The Doctor is in, and for the first time in Doctor Who's 50-plus year history, the Doctor is a she. Jodie Whittaker will make history as the first female Doctor in the BBC sci-fi series' run, a move that has received some of the expected pig-headed pushback, but more importantly has been welcomed by most with relieved, loving and open arms.
The Doctor Who panel at San Diego Comic-Con was a big lovefest for Whittaker and the new-look series, and rightfully so. Some fans have been clamoring for a female doctor for some time, and this time in history was the perfect opportunity to put that in place. And for much of the panel, the talk focused on why Whittaker has wowed everyone involved in the show, and how Whittaker accepts that this is no ordinary role.
Whittaker clearly respects the franchise's legacy, as she said filming her first scene was nerve-wracking because she was "in someone else's costume, on someone else's set, in their TARDIS." She added, "It was like walking into my new home, but only on the doormat."
Upon getting cast as the Thirteenth Doctor, Whittaker called previous Doctor David Tennant, who let her know exactly what she was in for. It's a BIG deal. "This is the most amazing thing that can happen to you, and there's only a few of us who know how it feels," she says he told her. It's also a casting decision that will mean a lot to the show's incredibly passionate fan base, and has nothing to do with being a gimmick. She wasn't just cast because she's a woman, she was cast because she's the perfect fit for the show's specific tone.
Showrunner Chris Chibnall said Whittaker "just walked in the room and she was the Doctor. You don't know what you're looking for until you see it." He also recalled when Whittaker first walked on set and how she sold the crew on her being the new Doctor right away, which was no easy feat. "They're tough guys," he said. "If she wasn't right, they would have said something."
He also complimented her on her fresh energy, which was more than evident in the new trailer. That energy will be key in bringing together the new companions (Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill, and Tosin Cole), who were cast because of their "incredible range" which goes hand-in-hand with the varying levels of emotion in the new season, according to Chibnall.
In addition to a new Doctor, the rest of the season will get a nice refresh. This will be Chibnall's first season as showrunner, as he takes over for longtime showrunner Steven Moffat. As such, Chibnall will add his own flair to the show and says now is the time for new fans to jump onboard as there will be "less old stuff returning, more new treats." In fact, longtime fans shouldn't expect the Daleks or monsters and villains from the past, and many episodes will be standalone stories that will be resolved within the hour.
But in the end, the panel was really about the importance of adding Whittaker and what it means not just for the series, but for the world moving forward.
"For me, the Doctor is pillar of hope, and striving for brightness and inclusion," Whittaker said.
"We NEED a pillar of hope in these dark times," Chibnall added. Yep.
Doctor Who returns this fall on BBC America.
Additional reporting by Keisha Hatchett and Noelene Clark.