Doctor Who? Doctor Her.

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In the wake of a new doctor, Tasha addresses criticisms of female actresses portraying traditionally male roles.

So, this week, a female doctor fell to earth and the internet lost its mind.

The sound of Whovians firing up their sonic screw-drivers for the new season of the much loved and quintessential British TV show, Doctor Who, was in competition with the gasps and screams of horror which echoed from the internet as twitter trolls did what twitter trolls do best: taking to the internet to explain to us ‘special snowflakes’ just how ‘wrong’ a female doctor is.

“What’s next, a female James Bond?!”

As a pre-established Jody Whittaker fan, I was arguably biased when watching the show on Sunday, yet I still feel that the show was successful in pointing out just how irrelevant the character’s gender is, as we instantly recognise the whimsy and border-line mania of The Doctor through Whittaker’s portrayal.

You may find it somewhat bizarre that those who welcome the concept of a space-travelling-time-defying alien with two hearts, suddenly find the idea of a woman playing the role difficult to swallow. Several arguments I’ve seen have revolved around the fact that the character of The Doctor was originally written as a man – times change, it’s crazy! One twitter user even exclaiming: “What’s next, a female James Bond?!”

In response, I would argue that for a show that’s seen pig-headed aliens (outside of twitter) and robots defeated by emotions and dinosaurs in space, taking the step to represent half of Earth’s population is not all that radical. Nor is it ‘political correctness gone mad’. It makes sense that The Doctor, an everchanging being, can transcend gender, whereas James Bond, the Eton educated super spy, though excellent, is not out of this world.

‘Defending the universe is a man’s job’, obviously.

The backlash the BBC received is symptomatic of a wider issue: the treatment of women in Sci-fi. For example, Star Wars: The Last Jedi received immense criticism from parents’ basements nation-wide for representing more than your average white male. That’s right, fanboys got their knickers in a twist because ‘defending the universe is a man’s job’, obviously. The response was also overwhelmingly racist, leading to actress Kelly Marie Tran – who played the role of Rose – deleting her Instagram account due to the hate and numerous death threats she was receiving.

Women in Sci-fi are often massively over-sexualised and fans often seem to get upset when women don’t fit into the boxes of sexy and evil, or sexy and in need of saving.

Encouragingly, there were also many positive responses to a female Doctor Who, but I wonder whether as the series continues, Whittaker will be judged as an actor playing the role, or as a woman playing the role? And does the possibility of any future female Doctors rest on her shoulders alone?

As The Doctor herself said, “new is scary”, and indeed it is. However, I personally fail to see what is so scary about a female Doctor. But, for those who scarcely come into contact with women, perhaps it is.

Tasha Austen

Image: Sophie Mutevelian/BBC