Lots of Planets Have a Yorkshire! – Why a Northern Doctor Matters
It has been reported that Jodie Whittaker will be keeping her natural accent in a role as the 13th Doctor. While this has not been officially confirmed, I want to give my thoughts on why I think this is important.
When Christopher Eccleston was cast as the Ninth Doctor, it took a lot of people by surprise. For many people, their image of the Doctor was of a slightly posh, well dressed gentleman adventurer, probably in his late forties or fifties. Indeed, William Hartnell and Jon Pertwee probably did a lot to cement this image in people’s minds.
Take a look at parodies of Doctor Who from the 90s especially and you will find this archetype everywhere. Waistcoats, cravats, frock coats, and a somewhat received pronunciation accent. Even the Eighth Doctor, Paul McGann, was given something of a more upper class look, despite the actor’s objections.
But the idea that the Doctor should be more than just a slightly upper class boffin who swans around the universe making clever remarks has stuck. Indeed, when you look back through the Doctors, surprisingly few of them really meet this stereotype. Patrick Troughton embodied the ‘cosmic hobo’, while Tom Baker was a time travelling bohemian.
Eccleston is the clearest example, perhaps, of a Doctor who embraces a wider identity than the old public image. Bringing the show back with a much more working class Doctor, a Doctor who embraced his ‘inner binman’ as McGann put it, was a brave move. Even when David Tennant took over, he opted for something of a cockney accent rather than a ‘posh’ accent.
Who is the Doctor?
Regeneration was originally used to keep the show going when William Hartnell simply couldn’t do it anymore.
And, while many actors have stuck with the role for as long as they could, others moved on when they felt it was their time. But the show has continued.
Since then, the concept of Regeneration has itself regenerated. No longer simply a mechanism for keeping the show going, it has been a very powerful message. And that being that anyone can be the Doctor, because the Doctor can be anyone.
The Doctor can be a crotchety old man, or a cheerful hobo; they can be a charming, frills and all gentleman, or a wide eyed, larger than life character. A boyish cricketer, or a boisterous adventurer with questionable fashion sense. The Doctor can be a sneaking, plotting little man, or a bold yet hopeless romantic. They can be a war-scarred but optimistic friend, or a happy-go-lucky chap. A flop-haired gangly lad, or a refined old scot. Or, perhaps, the Doctor could be a young, chipper woman from Yorkshire.
This has very much become part of the appeal. Doctor Who can reach out to anyone sat in front of the screen and say much more than ‘look up to this hero’. Doctor Who can say ‘this hero IS you’. It doesn’t matter where you come from, what your accent is, or your gender. The Doctor is for everyone, because the Doctor can be anyone.
The North Remembers
The North of England often gets characterised as a place of grumbling old men, whippets, cold, and pies. A place neglected by the state, and mostly working class or poor, or poorly educated. For many of us northerners, the way the north is portrayed in the media leaves much to be desired.
But to have not only a hero, but one of the most important heroes in television – if not in all of media – represent us is very special. Eccleston made us feel so much more a part of the story, that there was hope, that we could be the clever one.
So, it really is my hope that Jodi keeps her Yorkshire accent. Representing Skelmanthorpe to the whole universe!