'Doctor Who': Jodie Whittaker Receives Overwhelming Praise as First Female Star

Thirteen not unlucky for the long-running BBC sci-fi show.
BBC Studios
Jodie Whittaker in 'Doctor Who'

Jodie Whittaker made history on Sunday, becoming the first woman to play the lead role in Doctor Who in its 55-year history.

But any expected backlash against changing the gender of the Doctor, played solely by men since the series began in 1963, was barely visible on social media or from fans. The overwhelming response was positive, indicating that the decision by showrunner Chris Chibnall was the correct one to make.

Even before it had begun airing in a simulcast in various territories around the world earlier Sunday, including BBC America, Doctor Who was trending at the top spot on Twitter and remained there for the remainder of the installment.

A rarity in the show’s history, the episode was almost a soft reboot, having been made by a completely new production team with a brand new cast. The episode in question, “The Woman Who Fell to Earth,” was an hourlong special introducing audiences to the 13th Doctor, played by Whittaker.

“It’s About Time!” boasted the promotional tagline, and it seems, across the board, that everyone has embraced this new era highlighting its cinematography, accents, humor and Whittaker’s performance.

“Dr. Who was a triumph. A brilliant reinvention in so many ways and Jodie Whittaker is superb,” was the verdict of Brit comic Chris Addison, a director on Veep and star of both The Thick of It and In the Loop.

Even British politicians got in on the Whovian love. “‘Swiss army sonic with a touch of Sheffield steel’ Excellent,” MP Yvette Cooper enthused, referring to the Doctor’s choice of accessory and northern English location.

“Woowho all the way! an absolutely brilliant new series on every level edge of sofa totally immersed ! JodieWhitaker gave it to us with both hearts & the whole team made me one very happy old companion knew DW wouldnt let us down,” wrote actress Katy Manning, who played Doctor Who companion Jo Grant in the 1970s.

“Oooooh new #DrWho is good and scary,” wrote former TARDIS traveller Janet Fielding, who played '80s companion Tegan.

“A complete beautiful reinvention of #DoctorWho So relatable, down to earth, with such character and sense of place. A great new Doctor too. And we immediately love all her friends. Drama, scares and comedy for all the family. Brilliant,” writer Paul Cornell, who penned two stories for the show in the 2000s, tweeted.

Fan sites, well known for passionate responses to change — in both positive and negative manners — have come out firmly on the side of Whittaker.

“Jodie Whittaker is truly everything that is the Doctor, and everything you want to see from a Doctor in their first episode,” was the effusive response from The Time Ladies website.

Blogtor Who, established in 2008, was another fan site to heap praise.

“Once she steps out in her new costume and with her beaming smile, there is no question that Whittaker is perfect for the role,” wrote its reviewer.

Running for more than 20 years, Doctor Who Online was another in a long line of positive devotees saying, “by the time the credits roll, there is no question that this is The Doctor and she very much knows what kind of a woman she is. Beautiful dialogue, believable, earthy characters and an emotional vein that makes you care about them. Between Jodie and Chris, the show is truly in good hands, and what an exciting time it is to be a Doctor Who fan!”

“Whittaker owns the role before you see her speak and her combination of chirpy and joyously erratic tempered with Sheffield Steel (literally, not a metaphor) is a delight,” gushed genre website, Sci-Fi Bulletin.

Doctor Who is a BBC Studios production for BBC One and a BBC America co-production.