If you are any kind of Doctor Who fan, then you already know that Jodie Whittaker will replace Peter Capaldi as the 13th doctor. You also know that fan reaction has run the spectrum, from glee to outrage. Steven Moffat, the showrunner, and many others associated with the program have had strong words for those opposing the decision. Moreover, on social media, detractors have been villainized as misogynists and bigots. But, let’s take the emotion out of this and ask the question, “Is Doctor Who about to have a jump-the-shark moment?”
What Is a Jump-the-Shark Moment?
The phrase grew from an episode of the beloved 1970s sitcom Happy Days. In a 1977 season episode, Fonzie (played by Henry Winkler) decides it is a good idea to jump a shark using water skis. Even though the television show continued until 1984, for many people, this is when the show betrayed crucial elements of the story and character development. Roughly a decade after the original airing, the phrase “jumping the shark” entered popular culture and evolved to refer to any incident when a brand makes a critical error in judgment.
Doctor Who and Sexuality
The seeds for a female Doctor Who were planted when the 9th Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) and then the 10th Doctor (David Tennant) developed a love interest in his companion, Rose Tyler (Billie Piper). Then, of course, was the introduction of Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), who we eventually find out is bisexual. In previous incarnations of the program, sex and sexuality were not elements of the storyline. In the original show, the Doctor was generally portrayed, to varying degrees, as an eccentric genius who had an affinity towards humans, but no sexual interest. The only idea that he did (at any time) have sex were the references to him being a father or grandfather. Regardless, this trend continued in the show with sexual tension between the 11th Doctor and Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), plus the marriage and relationship with River Song (Alex Kingston). All this leads us to the 12th doctor (Peter Capaldi) who returns the character back to a more traditional disposition and temperament, but with the transformation of the Master into Missy (Michelle Gomez) and the addition of Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) who is a lesbian.
The Doctor Who Spin-Offs
One could have also suspected that a female Doctor Who would eventually come our way when sex and sexuality started to become important elements of Doctor Who spin-offs, like Torchwood and Class. While Captain Jack Harkness’ bisexuality really did add value to the storytelling on Torchwood, the gay sexual relationship portrayed in Class was almost gratuitous and felt forced. And here is where you can clearly see one of the major issues. What television producers, directors, and writers cannot get into their heads is that if you want to introduce sexuality and gender into a story, it must be critical to the character and not just because. Don’t you agree?
Why the Doctor Shouldn’t Be Female
The stated above, plus with other happenings (such as various other male-to-female Time Lord regenerations), have all been leading us to a female Doctor Who. While, for the most part, fans have embraced all of this, including the idea of a female Doctor, I do believe this will become a defining jump-the-shark moment and will irrevocably damage the franchise. I support LGBTQ rights, but I despise identity politics, and this is what it feels like. In today’s world, almost every television show seems to have a token gay or lesbian couple. Yet, very often, the stories have no need to bring any sex or sexual identity into the story. It is injected into the storyline for one reason, and one reason only: the advancement of gender politics.
I was introduced to Doctor Who during the Tom Baker era. I challenge you to go back and watch the episodes from that time. In fact, watch them all, from 1963 to 1989. Can you identify which characters are gay and which are not? It is presumed that they are all heterosexual, but you really don’t know. In fact, if you watch closely, you may even start to suspect some of the companions are gay or lesbian. But, you don’t know and you don’t have to know. It has absolutely nothing to do with the story. I would also argue, with the exception of Captain Jack, sex and sexuality have diminished and detracts from the modern Doctor Who series.
While each new regeneration provides new opportunities to take the character development in a different direction, each new personality holds the core identity intact. The Doctor is not just some “old white guy”. He is a grandfather, a father, and a husband. He is a friend, mentor, and confidante. He is a positive male role model who teaches boys and young men that violence is rarely the answer, and we should use our words rather than our fists (or guns). All things considered, that is likely why Doctor Who is being used in this way, to convey messages about sexuality and gender. Yet, whatever the message or lesson they are trying to teach, it will all fall flat because the political agenda seems to be taking priority over the beloved character.
Ultimately, I do believe Doctor Who is about to have a jump-the-shark moment. Like Happy Days before, I hope that it doesn’t outright kill the program, but it could. Wouldn’t that be a real shame and very sad? Of course, if that happens, the producers, directors, and writers will not take any personal responsibility for being the ones who finally kill the Doctor. They will simply blame the fans, accusing them of being misogynistic, sexist, homophobic, and bigoted.
Do you agree or disagree? What are your thoughts? Please leave your comments below.