Last Summer an eagerly anticipated advert was aired on BBC One to announce the new Dr Who.
With baited breath, the nation waited for the hooded figure to reveal themselves.
As the Time Lord walked towards the Tardis they opened their hand to reveal a glowing key, then removed their hood. The Doctor was shown to be the actor Jodie Whittaker.
This revelation caused a huge response on social media, most notably because this is the first time a female actor has been cast in the role of Dr Who.
As a huge fan of the show, I was really pleased with this long overdue change.
As well as having been in lots of TV shows, films and theatre that I have enjoyed (such as Broadchurch and Attack the Block), I was particularly pleased because I have a more personal connection with Jodie Whittaker.
See the announcement
Take a look at this video to see the moment when Jodie Whittaker was revealed as the new Dr Who.
The Mencap connection
You see, I work for Mencap; currently in the Digital Team but previously on Reception, and 7 years ago Jodie Whittaker came in to pay us a visit.
During her visit, I chatted to her about the work that she has done and told her that I enjoyed lots of the different shows and films that I had seen her in; she was impressed by my memory!
Since then Jodie has been involved with other activities to support Mencap's work.
I have been a big fan of Dr Who for many years, having first watched it when Tom Baker played the Doctor; I used to find it so unusual and scary that it made me hide behind the sofa.
I’ve also had the opportunity to meet another Dr Who through my work at Mencap; Christopher Eccleston came to Mencap to speak to some of my colleagues with a learning disability. It was great to meet him as I enjoyed his portrayal of the Doctor with a Northern accent!
A step in the right direction
I am really pleased that we now have a female Dr Who, as I think this is a positive change.
However, I’ve often thought that a mainstream series like Dr Who could do more for inclusivity and equality by featuring characters and actors with a learning disability. The Doctor is an alien themselves, so I would think that having people from different backgrounds playing this part would be appropriate.
I occasionally see people with a learning disability in other TV dramas, like another favourite of mine, Call the Midwife. In this series Sarah Gordy, an actor with a learning disability, played a woman who was pregnant. I thought she was excellent in this role.
However, I think there is more to be done in this area. Sadly, I am yet to see a person with a learning disability in a lead role in a mainstream film, but there is still time. People with a learning disability are part of society, so I feel it is important for them to be included in film and television. I feel that if more people with a learning disability were shown on television and film, audiences would grow more accustomed to this in the real world. I think it would help to improve the lack of awareness and understanding that currently exists in parts of society around learning disability.
Recently, we’ve seen other steps to improve this across the disability community, such as the winner of Britain’s Got Talent; a comedian named Lee Ridley (better known as The Lost Voice Guy) who has Cerebral palsy and incorporates his act around what it’s like to have a disability. The runner up in Britain’s Got Talent was also a comedian, named Robert White, who has Asperger’s syndrome.
The first female Time Lord
I think Jodie Whittaker’s appointment as the new Dr Who is very significant. This is a big deal as the Doctor has been portrayed by male actors for almost fifty-five years.
It’s also important to me as a woman that my favourite sci-fi hero is now played by a woman, as many heroes are portrayed by male actors, which I find quite boring! It’s like having bangers and mash for tea every night; good for a while but you will need something different eventually!
Are there any tv shows that you'd like to see introduce a character with a learning disability?
Get involved on Twitter and let us know!