Television Tuesday; The 13th Doctor Makes Planetfall

Doctor Who is a very old British science fantasy show. It follows an alien character called The Doctor. The Doctor travels around in a time/space vehicle called the TARDIS, which stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space but really doesn’t stand for anything, it just sounds cool. The TARDIS is a fun thing in the show because it lets the main character go anywhere and anywhen, but the game-changer about this fifty-plus-year-old show is that the Doctor doesn’t exactly age. Time Lords (the Doctor is one) regenerate when they get to the end of a “life cycle” (or just when they’re killed sometimes); completely changing form. One of the famous things about The Doctor is that thirteen actors have played the role.

Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor (c) BBC America

Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor (c) BBC America

Even though the Doctor is not human and not from earth, for baffling reasons, every single regeneration had been in to a white British man. Some were young and some were old, but “white British male” was the default… until now. With the Thirteenth, female British actor Jodie Whitakker  has taken on the role, and she debuted on Sunday, October 7.

And she was delightful.

If you’ve never watched the show, and you like fantasy (there’s scientific talk but this is not science fiction. They travel in time, that’s the first clue), this would be a good time to start watching it. Go back and watch the first episode of this season, and you’ll get an idea of what regeneration is and who the Doctor is.

For those of us who have watched it awhile, there were so many little bits of joy. The Doctor never carries weapons, but they do carry a tool, a sonic screwdriver. The 13th Doctor has lost hers in the regeneration — wait, the 12th Doctor lost his when he regenerated into her, I guess — anyway, she doesn’t have one, so she builds one. As a bonus, near the end of the show is a shout-out to the city of Sheffield, Britain’s working-class steel city where the story takes place. “With extra Sheffield steel,” she said, brandishing the screwdriver. The Doctor in any incarnation is a tinkerer, a builder, a fixer, but to see one develop her own magical tool was awesome! And there are dozens of one-liners that hark back through the previous shows and previous characterizations. It was heavenly.

The 13th Doctor's "Swiss Army Screwdriver." And yes, I do see that it looks like a little like a sex toy, and I'm okay with that.

The 13th Doctor’s “Swiss Army Screwdriver.” And yes, I do see that it looks like a little like a sex toy, and I’m okay with that.

The plot of the story was adequate, leaning heavily on the plot of the movie series Predator, but dedicated Who-watchers know that you never watch this show for the plot. You watch it to see how the Doctor and her (usually) human friends are going to get out of scrapes and save the world, without resorting to shooting or other violence.

I am really looking forward to this season. Along with a new Doctor and her new human companions, the show has a new show-runner. And whatever happens, good or bad, the passionate and loyal, not to say sometimes-rabid fans of the show will have opinions, and they won’t be reluctant to share them. Let the fun begin.

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