The news of Doctor Who’s new actor has only been out for a short while, and already there’s controversy and complaints. The comments range from the typical fan resistance to change, to outright misogyny and bigotry. The detractors blame “Social Justice Warriors,” accuse the BBC of trying to kill off the program, and are already sounding funeral bells for the series.
Like most critiques, most of these claims hold no water.
“The Doctor is a man! He can’t change!”
The Doctor is an alien that can regenerate to look like any species, and that’s TV show canon. Many NuWhovians probably never saw the classic episode, “Destiny of the Daleks” or even knew about the Time Lady Romana. Her peaceful regeneration allowed her to try on multiple bodies, including non-human, before choosing one.
If a Time Lord can change their species, then they can certainly change their biological sex or gender. The new series even covered this possibility with mention of the Corsair, as well as the regenerations of the Master and the General.
“But the Doctor has always been a man!”
Ignoring that absurd appeal to tradition, the Doctor has not always been male; at least not in the apocrypha that pre-dates the current series. A Comic Relief episode cast Joanna Lumley in the role, while a popular “what if” audio drama series also had a female Doctor.
“This isn’t what the originators wanted!”
Funny enough, the concept has been supported by “the originators.”
An interview with Tom Baker in 1981 questioned what kind of actor would replace him. His response? “Well you’re making an assumption that it’s going to be a man.”
Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, and Paul McGann have all supported the possibility as well, as have NuWho actors Alex Kingston, John Barrowman, and Arthur Darvill. Even her immediate predecessor has said, “She has above all the huge heart to play this most special part. She’s going to be a fantastic Doctor.”
More importantly? The creator of the show, Sydney Newman, once tried to write in a female Doctor in the 1980’s. His idea was shot down by BBC Controller Michael Grade, but this reveals that even “originators” were in favor of the notion.
“This was only done to appease SJWs, feminists, progressives, etc.”
Now that the facts about the show and its originators have been refuted, we fall back on the “it’s because of them” mentality. Something happens you don’t like? Let’s blame “them.”
Never mind that no one has any proof of the showrunners’ motivations for this change. Never mind that people throwing these labels around probably have no idea what they mean. Never mind that those terms aren’t even necessarily negative.
If the best excuse you can have is ad hominem appeals to motive and association? Then your argument has failed. (Also, if you think “social justice” is wrong? You’re either an idiot or a bigot.)
“This will make fans leave!”
No, this will make you leave. If changing the Doctor’s sex or gender is all it takes to make you stop watching, then you probably weren’t that devoted.
Not to mention, while the vocal minority continue to rail in the echo chambers of the Internet, they are just that – a minority. Most viewers are either excited or are waiting to see how Whittaker does in the role.
“I’m not sexist, a misogynist, etc.!”
Just because you don’t perceive it to be true, doesn’t mean you’re not. There’s something called “implicit bias,” the tendency for all people to subconsciously stereotype and judge others. While that’s not synonymous with an explicit “-ism” it is a sound basis for bigoted behavior.
In essence, you may think you’re doing this because of all the (refuted) reasons above. In reality? You’re probably doing this because you have an implicit bias against someone of a particular type in the role.
And that is sexist behavior.
The Doctor is a woman. Get over it.
There’s canon precedent for the change. Other Doctor’s support the change. The show’s creator supported the change. The majority of fans support the change.