I vowed to my brother, that as much as I liked previous doctors, the next Doctor either had to be an ethnic minority and / or a woman, otherwise I would not be watching it. Doctor Who should be a reflection of our world and society. And our society is made up of more people than cisgendered, white men. Yes, it’s a science fiction drama. But so is Star Trek (ahem). But it’s also about history and people. It’s about problem solving and fighting injustice in the face of adversity. It’s about acceptance and tolerance, community, the inner fight and defying the odds, as well as travelling through time and space in a sometimes unreliable spaceship – an old, wooden, blue police box.
Under new showrunner Chris Chibnall (Broadchurch), Doctor Who has taken on new life. As much as I liked previous seasons, they played it way too safe. Steven Moffat was all washed up (ruined Martha Jones), doing a number on both Who and Sherlock. Bless him. Now, Chibnall is in the driver’s seat and there he looks to stay for the foreseeable future. “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” landed and just goes from strength to strength then on, only shaking on “The Tsuranga Conundrum” (what the flip was that?). Really, what was it? I’m not sure about you but I struggled to understand what was happening to the point I think they should have cut that episode completely.
Doctor Who has done wonders for representation. “Rosa” written by epic children / YA author Malorie Blackman (Noughts & Crosses, Boys Don’t Cry) is one of the best episodes of television I’ve seen since forever and certainly in my top five of the year. An episode of television set around the famous civil rights activist Rosa Parks, in the prelude of what would become the Civil Rights Movement. The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and companions, Yas (Mandip Gill), Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Graham (Bradley Walsh) go about preventing a rogue time traveller (Capt. Jack on a budget) from stopping Rosa Parks from giving her seat to a white passenger, and the subsequent events.
Ryan responding to the waitresses in the diner was priceless. “We don’t serve Negroes” she says. “Good, cus I don’t eat em.” I’m sure enough, Blackman used this as throwback to Muhammad Ali. That whole episode was a footnote on race relations that can be applied today both in the United States and in Britain. Here, we’re taken back to the history side of Who, in addition to “The Demons of the Punjab.” That takes place during The Partition of India where Yas does the unthinkable, breaking all the rules, playing with her own timeline. Partition to India is what Slavery is to Black people, the mass displacement of a group of people that still affects societies in the present day.
In comparison, I wasn’t particularly taken with ‘The Ghost Monument’ or ‘Arachnids in the UK’, but they worked nonetheless. ‘Kerblam’ was great, acting as what could be prophecy. I’ll leave it that. ‘The Witchfinders’ was an experience, bringing some real monsters and great performances from Downton Abbey’s Siobhan Finneran (Barrow’s partner-in-crime Sarah O’Brien) and and episode-stealing performance from Alan Cumming (The Good Wife) as King James I (look at the King James Bible 1610), with one-liners to kill – taking a “liking” to Ryan (Tosin Cole) calling him a “Nubian prince” on their first meeting. Alan Cumming looked he enjoyed playing that role a lot.
Doctor Who is now something I can relate with, as a twenty-something. Some would call it forced diversity, I would call it representation. Graham and Grace, an interracial couple. Yasmin, an Asian British police officer of Pakistani heritage. Ryan Sinclair, a Black engineer of Caribbean heritage. It’s not explicitly said but there’s a reason why all Caribbean people’s surnames sound vaguely European. It would not surprise me if Grace is later revealed to be a Windrush migrant. And The Doctor, now a woman. That “strong female character” label has become clichéd. No, she’s just a person and to think of all the girls who can now see themselves represented on screen. Fantastic.
Britain looks like Jodie Whittaker. But it also looks like Riz Ahmed, Idris Elba, Gemma Chan and me. Doctor Who is not more ‘social justice warrior nonsense’, it’s a portrayal of Britain, and the world as it is, not how certain people want it to be. With excellent performances and some great stories (despite some shakes), I am pleased. Doctor Who can only go in one direction now and that’s up.