Women, they are everywhere. Surely there’s a Government hotline you can call if you spot one. You must have seen them, they are on buses, walking down streets, shopping in shops, heading the Metropolitan Police and ITV, writing columns for top-selling magazines, being judges and politicians and the Prime Minister. Now one of them has taken the title role in a popular children’s fantasy drama series.
Can you hear that cracking noise? It’s the sky falling in! But, hang on, what’s that you say? It’s 2017, not 17 BC, women can walk upright, feed themselves, earn their own money, buy houses, do jury service, feature on bank notes and, as it turns out, take the title role in a popular children’s fantasy drama series.
Jodie Whittaker is hands down a brilliant choice as the new Doctor. She’s a smashing actress and an excellent person. Remember how sweet she was as lowly Peggy Bell being romanced by highborn William Buxton (Tom Hiddleston) in Cranford? And her performance as bereaved mother Beth Latimer (with Andrew Buchan as Mark Latimer) in Broadchurch thrummed with empathy, sincerity and anything else ending in “y”.
Chris Chibnall, the Broadchurch supremo and now Doctor Who showrunner, is a man who knows exactly what he is doing. That should be all anyone needs to say about her appointment. Quite apart from “it’s only telly, no one is dead”.
But it’s so sad and telling that Whittaker had to soothe the sweaty brows of some “fans” by reassuring them “don’t be scared by my gender”. There really are people who are afraid that she’s a woman and she will RUIN EVERYTHING rather than be a fantastic role model for girls.
Granted, if the new Doctor was named as an 8ft teddy bear in a floral housecoat, then some of its devotees would probably have the right to complain. But a woman? Come on. I don’t know who you objecting people are and I’d rather you stayed in your bedrooms with the curtains drawn than bothered the rest of us.
But get over yourselves. Just remember, your favourite show disappeared from screens for 16 years (that ill-fated special notwithstanding) because it was deemed tired and past-it. It returned in 2005, with new vigour and sharpness and it’s still going. In television terms this is remarkable in itself. Can’t you simply enjoy the fact that your adored show went and came back and remains to this day well-watched and well-loved? Just be glad it’s still around.
And as for television heroines, isn’t it simply marvellous that a woman will be heading a drama that won’t involve her looking sad in the rain as she investigates murders and grapples with a complicated personal life (see In the Dark and every crime drama of recent years). Nor is she a body discovered in a shallow grave in woodland or stuffed into bin bags or tortured (again, pretty much every crime drama of recent years).
With any luck she won’t exist merely to talk about men (female characters in the Spanish drama I Know Who You Are on BBC4 do this all the time, even the supposedly “strong” ones).
So yes, it’s 2017 and yet the game is still changing for women actors in lead roles. It’s a pity for them that it looks like this will always be the case…