doctor Who” star Peter Davison told the Associated Press how he feels about the decision, and it seems he, too, is somewhat ambivalent about the idea of a female replacement. While he described Whittaker as a “terrific actress” capable of doing a “wonderful job” with the role ― and encouraged decriers to approach the 13th Doctor’s first season “with an open mind” ― he let loose some doubts.
“If I feel any doubts, it’s the loss of a role model for boys, who I think Doctor Who is vitally important for,” the fifth Doctor said. “So I feel a bit sad about that, but I understand the argument that you need to open it up.”
Davison admitted that he is an “old fashioned dinosaur,” after making it clear that he “kind of like[s] the idea of the Doctor as a boy.”
Conveniently, the show’s sixth Doctor, Colin Baker, was present and willing to respond to Davison’s doubts.
“They’ve had 50 years of having a role model. So, sorry Peter, you’re talking rubbish there ― absolute rubbish,” he said. “You don’t have to be of a gender of someone to be a role model. Can’t you be a role model as people?”
Baker makes a great point. Not only are there five decades’ worth of existing male role models for boys to look up to ― and, in the age of the internet and streaming TV, those past Doctors aren’t going anywhere ― but young men shouldn’t be limited to thinking heroes of their own gender are the only ones worth idolizing. Young women, who haven’t always been able to see themselves in sci-fi stories due to an undeniable dearth of female protagonists, have managed to admire the Doctor’s feats for years now, despite the fact that he’s previously regenerated from one white man to the next.
Whittaker’s casting isn’t a “loss” for boys, it’s a gain for everyone. Because when networks like the BBC expand representation in TV and film, they’re not ushering fans out of a fictional space, they’re opening doors for new ones to step in.
Baker added that he hopes to see a black actor take on the “Doctor Who” lead next. “The white male dominance of the role has been nothing if not timid,” he said. Now that the BBC has “broken the bravery barrier” he’s more than optimistic.
“Watch the next regeneration,” he added.