Doctor Who casts its first female lead as Jodie Whittaker takes over

The iconic TV series Doctor Who has cast a woman as its lead for the first time ever.

The BBC has announced that Broadchurch actor Jodie Whittaker will take over the part of The Doctor from incumbent Peter Capaldi.

It’s the first time that a woman will play the role of the planet saving Time Lord, the show made its debut in November 1963. Whittaker will follow in the footsteps of David Tennant, Matt Smith, Tom Baker, Jon Pertwee and many others who have played the shows leading role.

The BBC announced the highly speculated casting decision via a video that aired during the Wimbledon Men’s Tennis Final.

Whittaker’s appointment comes as writer Chris Chibnall takes over the reins of the show, ushering in a new era of storytelling for the long running series.

“I’m beyond excited to begin this epic journey, with Chris and with every Whovian on this planet,” Whittaker said in a statement released by the BBC.

Whittaker previously appeared in three series of  murder mystery series Broadchurch that was written by Chibnall. Whittaker played Beth Latimer, whose teenage son is discovered dead in the first episode of the show.

The actress said she couldn’t wait to take over the part.

“It’s more than an honour to play the Doctor,” Whittaker said. “It means remembering everyone I used to be, while stepping forward to embrace everything the Doctor stands for: hope. I can’t wait.”

Peter Capaldi will have one final outing as the time traveler, appearing in the Christmas special alongside Game of Thrones actor David Bradley. Bradley will be playing the first incarnation of the character.

Capaldi has high praise for the actress taking over form him.

“Anyone who has seen Jodie Whittaker’s work will know that she is a wonderful actress of great individuality and charm,” he said.

“She has, above all, the huge heart to play this most special part. She’s going to be a fantastic Doctor.”

How can so many actor play the role?

Back in the show’s early days the decision to recast the show’s leading protagonist was made when actor William Hartnell was too ill too continue in the role.

In a stroke a genius the writers came up with the idea that their central character, who is not human, would have the ability to regenerate his body and turn into another person.

In 1966 Patrick Troughton took over the lead, in 1970 he was replaced by Jon Pertwee who handed over the reins to Tom Baker in 1974. Baker hold the record for the actor who has stayed in the role the longest, sticking with the part for seven series.

In 1981 Peter Davison was announced as his successor. It was also around this time that speculation that the role could be played by a woman in the future began. Announcing he was stepping down from the role Baker cheekily suggested the woman could be his successor.

In 1984 Colin Baker donned a colourful coat for the role, but his tenure was brought to an end in 1986 when flagging ratings saw the show taken off the air and BBC bosses demanded a new actor be put in the role.

When the show returned in a year later Sylvester McCoy was the program’s new lead. Two years later though the show was axed.

It was revived as a TV movie in the USA in 1996, but did not get picked up for a full series. Paul McGann had just one outing as the Time Lord from Gallifrey, but he’d make a return to the role for a special mini-episode celebrating the show’s 50th anniversary.

In 2005 when the show was revived under the eye of Queer as Folk writer Russell T Davies, Christopher Eccleston became The Doctor, a year later David Tennant took over the part. In 2010 Matt Smith became the youngest actor to take on the role, and he was replaced by current actor Peter Capaldi in 2013.

Each time a new actor was announced in the role there were growing calls for the role to be given to a woman. In recent years the show has slowly paved the way, establishing through several stories that Time Lord’s came indeed change gender.

In the Neil Gaman penned episode from 2011 The Doctor’s Wife, it is mentioned that Tim Lords can change gender. Under the direction of current show runner Steven Moffat one of the Doctor’s greatest enemies changed gender. The Master, who has had several male incarnations reappeared as Missy, a female version of the character.

In a recent episode of thew show a fellow Time Lord is shot and regenerates into a woman. Acknowledging her changed gender she comments that her previous regeneration was the only time she’d been male.



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