Jodie Whittaker and Jo Martin can't be Doctor Who's last female Doctors
To mark this year's International Women's Day, Sci-fi and Fantasy Editor Louise Griffin takes a look at why the castings can't just be something to tick off the list.
The British TV landscape changed forever when Doctor Who's Thirteenth Doctor was revealed and Jodie Whittaker pulled down her hood to reveal that, for the first time in its 54-year history, the Time Lord would be played by a woman.
Watching the reveal with bated breath as someone who's loved the show since the age of nine, I felt unexpectedly emotional, and I knew that other women who had grown up watching Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, and Matt Smith would feel the same.
I knew that we were all thinking of the young girls watching who, with any hope, would just take it for granted that the Doctor could be a woman. Of course she could be. The Doctor is an alien with two hearts from a planet called Gallifrey, who regenerates instead of dying - surely no one could say that casting a woman was too far.
Unfortunately, and very predictably, of course people said that. While it wasn't a view the majority held, you didn't have to look far to find someone saying that the show had become too "woke" or too "politically correct".
Even the great Sylvester McCoy, who starred as the Seventh Doctor, previously doubted the "cultural need" for a female Doctor, later apologising for his comments and saying that Jodie won him over "in five minutes".
Thankfully, then-showrunner Chris Chibnall had no qualms about seeming too "woke" and continued with his vision, part of which was introducing Jo Martin as the Fugitive Doctor in 2020.
"I think the world has changed, the show hasn’t! [Critics] should go and have a look at some of the past episodes," he told Metro.co.uk.
It was and is a huge relief to see that Doctor Who now doing the work to ensure that Britain's most iconic sci-fi, a genre that stereotypically has been associated with men but has been hugely influenced by women throughout history, was representing its female viewership.
After all, considering it's a show that began in the 1960s, it's widely accepted that Doctor Who's female representation hasn't exactly been flawless over the years.
Carole Ann Ford, who played the very first companion, Susan, recently told RadioTimes.com of how she wishes she could have "broken the mould" for women on TV.
"As it happened, what [Susan] did was... I wouldn’t say boring because it was an interesting thing to do and it was great to be in something with such marvellous people, but if only they had allowed me to do some more courageous things, or more interesting and exciting things," she said.
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"I mean, imagine getting on horseback and running away from the Daleks - that would be much more fun than just trying to find a little corridor somewhere I could hide in."
Ford added: "I could have done all sorts of stunts, I was very fit. When I saw Billie Piper doing that incredible thing she did swinging across on ropes above a fiery pit [in the 2005 episode Rose], I thought, 'That’s not fair! I could have done that!'
"There were so many things I kept thinking, 'That’s not fair! Why did they get the chance to do that and not me?' I could have broken the mould."
Meanwhile, Louise Jameson, who was introduced as Leela in 1976, recently pointed out the issues with her costume.
"When I look back, I was an hour and a half in make-up while they darkened my skin, they gave me red contact lenses to make my eyes brown, it was a costume that, for all my feminism, was rather questionable," she told RadioTimes.com.
"But we are talking the '70s here. I had a knife, which would probably never be allowed now. When you look back, you think it was of an era and I was incredibly lucky to have been given that job at that time."
Of course, while it's important to look back on Doctor Who's history of female representation, it would be massively unfair to judge it by today's standards. As Jameson points out, it was of its era.
But what we can do is look to the future.
Showrunners Russell T Davies, Steven Moffat and Chibnall have cast incredible actresses in roles that Doctor Who just wouldn't be the same without - Michelle Gomez as Missy, Alex Kingston as River Song, Billie Piper as Rose Tyler, Catherine Tate as Donna Noble, Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones (and never forgetting Camille Coduri as the inimitable Jackie Tyler), to name just a few.
And there is no one I would trust more with the new era of Doctor Who than returning showrunner Davies, with Ncuti Gatwa surely about to dazzle us when he takes over the keys to the TARDIS. Plus, from the show's very beginnings and continuing today, we've had brilliant women behind the camera, from producers to directors.
But it doesn't stop there. Put simply, Whittaker and Martin can't be the last female Doctors. It's not something we can just tick off the list. It's not an era of Doctor Who that we can just leave in the past now. The casting of both actresses was a brilliant choice but it was concerningly divisive, proving that there's still a huge amount of work to do.
Whittaker herself has described the "terrifying" sexism and the "rage" that she encountered after being cast in 2017. It goes without saying that that's completely unacceptable. But unfortunately it won't stop until those loud-mouthed critics get used to seeing women in the roles that they'd rather stay reserved for straight white men.
As it reaches its 60th year, Doctor Who is thriving and still has a huge amount of influence over the TV landscape. With that, comes a responsibility to ensure that its viewership is represented - a position that the show clearly does take very seriously.
If it continues with that, maybe one day everyone will react to a female Doctor like we all hoped the little girls watching did with Whittaker.
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