Monday, July 17, 2017

The New Doctor Who Hullabaloo

The regeneration cycle of Who fandom has begun. New Doctors usually lead to something akin to the five stages of grief:

1. Denial: "I can't believe they replaced [Beloved Former Doctor] with [New Doctor]. [Beloved Former Doctor] will always be the one, true Doctor Who to me!

2. Anger: "[New Doctor] is going to ruin the show! The show is dead to me! I'm going to stop watching right after [Beloved Former Doctor's] last episode!"

3. Bargaining: "I wonder if they'll bring [Fan's Doctor of Choice] after [New Doctor] flames out after a season or two. That would be okay."

4. Depression: "Man, [New Doctor] is going to suck. [Beloved Former Doctor] and his predecessors were so much better."

5. Acceptance: "I can't wait to see the new Christmas special!"

The regeneration cycle is a little bumpier than usual this time around because the Beeb has taken the leap and made British Actress Jodie Whittaker the 13th Doctor. I guess technically she's the second woman to take on the role since Joanna Lumley played the Doctor in a spoof called "The Curse of the Fatal Death" in 1999, but she is the first woman to take on the role full time and the internet is reacting predictably.

Some people are reacting positively, other people are just well, reacting and then there's the comment section of The Daily Mail, which if you know anything about the British press is the closest thing to that pink sewer from Ghostbusters 2 that the real world has.

I haven't seen Ms. Whittaker in Broadchurch, but she was in Attack The Block which is a sci-fi cult classic that I apparently need to track down and watch- so she's got some genuine genre street cred to back her up. (Plus David Tennant, Doctor #10 was in Broadchurch, so I'm going to take that as a sign of a good thing.) In terms of an acting resume, I think she fits the bill and ultimately, with any casting decisions about the Doctor that's what I'm interested in. I'm interested in the best actor/actress to do the most interesting thing possible with the character. Sometimes, that's a relative unknown (Matt Smith) and sometimes it's not (Peter Capaldi, Christopher Eccleston) but with every new Doctor you want a new and ultimately interesting interpretation of the character.

By that standard, Ms. Whittaker more than fits the bill. (In the past, I've been keeping my fingers crossed for choices like Tilda Swinton, Idris Elba, Richard Ayaode, Jason Statham- genuinely outside the box choices to take on the character and take it to new places.)

The obvious, tiresome internet objection is that, "SHE'S A LADY DOCTOR!" There's fifty years of Doctor Who out there to work with and, as far as I know, there's nothing in the rule book to suggest that the Doctor has to be a man. And to be honest, as soon as the character of Missy showed up, you had to know that this was a possibility. If the Master can be a woman, so can the Doctor. Hell, in one of the Capaldi episodes ("Hell Bent" I think) a Time Lord General regenerates into a woman. The possibility hasn't been explicitly ruled out (as far as I know) and as a show, Doctor Who has always been flexible enough to avoid locking itself into canon. (Witness Matt Smith getting a whole new set of regenerations in "The Time of The Doctor"- not to mention the whole idea of regeneration itself.)

If you've been on the air in various formats and medium for five decades, you can't just keep going to the overly full well of white male actors to take on the role. Each regeneration is more or less a reinvention for the show in many ways, so why not expand your options a little bit? I have no idea if Ms. Whittaker is the right choice, but as with so many Internet Outrage Controversies, I think the most important thing is to actually watch the show before you decide it's going to be absolutely awful.

In general, I'm not a fan of diversity for diversities sake and I think consumers can sense when companies/creators/shows, etc are trying to 'tick a diversity' box for the sake of ticking a box. If it fits the established character, if the writing is good* and if the creators are genuinely trying to do something to take the character/show/franchise in a new direction, then I'm all for it. But what I have absolutely no time for is people absolutely destroying something they don't actually bother consume. If you haven't seen the show, if you haven't seen the movie, if you haven't read the book or the article or watched the YouTube video, then do hush. Watch the thing before passing judgment on it!

I'm excited for this! Can't wait for the Christmas Special!

*Perfect example of this is Thor. When Marvel made Jane Foster Thor there was a sizable chunk of the internet that lots it's damn mind, but here's the thing: the power of Thor is derived from his (or her) hammer and there's nothing on the hammer that precludes a woman being worthy to pick it up. So I was fine with it- and from what I can tell, the adventures of Jane Foster as Thor are probably some of the best things Marvel is doing right now. If it's good writing, fits the character and takes the 'thing' (whatever it is) to new and interesting places, then I'm all for it. And people should unbend their brains enough to check something out before passing judgement on it.

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