A Female 13th Doctor: Why This May Have Been Inevitable

History was made last weekend when the BBC announced Jodie Whittaker will be the 13th Doctor starting in 2018, and the first woman to captain the TARDIS. Some think it’s about time, while others hate the idea of a woman piloting the TARDIS (except for Heather in the season finale). Look at this sample of reactions from YouTube, and there are lots more after that:

A few others, though, kind of wish Emma Thompson was chosen. She’d do it, according to some interviews from 2013.

But, was this inevitable? Maybe this bold move was suggested by the fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, when he announced he was leaving.

In page 162 and 163 of Doctor Who: A Celebration, Baker announced he was leaving in October 1980. Just before the press conference, Baker suggested to then-producer John Nathan-Turner that he hint to the press the Fifth Doctor could be a woman. Sure enough, he said to the press, “I would just like to add that I wish the new Doctor, whoever he or she is, the best of luck.”

Naturally, Nathan-Turner rode with this for a while until Peter Davison got the job.

Thing is, Nathan-Turner also said in this book that “(But) let me say that there was never a chance then–nor do I think there will ever be–that the Doctor could be played by a woman”

Well, 37 years later, new showrunner Chris Chibnall (who had worked with Whittaker in Broadchurch) thinks otherwise. He made the decision to make a Time Lord a Time Lady.

However, there may have been other signs.

In 1986, show creator Sydney Newman suggested that number seven should be a woman, after he temporarily changes back to his second form (Patrick Troughton). That would have been an unusual transition, almost like Clara getting a call from Eleven (Matt Smith) to tell her to give Twelve a chance to settle into his new form. Some of the female candidates included comedian Dawn French, and Joanna Lumley (who was the Doctor in a 1999 charity spoof called The Curse of Fatal Death). Eventually, Sylvester McCoy was picked.

As late as 2005, showrunner Russell T. Davies thought maybe Catherine Zeta Jones could follow David Tennant. Matt Smith got the job instead.

Maybe the biggest sign that maybe a woman could be the Doctor actually comes from, of all people, the Master.

When Missy (Michelle Gomez) showed up at the start of the 2014 season, she appeared as a mysterious and suspicious woman. When it was revealed she was really the Master, minds were blown. This past season, she actually made some effort to do what the real Doctor does. It would have been wild if 13 looked just like Missy, as Twelve (Peter Capaldi) looked like Caecilius in “The Fires of Pompeii”. 

Then there’s this scene from “Hell Bent” last year:

A Time Lord goes from male to female, and was grateful about it, would be a good argument for having a female Time Lord.

Come to think of it, when Romana was with Four (Tom Baker) in the late 70s, she sometimes dressed like him, and even had her own sonic screwdriver. 

The last word, though, should come from Whittaker:

“I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender. Because this is a really exciting time, and Doctor Who represents everything that’s exciting about change. The fans have lived through so many changes, and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one.”

Come to think of it, she does look a little like Davison, who made history of his own as the first youthful Doctor.

So, let’s give our support to Jodie Whittaker and a new era of Doctor Who.

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Post Author: David Mello

Worked nearly eleven years at a radio station as a board operator, news reader, and assistant producer for baseball broadcasts. Have been a staff writer for Whedonopolis since July 2008