SAN DIEGO — Jodie Whittaker’s casting as the first female Doctor may have been a bold leap forward for Doctor Who. But for one former inhabitant of the role, it wasn’t a leap far enough.
A black Doctor “should have happened by now as well,” sixth Doctor Colin Baker said in response to a question from the audience at San Diego Comic-Con. And he went further by suggesting it would happen next.
“The white male dominance of the role has been nothing if not timid,” Baker said on a panel devoted to classic-era Doctor Who, in response to a pointed inquiry about representation in Doctor Who from a black member of the audience.
“But now they’ve broken the bravery barrier … all I can say is, watch the next regeneration.”
All 13 actors in the role of the Doctor, a shape-shifting Time Lord from Gallifrey, have been caucasian males — although it has now been established in the show that Time Lords can change their race as well as their gender.
‘They’ve broken the bravery barrier’
Whittaker’s appointment as the 13th Doctor was the main topic of conversation at a Comic-Con panel devoted to the 1963-89 era of the show.
Peter Davison, the fifth Doctor, said it was important to understand the concerns of fans who were outraged by a female regeneration of the TARDIS-bound Time Lord.
“You have to give fans time to adjust,” said Davison, who noted that he was criticized in his era (1981-84) for being too young to play the Doctor. (He retained the crown of youngest Doctor until Matt Smith stepped into the role in 2010.)
Sophie Aldred, who played the seventh Doctor’s companion Ace, offered the ultimate perspective by pointing out that she’d grown up as a fan of third Doctor Jon Pertwee, and initially didn’t accept his successor in the role. “Tom Baker! Who’s that?” she remembered saying.
But Colin Baker was by far the most enthusiastic about Whittaker’s ascension and what it could portend. In an interview, he confessed that he didn’t expect the BBC to allow a woman in the role, because too many of the network’s shows are created by a committee, even as he praised her as an actor.
“Give her a chance,” Baker implored fans of the 13th Doctor. “She’ll surprise you.”