What We Need From Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor
Since the announcement that Jodie Whittaker would play the Thirteenth Doctor in the upcoming Series 11 of Doctor Who, the internet has been divided over over the choice. Many screeched that The Doctor had to be a man and blindly ignored the fact that Gallifreyans can regenerate into either a man or woman.
Now that the storm has quietened down somewhat, the Doctor Who fandom is once again brimming with eagerness and anticipation not seen since the 2005 reboot. But with each Doctor comes new challenges and we think we’ve pinned down a few that Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor could face.
A Feminist Episode
This one will be a bit trickier to explain so bear with me.
Doctor Who tends to stick to Earth. It’s the Doctor’s second home, an easy filming location, and has plenty of history to plunder through. Sadly, most of that history is quite male-dominated and the new Doctor might not be as welcomed in days gone by as some of her predecessors were. Which is exactly why we need to go back.
The Doctor has always been a strong advocate of a fair and just universe. Even facing the backward ideals of 1926, the Tenth Doctor introduces Donna Noble as his police assistant. Well, ‘plucky girl who helped him out’.
Now with a female Doctor, we would like to see something more assertive. There are dozens of famous female figures throughout history, from Cleopatra to women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony, who have brought about great change. It might be difficult to pull off but maybe the time has come for Doctor Who to show another side of history.
No Time Lords
This could very well be a big one – getting rid of Gallifrey. Yes, really.
Gallifrey and The Doctor have always had a strange relationship. Several Doctors have been Lord President, the unquestioned ruler of Gallifrey, but mostly they have chased him up and down time in an effort to control his antics. Their last encounter ended with The Doctor dismissing the ruling government, putting himself in complete command, breaking the Laws of Time and then running away again before anybody could stop him.
When Whittaker steps up to the spotlight, the Time Lords could easily be ready for retaliation. But this would be like starting a new Star Trek series with the Borg, Q, and a pre-series crossover.
If the Series 11 showrunner, Chris Chibnall, wants his first season to stand out, it has to draw as little from previous eras as possible. A few Daleks here and there is par for the course but bringing back The Doctor’s renegade home would be a cop-out. If the Time Lords do ever come back into the picture, we want it to be against a Doctor who has been through trials already and still prepared to take them on.
Some people reading this are probably already rolling their eyes and going “Yeah, because she’s a woman, right?” Wrong.
There was a time when the Ninth Doctor decided to help Rose meet her father before he died, aware of the risks involved. Ten had to balance the weight of sacrificing Pompeii against losing the universe and asked Donna Noble for help. Slowly, The Doctor changed. Eleven started keeping secrets and actually used his friends as bait against a Dalek. A dark point in Twelve’s tenure had him stand in a room of grieving people and reach for flashcards to help identify their emotions.
To say Whittaker has to be an ‘emotional woman’ would be an insult of the lowest calibre to a real talent. What the show needs – regardless of who heads it – are characters who can build connections with one another. It might not be down to the pub for a drink every night but those people who step inside the TARDIS literally have a telepathic link to the machine. We just need them to get along with each other.
An Ongoing Plot
If nothing else, Chibnall and Whittaker need to get the story right. There hasn’t been a solid plot since Matt Smith’s Doctor saved Gallifrey and made an explosive exit. Capaldi had the Promised Land which he encountered twice, The Hybrid which was never fully resolved, and a failed attempt to rehabilitate Missy. For three years’ work, they all struck out.
Doctor Who needs to move forward with the same sorts of ideas that infused Eccleston, Tennant, and Smith. The loss of Gallifrey revealed in the Series 1 premiere, “Rose” eventually lead to the return of the Time Lords in the 2013 Christmas Special “The Time of the Doctor“. Even disappearing bees became a key fact in finding a stolen Earth.
Whittaker deserves the type of story that will keep us guessing until we think we know, only to pull back the curtain and reveal something even better. Maybe Daleks, maybe Time Lords but hopefully something altogether new.
Doctor Who is set to return with Series 11 in Autumn 2018.
Graham Host is a member of the Fan Contributor program. In his spare time, he enjoys the works of Terry Pratchett, DC Comics and a wide assortment of video games. Under no circumstances should he be fed after midnight. Contactable only via Twitter or trained carrier pigeon.