‘Doctor Who’: Why the Thirteenth Doctor Is so Controversial

Doctor Who went through many changes in season 11. Perhaps the biggest and most controversial change is the fact that The Doctor is now a woman. While many Doctor Who fans embraced the change, some didn’t.

Some fans feel that the show is simply pandering to a certain audience, and they don’t like it. Others feel that the change is too soon, and that it changes the beloved character far too much. Yet the controversy is bewildering to many fans, so let’s do our best to explain it.

How did the controversy surrounding the Thirteenth Doctor start?

Jodie Whittaker (Thirteenth Doctor) of Doctor Who
Jodie Whittaker (Thirteenth Doctor) of Doctor Who | Andrew Toth/Getty Images for New York Comic Con

The controversy surrounding Jodie Whittaker’s casting as The Thirteenth Doctor has been going on for a while. It started once her casting was announced. While many fans were excited by her making history, others were the exact opposite.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, one critical fan tweeted that the character of The Doctor had been “ruined… for the sake of political correctness.” This is a common refrain among critical fans, who feel that casting a woman as the titular role in Doctor Who is simply pandering to the “politically correct” rather than an acknowledgment by the show of the equality of women. So yes, there are some fans who disliked Jodie Whittaker from the start, and continue to dislike her, simply because she is a woman.

Yet that can’t be the whole reason for the controversy. There have to be other reasons. Reasons that are easier for bewildered fans to understand.

Why else was the Thirteenth Doctor such an unwelcome change for many fans?

Perhaps it’s this simple: people don’t like change. Though many fans would argue that this change is a good one, others would say that it’s too much. That by making the Doctor a woman, you are changing the show from what it’s always been.

Other fans are still bewildered that some fans feel this way, thinking that surely the Doctor’s gender is irrelevant to the overall feeling and message of the show. Yet the fact remains that it is a big change, and one that some fans can’t readily accept. Steven Moffat may have predicted this sort of, suggesting in an interview with Radio Times, that “we have to worry if our Daily Mail-reading viewers are going to say, ‘that’s not the same person!'” Indeed many fans do feel that way about The Thirteenth Doctor.

What’s the biggest reason for the controversy?

The biggest reason for the controversy has nothing, really, to do with the Thirteenth Doctor herself, but rather what she represents to fans and how fans perceive her. Some perceive her as a hallmark of progress, while others see her as a reflection of censorship. This seems to be a great divide and it’s confusing for many fans on both sides of the controversy.

The reason for this divide is all to do with how people perceive themselves and the world around them. Some people see the Thirteenth Doctor as a step in the right direction, in the direction of equality for all people. Others see her as a reflection of a society that has gone too far in terms of political correctness. These fans see the Thirteenth Doctor as another way of censoring them.

While the Thirteenth Doctor will probably continue to be controversial, Doctor Who fans may now understand the controversy a bit more. It is hard to explain, definitely. Yet it’s worth it to look at the controversy and go deeper into why it may exist.