5 Potential Story Issues Facing the Thirteenth Doctor

The reaction from fans to the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor has been mixed, to say the least, with the expected debate between people for and against the move arguing raging on the net. There are voices saying that this is a great progressive move for the show and female representation in general and paint anyone against the move as a sexist regardless of their arguments. Whilst on the other side there are sexists idiots decrying the move and vowing to never watch the show again. Some reactions were pretty much like Stewie Griffin’s here.

My own view is I would have preferred a male Doctor but the decision has been made and we have to live with it. Whittaker is a talented actress and she has the right mix of comedic and dramatic experience to play the role and assuming the writing is strong she should make an excellent Doctor.

Because of the controversy around the casting decision showrunner Chris Chibnall and his writing team need to make sure they handle the regeneration carefully and give audiences great stories to win over doubters. So let’s look at some potential story issues facing the Thirteenth Doctor.

How the Doctor Reacts to Regenerating

First and foremost whenever The Doctor regenerates he/she is disorientated: The Sixth Doctor nearly strangled his companion, The Tenth Doctor fell into a coma and the Eleven and Twelve Doctors crashed the TARDIS. At the end of ‘The Doctor’s Fall,’  The Doctor was fighting the regeneration process and if it’s like how the Tenth Doctor who resisted the change, destroyed the TARDIS when he regenerated.

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The obvious joke would be when The Twelve Doctor regenerates into The Thirteenth Doctor would The Doctor feeling up her new breasts and the shock that they are now a woman. However, the more subversive move would be the Doctor doesn’t care they have changed gender and more concerned that the fact he/she is still not ginger.

The Doctor’s Sexuality

In all of The Doctor’s previous iterations, he was a heterosexual male who had relationships with females of various species. The First Doctor had a granddaughter, implying that he would have had a relationship with a female Time Lord to have a child and then a grandchild. The Ten Doctor had relationships with Elizabeth and Madame de Pompadour whilst The Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors had relations with River Song.

Now by having a female Doctor, the show is at a crossroads because her regeneration raises some big questions. If Thirteenth Doctor remains attracted to women it would enrage more conservative leaning viewers but if The Doctor changes her sexuality because she has lady bits it would lead to even bigger issues. The obvious issue is why would the Doctor change sexuality just because the Time Lord changed gender.

This issue is similar to what happened involving Nightcrawler’s parentage in the X-Men comics. The original idea was Mystique was going to father Nightcrawler when she was in a male form but Marvel stopped that storyline because of its controversial nature at the time. The Doctor Who producers need to tread very carefully about how they handle this issue.

The only other option would be to ignore The Doctor sexuality and give her no romantic interests during Whitaker’s run race on the show.

Historical Reactions to The Doctor

The previous incantations of The Doctor have been white males and because of this had no major issues adapting to various historical periods. Now that Jodie Whittaker is in the role it raises an interesting story dynamic because until recently women were seen as inferior and their rights were suppressed and even now some gender stereotypes still exist.

Until recently Doctor Who sugar-coated more controversial aspects of history like the treatment of women and ethnic minorities. But that changed in the episode ‘Thin Ice’ where Bill was discriminated against because of race and resulted in a rare violent outburst from The Doctor. The show should now be willing a more warts-and-all approach to history.

The era with the Thirteenth Doctor could follow the example of the recent Wonder Woman were on Themyscira Diana was a powerful and respected figure and when she went to London had no qualms standing up to senior politicians and commanders. The Doctor could do the same where she could interrupt a meeting and face sexist comments like ‘what does this woman think she’s doing’, so responses with a clever put down.

The writers could have fun with a story about the historical Amazons and The Doctor gleefully enjoying an encounter with these warrior women.

Future Companions

The companion is often as a sought after role as The Doctor and has often been a woman. The main companions in the modern series have all been women: Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, Donna Noble, Amy Pond, Clara Oswald and Bill Potts. Now that The Doctor is set to be a female there are calls from some fans for the next companion to be male and it would reverse the traditional dynamic of the show – there are even rumors that Kris Marshall is in line for the role. However during the Tenth Doctor’s era both Rose and Martha fell in love with The Doctor and if a male companion falls for the Thirteenth Doctor it could lead to some awkward questions.

However, even during William Hartnell’s time as The Doctor, the famous sci-fi character has had male companions on his adventures and the modern era saw Captain Jack Harkness, Mickey Smith, Rory Williams (the Doctor’s Father-in-Law) and Nardole as travel with The Doctor.

The companion role needs to be shaken up: it can’t keep being attractive women from modern England (Amy was a Scot living in England). The Classic Era of the show saw The Doctor have from companions from other planets and the modern show should be more adventurous: have the Doctor partnered with an alien or a character from a different time period.

If the showrunners want to avoid more gender questions regarding the companion then they could make The Doctor’s companions an ensemble, have a male and a female companion traveling with The Thirteenth Doctor.

Future Regenerations

Jodie Whittaker is going to play the role of The Doctor for at least one season and if she follows the same path as David Tennant, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi then she’ll possibly have three seasons as The Doctor: so we are unlikely to see the Fourteenth Doctor anytime soon. In theory casting a woman as The Doctor means that the role is open to all actors regardless of gender, age, class or ethnicity in the future – the risk is now that the glass ceiling has been broken it would be rebuilt to make The Doctor a female only role in the future and any attempt to have cast male actors as The Doctor in the future might get label as sexist and regressive. This cannot be allowed to happen, the whole point of Time Lords is they can change their appearance and any future casting should be done on merit and the needs of the story, not to please an agenda.

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Kieran Freemantle
I am a film critic/writer based in the UK, writing for Entertainment Fuse, Rock n Reel Reviews, UK Film Review and Meniscus Sunrise. I have worked on film shoots. I support West Ham and Bath Rugby. Follow me on Twitter @FreemantleUK.
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