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Tony Earnshaw: Why the casting of Jodie Whittaker, and the Doctor’s sex change, didn’t bother me much

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Being a gentleman of a certain age I have found myself affected, albeit at a distance, by the furore that greeted news of Doctor Who being portrayed by a woman.

For the record my introduction to Gallifrey’s finest was via Jon Pertwee, but I really came to know him through Tom Baker’s seven-year tenure, from 1974 to 1981. When Peter Davison took over my interest waned somewhat, though that probably coincided with my mid teens, rock music, testosterone and girls. But for a wee while I was a Whovian. I remember cajoling my mother to buy Weetabix – which no one in the household ate – just so I could collect little cardboard figures of characters with names like Aggedor and Ogron. That would have been around 1975. I was nine. The Doctor’s adventures post-Davison largely passed me by. Then came the revival and, after not enjoying Christopher Ecclestone much, I rediscovered my fascination with the show through David Tennant.

Huddersfield's Jodie Whittaker stars as the new Doctor Who. (PA/BBC).

Huddersfield's Jodie Whittaker stars as the new Doctor Who. (PA/BBC).

There was an acceptance, at least from me, that the Doctor’s 21st century resurrection was an evolution that wasn’t aimed at me, a man in his forties. Instead it was a generational phenomenon that reached out to a demographic that marvelled at the notion of a traveller in time and space, just as it had in 1963 and then again through every successive regeneration.

The same argument can be applied to the Star Wars saga. I’m one of the so-called original fans who saw the film on first release as a 12-year-old. But whilst as a 52-year-old I retain some of the sense of anticipation for a new Star Wars adventure I cannot claim to retain the same sense of wonder. Through its sheer prolificacy, it has lost some of its ability to amaze. But then I’m old. The new movies with their new worlds, new characters and new direction, aren’t geared towards ageing fanboys. And grown-ups like me need to release our 40-year grip on something that was never “ours” to begin with.

I can’t confess to having the same feelings of territoriality over Doctor Who. And unlike Star Wars I haven’t gone back and watched those old episodes from the 70s. I’m frightened that they won’t live up to my memory.

So the casting of Jodie Whittaker, and the Doctor’s sex change, didn’t bother me much. Nor did it offend me. Some of my fifty- and sixtysomething pals, however, were mightily irked. They are the ones clinging on to Pertwee, Baker and their predecessors. I get it but I don’t share their frustration or fury. Instead I borrow a line from Professor Bob Cryan, vice-chancellor of the University of Huddersfield, who pointed out on Twitter that the Doctor joins Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Sir Patrick Stewart) and Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) in hailing from the Broad Acres.

And so the Doctor travels on. Next stop: #Hoodezfield.