The first episode of the new series of Dr Who was watched by over 9 million British viewers, making it the most watched episode of the long running science fiction series in over a decade. The new Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker, is a hit...
SO AFTER FIFTY YEARS and twelve male and white Doctors, Dr Who finally regenerates into a woman. Although very much in a minority, some Who fans have complained long and loud that a female Doctor is evidence of a BBC 'PC culture' in overdrive. But there have always been prominent female characters in the long running science fiction series. Who doesn't remember Sarah Jane Smith (played by the late Elizabeth Sladen) who was Dr Who's longest running assistant and who starred in her own spin-off series The Sarah Jane Chronicles? And, behind the cameras, the BBC appointed its first ever female television producer when it appointed Verity Lambert to oversee the very first series of Dr Who in 1963.
Under former producer and writer Steven Moffat, the series was in danger of becoming impenetrable. It's a cruel fact that complicated storylines can lead to low viewership figures and, under Moffat, the ratings were slumping as viewers struggled with complicated plots and ever expanding story arcs that required a level of dedication many viewers weren't prepared to give.
But, on evidence of the first episode, new producer Chris Chibnall has stripped the series back to a more straightforward narrative. And, reportedly, the stories will be mostly self-contained. The viewer will not be required to remember what happened in episode one in order to properly understand episode seven.
And while, under Moffat, Dr Who was becoming increasingly operatic in tone, the new series has a far more ordinary and grittier feel to it.
|The late Elizabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith.|
In the first episode, 'The Woman Who Fell To Earth' (a reference to Nicholas Roeg's movie The Man Who Fell To Earth, starring David Bowie), the Doctor crashes through the roof of a train in the industrial city of Sheffield. Not exactly an exotic alien landscape.
The Doctor's new travelling companions are all explicitly working class, have normal everyday problems like cancer and crappy jobs, and speak with Yorkshire accents. Even the good Doctor speaks in a Yorkshire accent. Jodie Whittaker hails from Huddersfield and she has not been required to adopt one of those anonymous mid-Atlantic accents that international audiences can readily understand. She is a million miles away from the Dr Who of Jon Pertwee who always seemed more like a refugee from Eton College than an alien world.
Of course there's always the danger of trying to read too much into a show like Dr Who. Sometimes a good-hearted science fiction show is just a good-hearted science fiction show. But in these days of Trump we can at least be encouraged by the Doctor's message that “We’re all capable of the most incredible change. We can evolve while still staying true to who we are. We can honour who we’ve been and choose who we want to be next.”
While the Dalek's might intone that 'Resistance is futile', Dr Who reminds us that resistance is never futile. I’m the Doctor,” she announces, setting out her agenda. “Sorting out fair play throughout the universe.”