The Doctor who is an introduction to Sacha Dhawan, an actor of Indian origin, as the Master’s water check for how a non-white doctor will be received may indicate the show. The Doctor Who season 12 premiere, titled “Spyfall,” kicked things off with high octane, Jens Bond-inspired bang with a jaw-dropping twist that some fans saw coming. At the end of the first half of the two-part premiere, the character of Sacha Dhawan reveals the return of the Master, an iconic villain believed to be dead. However, although there is a ton of opening up to that revelation on a story level, Dhawan’s entrance as a master can also point to some repercussions in the real world — in particular, who will be cast as the 14th Doctor.
Doctor Who has previously used the master role to test fan reactions to changes in the franchise formula. The long-time British sheriff made waves back in 2014 when it was announced that Jodie Whittaker would be the successor to Peter Capaldi’s Doctor Joe, thus making Whittaker the first female to play the title role. Such a monumental change was met with equal amounts of anger and applause from fans, resulting in a heated debate following her casting. Before Whittaker officially became the 13th Doctor, there was another woman who once played the first female incarnation of God: Michelle Gomez as Missy, aka Master.
The Master is one of the most recognizable and well-loved villains, on a par with species like the Daleks and Cybermen. The only remaining member of the Doctor’s species (other than the Doctor himself), the Master is a dangerous enemy who had a profoundly personal relationship with the Doctor, and who historically was also played by men only. Gomez was introduced in series 8 — the year before Whitaker made his controversial debut. What’s more, there could be virtually a master change in gender or a decision to cast Gomez in the role, which, for the BBC, could be a sign that they could move on with a female doctor without fear of an uproar. Was there any feedback about that.
Which Doctor would introduce a non-white doctor?
Whether or not this was done intentionally, the fact that a female master was introduced into the Doctor who became a woman doctor just before, begging the question: casting Sacha Dhawan indicates that the next Doctor is a person of colour Could? Just as the Master became the woman before the Doctor, it seems like a possibility that the show may be used as a way to test the Master how well a non-white doctor would receive. There has been an extensive debate about the whiteness of the Doctor Who central character, with many saying that it is long overdue for a man of colour to take on the previous role with fans. In 2016, Steven Moffat confirmed in an interview for Doctor Who Magazine (via Guardian) that the part was offered to a black actor, but casting did not work due to behind-the-scenes complications.
Granted, that was four years ago, and Chris Chibnall has since replaced Moffat as the Doctor Who showrunner. However, it is still somewhat surprising that Doctor Joe, unimpressed by LGBTQ + characters and featuring people of colour in lead roles, has been slow to make a person of colour his title character. However, given just how much feedback the show received when Whitaker casting was announced, it is no surprise that the BBC might be interested in testing the waters before making such a significant change – even if it is one that has long been expected. All this being said, Whittaker shows no signs of slowing down any time soon, so there is no indication as to when the show will also need a new Doctor, let alone what they will be played by. For now, though, fans can enjoy Whittaker’s take on the iconic character, as well as the Doctor Who rival, Dhawan’s turn as the Master.
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