Siena Yates

New writ­ers al­low Time Lord to change and grow au­di­ence

The New Zealand Herald - - News - Doc­tor Who

For years, I’ve wanted to be a fan, I grew up to­tally en­thralled with fan­tasy and sci-fi, and it re­ally seemed like the show for me but I just couldn’t fully in­vest.

Now, for the first time in my life­time, that’s changed and it’s all thanks to a bit of di­ver­sity — done the right way.

I’ve dipped in and out of the fran­chise a cou­ple times. I tuned in for David Ten­nant’s run as the 10th doc­tor — mostly to see if Bil­lie Piper was a bet­ter ac­tor than she was a pop star, and also be­cause of River Song, be­ing the to­tal badass that she is.

I tuned in for Matt Smith’s run as the 11th doc­tor but that was largely just be­cause I had crushes on both Smith and Karen Gil­lian. And I watched a bit of Peter Ca­paldi’s run as the 12th doc­tor, only be­cause his com­pan­ion Bill Potts was the se­ries’ first openly queer woman of colour.

Un­til now, The Doc­tor has al­ways re­gen­er­ated into a white male — usu­ally on the older end of the scale.

And of the many com­pan­ions The Doc­tor has had over the years, only a few have been peo­ple of colour.

Now though, we have a young fe­male Doc­tor — ex­cel­lently played by Jodie Whit­taker who seems to have picked up on her pre­de­ces­sors’ quirks seam­lessly — and her com­pan­ions, one of whom is a Pak­istani po­lice­woman, an­other is a young black man with dys­praxia, and an­other is an older white man with an open mind and a thirst for ad­ven­ture.

Un­like other se­ries and fran­chises which seem to just be tick­ing di­ver­sity boxes, Doc­tor Who has re­ally wrapped it­self around these new char­ac­ters in a way which ac­knowl­edges their im­por­tance and rel­e­vance, but doesn’t feel ex­ploita­tive.

The key here isn’t just the char­ac­ters and ac­tors, it’s the writ­ing.

Doc­tor Who now has writ­ers of colour for the first time in the show’s 55-year his­tory and two fe­male guest writ­ers. It also has an equal male/fe­male di­rec­tor split and 10 of 11 ed­i­tors are fe­male.

You can tell. Whit­taker’s Doc­tor ad­just­ing to fe­male life is funny but nat­u­ral, The Doc­tor’s per­son­al­ity doesn’t change sim­ply be­cause of a change of gen­der, nor do the char­ac­ter’s sense of style, val­ues or sex­ual pref­er­ences.

Most writ­ers’ first in­stinct with a

The show hasn’t lost its essence as a . . . slightly mad space ad­ven­ture, with themes of love, unity and do­ing the right thing.

fe­male char­ac­ter is to sex­u­alise her, but many have as­sumed The Doc­tor to be asex­ual up to now, and that hasn’t changed with Whit­taker — right­fully so.

Sim­i­larly, com­pan­ions Yas­min and Ryan aren’t shoved into the usual stereo­typ­i­cal boxes of re­pressed young Mus­lim woman and wannabe gang­ster. Yas­min is head­strong and un­afraid of dan­ger, and Ryan is first seen learn­ing how to ride a bike, of all things.

With this new team on and be­hind the cam­era, we’ve ex­plored race re­la­tions in a sur­pris­ingly poignant way thanks to the now fa­mous Rosa Parks episode, in which Yas­min and Ryan — and as a re­sult every­one around them (and all of us watch­ing) — were forced to con­front the past and the is­sues they still face to­day.

We’ve ex­plored gen­der and iden­tity, and even some sub­text for the trans com­mu­nity — and re­ally for all of us — in which The Doc­tor ex­am­ines what it means to em­brace change and self-dis­cov­ery, what it’s like mak­ing the choices — big and small — that will re­shape who you want to be, and the im­por­tance of a good sup­port net­work while you do so.

But on top of all that the show hasn’t lost its essence as a funny, quirky, slightly mad space ad­ven­ture, with themes of love, unity and sim­ply do­ing the right thing.

While fi­nally be­ing able to en­joy a show may not seem like a big deal, what it re­ally means is we have proof that di­ver­sity has power, and not only do I get to be a part of this fan­dom,

I get to be a part of this piece of his­tory.

Ryan Sin­clair (left), Jodie Whit­taker, Gra­ham O’Brien and Yas­min Khan in Dr Who.

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