For the first time in the series' more than 50-year history, the main character in Doctor Who, the eponymous Doctor, will be played by a woman.
The Doctor is an alien known as a Time Lord. He has two hearts and has a time machine (a TARDIS) disguised as a blue police box that he uses to traverse time and space to fix problems, mostly for humans on Earth because we get ourselves into a lot of trouble. One of the most interesting characteristics of The Doctor, though, is that he doesn't ever die. He instead "regenerates," changing into an entirely new face, body and (to some extent, anyway) personality. Same man, new look.
When The Doctor regenerates during this year's Christmas special, he will change from Peter Capaldi to Broadchurch actress Jodie Whittaker.
I didn't want that.
It's not because I have anything at all against women being the star of any show, in any genre. (Which, I know, is a refrain sexists give often. It's almost like saying "I'm not racist because I have a black friend.") Heck, if you want to reboot or re-imagine a classic character as the opposite gender, I'm down. An all-lady Ghostbusters team? Yeah, go for it. You want to give a woman the title of Thor? Sure, let's give it a shot.
Doctor Who is different, though, because it's a series that has never actually been rebooted, and the actual lead character has never changed — he's just changed his face.
Across five decades and spanning 13 different actors (including John Hurt's "War Doctor"), The Doctor has always been male. For hundreds if not thousands of years (his age can be hard to pin down), The Doctor has been a cisgendered, seemingly straight male with no signs of any sort of gender dysphoria.
This has been my primary reason for wanting to keep the character male indefinitely: It makes no sense to force a gender change onto a male who seems perfectly happy with his body. I didn't see the logic behind a female Doctor purely from a storytelling point of view.
But the series is not ruined now that a woman is taking on the role, despite what a bunch of people crying on the internet would have you believe. In fact, it's quite possible that the next several years could be the best the series has ever been. It's impossible for us to know right now.
To some extent, this always happens when a new Doctor is announced. Matt Smith was "too young." Peter Capaldi was "too old." Everybody has their favorite actors in the role (I'm a David Tennant fan, personally), but we all go in cycles of being skeptical of the incoming Doctor to liking them by the end.
When it comes to The Doctor's gender, I have to confess that I was always forgetting (or conveniently ignoring) some key facts:
The Doctor is not human
This one is easy to forget sometimes, because the character is very human in appearance and has boundless empathy for humanity's problems, but The Doctor is not a homo sapien.
Every time I thought of a Time Lord switching genders (like The Master did on the show not long ago), I only saw it through my lens of a straight, cisgendered human male. I didn't consider that things could be wildly different for this human-like alien species, because there's so much about the Time Lords that we don't really know (even after 50 years).
We don't actually know all the rules about how regeneration works
Even before The Master's gender flip, it had been hinted or implied that a Time Lord could regenerate into another gender. But we didn't really know that until the show told us, because it's not like we have textbooks on Gallifreyan science.
We're still theorizing, for instance, what exactly it means that The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) was told by a mysterious Curator (played by Fourth Doctor actor Tom Baker) that he might revisit a few old favorite faces in his future. How much control over his face does that Doctor actually have? (And why hasn't he been ginger yet?)
The tardis.wikia entry for Regeneration is not exactly short.
So who am I to tell the show-runners how to handle their made up bits of science? I don't know what I'm talking about.
Change can be good
I don't always do well with change, but change can be good. Change, in fact, is at the very heart of what Doctor Who is. What other long-running TV series has so many drastic changes to its cast every few years? You could argue (and you would likely be right) that change is the very thing that's kept the sci-fi classic relevant for so long.
So as we get ready for this year's Doctor Who Christmas special, this female Doctor skeptic is excited. I'm eager to see where the series goes from here, and I can't wait to see what Jodie Whittaker does with the key to the TARDIS.