For years, a vocal faction of the Doctor Who fandom has begged showrunner Steven Moffat to give the world a female Doctor. During Wimbledon, Moffat revealed the groundbreaking casting choice would take effect this Christmas, when Jodie Whittaker will be the first woman to take on the iconic role. Amidst waves of rejoicing online, there were those who snarked over the gender-flip, because apparently it’s one thing to believe a two-hearted alien can regenerate into multiple forms, but to believe one of them could be female is just a bridge too far!
This “backlash” has made headlines around the globe, and Moffat is sick of it. When he came to Comic-Con International in San Diego for his final Doctor Who panel as showrunner, he joined CBR for a roundtable interview with the series’ senior writer Mark Gatiss. And both had some sharp words not only about this supposed backlash, but also about reports that the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison, was a part of it.
“What I find very frustrating is that the Doctor Who fandom is being vilified at the moment,” Moffat said. “There’s endless stories about the ‘huge’ backlash against the new Doctor. Not true.”
Moffat went on to exaggerate a bit, declaring, “There was no backlash against the female Doctor. Not one bit of it,” before correcting himself, “80% approval on social media. 80%! We haven’t got a government that gets elected on those figures. There were more people talking about the backlash than there were people backlashing.
“There’s a few people, but there always are,” he exclaimed. “It’s the comments section for God’s sake! It’s where the lonely go to die. They don’t matter. The approval has been huge.” (Emphasis his.)
Moffat was fiercely passionate on this matter, adding, “What’s exciting and interesting about it and the story that should be told — please tell this story — is the Doctor Who fandom which is supposedly conservative embraces Jodie Whittaker. The Doctor Who isn’t saying, ‘A woman!?’ It’s saying, ‘Jodie Whittaker: what a brilliant choice! And isn’t she great? And by the way, she’s a woman.'”
Moffat went on to note what he’s learned about the Doctor’s gender in writing the character for 42 episodes. “As I was writing my last series, and knowing the Doctor would turn into a woman at the end — I knew that from ages ago, I didn’t know that it would be Jodie — I was sort of thinking, ‘This is my last chance to write the man Doctor. So I shall bring out perhaps for this last go, all the Doctor’s manly qualities.’ He doesn’t have any. That’s the thing! He hasn’t gotten a single manly quality. He’s not remotely masculine in any way whatsoever that I could find. And then it occurred to me that he’s not a man, is he? He’s an alien who has taken the form of a human male. He’s about to take the form of a human female. He herself will probably not notice. It’s not like he/she checks a lot. It’s not like he’s about to get pregnant for God’s sake!”
Davison has become a focal point in this new Doctor debate because though he felt Whittaker is a “terrific actress” who would do ” wonderful job,” he then admitted to the Associated Press, “If I feel any doubts, it’s the loss of a role model for boys, who I think Doctor Who is vitally important for. So I feel a bit sad about that, but I understand the argument that you need to open it up. As a viewer, I kind of like the idea of the Doctor a boy but then maybe I’m an old fashioned dinosaur – who knows?”
Asked specifically about Davison’s remarks, Moffat rejected that they were a criticism of the casting. “Go and read what he actually said,” he directed the table of reporters. “It’s outrageous, this click-baiting, hate-loving ‘journalism.’ Peter Davison by the way is a committed feminist and absolute liberal was making some perfectly sensible points, which you can agree with or disagree with. But he didn’t say any of the things he was headlined to have said.”
At this point, Gatiss interjected, noting, “The first thing it says is he ‘Former Doctor Who Slams (Female Doctor).’ There’s no slamming. He didn’t! It’s absolutely pernicious, because there’s no story in a massive wave of positivity about the casting. So they don’t want to report that.”
“So please make the story,” Moffat added, “About the massive wave of positivity over the casting.”
Jodie Whittaker, who has already inspired cosplayers across the web and Comic-Con, will take the mantle of Doctor Who in the holiday special, “Twice Upon A Time.”
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