After what felt like the longest Wimbledon final post-mortem chat ever yesterday, the BBC revealed the identity of the next Dr Who.
The one minute long clip ended with the Doctor removing the hood hiding their identity to show that the newest incarnation of the Timelord was female! The casting wasn’t a total surprise, with many media sources placing Jodie Whittaker amongst their predictions, but sentiment over Jodie’s casting went from delighted…
Illustrator Sarah Harding Roberts has made a brilliant Bingo card of some of the objections people are raising to the actor (important distinction there, it’s the actor we’re talking about because they’re interpreting a character) being female:
Liking =/= owning a character or show
It’s only natural for anyone approaching a story, from Shakespeare to Coronation Street to Star Trek to experience that story in their own way, shaped by their own lives, events and beliefs. But it’s important to remember that Dr Who isn’t a choose your own adventure show (at least, not in the TV format). You can’t shape them to your own personal desires, as Colin Baker has pointed out in the Guardian today.
The storyline and characters belong to their creators. Sydney Newman, one of the Dr Who creators, argued for a female actor to portray the Doctor thirty years ago. And it’s Chris Chibnall who is in the writer’s chair today, so it’s his prerogative to choose an actor that he believes can best carry out the storylines and character development he creates.
We’ve been here before haven’t we?
Of course, this isn’t the first time that a creative decision has caused consternation in the fantasy and sci fi community. You can visit many discussion boards for computer games from post-apocalyptic indie The Long Dark, to elder statesman of the MMO genre Lord of the Rings Online to the online incarnation of series juggernaut The Elder Scrolls Online to read howls of protest at changes to game mechanics, additional content releases and new characters.
If Hermione can do it…
And this isn’t the first time an existing character has been dramatically re-cast either. Remember all the fuss when Harry Potter and the Cursed Child debuted on stage last year? Hermione Granger, who everyone had become familiar with in films as white skinned brunette Emma Watson, was recast as a black woman played by Noma Dumezweni.
It didn’t stop the play from picking up a record-breaking 9 Olivier Awards, including one for Noma Dumezweni herself as Best Supporting Actress.
Give it a go
When Eddie Redmayne was cast as Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I thought it was a huge mistake. I’d seen Eddie in Ridley Scott’s Pillars of the Earth miniseries and couldn’t imagine him playing the grandfather of Rolf Scamander, eventual husband of Luna Lovegood. I’d seen him out of character on TV and decided he was far too posh and mainstream. Then I went to watch the film.
I was blown away by his performance. The poshness was there, but dialled down so it was endearing rather than Richard Curtis extreme. The awkwardness of his Pillars character, Jack, was there, but it was balanced by the focus and dedication shown to Newt’s animals. Reader, I was so very, very wrong in my early opinion and completely revised my judgement!
Instead of writing off the whole show based on one minute of footage and a fevered imagination, why not watch the Christmas episode before you decide whether to approve of the new Doctor? The scenario playing out in your head may not match the reality.