Science fiction is one of the most significant tools that has crafted the modern age. Where it not for Star Trek shattering barriers for the dignity of both women and multiculturalism, a whole generation may not have been motivated to expand their understanding of what humanities potential indeed is. Gene Roddenberry truly may not have understood what the effect of sitting down at his typewriter would mean.
As the grandson of a black man and a white woman I taught my children that no matter what our skin may look like, we are more than our race. As a husband, father, and grandfather of ladies I also understand that no matter what your gender is, all human beings have a spirit of wonder that is touched by the divine. Chris Chibnall understands this.
When it the announcement came of the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor Who, I watched as the predictable neanderthalic nerd rage erupted. The same troglodytes that spawned Gamergate and attacked Kelly Tran were now shaking their tiny white fists. I understand their rage; their rage demonstrating the antiquated perception that women in science fiction and fantasy should still be wearing go-go skirts leather boots and chainmail bikinis. These trolls feel threatened because women have risen and demanded the recognition that they are more than curves that many unenlightened men want to restrict females too.
I was born in Oxford Mississippi in 1964, smack dab in the middle of the Civil rights movement. It was only nine years after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. I would watch women aspire for the equal rights amendment. I watched as Sally Ride took to the stars, Geraldine Ferrao become the first female vice-presidential candidate, and Sandra-Day O’Connor became the first female Supreme Court Justice. I also saw the rise of internet pornography that unfortunately would poison far too many males into thinking the degradation of women is okay. Where once I had the optimistic view that the recognition that women are equal at the table of humanity, I sadly believed that dream would likely never happen.
But I was wrong. You and I are now existing on the glorious occasion that is the Female Civil Rights breakthrough. As a father of a thirty-year-old daughter and a not-yet-year-old granddaughter that optimism is returning. Nowhere is that exemplified in the rise of the #MeToo movement. Women are following in the legacy of Rosa Parks.
Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor is the hero we need and deserve. This jumper clad heroine has not only shattered our expectations of what and who the Doctor is but of what humanity can be. She is not a Lieutenant Uhuru because she is the captain of her Tardis as well as the Captain of our collective nerdy souls. In episode 3 of season 11 the episode Rosa, she shows that women are pivotal to human growth and that fact echoes through the galaxy. And yes, Rosa Parks was crucial to the Civil Rights movement, but her legacy is greater than that.
As 13’s companions Yasmin Khan and Ryan Sinclair are hiding outside by a trashcan in 1955 Montgomery, Alabama because ‘Blacks and Mexicans’ are not welcome in a motel in which they are holed up with a racist cop inside. ‘Yaz’ tells a justifiably furious Ryan that is humbling and wonderful ‘to be here just as history’s taking place,’ and ‘that these people don’t win.’ Truer words have never spoken – if we take our seat with Rosa Parks.
Thirteen Who is facing off with the dark side of racism — a time-traveling white supremacist, Krasko — is a reminder that while bigotry may continue to persist, it cannot take root if we keep the fight up for all of humanity. As the thirteenth Doctor – the embodiment of hope — informs Krasko with the timelessly true statement: “Be nice to me, because I’m your best shot of getting out of here.”
We need to be sure to take the Doctor’s advice.
John R. White is a USAF veteran, and has served as Art Director for the Honor Flight Network, and Honor Flight Northwest Ohio. He is most well known as the Author of ‘The Tales of the Airship Neverland’ steampunk series, and the author and designer of the ‘Airship Neverland’ Roleplaying game.