Why should we be excited about Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who?
PUBLISHED: 17:21 03 October 2018
(C) BBC/BBC Studios/Sophie Mutevelian..
Lucky for some: Jodie Whittaker is the 13th Doctor Who - here’s everything you need to know about the new custodian of the Tardis who takes to the skies on Sundays for the next 10 weeks. We can’t wait.
Brace yourselves because television history is set to be made before our very eyes this weekend as for the first time ever – yes, ever – Doctor Who will in fact be broadcast on a Sunday.
Of course, that’s not really the big first this weekend: the real landmark moment will be Jodie Whittaker making her full debut as Doctor number 13, marking the first time in the series’ 55-year history that the titular character is portrayed by a woman – and there are a wealth of reasons to get excited about her tenure in the TARDIS.
While casting a woman in a role that has been played exclusively by men of various ages through the five decades of the sci-fi behemoth’s history is humongous, Whittaker herself has argued that for a role like this is gender is redundant. After all, the Doctor is a near ancient alien with two hearts.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Whittaker outlined how the various actors to play the Time Lord all differed from one another and that her version would be no different. She said: “The point is we all bring something to it and it should be different. Otherwise why else have a role that is regenerated?” Why, indeed.
There is an argument to be made that the time-travelling science-fiction drama has been in danger of going somewhat stale. Viewing figures had strayed below the five million mark for the first time while it had lost any sort of a regular time slot, jumping about from week to week.
Now it has itself a new time slot, a new showrunner and a new star, all of which can breathe new life into the series which arguably now has more eyes on it than ever before.
Whittaker’s route to the TARDIS
While casting a woman as the Doctor is huge, casting Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor is simply brilliant – she is an incredibly talented actor. She first came to prominence in 2006 – when future Broadchurch co-star David Tennant had the keys to the TARDIS – as she made her feature film debut alongside the late Peter O’Toole in Venus, earning British Independent Film and Satellite Award nominations in the process. The comedy-drama focused on the evolving friendship between O’Toole’s elderly actor battling prostate cancer and his friend’s grand-niece (Whittaker), who he finds himself growing attracted to.
It was in 2013 that arguably delivered Whittaker’s standout role to date – although stepping into the TARDIS is undoubtedly going to eclipse that – when she played grieving mother, Beth Latimer, in the near universally-acclaimed Broadchurch. The crime drama became something of a national obsession with viewers glued to their screens as the mystery of Danny Latimer’s death unfolded (not to blow my own trumpet or anything but I sussed it with two episodes to spare).
Another couple series of Broadchurch would follow, along with roles in Sky 1 firefighter drama, The Smoke, and a trip across the pond to star in CIA drama, The Assets on ABC. Last year, Whittaker starred alongside Paddy Considine in Journeyman – playing the wife of Considine’s middleweight boxing champion who has to piece his life back together after a fight leaves him comatose. On the small screen, Whittaker was most recently on the BBC in Trust Me, playing a nurse who steals the identity of her best friend, a doctor, to begin a new life in Edinburgh.
This isn’t her first sci-fi outing...
While Doctor Who is undoubtedly sci-fi royalty, Whittaker is hardly a newcomer to the genre – starring in Attack the Block which pits a teenage street gang against alien invaders on Guy Fawkes night. The film was recently revisited by critics after she was cast as the Doctor combined with the fact it also stars John Boyega, who had a role in that other sizeable science-fiction franchise that goes by the name of Star Wars. It earned widespread praise, such as it being one of the “best genre-mashup films of the decade.” Attack the Block was released in 2011 and that same year, Whittaker also starred in one of the best episodes of Charlie Brooker’s haunting sci-fi anthology series, Black Mirror. The Entire History of You sees people have a “grain” implanted behind their ear, allowing them to record everything they see and hear. Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr. optioned the episode to potentially be made into a film in 2013. The point is, Whittaker’s CV stacks up with the best of them featuring a raft of good projects and good performances.
A new start
Whittaker will be tasked with bringing Chris Chibnall’s stories to life. After eight years in the role, Steven Moffat called time on his Doctor Who tenure with the man behind Broadchurch replacing him. Chibnall is no stranger to the world of Doctor Who, however, having written a handful of episodes in years gone by as well as writing the adult spin-off, Torchwood, following Captain Jack Harkness’ team of alien hunters in Cardiff. In Chibnall’s hands, this will be a completely new start for the series and a perfect point to jump on in if you’re a new viewer or jump back on the train if you gave up watching the series in recent years.
There will be no Daleks. There will be no Cybermen. There will be no Weeping Angels. Chibnall is all about breaking from the past in this opening series and reeling in the next generation of audiences. That goes for recurring characters as well introduced by Moffat. This is the dawn of a new era for Doctor Who. Also, interestingly, there will be no overarching narrative across the episodes. It is solely 10 standalone episodes, each their own animal, each opened up and closed off in the space of 50 minutes. Whether you watch from episode one or pick things up from episode nine, you’ll be able to know what’s going on and get the story.
With Whittaker in the lead role and Chibnall overseeing the writing team, the new recruits don’t stop there with three new companions for the 13th Doctor. Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole both had regular roles in Hollyoaks and will play Yasmin Khan and Ryan Sinclair respectively, while host of the greatest television quiz show of all time, The Chase, Bradley Walsh will complete the set as Graham O’Brien.
Time to get excited
A new start, new stories and a new Doctor played by a woman. The ingredients suggest that everything is set for a revamped, reenergised Doctor Who after it was beginning to lose it spark in recent years. If early buzz is anything to go by, those ingredients have served up one tasty dish for us to devour on Sunday night.
A first clip of Whittaker’s Doctor in action was aired on The Graham Norton Show on 28 September – Whittaker was all kinds of awesome and endearing on that, FYI – and conjured up all the Doctorishness you would want. The reviews of the opening episode – The Woman Who Fell to Earth – are full of praise from Whittaker being the “breathe of fresh air needed to revive a flagging franchise”, to the show looking more “crisp and cinematic” than ever, to there being no question whatsoever that Jodie Whittaker “IS” the Doctor. It’s a bold casting move and a great one, given the writing to match, Whittaker will be a Doctor to remember and this may very well be the spark of life that Doctor Who needs to reach new heights.
A talented actor is taking the part of an iconic role...
Seriously: what’s NOT to love?!