Sunday night’s episode of Doctor Who revealed that the Doctor was, in fact, a strong, black woman all along, in a move that shocked many fans.
In the episode, “Fugitive of the Judoon,” Jo Martin plays the character of Ruth Clayton, a tour guide in the English city of Gloucester, who we find out is, in fact, a previously unknown version of the Doctor on the run, disguised as a human.
However, what seems to be established is that this is not the next Doctor, but suggested this was an incarnation from the current Doctor, Jodie Whittaker’s, past.
Fans were left reeling by the reveal. Many theories were posited online as to how this version could fit into the established canon of the series. Some suggested that Martin could be from a parallel universe, that she was the first incarnation of the titular Time Lord, or that she fit inbetween the 2nd and 3rd incarnations – in the classic series, the regeneration was never seen.
However, Chris Chibnall, the mastermind behind this series and the last of Doctor Who, denied that Martin’s Doctor was from a parallel universe.
“The important thing to say is – she is definitively the Doctor, there’s not a sort of parallel universe going on, there’s no tricks,” he told The Mirror. “Jo Martin is the Doctor, that’s why we gave her the credit at the end which all new Doctors have the first time you see them. John Hurt got that credit.”
Chibnall has already been criticised for making the Series 11 and 12 of the long-running show far too political. “Arachnids in the UK” from 2018, had a character who was clearly a crude parody of President Trump, and the previous episode to “Fugitive of the Judoon,” “Orphan 55,” featured a future Earth that was made so toxic by climate change, that the only humans who survived were transformed into violent beasts.
National File spoke to a number of Whovians (Doctor Who fans) about what they thought of the episode. Some were rather annoyed with the decision, seeing it as tearing up the established canon, while others decided to reserve their judgement until the arc was complete.
“The existence of the Jo Martin Doctor will either mean a disastrous retcon of the established lore, or will incorporate a backstory forcing a diversity quota on the show,” said one fan, with another describing the “secret regeneration” as “highly questionable”:
Chris Chibnall’s insistence that Jo Martin’s character isn’t some type of alternative universe Doctor, or a trick to the audience, means long-standing story points increasingly seem under threat against Chibnall’s guerrilla war against the the Doctor Who property and its fanbase. He is sacrificing consistency and canon of a 56-year-old television staple on the alter of his “vision,” which has resulted in the worst series of the entirety of the revived show [Series 11].
One long-time fan of the show was “apprehensive” of the storyline:
Although the idea of Doctors prior to William Hartnell’s original has been hinted at before, revealing too much about the Doctor’s origins and early life would break the central mystery of the show. However, I do think Jo Martin’s incarnation has a much better outfit and TARDIS interior to the current one. Without knowing how the storyline is resolved, it’s difficult to know what to think but I strongly hope the established canon of the show is left intact.
There are certainly a number of plotpoints that have been clearly established, especially ones that have been created since the 2005 revival, that this storyline could easily trample upon, including: that William Hartnell’s incarnation, the first Doctor, was the one who took the TARDIS; that the Doctor was a boy on Gallifrey; that a Time Lord can only regenerate 12 times before they run out of lives.
It remains to be seen whether Chibnall will look after the carefully crafted lore of the show, or whether he will trample all over it in the name of social justice.