On Sunday it was announced that a female actress will be the new Doctor Who. For most Americans, you might not understand the significance of this. Doctor Who is a decidedly British show. It started in the 1960’s, and has become a British institution. Perhaps this is the reason the British love it so much. It has bonded generation together, over a love for the eccentric Doctor.
If I could give you a summary of Doctor Who, I would. But, I’ve only begun to watch it the last few years and I only view it sporadically. The gist of the show is about an odd Doctor who can travel through time and space, and he helps beings whether they be human or alien or animals. He always has a sidekick who is usually a stereo-typically beautiful woman that keeps him from going crazy from all of his travels. The Doctor can heal from most injuries, and he regenerates into new versions of himself if he is mortally wounded. Those are the main points of Doctor Who that you need to understand to see the implication of the casting alteration.
It’s the regeneration that enables the show to continue production. When the male actor becomes bored, or too old to continue playing Doctor Who, they simply make the doctor regenerate. And after he does, it’s a new actor and a new Doctor Who, and all new story lines can begin! From a marketing and financial point, it’s a brilliant strategy to ensure the show maintains interest and longevity.
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The last season of Doctor Who was the most liberal yet. His side kick was completely different from previous ones. The girl (Bill) was poor, black, and gay, with heavy emphasis on being a lesbian in episodes. I think the show producers realized that Doctor Who was a bit dated and needed to be brought into 2017. So, they incorporated the liberal world we now live in, into the story line.
Now, when I saw this change in the apprentice, I knew that Doctor Who was turning a corner. So, early on this season, I predicted that when the Doctor regenerated, it would be into a female form. And as was revealed on Sunday, I was right! The Doctor in season 11 will be a female.
Now the main character will be Doctor Who as a woman. This demonstrates that the show is ready to embrace a more powerful female voice. That is what the media seems to be focusing on. I agree that it is great that a woman is going to be the star, and likely a man will be her assistant (although a female assistant would make an epic statement about feminism). But I think there is a more deeply embedded theme that is worth examining.
Let’s analyze the fact that the doctor can regenerate into a new being, and it can be either male or female. I suggest this hints at the idea that Doctor Who is more liberal than people might have perceived. Some might even view this as a one of the first gender fluid characters in main stream television. A being that can be either male or female at different points in their lifespan. Within the show, there already exists gender fluid being like this, but it has never gotten much attention. Another person from the same planet as the Doctor who regenerated from a male to female and thrived. That character has since died, and now Doctor Who will be the one that has transformed from male to female.
Doctor Who will now normalize the idea that a man can “regenerate” and turn into a woman and vice versa. If people take this at face value, it might seem insignificant, just a plot twist. But it is quite the opposite! Seven years ago, the fact that trans-gendered people existed was not well known or accepted. In fact, many people thought it impossible for a man to be born with male genitalia, but within their brain, feel female. Now, there are genderless bathrooms, and widespread education/support for the trans-gendered and transsexual population.
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Doctor Who is more groundbreaking than people might believe. Doctor Who had already suggested that the Doctor could change into a woman, but remain the Doctor, and remain themselves. Now the show has progressed from mere suggestion to physically turning the Doctor from a man to a woman. And this is exactly what the trans-gendered/transsexual movement is. A person born a female, but feeling that they are a man, are not different people when they embrace their masculinity. They still hold the same memories and beliefs, they just show an altered physical form of themselves to the world. That is what the Doctor will be doing in the new season. The Doctor will have morphed from a male, into female. But the Doctor will still help people, still be weird, and still be the same person they were before they became transsexual.
It is commendable that the show’s creators have put a female as the lead role in a previously male dominated show. But when digging deeper into the shows meaning, it shows support to the certainty that the gender/sex you are born doesn’t mean that gender/sex is the one you must remain. Or that by altering gender/sex, you change who a person is within themselves. The Doctor and transgender/transsexual people’s inner essence remains the identical. What is more groundbreaking about Doctor Who is the concept that it demonstrates, explains, publicizes and supports trans-gendered/transsexual people.
male image taken from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/doctorwhospoilers/15043061762
-image edited and changed using picmonkey.com
female image taken from: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/15/Jodie_Whittaker_2014.jpg
-image edited and changed using picmonkey,com