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Doctor Who has been an institute of British television for more than fifty years now, and the show has gained a massive following all over the world. The series made history earlier this month when a woman landed the lead role of the Doctor for the very first time. The casting of Broadchurch's Jodie Whittaker as the successor to Peter Capaldi has provoked strong reactions everywhere from social media to the press. Current showrunner Steven Moffat didn't mince any words when he recently spoke about the backlash over the casting, saying this:
There has been so many press articles about the backlash among the Doctor Who fandom against the casting of a female Doctor. There has been no backlash at all. The story of the moment is that the notionally conservative Doctor Who fandom has utterly embraced that change completely -- 80 percent approval on social media, not that I check these things obsessively. And yet so many people wanted to pretend there's a problem. There isn't.
According to Steven Moffat in a recent appearance at a San Diego Comic-Con panel (via Variety), all the buzz about controversy was actually much ado about nothing. He has evidently seen overwhelming support for the show as it prepares to go in a brand new direction, which would make sense. Doctor Who is a show about a lead character who changes faces and heights and even accents, and the series today is quite different than it was when it premiered back in 1963. Jodie Whittaker's casting is simply taking the show somewhere where it has never gone before, and surely the majority of true Who fans are excited to see something fresh.
Interestingly, the BBC recently released a statement about the new Doctor that seemed to indicate it was a vocal minority complaining about an actress playing the Doctor, which seems to support Steven Moffat's point. He went on to get even more blunt about his thoughts concerning the perceived backlash against Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor:
Doctor Who fans are more excited by the fact that there's going to be a brilliant actress playing the part than the fact that she's a woman. It's been incredibly progressive and enlightened and that's what really happened. I wish every single journalist who is writing the alternative would shut the hell up.
Tell us how you really feel, Steven Moffat! He sounds understandably tired of reading about controversy when he doesn't see that any actually exists. He has plenty going on at the moment, as he prepares to leave Doctor Who behind himself. He would probably rather see positive headlines about the show than negative coverage about a show and fanbase that he clearly cares a great deal about.
That said, it's easy to see why some people may believe the backlash was more extreme than Steven Moffat has seen. Reactions to Jodie Whittaker's casting on social media were largely enthusiastic, but those that weren't got fairly ugly, and ugliness on social media can escalate very quickly. A woman as the next Doctor came as a shock to many, and not everybody exactly rose to the occasion.