Doctor Who 13: How the World Reacted to the New, Female, Doctor Trending

By Natalie Meehan on July 17th 2017

Full disclosure: I’m not a Doctor Who fan. In fact, I just had to Google whether it’s styled as ‘Dr. Who’ or ‘Doctor Who’.

That isn’t to say that I dislike it, I just haven’t made a habit of watching it. What has grabbed my attention, however, was watching people on social last night and today totally losing their heads because the newest doctor is a woman.

Like, dude. You’re crying over the fact that a show, where the main character is ‘an extraterrestrial being from the planet of Gallifrey’, now has a female lead. After 53 years of male leads. I Googled that too. Anyway, come on. Let us have a go.

And so! What better reason to log on to Brandwatch Analytics than to pull the data on what social’s saying about the appointment of (the excellent) Jodie Whittaker?

I’ve had a venti iced americano and an egg on toast, I’m ready.

I used the Dashboard Wizard in the platform (which is dead easy to use, by the way) and searched for all mentions of #Doctor13, #13thDoctor, #DoctorWho, #TimeLord, and #JodieWhittaker.

Doctor Who 13: The story in social data stats

The news was mentioned on social over half a million times yesterday alone (with the hashtags I mentioned above).


If you’ve somehow missed the announcement video, which has now been liked over 110,000 times, you can see below what all the fuss is about.

Of all mentions, 55% are based in the US, and 22% in the UK, but as you can see from the geotagged map, the whole world has been abuzz.

Shout out to Doctor Who fans tweeting from the Pacific Islands!

Slightly more women than men have posted about the news, at 53% versus 47%.

It should definitely be noted that the sentiment-categorised mentions have been overwhelmingly positive, at 80% compared to 20% negative.

Despite this, a lot of focus in the media has been firmly on the reaction of some who feel that allowing a woman to play the Time Lord is heresy, and have cracked out some lukewarm all-caps tweets letting the BBC know that they’ve LOST A VIEWER. Bet they’re devastated, pal.

I asked Founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, Laura Bates, how she feels about it.

The fact that this is even an issue in 2017 is fairly ridiculous, but more shocking are the number of people who seem genuinely angry at the fact that after 12 white men have played the doctor, one woman is finally going to get a turn. It shows that even today progress towards equality is still met with resistance, anger and vitriol.

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Doctor Who 13: The most popular takes

It’s worth looking at the biggest tweets on the subject. What’s been shared the most? What’s resonating?

Of the ten most shared tweets, eight are BBC owned. Unsurprisingly at the time of writing the BBC’s announcement is the most shared at 59,272. The third most popular tweet around the Doctor Who news, though, is perhaps my favourite.

Writer Jenny Trout posted a video of her daughter watching the announcement video, and it’s wonderful.

If you don’t understand why Jodie Whittaker’s appointment is a good thing, then hopefully this goes part of the way to explain it.

As of time of writing, it’s been retweeted almost 18,000 times, and liked 61,914 times.


All hail Jodie Whittaker

According to the internet, it’s pretty easy to let the sex of the actor overshadow the actor herself.

Whittaker earned rave reviews for her role in Broadchurch, and according to social, everyone’s jazzed that she’s the new Doctor. We found a lot of blue tick support.

So what’s the takeaway here? That the likes of Dave, Martin and John in the Daily Mail section are the voice of the few, not the many.


Hey, guess what? Women can, in fact, be doctors. Women can even be Ghostbusters.

This is one more positive step in the right direction, and I’m here for it. You never know, I might even start watching.

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Natalie Meehan


Natalie has worked in marketing for a decade, and is the Head of Content and Social at Brandwatch. She'll put an egg on almost anything.

  • Ctrl-Opt-Del

    You seriously referenced the Ghostbusters reboot? 😂 it was that utter debacle that made people – male *and* female – wary of productions where established male characters were made female! No-one (almost) complained when they made Starbuck a woman in the BSG reboot, but the Ghostbusters reboot was such an awful movie which wasted a good cast (if they’d refilmed the script of the original movie with the new actors it would’ve been a good movie) and lazily relied on crying sexism/homophobia/racism (particularly absurd as Winston Zeddemore was black) when anyone made valid criticism of the writing/direction/production/etc. that people are now wary of anyone who makes a male character female, for fear of it being a gimmick to cover a lack of imagination/talent. Blame Paul Feig for a lot of this trepidation!

  • Stephen Palmer

    This is what the other side of this argument don’t understand. Its not about hating women or women not being capable of heroics. Its taking a male character or idea and feminizing it with an anti-male agenda. Doctor who as a woman makes complete and total sense, Furiosa, ridley, laura croft, 11, cersei, daenerys, jessica jones, and so on and so on. All amazing complex female heroes that totally kick ass. Original Ideas are what should be used to empower women, not the progressive lefts anti-male agenda.

  • Orwellian Dystopia

    This is not about having women leads, which many movies and shows do (as they should). This is about having a man shown literally morphing into a woman on TV. Is it really that horrible for many people not to want transgenderism pushed on a male character on an over half-century old family/children’s show for no apparent reason (except that transgenderism is the newest “cause”)? I don’t really see what this has to do with women’s rights.

    (I know some people argue that Time Lords can change gender on the
    show, but that’s a recent addition to the show’s cannon that was rather
    obviously added to prepare the way to change the male Doctor into a
    female one. Shoehorning that into Time Lord lore in the first place was also an unnecessary and drastic change. For almost all of the show’s history, Time Lords only regenerated into people of their own sex.)

  • Marky

    I can’t wait!!! And I’m a male

  • The_Countess

    there is no ‘progressive lefts ant-male agenda’.

    if you don’t like the change just say so, don’t try to blame in on political BS.
    i’m skeptical, but i think Jodie Whittaker might just be able to pull it of.

  • The_Countess

    calling a sex change ‘shoehorning’ it in seems like a stretch in a show about a regenerating-after-death character.

  • endless–procrastination

    The show hasn’t been good since Russel T Davies left and last season was their worst in audience since 2005 I think. This is just an attempt to please some fans (tumblr fans) that had been calling for a female doctor for no reason other than “why not? He morphs into other people why not morph genders!!?1?” while receiving free publicity from them.

    I don’t see how the fuck this is “a step for progress” as that lady obssesed with sexism says. “Its taking a male character or idea and feminizing it with an anti-male agenda” It’s exactly this. One could call for female protagonists on shows with a mostly female audience to become chauvinist men as “revenge” but I’m not a sexist that would enjoy a show to “bathe in female tears” like this bunch, Just have to see the writer on this article: “never a fan but hey they cattered to my agenda so maybe I check it out now”

  • endless–procrastination

    Oh shit dude you should take a screencap of this comment and show it to every women you know, maybe they will notice you

  • Sean Owen Birch

    Wow. lol. I can’t even take you seriously :D

  • loonyboyx

    Your idea of great female role models are all ones who “kick ass” and act like men. You might want to think about that.

  • loonyboyx

    Your personal baggage shouldn’t be an issue to the Doctor Who production team.

  • Natalie Kate M

    Hey there – I wrote this. And you are right; I’ve not watched previously. My agenda isn’t to ‘bathe in male tears’, but obviously a show which has had 12 male leads and is now featuring a female lead is going to get my attention. I don’t see the issue in that, personally? If more women become viewers of the show following the announcement then that is a good thing, surely?

  • Johan Alex Kotzé

    I think most people forget that it’s not the fact it’s a woman. It’s the fact they chose… her.

  • asdfasf

    Lara Croft and Jessica Jones are amazing complex female heroes?

  • safdasfasfd

    Sadly, that is my concern, too.

    I don’t care that a new doctor’s iteration is going to be as a female. It isn’t the first time. There was another female doctor (though it wasn’t in official canon). Almost nobody cares. The problem is that all too often these sorts of things happen to be done in a super ham-fisted, cringe-worthy way. So it isn’t the fact that the lead is a female that comes across poorly or makes people dislike it. It’s how the writers handle that female character or the change to the female character. Making more of a deal about it than they should. Putting all their eggs in the basket of “but it’s a girl!”. THEY are the ones who treat it so differently that it comes across poorly. Not the audiences. And then, in the end, the creators of these things (and the feminists that cheer them) blame the audience for being sexist and misogynistic when they don’t like it… and they don’t like it not because of the gender… but because of the awful writing that goes along with it.

    In other words, it should be natural and sincere and treated well. Not used as a crutch.

  • asfdasfasfd

    To be fair, if it fails like these things so often due to to all sorts of other creative (or lack of creative) aspects BESIDES gender, it will absolutely be blamed on “political BS”. I completely expect “gamergate” and “sexist mean nerds living in their basement” to be attacked for it if the changes aren’t received well ultimately. Because that progresses a narrative and excuses poor writing and other creative aspects…. rather than just admitting “we did a crap job”.

  • asdfasfasdf

    Uh… Literally nobody is going to even think about “transgenderism” unless the writers imply all sorts of weird hamfisted stuff with the transition. He’s a time lord. He comes back in all sorts of personas. *shrug*

  • asfdasfdasfd

    I always thought a character just like Martha would have made a GREAT doctor. I have no clue who the hell this other person is and I don’t really care.

  • Nayukhuut

    This comment will likely get deleted, but I feel the need to speak up because this issue is constantly being misrepresented. The media is claiming that it is mostly sexist men speaking up against this change, but that is not entirely true. There are a lot of women and parents against this too, and their reasons are similar. For the women it’s that we have already loved the Doctor for years. He was already a role model to us, and one that we grew up with. Gender can be an important bonding tool with the character/viewer bond, and we love him as he is. We WANT the positive male Doctor as our role model and Time Lord. For parents it is similar. They have young boys that are devistated that their current roll model is being changed. I’ve seen young boys in tears, while at the same time we praise that young girls now have someone to look up to. Somehow though, the boys are not important. I’m here to tell you that girls, and even young girls, already looked up to the Doctor, and this change was not needed, or wanted in our eyes. :(

    It would have been much better if they had brought back one of the already established Time Ladies, and made them a stable character. Or better yet, given them their own spinoff show. I would have watched that in an instant. There are already more established Time Lady characters that there were consistent Time Lord characters, it was unnecessary to change both the Time Lords to Time Ladies. :( For anyone who doubts me, here’s a partial list. For females we have Rani, Romana, Jenny(getting a big finish series apparently), Susan, and River. For males we had the Doctor, and the Master. Both of those have been changed. Apparently those of us who bonded with the male characters are just not important anymore though. :(

    In closing, you do not have to agree with me, that’s fine, but please stop painting all people who disagree with this change as sexist white men or other such nonsense. There are a lot of women against it as well.

    Myself(female), my aunt, my mother, and my sister.

  • Stephen Palmer

    No you just are to sexist to see women as heroic so you see at as “acting like men”. The point of my argument was to make strong female protagonist and stop feminizing traditionallly male heroes.

  • River Tam

    I seem to remember a lot of whining about Starbuck. A lot. Even when saying “the reboot is an amazing show and I <3 Adama."

  • Paul Teevan

    Holy shit 6 mean comments on the Daily Mail. That’s clearly a shit ton of people throwing a fit

  • I only wish they had made her older and less glamorous. I liked the first four doctors being eccentric old(er) men and thought Capaldi had the perfect look (even though his personality ended up being very disappointing). Some day it would be nice to have a Miss Marple-like doctor, a sweet and slightly dotty-seeming older lady who appears harmless but is actually sharp and formidable.

  • loonyboyx

    You have 50 years of Doctor Who with a male in the lead role. It’s greedy to say it’s not enough.

  • loonyboyx

    When the show started, the Doctor wasn’t a timelord, he didn’t regenerate, his homeworld wasn’t Gallifrey, etc. Using your logic none of those things should never have happened.

  • Ctrl-Opt-Del

    It’s not a competition! Why do women get to have a turn with male characters? If some women really can’t identify with male characters (which shows an extreme narcissistic lack of empathy; I rooted for Rey & Finn in Star Wars 7, despite my being a white man and them being a white woman & black man), why not have other female characters rather than gender swap the male ones? What would happen if an established female character was made male? Would that be “fair sharing” of the character?

  • Ctrl-Opt-Del

    “Your personal baggage shouldn’t be an issue to the Doctor Who production team.” And neither should yours…

  • Ctrl-Opt-Del

    Well, personally, I find a man magically changing into a woman no less ridiculous than a man magically changing into another man. That said, this does give me pause for the reasons I outlined in my other comment; it seems to be being done by people who want to use the show as nothing but a convenient soapbox to push an agenda, and who will put it ahead of telling a good story any time that choice arises. The Doctor being a woman doesn’t spoil the show for me, but I do worry the man who has made the Doctor a woman will spoil it by being a poor showrunner. In a move that is sure to baffle closet misandrist third-wave feminists; I don’t have a problem with the woman in all this, I have a problem with the man! #PaulFeigEffect

  • J. B.

    Women can even be Ghostbusters.
    Considering the slant of this article, this quote above by the author is hilarious!
    Remind me again of how much money that new Ghostbusters movie made.
    Remind me again of how well received the new Ghostbusters movie was.
    Remind me again of the overall reviews of the new Ghostbusters movie.
    Remind me again of when the sequel to that next Ghostbusters movie is.
    With that one quote at the top by the author, they themselves showed what will happen to a once storied franchise (Dr Who)
    But hey, at least the SJWs and 3rd wave feminists got their way after holding their breath and stomping all this time, right?

  • ivon

    12 male Doctor already.. At least give 1 female Doctor a break.. Doctor Who travels other dimensions and planets just think of it as an alternate dimension Doctor Who with same goal but different gender.
    Like in Marvel and DC they have multiple Universe with different past and future.
    Let little girls imagine that they be anyone too.. Yap, Children watch this too.

    Watch Doctor Who online

  • Christian rubert

    exactly, an anti male agenda. the left wing social mediaites screaming for a female doctor dont understand this. Peter davison the 5th doc wrote (Before the feminist lynch mob shamed him to quit twitter) wrote we lost a male role model for boys. Hes right . This is common sense. Why is it that third wave feminists demand diversity (like google) representation? this is left wing speak. cultural marxism folks. the bbc HATES men! why does the show have to push a rabid left wing agenda. shows should be apolitical. Why does everything have to bring AWARENESS to this minority, equal pay, this social class, social commentary, preachyness. Why cant we watch a show witjhout my fundementalist, christian, conservative views are attacked? I Want entertainment not being preached too about equality for females or minorities They want to destroy the shows quality by beating men over the head with the feminist agenda, male bashing etc. This pleases the lynch mob but how about the minority they are alienating? There are conservatives who love good art, who love what the doctor stands for. I Angrily rebut this articles claim , “oh jodie, just bathe in male tears!” Arrogant, elitist, liberal snobbery! The writer of this Article leans left as she supports blacklives matter uk (another whiny grievance base lib group, and ed milliband who would be considered a hard left democrat in the USA. In conclusion feminists have netflix, cable tv, hollywood films for their diversity needs. doctor who has had strong supporting female characters. Why must the show be like wonder woman, or ghostbusters? Ghostbusters failed at the box office because no one wants to see female leads taking over a male lead franchise. the doctor is a male! not a female! the show is out of ideas. this is gimmick casting. #nursewho #feminazis #chickification # mr castrati #feministsareangrylesbians #trannnysarementalillness #girlsneedamaletocrushon. did you hear the actress who played rose tyler says her character who was in love with 10th doc would be madly in love with the 13th. sick! This is pop cultural degeneracy! sodom and gomorrah would be proud. Doctor who has gone so downhill! the people who run doctor who dont care about the negative naysayers, they dont care about good art, they care only about a bad type of change. Put the nail in the coffin for doctor who. The show is done.

  • Christian rubert

    I know!!! I agree