Change my dear…and it seems not a moment too soon.
The Sixth Doctor’s words are coming to fruition in various ways in Doctor Who‘s eleventh season. A diverse TARDIS team featuring a Black companion as well as the show’s first South Asian companion paired with the first woman Doctor was enough to cause an excited stir among fans.
The show then introduced us to Segun Akinola, a Black man who will serve as the show’s new composer.
But, the recent news about the Doctor Who creative team behind the camera shows further progress for the sci-fi staple.
Esteemed children’s author and Doctor Who fan Malorie Blackman will help pen the Thirteenth Doctor’s debut season as the first Black writer in the show’s history. I’m personally thrilled to see a Black woman step into this role and open doors for more Black women to have an impact on Doctor Who at the highest level.
Black women are a more considerable portion of the fandom than most people realize and we love to write about the show, attend conventions, and even create podcasts like TARBIS to examine the show from a Black perspective.
A Black writer on the show is also long overdue considering that there have been several prominent Black characters in modern era like Martha Jones, Mickey Smith, and (most recently) Bill Potts – all of whom could have benefited from having their stories filtered through a Black creative lens.
Hopefully, Blackman’s impact will have a positive influence on Ryan’s characterization and how his Blackness is handled within the scope of the series. She has the science fiction writing expertise needed for Doctor Who, including her previous Seventh Doctor novella The Ripple Effect, and is definitely a solid choice for this groundbreaking season.
Vinay Patel also has a deep-rooted love for science fiction and watched shows like Star Trek as a kid. He’s a great addition to the writing team as a person of South Asian descent (like Mandip Gill’s Yaz) and snagged a few BAFTA nominations for his 2016 TV debut Murdered By My Father.
Representation is more than just adding a Black person to the mix. Other people of color want to see themselves in various capacities on the show and Patel/Gill’s addition to the series is a major step in the right direction.
His perspective along with Blackman’s will bring in some fresh ideas stemming from their different backgrounds and career trajectories. And, the Doctor Who creative team has worked with an editing team primarily composed of women!
The directing side packs a lot of power with a couple of women who have a deep love for Doctor Who. Jennifer Perrott grew up loving the Fourth Doctor and has directing credits stemming back to Hollyoaks, which companion actors Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole (Ryan) both worked on for many years.
Sallie Aprahamian will also serve as a director this season. She’s an old-school fan who witnessed the show in its infancy and will now contribute to its continued growth as a integral part of the Doctor Who creative team.
It’s thrilling to see more women coming into the directing side of Doctor Who and bringing their vision to the series. And, the show will also have a Black male director in the mix with Gotham‘s Mark Tonderai, who recently directed an episode of Black Lightning. The truth is, Doctor Who is loved globally and is for ALL of us and there should be better representation across the board in the show.
I know a lot of people have been meh about Chris Chibnall taking over as showrunner, but I am feeling his decisions in terms of the creative team so far. He’s bringing in the diversity that a show with a progressive premise should have had for years at this point.
And, it is not a “just a PC decision” or to fill a quota – it’s because these are indeed the best people to fulfill the vision he has as a showrunner.
Chibnall addressed his creative team decision on BBC America and said the following:
“We have a team of writers who’ve been working quietly and secretly for a long time now, crafting characters, worlds and stories to excite and move you. A set of directors who stood those scripts up on their feet, bringing those ideas, visuals and emotions into existence with bravura and fun.”
“Hailing from a range of backgrounds, tastes and styles, here’s what unites them: they are awesome people as well as brilliant at their job. (It matters!) They love Doctor Who. And they’ve all worked above and beyond the call of duty in an effort to bring audiences something special, later this year.”
Well said, sir! It’s all shaping up for an exciting new season that will continue to set the precedent for progressive future changes across space and time.