Your Verdict on Jodie Whittaker’s Casting

Joshua Yetman presents the results of the recent 13th Doctor poll.

On the 16th July 2017, in the grand aftermath of a Wimbledon final, the identity of the 13th Doctor was formally announced in a stunningly shot trailer lasting a single moment. A minute’s worth of content, however, would go on to spark vast amounts of online discussion and reaction, making headlines worldwide and magnetising a level of attention that the show has probably not witnessed since the 50th anniversary. Why? Well, in case you were living under the largest of rocks in the deepest of crevasses, the show has taken aboard its first female Doctor in the form of Jodie Whittaker.

In the aftermath of that reveal, DWTV opened a poll asking whether or not you were happy with this casting decision, and you voted in your hordes. In fact, this ultimately proved to be one of the largest polls in DWTV history, with over 30,000 votes cast. Without further ado, the results of this poll are as follows:

So, officially, the ayes have it, and it is evident to conclude that more people are happy with the casting of Jodie Whittaker than unhappy (at least as far as the DWTV community is concerned), but it must be acknowledged that it is only by a very slim majority. In fact, this is one of the slimmest majorities of any major Doctor Who fansite holding comparable polls.

Comparisons with other polls

Taken on its own, this result may be disheartening for those in favour of Whittaker, and perhaps a source of vindication for the more sceptic or outright displeased, but there are some important points to discuss.

One, this was a simple “Yes / No” poll, an exclusive disjunction. This type of questioning may skip over a significant group of voters who are merely sceptic but fully willing to give Whittaker a chance, but because they were not outright happy with the casting they selected the “No” option. Thus, a third option for “Undecided” may have highlighted a different flavour of results, and may have shown that the proportion of voters that are actually truly unhappy is smaller than this poll suggests.

Two, this poll result is still a remarkably progressive outcome for the DWTV community, which has typically been quite conservative with regard to the notion of a female Doctor. In 2013 and 2014, DWTV held polls directly or indirectly surveying the fan opinion for the general idea of a female Doctor (i.e. with no specific actress in mind). These poll results are shown below, with the exact wording of those polls left intact:

In the 2013 poll (prior to Capaldi’s announcement as the 12th Doctor), a huge supermajority of 87.1% wanted the 12th Doctor to be male, with those wanting a female 12th Doctor being outnumbered nearly 7 to 1. Of course, there may have been some people who specifically wanted the 12th Doctor to be male but were still open to later incarnations being female (perhaps because they thought the show wasn’t ready at that point), but this poll still suggests that, in 2013, the DWTV consensus was firmly against the notion of a female Doctor.

Flash forward one year to 2014, and consider the context; Series 8 had just finished and, with it, we had witnessed the first female incarnation of the Master – Missy. Missy was very well received as a character and as an incarnation of the Master, and this may have softened opinions considerably. The results of the 2014 poll – which specifically asked for people’s opinions about a general female incarnation – showed 46.5% of voters were in favour of a female incarnation of the Doctor. Of course, 53.5% were still against, but what a change since 2013, and it was close too!

Another poll we have on hand is nearly identical to the one held for Jodie Whittaker, but for Peter Capaldi, back when he was announced as the 12th Doctor in 2013:

This poll indicates that people were proportionally much happier with Capaldi’s casting than with Whittaker’s, with Peter’s casting yielding a 76.4% approval rating compared to Jodie’s 52.4%.

However, this poll had an ‘Undecided’ option, which soaked up nearly 7% of the vote. Granted, 7% wasn’t much for Capaldi, but I imagine that – with the same poll options – Whittaker would score a significantly higher ‘Undecided’ figure, and that would paint a completely different picture if factored into her results.

Conclusions

DWTV’s poll demonstrated a slim but definitive majority happy with the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor. This poll had a large sample size, but that does not necessarily mean that it is representative of the entire fan population, especially seeing as DWTV has – as its earlier polls have suggested – been a more ‘anti’ leaning site when it comes to the concept of a female Doctor. I would confidently guess that the true approval percentage for the fan population lies well above the 52.4% suggested by this poll, but that is just my conjecture, based on some of the alternative empirical results I have seen.

Moreover, although DWTV has been historically cautious with regard to a female Doctor, the community has significantly changed in recent years, either as a result of Moffat’s careful and attentive foundation-laying for the female Doctor throughout his tenure, or the wider progressive changes to society, or a bit of both. Ignoring differences in the wording of questions, the community has essentially evolved from being 13% in support a female Doctor to 52% in just four years, and that’s a significant change!

With the debut of Jodie Whittaker this Christmas, and her upcoming era now set in stone for 2018, one wonders how far this community will progress in the next four years.