It's disappointing when your bezzie mate leaves and you have unfinished business. Peter Capaldi's decision to leave the Tardis just when the creatives get the hang of what they're supposed to be doing is a case in point. His last season was far and away his best. But it's four years out of someone's life. So it was time for a change again and this time incoming show runner Christopher Chibnall has bitten the bullet and cast a woman.
Except I hope that's not how it went. I really, really want him - and I don't think this is unreasonable – to have cast Jodie Whittaker because she blew him away at the audition and he felt unable to cast anybody else. Given her track record I can imagine that would be the case.
So, what do we know about Jodie Whittaker? First, she's done stuff. Black Mirror. She was exceptional in Broadchurch. Last year she had a nomination for best actress from British Independent Film, for Adult Life Skills.
She's from Yorkshire, so she'll be our second Northern Gallifreyan (but then lots of planets have a North). And beyond that, there's nothing. Which is why I'm unbelievably excited about this.
When Peter Capaldi was cast, he looked like the safe option even if they did take him in uncomfortable directions. Matt Smith's announcement was accompanied by interviews with him looking goofy and, frankly, Doctorish. David Tennant – whisper it quietly – took over when Christopher Eccleston quit at short notice, and transplanted his performance as Casanova straight to the Doctor.
This time, for the first time since Eccleston, we don't know what to expect. Will the new Doctor be red-brick or Oxbridge? Will she use her own accent to emphasise ordinariness as Eccleston did or will there be an assumed voice as Tennant put on? So how will she be, sad, happy, manic, morose? We have literally no idea at this stage.
This actually feels a bit dangerous for the first time since 2005. A new show runner also means we don't know anything about the tone of the show either; this is the point at which everything changes. If Chibnall and Whittaker can make it as compelling as they made Broadchurch, we have a few rare treats in store. She's young enough still to be exploring her depths as an actress and richly deserves to succeed.
Oh, and she's the first female Doctor, yada yada. Internet in meltdown, te-tum te-tum, it's all been a bit predictable; the big news to me was that a series in which the character has explicitly changed (rather than just been recast without any mention of it in the script as happens in most long-runners) from posh English to Scottish to light scouse to Northern to cockney to Scottish again, changing height, appearance and demeanour as he goes, apparently loses credibility when he changes gender. Actually regeneration has always been an excuse for the creatives to run riot a little; it seems this time they might actually do so. Bring it on, and Jodie, if you're reading, break a leg!
(P. S. That said, mathematically I'm old enough to be the Doctor's dad again, and that hurts...)
It's time for a change...
By Stuart O'Connor
It's getting on to be 54 years old, so it's about time Dcotor Who had a bit of a shakeup. And what better way to really shake up the show than to change the gender of its main character?
This is not the first time we've had a woman portray the Time Lord – Joanna Lumley played the Doctor briefly in The Curse of Fatal Death, a Comic Relief special broadcast on BBC One in March 1999. But this is the first time a woman has taken the lead role in the show proper, and it really is about time.
When Whittaker was announced as the next pilot for the Tardis, the internet went into meltdown. A million giant manbabies cried out in agony because a character in a TV show who happened to be a 1000-plus-year-old alien with two hearts and a time machine was suddenly going to turn into a woman. Well boo-freaking-hoo, suck it up, manbabies. It's a science fiction TV show and there is nothing in the rulebook that says the Doctor CAN'T be a woman. The writers paved the way in the past few years with the Master regenerating into Missy, so nobody can say that we didn't see it coming.
And I for one think it's a brilliant move. Narratively, the show has been getting stale. The last two male doctors – Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi – are both brilliant actors but they have been let down on occasion by poor scripts. Changing the Doctor's gender, and hiring an exceptional actress such as Whittaker for the role, really opens up new doors and gives the writing team a fresh palate to work from.
Jodie Whittaker is going to be an amazing Doctor. This is a chance for the writers to really open things up and take the show in a new direction. And all I ask of Jodie is to have fun with it, and to take hold of the character's strangeness and eccentricity and just run with it.