While the announcement of the first-ever female Doctor ruffled a few feathers among certain Doctor Who fans in the West, who insisted the Time Lord could never be a woman, the casting of Jodie Whittaker has been welcomed with open arms in Asia.
That’s because the show is working with a very different cultural legacy in China, Japan and South Korea – and has already built up a massive following of young female fans who have only recently tuned in.
“We’re really excited about Jodie Whittaker because I think that could suddenly unlock or introduce a whole degree of new fans,” David Weiland, BBC Worldwide’s Executive Vice President for Asia, told RadioTimes.com. “In North Asia, Doctor Who fans tend to be more female – and younger – than they are in the UK.”
The wider implication is, that as well as being skewed towards the female demographic, these Who fans are young enough, and new enough to the show, not to have ingrained assumptions about who the Doctor can and can’t be.
“I think it’s to do, actually, with the fact that most Doctor Who fans around the world have probably got into the series only in the last ten years, so they’re not nostalgic fans from 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago,” Weiland explained.
“It’s not something they’ve grown up with as a family like people in the UK have, who pass it down to their children generation by generation.
“So if you think back, often they were attracted by the first few doctors, so Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith. They tended to appeal to a younger female demographic in North Asia and they then became big fans.”
But the decision to appoint the show’s first female Time Lord wasn’t a cynical ploy to boost its popularity in Asia.
“That’s the thing about the creative process,” Weiland said. “I think everybody has witnessed, whether it’s films or TV series, if you start to almost let the tail wag the dog where you say, ‘Oh it needs to be a woman, she needs to be this, she needs to be that, because it’s going to appeal to that’ it never works. It’s got to come from the creative process.
“So we’ve got a new showrunner, it was an opportunity to reinvent Doctor Who, what were you going to do? And that seemed like the obvious direction to go. But it has gone down incredibly well with fans around the world.”
David Weiland was talking to RadioTimes.com at the BBC Worldwide Showcase in Liverpool