The 4 Stages of Breaking-In a New Doctor Who Lead
Who Are You?
Well it finally happened. Months of speculation are finally over as the BBC announced just who would be replacing Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. So what happens next? If you’re new to Doctor Who, let me, a 37-year super fan of the series, walk you through a regeneration as a Whovian.
The Four Whovian Stages of Grief
Stage 1: Shock. The initial reaction when the actor playing the Doctor says that it’s time to quit is to scream ‘Noooooo!’ For a show built change, no true Whovian really wants their Doctors to go.
Stage 2: Denial. The next stage is absolute refusal to like the new Doctor! ‘Nope! Nada! Noway!’ Fans will absolutely deny that the new actor playing the Doctor is actually the Doctor. ‘They’re not worthy.’ He doesn’t even look like the Doctor.’ ‘This is an impostor acting like the Doctor.’ By the way, the above are actual sayings are ones I have heard from fans after Peter Capaldi was announced as Matt Smith’s replacement four years ago.
Stage 3: The trial run. Despite these vehement misgivings, all Whovians willengage in stage three. Doctor Who is such a beloved show that even though you’re mad as heck that your favorite Doctor is going away, there’s no way you’re going to miss the replacements first episode. Besides, how best can you criticize this pseudo Time Lord if you don’t watch their premiere performance?
Stage 4: Acceptance. The final stage all Whovians go through with a new regeneration is acceptance. By the end of the new Doctor’s debut, The average Who fan might not be won over to the new owner of the TARDIS but they have changed their tune- somewhat. Phrases like ‘he’s not a bad as I thought they would be’ are begrudgingly thrown about. Usually by the end of the season, almost all fans agree that the new Doctor is pretty awesome.
A Big Announcement
As mentioned, earlier today a new actor was announced to play the iconic science fiction character. But there was a twist to this announcement. For the first time in the show’s 54-year existence a woman would be taking over the role of the Doctor! Actress Jodie Whittaker was revealed as the 13th Doctor.
The news came in the form of a minute long announcement on the BBC right after the completion of the Wimbledon Men’s final. But because the next Doctor is to be a woman, should she get a pass from typical Whovian scrutiny? On the flip side, are fans who react in normal fashion sexist if they resist Whittaker’s selection as the next Doctor? I think the answer to both questions is no!
Rules of Regeneration
Over the past 7 years, we’ve been building up to such a radical change in the Doctor. In the Neil Gaiman penned episode ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ we learn that Time Lords can change sex. A few episodes later, in a twist on River Song’s origin, we learned that Time Lords can change skin color as well. Being a long established Who fan, this all made sense to me.
When I experienced my first generation, I was 5. During my first week of watching Doctor Who on American public television, Tom Baker fell off a radio tower and morphed into my Doctor, Peter Davison. Since that day, the idea of beating death by changing into a new body was just what the Doctor did.
Sadly not everybody has this reaction to change like 5-year old me did. For several years, some very vocal people have been accusing the BBC and showrunner Stephen Moffat of being discriminatory for not having a female Doctor or one of color. Initial fan reaction I have seen so far on social media has been either A) positive, B) joking that the Doctor is ‘still not ginger’ or C) scared to make an opinion out of being attacked. C has been the dominant response. Not liking the new Doctor has been a tradition for over 50 years. It’s really sad that people are are nervous of keeping that custom going out of fear of being called sexist by internet trolls.
Change Doesn’t Always Work
Change is good. But it’s only good if you admit that it’s a mistake when it doesn’t work. Pressing on out of a stubborn belief that change is good can backfire. I really hope that the decision to make the Doctor a woman was because the powers that be found the right thespian for the part. Please don’t have made the decision just to appease social media haters who called for change.
Placating the loudest (and often the meanest) voices that could go wrong for the BBC. If the selection of Jodie Whittaker is a one-and-done kinda media stunt, people are going to figure it out quickly. I feel a little bad for Jodie Whittaker. She’s the outlier in a role historically portrayed by men. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on her. I really hope the BBC doesn’t treat her like they did Colin Baker.
The Ratings Blame
Just like in the mid-80s, the ratings for Doctor Who currently have been slipping. Some say that the lack of a diversion Doctor is the reason. (Honestly, I think it’s because Stephen Moffat has admitted to getting burned out with the series.) So, the BBC in typical business fashion is making a change to fix those poor showings. But let’s say that next season the ratings keep tumbling like they did during the Colin Baker years. I’m afraid that the BBC will throw Whittaker under the double decker bus faster that you can say Sylvester McCoy (Baker’s replacement!)
The next 6-12 months is going to be a do-or-die moment for Doctor Who. I would’ve liked Whitaker’s Broadchurch cohort, Olivia Coleman, to have been the Doctor. But that’s my opinion. Just remember that the fandom of Doctor Who is one of initial uneasiness to change. If a fan criticizes Whitaker as the next Doctor, look for context. If it’s because they don’t want Calpaldi to go- then that’s perfectly acceptable Whovian backlash. But if it starts to involve talk of Whitaker’s sex or makes jokes about PMS, bras, or her place is in the TARDIS kitchen, then yeah, tell that jerk to shut the hell up!
Having the Doctor become a woman is not the worst thing he could change into. Should ratings and popularity sink, believe me, the BBC is going to place blame as to it being the reason. But there are really some dumb regeneration that the producers could have everyone’s favorite Time Lord make. At least they didn’t make the Doctor a Dalek!