Saturday, October 6, 2018

Thoughts on Why I Oppose The Thirteenth Doctor

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In approximately 24 hours, Jodie Whittaker will make Her official debut as the Thirteenth Doctor on Doctor Who, becoming the first Woman to play the part.

It might surprise people that I do not oppose a Female Doctor per se.

I oppose the reasons we've been given, and therein lies the issue.

If we had a Female Doctor for genuine story purposes then I do not see an issue. However, let's be honest with each other: 'plot' was not the given reason we had this change.

The reason we got this change was simple: a group of fans of the revived series (herein referred to as 'NuWho'), along with a very activist press, decided that having a male play this role for over 50 years on television, film and audio was a sign of overt sexism. As such, they declared that "it is time" to have a Female Doctor for the sake of equality.

Little girls needed a Female Doctor so they could see Females on television. They, in the minds of these fans and activists, could never enjoy the show with males in the title role, despite having done so for well over half a century (ten years if you count NuWho only).

This change was not done because the series needed to have a Female lead. It was done as a response to those Social Justice Warriors who believe that there was something intrinsically wrong with men playing this particular role.

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I genuinely do not know when having a male play a part that was written as male became such a crisis that it required a revamping to where Women needed to take that part. It seems curious to me that females have been dressing as the many incarnations of The Doctor with little to no issue until now. If these same cosplayers now say that they needed a Female Doctor so they could dress up as Her at a convention, I would say that their priorities seem a little askew.

Oh, I've heard all the comments: that somehow I'm afraid of women, that I'm opposed to equality, that I cannot accept a Female being in charge, that Doctor Who has long-established gender swaps, that no one objected when said gender-swaps were done before.

Sorry, but those arguments fall dead thanks to the production team itself.

When Whittaker was announced, she declared that she was excited to take on the role "as a feminist, as a woman, as an actor, as a human...". Note that her first thought was 'as a feminist'. Why begin with such a statement, unless the actor in question sees her casting as a political statement?

Whittaker, in the beginning, did offer an olive branch to those who saw her casting as a politically-motivated decision or at least one to keep with the British Broadcasting Corporation's 'Gender Equity Policy'. "I want to tell fans not to be scared by my gender".

I could argue that 'scared' is a curious word to use, just as 'feminist' is a curious word to use if your casting had no ulterior motives, but at least she acknowledged that her casting would not be universally praised.

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Sadly, since her initial statements Whittaker now has taken a more antagonistic tone, slightly pompous and as dismissive as when woke male feminist Chris Hardwick from The Nerdist ridiculed those who opposed the gender swaps as essentially pathetic losers "who've never screwed anything".

As a side note, Hardwick is the type to say "Believe All Women" when it comes to accusations of sexual assault/harassment, until he becomes the one accused, then his fans who nod like bobbleheads at every pronouncement he makes can call that particular woman everything from a 'bitter ex' to a total 'psycho bitch'.  Go figure.

Whittaker for example has said that "it's a mistake to think that the only heroes are white men", so therefore we needed her to be cast in the role of The Doctor so 'little girls and boys could see that heroes can be male and female'. 

I'm not that much older than Whittaker, but I grew up watching or went on later to watch such shows as The Bionic Woman, Wonder Woman, Xena: Warrior Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias, Dark Angel, La Femme Nikita, The X-Files, The Sarah Jane Adventures and Star Trek: Voyager.

Each, from what I remember, had female leads, all of them strong and more than able to stand on her own. One can make the argument that Agent Scully from The X-Files was a costar and not the actual lead, but she was just as important a part of the series as Agent Fox Mulder.

I also know that the same fans whom Hardwick ridicules as ignorant for not agreeing with him also think highly of such females as Sarah Connor from the Terminator franchise, Ripley from the Alien series, The Bride from Kill Bill, Katniss from The Hunger Games and both Black Widow and Agent Carter from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Add to that Supergirl, Lara Croft, Jyn Erso and Rey from the recent Star Wars films and despite what Whittaker genuinely believes, the world was not starved for positive female action/science-fiction leads.

Again and again I point out that these same 'sexist' fans who are lectured to about how they cannot accept a female lead on Doctor Who due to misogyny or sexism consistently rank the Doctor's former Companion of Romana as among the Best of All Time.

If Doctor Who was really interested in having a positive female lead/role model, the solution was simplicity itself: bring back the character of Romana for a guest appearance/story arc on Doctor Who, then spin her off for her own adventures. You would have the best of both worlds: a female-led show that kept to Canon AND had a show with a ready-made fan base.

A theoretical Romana: The New Adventures would have had many male fans watching with it having nothing to do with 'eye-candy'. It instead would be due to the respect and admiration many Classic Who fans have for the character, one based on her intelligence, elegance and heart.

However, Romana was never going to be brought back for the main reason that incoming Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall wanted a Female Doctor from the word 'go'.

It is highly amusing to see all those who tell me 'the best actor was cast and it just happened to be a woman' now scramble to make sense of this line of thought when Chibnall has openly said he always wanted a Female Doctor and that it was a condition of him taking the showrunner position. Essentially, the fix was always in, giving more credence to the idea that the casting of a Female Doctor was motivated by purely sociopolitical reasons.

As a side note, there could never be a Romana: The New Adventures for the sole reason that NuWhovians, the main target audience of the show now, have never heard of the character. As such, they would have no point of reference.

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Then there's the whole 'gender-swapping regenerations are long-established on Doctor Who'. "Long-established" is a curious term, given that the concept was first introduced in 2011 with The Doctor's Wife. Since then, we've seen two gender-swapping Time Lords: The Master into The Mistress or 'Missy' and The General from an old white man to a not-so-old black woman.

As a side note, it's curious that when The General in Hell Bent regenerated into a woman, she made surprisingly misandry remarks, talking about how 'unnatural' it was when she was a man and complaining about coping with so much ego. 

It is curious that all these gender-swapping regenerations have been, as of this writing, in one direction: male-to-female. We have yet to have a female Time Lord regenerate into a man. Until such a time as we see that, I won't accept that this 'long-established' routine was not the opening steps to have this ultimate move to a Female Doctor.

I have not seen every Doctor Who story, but in the Classic series, I cannot recall a time when gender-swapping was common or even possible, let alone mentioned as de rigueur among Time Lords. In fact, the opposite was believed. A general theory about Time Lord regenerations held that Female Time Lords were better able to control or even manipulate their regenerations because they were exclusively Female.

Romana's transformations in Destiny of the Daleks, along with a comment by the Female Time Lord villain The Rani about how she 'at least could choose her appearance' in Time & The Rani if memory serves correct lent credence to that theory.

Then again, that was Classic Doctor Who, which for many NuWho fans, is irrelevant to the show they watch and sob over. 

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Circling back to the main point of this essay, everything about the casting of Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor points to this being motivated by the desire to curry favor with SJWs and to promote an agenda versus actually serving the series.

There's the trailer where The Doctor literally breaks a glass ceiling. There's her first line of dialogue upon seeing Herself for the first time, "Ah, Brilliant", which I misheard as "Oh, Berlin".

That last one is a puzzle: after being a male for thousands of years and eleven regenerations, The Doctor's first reaction to seeing himself as a Woman for the first time ever is "Ah, Brilliant". It isn't genuine shock? It isn't surprise? Instead, it's to remark how 'brilliant' it is?

Again, I'm not buying that.

I've had my say. I am not opposed to a Female Doctor, and I will give Jodie Whittaker and the new production team a chance. This is important given that Chris Chibnall now gets his chance to recreate the show in his image.

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I figure few NuWho fans know that when Doctor Who was first on the air, none other than Chris Chibnall appeared on the show Open Air in 1986, where and when at age sixteen years old he questioned then-Doctor Who showrunner John Nathan-Turner and writers Pip & Jane Baker on the abysmal nature of that season/series.

I can imagine Chibnall at that age saying to himself, 'I can do much better than they can'. Now, thirty-plus years later, he has his chance. He can remake Doctor Who in his own image, and I think he is damn well going to try.

He has declared there will be no returning monsters/characters from the series, Classic or NuWho. He has a reworked musical theme. He also gets the historic note of having the First Female Doctor, something never done before and which Chibnall insisted be a condition of him accepting the showrunner position.

He essentially is doing a second soft reboot to the series (the first soft reboot a mere two series/seasons ago with the intentionally-named The Pilot). The show has been struggling creatively and ratings-wise. The YA spin-off Class flopped big-time. Despite the much-vaunted Memorandum of Understanding with the Chinese Shanghai Media Group Pictures company, Doctor Who is not guaranteed to be produced for five more seasons/series.

It is barely hanging on, with diminished interest among the general public. The decision to cast a Female Doctor has divided the fanbase, some swearing off the show forever and Chibnall, Whittaker and various media outlets showing contempt for these fans.

Chibnall, Whittaker, these media outlets and those who cheer them on insist that those who left either in disgust or boredom with the show will be replaced with those who think it is all wonderful. Some of the more optimistic insist that ratings will increase.

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I do not believe any bump that Series/Season 12 gets from the First Female Doctor will hold. I do not believe that those who celebrate The First Female Doctor will stay longer than three episodes at most. For them, it was never about the show itself. It was about making a statement, and now that that statement has been made, they will move on.

Once the novelty wears off, will Doctor Who Series/Season 12 get more viewers and hold the ones that stayed, let alone win over those who left? Chibnall, Whittaker and Hardwick don't want those who left to return. They've made that clear.

The question now is, 'will the ratings increase?' I believe initially they will, but I hold that the ratings for Episode 6 will be the measure of whether Doctor Who survives beyond an unlucky Series 13. By then, the show will be more than half done, the Female Doctor no longer a newsworthy event. If they remain flat or worse, go down, the show will not survive to let Whittaker regenerate into...a Black Doctor? An Indian Doctor? An Indian Woman Doctor?

If they manage to survive to a 14th Doctor, they cannot go back to a white male lest they be accused of re-instituting the bigotry Whittaker's Doctor was meant to abolish. They then open themselves to accusations that having a black male or a woman of color Doctor is a stunt, something that those who opposed a Female Doctor in the first place said it was.

I expect reviews for The Woman Who Fell to Earth, Whittaker's debut story, to be rhapsodic no matter how good or bad the episode is. Who knows: maybe I will end up liking it. Reviews for this episode will be irrelevant. Ratings will tell the real story, and even then, it is the ratings for Episode 6 which I believe will reveal the state of Doctor Who.

Ultimately, while I wish the show well, I cannot muster much enthusiasm for the way Chris Chibnall wants to live out his teenage fantasies about how he knows better when it comes to Doctor Who.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with virtually all that you've written. As a fan from the beginning in '63, I feel the programme has been hijacked for political reasons. I would have been quite interested in watching a spin-off, about a female Time-Lord--it's just that THIS Time Lord we're familiar with, and he happens to be a male. For the very same reason I wouldn't be happy to see Mary Poppins being played by anyone other than a female.


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