So, and Your Humble Blogger has written about Doctor Who a few times, but not recently, I don’t think. I had intended, honestly, to write about how much I enjoyed the first few episodes of this most recent season—I don’t think I’ve written at all about enjoying any part of New Who. I mean, I wrote some stuff that was nastier and some stuff that was less nasty, and once or twice made a grudging-sounding allowance that some aspect of some episode was not terrible, but really, I have been nasty about the show for years. And then this season started, and I liked the first one, and didn’t hate the second one, and the third one I absolutely loved, and the fourth one was fine if not as good as the first three, and I quite liked the fifth one, even if the balance of Sources of Viewer Pleasure and Sources of Viewer Irritation was not entirely ideal. And then. Well. There was a three-episode run with a connected story arc of the sixth, seventh and eighth episodes of the season. I hated the sixth one. I loathed the seventh. I detested the eighth. That may have to do with the order of watching them, as I actually think the sixth episode (“Extremis”, for those who care about titles) made me angrier than any episode since “Last Christmas”, about which I was gratuitously nasty. The last few episodes were, well, all right, I suppose, and my Perfect Non-Reader was ecstatic that her favorite companion since Sarah Jane got to have a happy ending with soggy lesbian power, which overcame her irritation at yet another fake companion death.
Anyway. I surprised myself, yesterday, by being totally on edge about the casting announcement for Peter Capaldi’s replacement. Mostly it was that I really, really didn’t want to hear that Kris Marshall had been cast: yes, it’s because he’s another young white guy and it would have been a missed opportunity, but also because I have never liked him in anything, hated him in a few things, and don’t want to look at his face ever again if I can help it. And also, more speculatively, that if Chibnall wanted to cast Marshall, that meant that he wanted an actor to do what Marshall has shown himself to be successful at, which is essentially awkward goofiness. We’ve had that with Matt Smith, and while Smith himself was highly successful at it, I didn’t enjoy the characterization or those years of the show. I would have interpreted that casting as heading toward that kind of show, which would have been disappointing to me, on top of the missed opportunity for a not-white-male Doctor and my antipathy toward Garbage Colin.
Well. As I say, I was on edge. Enough to take the middle part of the day as Richard Federer was winning Wimbledon (relevant because the announcement was scheduled for after Wimbledon) to talk regeneration with my Perfect Non-Reader, looking at the Ladbrooke’s and other wagering sites and laughing at the ridiculousness of the names being bruited about.
If any of y’all weren’t aware of this, and no reason why you should have been, the betting had Kris Marshall as the heavy favorite for some months, with very few other people being given low odds that had any serious probability. It’s difficult to believe that Tilda Swinton would be interested in a long-term commitment to a television show, or that Eddie Redmayne would be able to fit one into his schedule, and other names being bruited about were even more unlikely. I mean, Paul McGann was at twenty-to-one, which is just ridiculous. Four years ago (the last regeneration) Peter Capaldi rapidly became one of the favorites (if I remember correctly) and then became odds-on in the days before the scheduled announcement. I told a bunch of people (tho’ not here, so there’s no record of it) that the BBC would cast a relative unknown in the part, as they had done the last three times (and, indeed, almost every time, with Peter Davison, I think, being the only fellow to play the Doctor who had been a regular on an internationally popular television series) and they certainly wouldn’t cast someone who was already closely tied to another character in the minds of the Great Viewing Public. Then they did, in fact, cast Peter Capaldi, who had been the favorite all along. I should add that Mr. Capaldi did a fabulous job as an actor/interpreter, in my opinion, and that none of my anger, disappointment and resentment for his era is attributable to his acting skills. In fact, a large part of my Sources of Viewer Pleasure, even when they were vastly outweighed by Sources of Viewer Irritation as they so often were, were directly about Peter Capaldi’s portrayal of the Doctor. But that’s beside the point—the point is that he had been the favorite all along four summers ago, and was cast, and it seemed very likely that Kris Marshall, having been the favorite all summer, would be cast.
In the last few days, though, the odds on Jodie Whitaker had shortened to the point where she was co-favorite with Mr. Marshall. I was skeptical, but I welcomed the possibility. I know nothing about her as an actress, but I do know that she’s (a) not a white guy, and (2) not Kris Marshall. So that was all right.
After the Wimbledon final ended, and we went into the any-minute-now stretch, B started constantly refreshing her news sources and texting her friends in a real frenzy of anxious anticipation. I had expected something not unlike the last reveal, some sort of fifteen-minute tease followed by an interview with the new actor, and was surprised that the BBC wasn’t livestreaming it, leaving us to glean the info from other sources and those other sources to collect our clicks. When the first news of the announcement came through, she shrieked, but it was on some sort of not-the-BBC site, and I was skeptical of its accuracy—for all the nonsense about FAKE NEWS, it is certainly evident that there are seemingly-authoritative sources willing to post made-up shockers for clickbait. A minute or so later, though, we had confirmation enough for a skeptic, and she had literally fallen to the floor to roll around in glee. She spent much of the rest of the day texting and FaceTiming and ThrumbWacking or whatever teenagers do these days, utterly ecstatic and irrepressibly gleeful.
And that was enough. I mean, really, that’s what I want from the show: gleeful fifteen-year-olds, doing no-one any harm, happy in what makes them happy, and smashing the patriarchy. It doesn’t need to be a show for me, anymore; I don’t need a television show. It’s for her, now, and I want to enjoy it through her enjoyment. And wow, this is going to make a huge difference in her enjoyment.
And then—you know, I’m an old liberal-lefty in a blue state hanging around both online and in person with a bunch of liberals, lefties, hippies and social justice warriors. The society I directly experience is not the only one out there, I know that. But every single person I know who expressed any reaction to the casting news was positive about it. Every single one. And that number included people who I weren’t aware watch the show (and may not currently watch or may not ever have watched) and who I haven’t seen express any opinion about the show before. Nobody I know, none of my acquaintances, nobody I occasionally interact with on-line, none of them expressed any reservation about casting a woman as The Doctor. Had I not inadvertently started reading the comments, and had people not pulled out obnoxious comments to comment on in other venues, I would not have seen any angry reactions at all. Now, I could be concerned that I am so insulated from the part of Doctor Who fandom that does not want a female actor cast in the part, but I prefer to be pleased—well, smug—that through no deliberate and thoughtful action of my own, my acquaintanceship has sorted itself properly.
That was the last time I spoke with President Trump,