Whittaker: Doctor Who gender change 'not that shocking'

For a show about an alien able to change every DNA molecule and physical characteristic of its body, there was an awful lot of fuss about the lead character’s regeneration into a woman.

When the 13th Doctor was confirmed as actress Jodie Whittaker some Whovians proclaimed the franchise “ruined” and vowed not to watch the new series.

Former Doctor Peter Davison even suggested the casting of a woman would deprive boys of a vital role model.

However, Broadchurch actress Whittaker is much more upbeat about the phenomenon of a woman taking over the role.

Speaking on the Doctor Who red carpet, the actress told Sky News: “It’s a celebration and a long time coming.

“It’s not that shocking, a woman playing an alien – that’s not the weird bit!

“We are the other half of the population so we’re not that alien!”

Jodie Whittaker will appear alongside Bradley Walsh in the new series
Image: Jodie Whittaker will appear alongside Bradley Walsh in the new series

She admits it will be welcome when the choice of a woman in the lead role isn’t “a moment” and doesn’t garner such attention.

On the subject of role models, she looked back on her experiences as a child: “For me, with children, it’s knowing that you’re a little boy or little girl and that the people you look up to don’t always have to look like you.

“I always looked up to guys and creatures in films or mystical characters because I could see myself portrayed in many different ways.

“And to suggest that you can only look up to someone because you look similar is a shame.”

Despite this, Whittaker admits the casting of Doctor Who is a special case:

“Fans have this epic journey with someone, and then the rug is pulled and it’s somebody else,” she said.

“For some people it can only ever have happened once because they’ve fallen in love with the show with that Doctor and it’s never happened before.”

But while she understands the fear of change, Whittaker is keen to break it down: “Change is always nerve-racking.

“But this show celebrates it more than any other show and it has done for more than 50 odd years… the world is full of different points of view, let’s see the world through all of them!”

Mandip Gill plays PC Yasmin Khan in the new series
Image: Mandip Gill plays PC Yasmin Khan in the new series

It is a sentiment echoed in the show’s extended first episode, which will air later this month.

No spoilers are allowed, but needless to say there are monsters galore, more companions than you can shake a stick at and a sparkly new sonic screwdriver.

There’s even a nod to the Doctor’s change of sex, creating a somewhat “meta” atmosphere for Whittaker’s first proper outing, especially considering the outcry the casting caused.

On the weekend her casting was announced, David Tennant, who played the 10th Doctor, told Whittaker that playing the role was “a journey like no other”, adding that it will “go so quickly you just can’t describe”.

Unlike Tennant, who completely changed his accent for the role, Whittaker has plumped to keep her own broad Yorkshire tones, saying: “There’s meaning behind it, because it’s me.”

And from the moment the 13th Doctor literally falls to earth, it’s clear Whittaker intends to make this character fully her own.

She says she wants to bring “brightness and humour” to the role, crediting the show’s new writer (Chris Chibnall) and director (Jamie Childs) with creating the perfect environment to create her character.

Describing herself as a method actor, she explains: “There are no rules, no limits to the time period or etiquette and lots of space to move. I move a lot and I needed space to fizz around.”

Whittaker’s colleagues credit her too, for creating the ideal space to work.

Describing her as a great leader, Mandip Gill (who plays PC Yasmin Khan, one of the Doctor’s new companions) told Sky News: “It’s not only the level of energy she brings to her part, but to the entire floor.

“She talks to everyone. I want to be like her.”

More from UK

Doctor Who fans too, seem keen to emulate their new icon.

The 11th series of Doctor Who starts on Sunday 7 October at 6.45 on BBC1.

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