‘Doctor Who’ star Jodie Whittaker worried she’d ‘ruined’ chances of show casting another female Doctor

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 19:20:01 on 05/12/2021 - Programme Name: Doctor Who Festive Special 2021 - TX: n/a - Episode: Doctor Who Festive Special 2021 - Iconic (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: *NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 19:20HRS SUNDAY 5TH DECEMBER, 2021* Dan (JOHN BISHOP), Yasmin Khan (MANDIP GILL), The Doctor (JODIE WHITTAKER), Sarah (AISLING BEA), Nick (ADJANI SALMON) - (C) BBC Studios - Photographer: James Pardon

Outgoing Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker has revealed she initially worried that she’d “ruined” the chance for other actresses to play the Doctor. In 2017, the Broadchurch star was cast as the Thirteenth Doctor, making her the very first woman to portray the time-traveling hero. It’s perhaps no surprise that the pressure of her groundbreaking turn in the titular role got the better of her at one stage.

While speaking to The Guardian, Whittaker revealed that she got jitters when she attended the premiere of her first episode, “The Woman Who Fell to Earth,” in 2018. Despite feeling “love and support” from the crowd of attendees, the emphasis the press put on her being the first female Doctor caused Whittaker to briefly doubt herself and her portrayal of the part. As she put it:

“I just thought, ‘There’s this crowd of Whovians that are really excited and full of love and support.’ And I was like, ‘What if I have pitched this so badly wrong? What if I’ve ruined it for actresses?’ Because I know full well that when lads were cast in the part, they weren’t representing men, they were representing their own personal casting. The way it was described in every outlet was not, ‘Can Jodie Whittaker play the part?’, it was, ‘It’s a woman!’

doctor who jodie whitaker
Image credit: Keane Eacobellis

Because of the unfair weight that had been placed on her own personal casting, Whittaker admitted she worried she had “hindered” her entire gender from playing the Doctor in the future, even though the actress had felt “confident” in her performance while shooting the season. Whittaker hopes, now she has broken this record, that any other actresses who take on the role will never have to deal with the same insecurities.  

“I suddenly thought, ‘Have I hindered us? Have I held us back?’ Because we’d filmed the first series, and I’d loved it. I really felt confident all the way through. Then there is that moment where you go, ‘Oh God’… Hopefully, with the next 15 generations of Doctors, we never have to have this chat again. I’m delighted it was mine, but it never has to happen again, thank God.”

Three years on, we can assuredly say that Whittaker hasn’t ruined the chances of future female Doctors. In fact, the way that the vast majority have embraced her incarnation of the Time Lord has paved the way for not just more women Doctors, but more Doctors who are not white men. With Whittaker handing over the keys to the TARDIS soon, we don’t yet know who the Fourteenth Doctor is, but chances are that it will be another bold casting.

Following the conclusion of season 13 this past weekend, Jodie Whittaker has three specials still to go, which will be spread across 2022. The first, the annual Doctor Who winter special, airs on BBC America this New Year’s Day.