The next Dr Who is female

Actress Jodie Whittaker starred in British award-winning crime drama Broadchurch and is ready to stamp her mark on the Dr Who character.
Actress Jodie Whittaker starred in British award-winning crime drama Broadchurch and is ready to stamp her mark on the Dr Who character.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Reactions to the casting of Briton Jodie Whittaker are mixed

LONDON • A new prescription - the first-ever casting of a woman to play Dr Who - has drawn mixed reactions from fans of the cult BBC science-fiction series.

British actress Jodie Whittaker, 35, whose casting was unveiled on Sunday, will take over from Scottish actor Peter Capaldi later this year as the 13th incarnation of the Time Lord.

Dr Who, a time-travelling, humanoid alien who traverses the universe, has won a loyal following since the show first aired in 1963, reported Agence France-Presse.

Fans took to Twitter to air their views, with some accusing the producers of ruining the show.

Television personality Piers Morgan tweeted: "Very disappointed Dr Who is now a woman. Massive insult to the non-binary, gender- neutral community."

But others were thrilled, with one post - retweeted thousands of times - showing a girl watching the trailer of Whittaker walking towards the Tardis time machine in a forest, before exclaiming excitedly: "The new doctor is a girl!"

The clip was shown after the Wimbledon men's tennis finals on BBC TV.

Another fan tweeted: "The lack of women, and lead women, in sci-fi is embarrassing. Dr Who just made a step in the right direction."

TV critic Maureen Ryan, writing in the Variety trade publication, was more circumspect: "I do want to see a woman of colour, or a non-white man, as the Doctor, of course. Those fans are still being asked to wait and it would be hypocritical not to note that that is still not ideal."

Still, she added that the casting of Whittaker is cause for celebration.

The actress, who starred in British award-winning crime drama Broadchurch, is ready to stamp her mark on the character.

"It feels completely overwhelming as a feminist, as a woman, as an actor, as a human, as someone who wants to continually push themselves and challenge themselves, and not be boxed in by what you're told you can and can't be," she said.

But lest some fans worry that her interpretation of Dr Who could prove to be a bitter pill to swallow, she added: "I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender.

"Because this is a really exciting time and Dr Who represents everything that's exciting about change.

"The fans have lived through so many changes and this is only a new, different one - not a fearful one."

Viewers will have to wait until the end of the year before seeing her on-screen. Capaldi, who has held the role since 2013, will leave the show during the Christmas special, when Dr Who "regenerates" into a new person. Whittaker will work alongside Broadchurch creator Chris Chibnall, who takes over as executive producer.

"I always knew I wanted the 13th Doctor to be a woman and we're thrilled to have secured our No. 1 choice," Chibnall said.

"Her audition for The Doctor simply blew us all away," he said.

He added that there had been "a lot of secret-keeping" in the run-up to the announcement, while Whittaker said she had told "a lot of lies" to keep the news under wraps.

The show, which is aired around the world, marked its 50th anniversary four years ago with a special episode screened simultaneously in nearly 100 countries.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2017, with the headline 'The next Dr Who is female'. Print Edition | Subscribe