A LONG time ago, when he still had curly brown hair and wore a scarf, the Doctor met his doom on a gantry and regenerated, so it was appropriate that he should be up on a gantry again when he came to terms with his new identity as a woman. The wind whipped at the Doctor’s new hair, the metal creaked under her new feet, and all over the country, sexists, conservatives, and old Doctor Who fans who don’t like change (which is most of them) shifted awkwardly in their chairs.

The new man in charge of the show, Chris Chibnall, knew many of the old fans would be feeling this way so he had the new Doctor address them directly – on screen, the Doctor was talking to an alien monster but in reality she was speaking to the fans and the monster of misogyny. “We can evolve while still staying true to who we are,” said the Doctor. Jodie Whittaker, the actress who plays her, said something similar when she got the part: be afraid of the Daleks by all means, but don’t be afraid of my gender.

Chibnall is certainly right about the process of evolution in Doctor Who – indeed, the idea of change, or regeneration, is built into the show. Chibnall is also clearly keen to evolve away from some of the mistakes his predecessor Steven Moffat made, particularly the overly complicated plots that turned off a lot of viewers. It meant Sunday’s opening storyline was simple, perhaps even too simple and safe: monster comes to earth, attacks humans, and is defeated by the Doctor. It was a good monster as well: dark, ruthless and with a dirty habit of wearing his victims’ teeth on his face as trophies.

In some ways, Chibnall also seems to want to reboot Doctor Who back to the early days of the 2005 revival under Russell T Davies, with the focus on ordinary people in domestic situations who suddenly find themselves fighting aliens. The formula worked well at the time and Chibnall knows he has to find the right mix of new and familiar to keep the brand going and reverse the falling ratings. So, we have back to basics on the plot and all change with the lead character.

But is Jodie Whittaker any good? I’m on record as agreeing with the Fifth Doctor Peter Davison when he said the casting of a woman means the loss of a role model for boys, and I think that’s particularly true for boys who aren’t interested in the preponderance of male heroes who conform to all the usual violent, dumb stereotypes.

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However, the casting of a woman is a fait accompli now (we cannot travel back in time and change it, or at least not yet) so we should take a lead from the Doctor and try to approach it with an open mind. What’s reassuring is that, in most ways, the character is still the same – the antipathy to violence is still there (“only idiots carry knives” she says at one point). And she still favours eccentric outfits, although Whittaker’s costume, including braces and raincoat, is strangely de-feminising, as if the designers lost confidence and chose to dress her up a bit like a man. Some of what she said as well sounded like sentences written by a man for men but spoken by a woman.

I think most fans may also take some time to be convinced that Whittaker has the right qualities to be the Doctor – in particular, is she eccentric and weird enough? At times you could feel her straining to overcome her conventional appearance, manner and voice to appear eccentric. But for the best actors in the role, and particularly the man with the curly brown hair and the scarf, eccentricity is something that comes naturally. Which means Whittaker has quite a tough test to overcome: being the Doctor is not something you can fake.