Why the Thirteenth Doctor Could Prove Popular with Fans in North Asia

Jodie Whittaker’s appointment as the Thirteenth Doctor might have split fans in the UK and USA, but BBC Worldwide’s Executive Vice President for Asia says she could prove massively popular with fans in China, Japan, and South Korea.

David Weiland implies that this is because Doctor Who doesn’t have the same cultural impact in Asia as it has in the West. He says:

“In North Asia, Doctor Who fans tend to be more female – and younger – than they are in the UK. I think it’s to do, actually, with the fact that most Doctor Who fans around the world have probably got into the series only in the last ten years, so they’re not nostalgic fans from 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago. It’s not something they’ve grown up with as a family like people in the UK have, who pass it down to their children generation by generation.”

It’s an excellent point: many people who aren’t keen on the Doctor switching genders feel that way because, in over 50 years and 13 bodies (not including the meta-crisis incarnation), including one whole regenerative cycle, it’s never happened before. How would we feel if the Third, Fourth, or even Fifth Doctors had been female? At least Twitter wouldn’t have been around to stir the pot further…

(The Radio Times also infers that this means fans “being skewed towards the female demographic” are more open to a female Doctor, which is a shaky assumption at best, but let’s not dwell on it.)

Weiland went on to enthuse:

“That’s the thing about the creative process. I think everybody has witnessed, whether it’s films or TV series, if you start to almost let the tail wag the dog where you say, ‘Oh it needs to be a woman, she needs to be this, she needs to be that, because it’s going to appeal to that’; it never works. It’s got to come from the creative process. So we’ve got a new showrunner [Chris Chibnall]; it was an opportunity to reinvent Doctor Who – what were you going to do? And that seemed like the obvious direction to go. But it has gone down incredibly well with fans around the world.”

DWC readers might recall last year’s brand expansion in China, after a BBC Worldwide Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with leading Chinese media company, Shanghai Media Group Pictures (SMG Pictures); this seemingly confirmed that Doctor Who would continue until at least Series 15. The deal also means Asian fans would have access to all material since 2005, including spin-offs like Torchwood. Jaclyn-Lee Joe, Chief Marketing Officer for BBC Worldwide, said:

Doctor Who already has a substantial fan base in China.  Now, Chinese fans will be able to access the entire catalogue of Doctor Who and its spin-offs thanks to this agreement. The MOU is an affirmation of both parties’ commitment to build the Doctor Who brand and grow its fan base in China.”

We’ll find out if and how a female lead will change the show when Doctor Who returns with Series 11, this Autumn.