Doctor Who Enlisting Another Woman To Play The Doctor?

Fans online argue that Doctor Who needs to continue its expansion of diversity in casting.

By Nathan Kamal | Updated

jodie whittaker doctor who

The venerable BBC science fiction series Doctor Who has only had two female Doctors to date, and some fans are insisting that there needs to be more. In an op-ed at Radio Times, Sci-fi and Fantasy Editor Louise Griffin argues that the series needs to continue expanding its commitment to diversity in casting, stating that the value of female representation on the show should overrule the minority of fans outraged by the casting of Jodie Whittaker and Jo Martin as versions of the central character.

Jodie Whittaker and Jo Martin have both portrayed the alien entity known as the Doctor in Doctor Who, with the former portraying the thirteenth incarnation of the character between 2018 and 2022. Martin played a previously unseen version of the character in the episode “Fugitive of the Judoon” and has since appeared in several more; this version has generally been called the Fugitive Doctor and seems to have been erased from memory at some point. 

Given the decades-long history of Doctor Who, it is a bit surprising that only two female actors have portrayed the central figure, especially considering that the Doctor is canonically an extraterrestrial with non-human biology and the ability to regenerate from death. However, the reveal that Jodie Whittaker was taking on the role proved to be surprisingly controversial, with a vocal contingent of fans feeling that it was against the spirit of the show to have a female lead.

doctor who

Unfortunately, the negative fan reaction to a female Doctor Who is not unprecedented in the world of speculative fiction. The recently-canceled Star Trek: Discovery received a disproportionate amount of criticism for daring to star a Black woman (Sonequa Martin-Green) as a Starfleet captain. The Star Wars sequel trilogy was protested for starring Daisy Ridley as the protagonist, with Ridley herself saying that the experience made it difficult for her to find further acting work.

However, as Griffin writes, the fact that a female Doctor Who is treated as such an offensive rarity is a reason why there need to be more female actors in the role. Until the idea of a female Doctor is normalized enough that it no longer seems necessary to protest it, the franchise absolutely does need to keep expanding the kind of people that it casts.

Currently, fan-favorite David Tennant is portraying the Doctor, the first actor to portray two different incarnations of the time-and-space traveler. Ncuti Gatwa will soon be taking over the role, the first Black man to portray the Doctor in the series proper. Undoubtedly, Gatwa will also be subject to criticism online over not fitting with the image of the Doctor that some elements of toxic fandom hold.

At a certain point, it does need to be asked who gets to decide what an ancient alien with two hearts looks like on screen, and Doctor Who fans have all sorts of hard opinions on the subject. Probably not a lot will change that.