The Guardian view on the Time Lord: Nurse Who? | Editorial | Opinion


One of the purposes of fiction, on the page or in film or TV, is to reflect life back at us. When it is good, it can even influence the way the reader or viewer experiences it: many will be familiar with the experience of the voice of a novel or (less often) a film’s protagonist sounding in their head as they live their different lives. The BBC has always recognised the power of character as more than a vehicle for a plot, and assumed that part of its remit can be the responsibility for portraying different experiences of life in a way that is both absorbing and in some way serving the national interest.

That was part of the reason for inventing Doctor Who: while a generation earlier, the Archers gently led an innately conservative section of the country towards agricultural innovation, in the 60s the Doctor and his Tardis were meant to inspire a generation of young scientists to fan the heat of the technological revolution. Old, male scientists, that is, with young women as kind of lab technicians in support. (It was a world where Delia Derbyshire, the sound engineer who created the series’ first electronic signature tune, was denied royalties.)

It is not the idea of BBC entertainment sometimes having an embedded educational purpose itself that is odd, it is that it has taken until the 13th Time Lord to recognise its inherently discriminatory message and reposition itself. At last, saving the world can be done by a woman. She will be as able as Peter Capaldi to rewrite code while dodging life-threatening attack, although it will be more interesting if she manages to think her way out of violence before she is actually in it. The next generation of Doctor Who writers must learn to imagine their new hero as a woman as well as a Time Lord. Maybe Hermione Granger meets Diana of Themyscira, striving to end all war (in theory at least) with loyalty and intelligence as well as astonishing physical power.

Meanwhile the reaction to the announcement that Jodie Whittaker is the 13th Time Lord has been beyond parody: on Twitter, the Tardis has been driven into the second floor of a building under the caption: “She’s only had it for five minutes.” Others show the world engulfed in flames. Elsewhere, the Mail fears that male heroes are being exterminated by political correctness and others are lamenting childhood memories cruelly traduced. A female Doctor will surely save the world, but she won’t be able to make it gender blind on her own.



BBC reveals Jodie Whittaker as next star of Doctor Who

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