At its very core, Doctor Who is a show that thrives on change. The moment Sydney Newman decided that William Hartnell was in no shape to play the First Doctor any further and had him regenerate to Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor, Doctor Who is now a show that can adapt to the ever-changing landscape. It can be what the zeitgeist demands it to be.
At the same time, things changing is a scary prospect. And sometimes, these far-sweeping changes have to be earned. We have to remember that change for the sake of change would be an exercise in futility.
The latest episode of Doctor Who, The Woman Who Fell to Earth, is probably the most important episode of the show since The Power of the Daleks. That episode was the first episode featuring a completely new Doctor at the helm – something unheard of in 1966. And now, the show is gearing for another big change with the introduction of Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor – the first woman to take on the iconic role. Resident Doctor Who enthusiast Ade Magnaye shares a few thoughts on Whittaker’s first foray into the series.
Doctor Who: Enter The Thirteenth Doctor
As exciting the prospect of seeing a woman take on the Doctor, there will be portions of the fanbase that will be resistant to this particular type of change. We’ve seen a lot of, well, terrible comments made about Whittaker the moment she was announced. We’ve seen toxic backlash any time a new Doctor is announced, and of course, it’ll be amplified with an adjustment of this magnitude to the show’s mythos.
Let’s get this out of the way: Jodie Whittaker is brilliant as the Doctor. It usually takes me a few episodes before I can warm up to a new Doctor, as it takes the writers and the actor a while to smooth things over so they can settle on a delivery, personality, and direction. Jodie Whittaker won me over almost immediately, carrying a bit of goofiness that echoes Matt Smith and David Tennant, with a depth of compassion about her unseen since Classic Who. She also brings with her a bit of vulnerability. She’s quick to admit when she’s scared and panicky, but this vulnerability only adds to her charm – she always has an ace up her sleeve, which only makes her triumphant moments feel like they were really earned.
BBC One Controller Charlotte Moore said about Whittaker: “Gone is the daffiness and idiosyncrasy of her predecessors in favour of a Doctor with energy, spark and relatability.”
Moore is both right and wrong here. Whittaker’s Doctor isn’t without daftness and idiosyncrasy; she literally sticks a finger up her nose to self-diagnose her post-regeneration status. The new Doctor still has monologues that get her carried away while people around her stare in disbelief, trying to make sense of the sci-fi gobbledygook she’s spouting in rapid-fire. She still has a tendency to talk about the weirdest, most improbable things – like just how a few minutes ago she was a white-haired Scotsman – like it was just a normal everyday occurrence. Just normal Doctor stuff.
The Woman Who Fell To Earth
Jodie Whittaker brings a new sense of relatability to her Doctor. As mentioned earlier, she’s not afraid to be vulnerable. She trusts her new companions almost instantly, letting them decide how and what to do to accomplish certain tasks. She also takes the compassion of Series 10 Peter Capaldi and brings it up a notch. Whereas her predecessors are content to disparage humans for any little-perceived mistake they make, the Thirteenth Doctor is full of empathy. The small act of covering a corpse, to give the person a bit of dignity in death, is a small thing, but important enough for her that she thanks the person who volunteers to do that. She scolds people who use underhanded tactics to gain an advantage.
The Thirteenth Doctor also brings with her a resourcefulness never fully explored with her predecessors. She is not afraid to get her hands dirty, digging into various bits of machinery, using small and everyday items to build, say, a sonic screwdriver. We know the Doctor is a tinkerer and inventor. But we’ve never seen the act of inventing in this amount of detail before. Here we see Whittaker relishing carrying around these various pieces of junk to create something wonderful. It’s refreshing, and I hope this becomes one of the defining features of this Doctor moving forward.
The New Doctor Is In
In any episode that introduces a new Doctor, we get to a moment where the personality finally snaps into place. The swordfight with the Sycorax cemented David Tennant’s introduction. Matt Smith revealed himself after stepping out of a montage of the ten Doctors before him, demanding the Atraxi run away as far as they can by virtue of his reputation. And with Peter Capaldi, it was the realization that he’s just an idiot in a box trying to help people, after a season of callousness towards everyone.
Jodie Whittaker’s “I am the Doctor” moment was magnificent. Post-regeneration amnesia hampered the declaration, and as such the moment was delayed and teased to death the entire episode. And when her brain finally snaps into place, she triumphantly declares her Doctor’s mission. She wants to sort fair play throughout the galaxy. She owned it. It was brilliant.
Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor declared that “We’re all capable of the most incredible change. We can evolve, whilst still staying true to who we are. We can honour who we’ve been, and choose who we want to be next.” And she absolutely embodies that statement. Things have changed. A lot. But she is still the Doctor, and the more things change, the more they stay the same.
I cannot wait to accompany you on your journey, Thirteen. This is gonna be fun.