For a long time The Doctor’s Aussie fans had to wait longer than their UK counterparts for new episodes. The darkest times were around the first run of the Eccleston and Tennant era, where we once famously didn’t get our Christmas episode until close to Easter. There were, of course, other ways to time travel to achieve equality, but let’s just say this created a torrent of problems.
Thankfully these days Whovians from Down Under have pretty much equal access. New episodes are broadcast on local public service broadcaster, ABC TV, within 24 hours of the BBC original; and really keen beans can watch the episode on the ABC’s online iPlayer, equivalent, iView, pretty much as soon as it airs. That means that if you want to get up at 5.45am on a Monday morning, Australian Eastern Standard Time, then dear eager fan, The Doctor is in!
I’ve done the very early shift regularly since iView first offered it a few years back. Usually on a Sunday morning after the UK Saturday evening, the early shift even allowed for the possibility of rolling back over when it was done. Then there was that one time, for the 50th Anniversary Episode, where a bunch of academic colleagues and I were away at a conference. We all huddled together in one hotel room, having champagne and popcorn for breakfast, singing, whooping and cheering along before then composing ourselves for a very serious day of being grown ups. Fabulous.
Now that the New Who is screened on Sunday evening in the UK, I need to get try to get my dose of Who before the rushing out the door on a Monday morning. I could sneak a peak on the bus on the way, or wait until I get home – but that last suggestion really is outrageous. My added complication this season is I now have a small baby. She’s not against an early start – sadly, she’s a bit too enthusiastic about it. But whether she’d tolerate something without Peppa Pig in it for longer than 10 minutes remained to be seen.
This week’s debut for new Doctor Jodie Whittaker absolutely made up for any loss of sleep, rushed caffeine hit and squirming bub – what a complete joy it was. Bold, dark, but still fun and accessible, it stood alone as a perfect introduction to a new fan while also clearly serving the faithful. I also loved how different it sounded – the northern accents and rumbling soundscape, capped off by the new (old) theme. We had to wait all the way until the end to hear it – clearly inspired by Delia Derbyshire’s original much more than recent orchestral or more bass-heavy versions.
Whittaker was bold as Number 13 – particularly worthy of the rebooted series. She somehow managed to engage a bit of each of those before her – Eccleston’s northern warmth (‘lots of planets have a ‘north’); Tennant’s traveller’s wonder (‘I’m just a traveller, imagine it!’); Smith’s puppy-dog like commitment (‘I have never met anyone who wasn’t important’); Capaldi’s mix of complete control and silliness at once (‘I’m the doctor and this is my spoon’). And yet, Whittaker’s Doctor is already distinct – when she raised her chin, shot from underneath, to proudly proclaim ‘I Am The Doctor’, she showed a hero who is unwaveringly brave, backed up by the sheer belief that she can make a difference. How? Well, she’s working on the plan – will have one in a tick. As she explained of the regeneration process, “I just need to hold my nerve”. It will be interesting to see if in coming episodes that balance between nerve and ego gets played out – and how dangerous the balance may become. The new companions are brilliant too – only disappointment was the loss of the wonderful matriarch, Grace (Sharon D Clarke). Although, the theories are already out as to how gone she actually is…
The thrill of knowing there is a woman in the lead for my daughter to look up to had me smiling from ear to ear. Going to the evening session at the local theatre to see the episode again (yes, because it was shown in the local movie theatre as well, with extra bits!), my husband and I also found out that the costumers have included a little nod to the suffragettes in Whittaker’s costume too. Nice! Bub wasn’t really that impressed this time around (see the earlier note about Peppa), I look forward to watching reruns and new seasons with her when she’s older. And by then, the sheer fact that The Doctor Is A Girl won’t be remarkable. It’ll just be a thing. Well done to all involved with the change – lucky 13, indeed!
Dr Liz Giuffre is a lecturer and researcher in Media, Music and Cultural Studies at University of Technology, Sydney, Australia. Her work focuses on music and television in particular, including audience studies, fandom, cultural history and cultural industries in transition.