In the over 50 year run of the British series Doctor Who, this season marks the first time a woman has ever played the role of the Doctor. The numbers are in and can’t be denied: casting a woman as the Doctor was an unmitigated success, proving that if you expand a sci-fi universe to be diverse and inclusive, new fans will come.
In this new Doctor, women are seeing another much-needed example of themselves represented on screen as smart, capable, and complex. In a time when women could use all the encouragement and representation they can get, a female Doctor on such a legendary show is no small feat. This year’s fall television lineups show a much more diverse landscape than ever before, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Not only was actress Jodie Whittaker’s portrayal of the time-traveling scientist well-received by critics, but it was an instant success with fans. The premiere garnered a peak of 9 million viewers, constituting approximately 40% of all people watching TV at the time in the U.K. To put those impressive numbers in perspective, the series opener with the last Doctor had around 6.8 million viewers. Previous Doctors have amassed between 7-8 million, according to data shared by Variety. After the premiere, fans rushed the Twitter to rave about Whittaker’s portrayal of the Doctor.
The new Time Lord and women in entertainment should not be overlooked as money making heavyweights. In the past year, films like Wonder Woman and Tully have shown that even while being grossly underestimated and doubted, women-lead films are compelling, complex, and clear crowd pleasers. Wonder Woman blew expectations out of the water by bringing in $205 million in the U.S. the first week alone, yet director James Cameron still found a way to complain about the movie saying it was “misguided” and a “step backward.” Clearly, that couldn’t be further from the truth. People want to see more women creating and leading TV and film, and it’s about time. In the past, pushback may have kept a film or series from the success it deserved. Now, they’re not just making it through despite pushback, they are thriving in spite of it.