Yesterday, The Times newspaper and its weekend Magazine had Jodie Whittaker on the cover. The article – The Doctor – In a Dress? – was based on an interview Andrew Billen had with showrunner Chris Chibnall and the Doctor herself, Jodie Whittaker.
As with most of the discussion with the Doctor Who cast and crew there was little information on the series. Despite the ongoing leaks, the set has been remarkably silent on the programme providing little information. I must admit, the lack of official information does make it a bit more challenging to promote the show, but we are expecting a deluge of promotional material in the two weeks leading up to the show.
Everything is new
Back to what we did manage to glean from The Times article and Chris Chibnall’s response. First, to be clear, this is a brand new slate – everything will be different. New showrunner, new Doctor, new Companions, new TARDIS, new sonic, and new enemies. That means there will be no Daleks, no Cybermen, no Weeping Angels, no familiar foes. It will be a leap into the unknown. A few other characters that won’t be back are Missy played by the speculator Michelle Gomez, and according to Chris Chibnall, no River Song.
So, it will a completely fresh start. That has been said before, but with the number and the degree of changes, I think we can take Chris Chibnall at his word. He was hired to shake things up at Doctor Who, and he definitely has. You will be hard-pressed to come up with any more changes.
Jodie Whittaker – The Doctor and the Prop Department
From the outset, Chris Chibnall had decided that the Doctor would be a woman, but he didn’t make the decision that it would be Jodie Whittaker. Whittaker was having lunch with the man responsible for her most familiar role, Beth Latimer (Broadchurch) and in a story that sounds very similar to David Tennant’s discussions with Russell T Davis, she begged Chris Chibnall for a small part in Doctor Who. Instead of getting that “small part”, Whittaker was part of the secretive audition for the new female Doctor.
Based on Andrew Billen’s article, it is pretty clear that Whittaker was who Chibnall wanted from the onset. Which all makes sense. He remembered her reading for the Broadchurch role and knew from the 5 years of working with the actress that she could clearly do the emotion and strength required for the Doctor. And as someone who has seen Whittaker on numerous panels with the likes of David Tennant and Olivia Colman, let me assure you Whittaker can definitely do comedy. She is always laughing and brings everyone else along with her.
But Chibnall wanted to be sure that Whittaker could manage technobabble. So while she was filming Trust Me in Glasgow, the soon-to-be Doctor had one more scene to audition.
“So there was one scene that was the archetypal Doctor defusing a bomb that’s about to go off. I thought, ‘I know she can do emotion. I know she can do the humour and the energy. Can she do the technobabble?’ And she constructed a prop for herself. When the scene came back on the video, she was with a box with wires coming out of it. She really fought for this part.”
– Chris Chibnall on Jodie Whittaker’s final audition for Doctor Who.
We’d love to see the videos featuring Whittaker’s homemade prop. She might be the first Doctor who had two roles in the series – acting and props department.
Aside – Just a quick nod to Whittaker. I was at the first BAFTA screening of Broadchurch and spent quite some time chatting with two self-important producers. Why these two “important women” were talking to me, I have no idea, but I do remember they declared that Whittaker wouldn’t be able to do more than a Broadchurch type role and that her career would flounder. You definitely proved them wrong.
The Doctor – The Woman – The Role Model
Growing up, my role models weren’t women. They were astronauts, engineers, scientist, sci-fi actors and more. I didn’t classify anyone as male or female. I just saw things I wanted to do and gravitated to the people that were doing them. And in that sense, Doctor was always a role model for me.
“I am asked an awful lot about girls looking up to me as the first female Doctor, but just as important is boys looking up to women.”
– Jodie Whittaker on The Doctor as A Role Model.
As such I see one of the most important roles for Whittaker is to be a role model for young boys maybe more so than young girls. So it is heartening to see that Whittaker believes that as well. In The Times article, she clearly recognises her importance to the young of today. Hopefully, Whittaker’s Doctor doesn’t have to be seen as a loss of role model for young boys as some of claimed, but rather a new type of role model inclusive for all.
An Inclusive Doctor For Divided Times.
Chris Chibnall and Jodie Whittaker have put their heart and soul into this series. The changes have divided the fanbase even before the first episode airs. Without being too expansive, the division in Doctor Who fandom mirrors the divisive nature in politics, nations and people. While it would be silly to talk about Doctor Who healing the country, perhaps we can recover the fandom. Certainly, Chibnall believes in his Doctor.
“We are in very divided times. I think this Doctor is a beacon of hope and unity and inclusion. Before the first take, the crew was all over the place, and then Jodie did it, and they moved towards the monitor to watch it. They sort of looked to me and said ‘She’s just the Doctor!’ I hope that’s what the audience, if they haven’t felt it already, will feel by the end of the first episode.”
– Chris Chibnall speaking to Andrew Billen – The Times Magazine – 8th September 2018.
This article is based on Andrew Billen’s article in The Times’ Magazine from interviews with Chris Chibnall and Jodie Whittaker.
The Times can be purchased at newsstands around the country and online.