By Miranda Ashitey
Everyone has their “Doctor”. Even if you don’t particularly like Doctor Who, there has to be a Doctor that you either remember or identify with. As a “Xennial” (born in the early 1980s), my “Doctor” is Sylvester McCoy. You know… funny hat, funky jumper, umbrella with the question mark handle, companion also moonlighting as a CBBC presenter… Sylvester McCoy is MY Doctor. Or at least he WAS. Enter stage left Jo Martin, the first black Doctor Who.
Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s as a first-generation African immigrant, born in South London, tomboyish, not quite sure of her sexuality, I was always a bit of an odd bod because I didn’t do or gravitate towards stereotypical “black” things. I’d rather watch “Lost In Space” over “Love and Basketball” (Hey! It had Joey from Friends in it and Apollo 440 did the theme tune!) Sci-Fi wasn’t really something black girls were expected to be openly enthusiastic about. But I carried on regardless.
But going back to Jo Martin. The Doctor. The Black Doctor. The female Doctor. The BLACK FEMALE Doctor. Of course she can be the Doctor. I mean, she’s already in Holby City as a neurologist, so doctoring is already in her bag. Or TARDIS. Her unassuming confidence, her lack of black stereotypes, her articulation, her locks, her outfit… Totally loving the outfit! Anything remotely edging towards patterns resembling kente cloth is always going to be a massive plus for me! To be watching a show that has been going on for over fifty years and to have the main character look like me is something I didn’t realistically think would happen. At least, not in my lifetime. An alien Time Lord with two hearts? Totally believable. One that can change gender AND ethnicity?! You what?!?
When Jo first came on screen as Ruth Clayton, I thought, “Oh, a strong female black character. Let’s see how long SHE lasts in this episode”. After what happened to the awesome Grace (Like Graham and Ryan, STILL not over it!), I wasn’t holding much hope. Once it was revealed that Ruth was indeed the Doctor, a part of me did think, “Is this canon? Are they going to doctor-bait me like they did with David Morrissey?” So once it was quickly confirmed that a) it IS canon, b) she isn’t another version of the Doctor, c) I didn’t imagine it and d) they were going with another female Doctor, I could sleep soundly.
I always say that representation matters. Being able to see or hear someone and think, “They’re just like me” means the universe. It can be a friend to support you. The teacher you can learn from. The comfort blanket you can snuggle with. The parent you can depend on. Having a black Doctor Who shows that sci-fi CAN and SHOULD be for black people. We’re more than a stereotype. We’re more than having more melanin. We are fans, we are here to stay and a black Doctor shows we belong. For years, I had to watch characters in shows I loved that didn’t look like me but try to identify with. Now, I don’t have to. Not with Jo Martin. MY Doctor.
What do you think of Jo Martin as the Doctor? Let us know @thetimeladies_ or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org