|The Thirteenth Doctor|
|Doctor Who character|
|First regular appearance||"The Woman Who Fell to Earth" (2018)|
|Portrayed by||Jodie Whittaker|
|Preceded by||Peter Capaldi|
|Tenure||7 October 2018 – present|
|No of series||2|
|Appearances||20 stories (22 episodes)|
|Previous version||Twelfth Doctor|
The Thirteenth Doctor is the current incarnation of the Doctor, the fictional protagonist of the BBC science fiction television programme Doctor Who. She is portrayed by English actress Jodie Whittaker, the first woman to play the character in the series. First appearing in the show's eleventh series, Whittaker is expected to leave the series as the Doctor following the thirteenth series and its associated specials.
Within the series' narrative, the Doctor is a millennia-old alien Time Lord with somewhat unknown origins who travels in time and space in her TARDIS, frequently with companions. At the end of life, the Doctor regenerates; as a result, the physical appearance and personality of the Doctor change. Whittaker's incarnation is a light-hearted adventurer with a passion for building things, placing a high value on friendships and striving for non-violent solutions.
This incarnation's companions include part-time warehouse worker Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole), retired bus driver and Ryan's stepgrandfather Graham O'Brien (Bradley Walsh) and probationary police officer Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill), all of whom she met shortly after her regeneration. She later crosses paths with former companion, Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman).
In January 2016, Steven Moffat announced that he would leave the show after the tenth series; he was set to be replaced by new showrunner Chris Chibnall. Peter Capaldi confirmed a year later that the tenth series would be his last, too. Following this news, several media reports and bookmakers had speculated as to who would replace Capaldi as the Thirteenth Doctor. Bookmakers' favourites included Ben Whishaw, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Kris Marshall, and Tilda Swinton.
Casting a woman
The concept of a female Doctor was first mentioned in 1981, when Tom Baker suggested his successor might be female, after announcing the end of his tenure as the Fourth Doctor. Producer John Nathan-Turner later discussed the possibility of casting a woman as the Sixth Doctor to replace the departing Peter Davison's Fifth Doctor, claiming it was feasible but not something he was considering at the moment. In October 1986, during the transmission of Colin Baker's final season as the Sixth Doctor, series creator Sydney Newman wrote to BBC Controller Michael Grade, with a suggestion that "at a later stage Doctor Who should be metamorphosed into a woman". Dawn French, Joanna Lumley, and Frances de la Tour were suggested by Newman in 1986 for the role, but were dismissed by the BBC. Lumley later appeared as a satirical version of the Thirteenth Doctor in the 1999 Comic Relief special The Curse of Fatal Death. Arabella Weir also played an alternative Third Doctor in the Doctor Who Unbound Big Finish episode Exile. Neither portrayal is typically considered to be within the show's main continuity. Producer Jane Tranter also considered casting Judi Dench as the Ninth Doctor. Helen Mirren was suggested for the role of the Twelfth Doctor.
The concept of Time Lords changing sex upon regeneration was seeded throughout Moffat's tenure as showrunner. In the 2011 episode "The Doctor's Wife", the Doctor recalls a Time Lord acquaintance known as the Corsair, who had at least two female incarnations. In the 2013 short "The Night of the Doctor", the Sisterhood of Karn offer a dying Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) control over his inevitable regeneration, with "man or woman" being touted as possibilities. The first on-screen cross-gender regeneration was shown in the 2015 episode "Hell Bent", in which a white male Gallifreyan general (Ken Bones) regenerates into a black woman (T'Nia Miller), who states that her previous incarnation was the only time she had been a man.
The most notable Time Lord to have appeared in both male and female forms prior to Whittaker's casting is the Doctor's nemesis, the Master, portrayed from 2014 to 2017 by Scottish actress Michelle Gomez. This version of the character was known as Missy, short for "Mistress". The tenth series finale, "World Enough and Time" / "The Doctor Falls", addresses cross-gender regeneration several times; the Doctor tells his companion Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) that Missy was "his first man-crush," and adds that he is only "fairly sure" he himself was male at the time, although the remark may have been flippant.
Two years prior to the announcement of Whittaker's casting, fans and scholars discussed the possibility of a female Doctor and analysed the benefits of such a regeneration.
When referring to whether the new Doctor would be a woman, incoming Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall originally was quoted in February 2017, as saying, "Nothing is ruled out but I don't want the casting to be a gimmick and that's all I can say". On 14 July 2017, the BBC announced that the portrayer of the Thirteenth Doctor would be revealed after the 2017 Wimbledon Championships men's finals on 16 July 2017. Whittaker was introduced as the Thirteenth Doctor on 16 July and subsequently made her debut in the 2017 Christmas special "Twice Upon a Time". On Whittaker's casting, Chibnall said, "I always knew I wanted the Thirteenth Doctor to be a woman and we're thrilled to have secured our number one choice. Her audition for The Doctor simply blew us all away." Later on in his statement, Chibnall called Whittaker "an in-demand, funny, inspiring, super-smart force of nature" and said that she "will bring loads of wit, strength and warmth to the role."
In November 2018, BBC confirmed that the twelfth series, Whittaker's second series, began production in November 2018. The series premiere aired on 1 January 2020. Whittaker will continue on in the role for the thirteenth series.
Whitaker along with Chibnall stated they will exit the show following the thirteenth series and three specials, which will air by 2022. Chibnall said "Jodie and I made a 'three series and out' pact with each other at the start of this once-in-a-lifetime blast. So now our shift is done, and we're handing back the Tardis keys. Jodie's magnificent, iconic Doctor has exceeded all our high expectations."
Interviewed by Radio Times, Chibnall described the Thirteenth Doctor as "absolutely the Doctor, but there's a new calibration, a new mixture of Doctorishness. The Thirteenth Doctor is incredibly lively, warm, funny, energetic, inclusive – she's the greatest friend you could wish to have as your guide around the universe." In the same article, Whittaker also added that her Doctor "speak(s) at a hundred miles an hour," while actress Mandip Gill who plays companion Yasmin Khan, commented that Whittaker's Doctor "has a similar energy to Matt Smith's Doctor ... Very high energy. Jodie has that about her Doctor."
In the minute-long clip in which the casting of Jodie Whittaker was announced, she wears a grey overcoat over a black hoodie. The first images of Whittaker's official costume as the Doctor were released to the media on 9 November 2017.
The Thirteenth Doctor's costume features blue high-waisted culottes with yellow braces, a navy blue t-shirt with a rainbow stripe across it, a lilac-blue trenchcoat with a hood, brown lace-up boots, blue socks and piercings on her left ear. Some fans noted that the outfit had similarities to earlier Doctors' costumes, with others comparing it to Robin Williams' costume in the American sitcom Mork & Mindy.
Whittaker stated that she worked with the show's costume designer Ray Holman (who had also worked before with Whittaker on Broadchurch) to come up with her outfit, inspired by a photograph that she had found online. The photograph had been published in a 1988 issue of Sassy showing a number of female models in men's clothing, with the specific photo of a woman in trousers, braces and a T-shirt, walking with a purpose. Whittaker said she "just love[d] the androgyny of it, without it being masculine", and that "felt intriguing and kind of open to interpretation and I really love that". Additional elements drew out from the photograph. Whittaker wanted a coat that flowed with her actions and gave her pockets but otherwise did not have any fasteners, and she wanted some colour within the outfit but without going too "cartoonish". Holman added violet to the inside of the coat's sleeves, a reference to the violet-and-green colours of the Suffragettes.
The Thirteenth Doctor makes her debut in the closing moments of 2017 Christmas special "Twice Upon a Time". The Doctor falls out of the TARDIS after regenerating and, in series premiere "The Woman Who Fell to Earth" (2018), lands in modern-day Sheffield, where she befriends retired bus driver Graham O'Brien (Bradley Walsh), his wife's grandson Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole), and police officer Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill), with whom she successfully repels an alien hunter from the warlike Stenza race. The Doctor builds a device to return her to her TARDIS, but accidentally teleports her new friends with her; the group help retrieve her TARDIS on an alien world in "The Ghost Monument". After a trip to segregation-era Alabama in "Rosa", Graham, Ryan, and Yaz agree to being full-time companions in "Arachnids in the UK". Subsequent trips include visiting Yaz's grandmother in 1947, witnessing the partition of India in "Demons of the Punjab"; preventing a plan to kill millions galaxy-wide as part of a labour protest, in "Kerblam!", and being confounded by sexism for the first time while repelling an alien invasion alongside James VI and I in Jacobean Lancashire, in "The Witchfinders". In series finale "The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos", the Doctor is drawn into a second confrontation with the Stenza she faced in Sheffield. In the New Year's Day special "Resolution" (2019), her friends encounter a Dalek for the first time when one is awakened by archaeologists in Sheffield. It is narrowly defeated before it can signal a broader Dalek invasion of Earth.
In "Spyfall" (2020), the Doctor faces off against the regenerated Master (Sacha Dhawan), who reveals that he destroyed their home planet of Gallifrey in revenge for a lie told to them about their people's origins, concerning the story of the so-called "Timeless Child". Later, in "Fugitive of the Judoon", she worries intensely about her future when she learns her former companion Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) sent her a warning – "Do not give the Lone Cyberman what it wants" – just as she was encountering an incarnation of herself (played by Jo Martin), seemingly from Gallifrey's past, that she has no recollection of ever being. The Doctor ignores Jack's warning in "The Haunting of Villa Diodati", when the Doctor gives a solitary, partially-converted Cyberman from the distant future (Patrick O'Kane) a compendium containing all knowledge of the fallen Cyber-Empire in order to save the life of Percy Shelley (Lewis Rainer) and protect human history. The Doctor and her friends pursue the Lone Cyberman to the future and the aftermath of the Cyber-Wars, in "Ascension of the Cybermen", where he has set in motion a plan to rebuild the Cyber-Empire and wipe out all life in the universe. Just as humans again face destruction at the hands of the Cybermen, she is pulled through a portal to Gallifrey by the Master, in "The Timeless Children", where she learns of a radical cover-up of her origins: she is in fact the Timeless Child, an orphan from an unknown world whose unique power to regenerate was studied and replicated by her adopted mother, whose people used it to build the Time Lord empire. The Time Lords then forced her to work for them in secret for many years before erasing her memories. Stunned by this, she nevertheless defeats the Master's plan to conquer the universe with a new race of Cybermen-Time Lord hybrids. Overwhelmed, she takes a moment to pause alone before being arrested by the Judoon.
In the subsequent New Year's Day special "Revolution of the Daleks" (2021), she is broken out of a Judoon prison by Jack Harkness after a long captivity, in which she frets about her identity and her true history. Reunited with her companions, she puts an end to an attempted takeover of Earth by clones of the Dalek discovered in Sheffield a year prior. Following this adventure, Jack, Ryan, and Graham choose to stay behind on Earth, leaving Yaz as the Doctor's sole travelling companion.
New Series Adventures released three novels starring the Thirteenth Doctor, Graham O'Brien, Ryan Sinclair and Yasmin Khan in October/November 2018: The Good Doctor, Molten Heart, and Combat Magicks. A novel targeted at younger readers, The Secret in Vault 13, was published that November by BBC Children's Books.
Fan reaction to Whittaker's casting was largely positive, although "a sizeable minority protested that the Doctor shouldn't be played by a woman." Some said that a female Doctor would be a good role model for young girls, while others felt the Doctor was only ever meant to be male, or criticised the casting as an exercise in political correctness. During the Doctor Who panel at the 2017 San Diego Comic Con International, outgoing showrunner Steven Moffat denied there had been a "backlash" over Whittaker's casting, and said there was "80% approval on social media". Moffat commented, "It strikes me that Doctor Who fans are more excited about the idea of a brilliant actress playing the part than the fact she's a woman. It's been incredibly progressive and enlightened."
Guardian journalist Zoe Williams described Whittaker's casting as "the revolutionary feminist we need right now", lauding the decision as "the difference between tolerating modernity and embodying it". Williams compared the casting of a female Doctor to other examples of the show breaking "cultural taboo[s]", mentioning companions Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) as examples of the show's diversity.
The world we live in has a history of male domination, of stereotyping, of resistance to change, of playing it safe. Doctor Who has never been about that. The Doctor in all his incarnations has always been a passionate defender of justice, equality, fairness and resisted those who seek to dominate or destroy.
Response from Doctor Who actors
Reaction among former Doctor Who actors was positive. Colin Baker, who portrayed the Sixth Doctor, quoting his own character in his introductory stories The Caves of Androzani and The Twin Dilemma, tweeted: "Change my dears and not a moment too soon—she IS the Doctor whether you like it or not!" In an opinion piece for The Guardian, Baker wrote that he had "never been able to think of any logical reason" why the Doctor could not be a woman, and described himself as "shocked" that some fans of the show were vowing not to watch again due to Whittaker's casting.
Conversely, Peter Davison, who portrayed the Fifth Doctor, stated that the casting could mean "loss of a role model for boys". Nevertheless, he noted that Whittaker is a "terrific actress" and would do "a wonderful job" in the role. Tom Baker, who portrayed the Fourth Doctor, reacted positively to the news. However, he warned that if the audience loses interest then Whittaker should be replaced. He said: "I think it might be quite nice to have a woman. But you just test it. If the audience don't like it then just kill her off. Nobody has ever failed by the way, nobody has, it's just how it is." Freema Agyeman, who played Martha Jones between 2007 and 2010, said she was "astounded" by the negative reception from some fans and that the show's history of change was key to its strength and longevity. Other cast members Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Billie Piper, Karen Gillan and John Barrowman reacted positively to the news.
Jodie Whittaker has received positive reviews for her portrayal of The Doctor. Ed Power of The Independent applauded her introduction in "The Woman Who Fell To Earth", commenting "Whittaker is a force of breezy nature – rambunctious, quirky but with a reassuring familiar aura of Gallifreyan uncanniness." Adding upon this he stated "still, she's soon in her stride with a turn that swerves satisfyingly between whimsical and tom-boyish." Morgan Jeffery of Digital Spy called her debut performance "terrific" and "fizzling with energy". Ben Lawrence of The Telegraph commented "Whittaker is a breath of fresh air: a talented, emotionally engaged actress who brings warmth and humanity to a show that was largely in danger of disappearing up its own black hole. From the outset, she proves to be a charismatic presence, righting alien wrongs in the gleaming metropolis of Sheffield (of all places.) Likeable, funny, as brave as a lion, Whittaker's Doctor has ushered in a new era for this 55-year-old show, with a remarkable level of assurance."
Radio Times Flora Carr commented: "She's channelled the best elements of recent Doctors (Matt Smith’s whimsy, David Tennant’s frenetic energy, Peter Capaldi's wry humour...), but above all, she's made the role her own." Mark Braxton also said, "Jodie's Doctor is a whirlwind of likeability and energy, a tour de force that has relaunched the show with panache." BBC Drama controller, Piers Wenger told Radio Times his opinion of Whittaker's performance stating "Intensely moral, a little distracted and bursting with energy, she's both the Doctor we know and a new version of the Time Lord. Gone is the daffiness and idiosyncrasy of her predecessors in favour of a Doctor with energy, spark and relatability."
Whittaker was also nominated at the National Television Awards in the Best Dramatic Performance category, in the TV Choice Awards in the Best Actress Category, at the ITalkTelly Awards in the Best Dramatic Performance category, and she won the Heat Magazine Unmissable Award for Actress of the year.
In 2019, Whittaker received a Saturn Award nomination for Best Actress on Television for her performance in the eleventh series, making her the third person to receive a Saturn Award nomination for playing the Doctor after Paul McGann and David Tennant.
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