Jodie Whittaker as Doctor Who?

Aractus 18, July, 2017

I see that there’s a lot of discussion about the 13th Doctor’s casting. Much of it is focused on whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea to cast a woman in the role. As usual I’m here to address the questions that no one else will.

Paul McGann nailed the role. And not only did he do that, but he did it in just one made-for TV movie. Every other actor to play Doctor Who had the ability to grow into the role. We in fact see this very clearly with David Tennant – the Christmas special was not his finest moment, but he improved in the first series and nailed the role. Christopher Eccleston nailed the role from the very first episode of his series.

And then we had Matt Smith. The less said about the 11th Doctor the better. He was completely miscast. In fact, speaking of miscast Doctors, David Bradley is also horribly miscast as the First Doctor as well. Well why do I say this? Eccleston was only 40 when he first appeared as Doctor Who filmed in 2004. But he presented the dual persona of a middle-aged man with a wide-eyed youthful enthusiasm for adventure. And that’s who Doctor Who is, in a nutshell. Tennant had more emphasis on the wide-eyed youthful enthusiasm side of Doctor Who, and less on the middle-aged man solving problems, but he still struck a balance. Smith was cast to replicate this but failed miserably – it’s likely that he was just too young to play Doctor Who. To make matters worse, Moffat’s tenure has been plagued with problems – he just doesn’t seem to understand how to make satisfying story-arcs, or follow through with consequences.

So, why is Bradley miscast I hear you ask? I should be blindingly obvious. William Hartnell was 5’8. He carried his chin high and looked up to taller men around him. Bradley is 5’11”. So far he has never carried himself the way that Hartnell did, and unless all of the supporting actors are taller than 6’2″, it’s quite unlikely that he will. To put this into context, Jodie Whittaker is William Hartnell’s height.

So should we be concerned with the casting of Jodie Whittaker? Well maybe. For 2018, she’s one year older than Tennant was when he took the reigns in 2006. Doctor Who is not really a part for Young actors – most actors to have played the role were in their 40’s or 50’s. In fact, of the first 7 doctors, Davidson was the only actor not to be aged in his 40’s or 50’s. Since that time there have been five more doctors: McGann, Eccleston, Tennant, Smith, and Capaldi. Two of those actors were in their 40’s or 50’s. That brings the total up to eight actors to date out of 12.

Of the younger actors McGann and Tennant were absolutely extraordinary. Davidson carried the role well as well. Smith on the other hand did not. And then to make matters worse, we’ve had people grow up watching Smith who were then shocked with Capaldi’s more Hartnell-like performance.

Now to be fair, you might say that well Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy weren’t that great either.

I would also say that the abolishment of two-part episodes has weakened the series under Moffat. The original series was a serialised show. I think the loss of that serialisation has hurt the show – single episode 45-minute instalments are not the ideal format for all of the stories.

I still remember when I first saw Tennant after the regeneration at the end of Series 1. I was extremely sceptical. But Tennant managed to pull off the role admirably. The biggest question I have over Jodie is not whether a woman should be cast, but whether she’s the right age to play Doctor Who or not. I don’t think she is – I think the series thrives on casting actors in their 40’s-50’s. Does that necessarily mean she’ll do a bad job? Of course not, we’ll wait and see. Most of the younger actors actually did well in the role, it’s only Smith in my opinion who didn’t.

I would hope that the design team thinks seriously about the TARDIS interior. Or they do what was done with Tom Baker and have a season without it at all. It would be a disaster to hand her Capaldi’s TARDIS interior. Returning to a traditional white interior would in fact be most welcome. I do also think it would be great to give the Eighth Doctor a season or two. McGann is an absolutely amazing actor, in his single appearance he nailed the role, and is currently the right age to play the Doctor.

All of this said though I am please to see end of Moffat as showrunner! I wish all the best for Chibnall and Whittaker!

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