Last Sunday, the BBC announced Jodie Whittaker as the next Doctor in the cult series Doctor Who, making her the first woman to play the role. The casting sparked commentary among fans, with many supporting Whittaker but a great deal voicing criticism against the decision, saying the actor "will only ruin the show." Now, Peter Davison, who played the show's titular character from 1981-1984, said Whittaker's casting means "a loss of a role model for boys."
Making an appearance at San Diego Comic-Con, Davison praised Whittaker's skill as an actor but added, "As a viewer, I kind of like the idea of the Doctor as a boy but then maybe I'm an old fashioned dinosaur—who knows?"
Colin Baker, who played the sixth Doctor from 1984-1986, called Davison's comments "absolute rubbish." "They've had 50 years of having a role model," Baker said. "So, sorry Peter, you're talking rubbish there—absolute rubbish. You don't have to be of a gender of someone to be a role model. Can't you be a role model as people?" During a surprise appearance at Comic-Con, David Tennant, the tenth Doctor, added his support for Whittaker: "Doctor Who—another show with a strong female lead!"
Liz, a longtime Doctor Who fan, told Broadly that this old-school mindset stems from a sense of ownership over the show's brand, despite the program's established story points that hint the Doctor could likely re-generate as a woman: "Any 'feminizing' of it by changing the main character's gender… is seen as an invasion or corruption."
Following fan complaints, the BBC released a statement reminding viewers that the Doctor is, in fact, an alien and can shift gender. "The continual input of fresh ideas and new voices across the cast and the writing and production teams has been key to the longevity of the series," the network said. In an interview published alongside the casting announcement, Whittaker herself urged fans "not to be scared by my gender."
BBC Director-General Tony Hall told the Evening Standard that Whittaker will be paid the same amount as her predecessor Peter Capaldi. He added, "And I do think it is time for 13th Time Lord to be a woman."