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Jodie Whittaker to become Doctor Who's first female Time Lord

For the first time in the cult series' 54-year television history, the Time Lord will regenerate as a woman. Feminist Jodie Whittaker takes over the role later in the year.

British actress Jodie Whittaker - who made her name alongside a previous Doctor, David Tennant, on a commercial television ITV series, Broadchurch - was unveiled on Sunday as the first woman to play the lead role in Doctor Who.

The cult BBC science fiction series is broadcast globally and marked its 50th anniversary four years ago with a special episode screened simultaneously in nearly a hundred countries. It features the adventures of the Doctor, a time lord, who travels through time, apparently in an old, blue London police telephone box. He tackles injustice and confronts enemies across the universe.

The current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, said he was leaving the show in January. Viewers will have to wait until the end of the year before seeing Whittaker on screen.

It's a man's world

"People should not be scared by my gender," Whittaker said.

"It feels completely overwhelming, as a feminist, as a woman, as an actor, as a human, as someone who wants to continually push themselves and challenge themselves, and not be boxed in by what you're told you can and can't be," she said.

"I always knew I wanted the 13th Doctor to be a woman and we're thrilled to have secured our number one choice," Chris Chibnall, Doctor Who's new head writer and executive producer, said.

"Jodie is an in-demand, funny, inspiring, super-smart force of nature and will bring loads of wit, strength and warmth to the role. The 13th Doctor is on her way.”

"Having a female Doctor is really exciting and significant. I cannot wait to see what she does with the role and where she takes the show," Emily Cook, editorial assistant at Doctor Who magazine, said.

Divided opinion

"Today's announcement has been a shock for many fans, but this is a show about change, and perhaps now is the time that we all get behind the idea of a female Doctor?" Sebastian J Brook, site editor at Doctor Who Online, said.

"I've always been of the opinion that the Doctor is and should be a man. He has always identified as male in the series, and after 50+ years, it's certainly going to take some getting used to, but I support the show and Jodie is a fantastic actress, so she gets my full support, too."

The choice of a woman to play a cult British star echoes discussions about casting Idris Elba, a black Briton, in the role of James Bond.

jbh/jm (dpa, AFP)