Jodie Whittaker "The Doctor" from the cast of the BBC show "Doctor Who"
Jodie Whittaker "The Doctor" from the cast of the BBC show "Doctor Who" attends the pop culture convention Comic Con in San Diego, California, U.S. July 19, 2018. Reuters/Mike Blake

The next “Doctor Who” must be a woman, incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall reportedly insisted before taking the job. And with Jodie Whittaker having made her debut as the first female Doctor in the show’s Christmas Special, it’s safe to say that he was successful in that regard.

Whittaker’s casting was a surprise to the fandom, though not completely as the show had hinted at a female successor for the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) in its 10th season episodes. And perhaps as expected, fans were divided having a female titular star. All thirteen regenerations (12 Doctors plus the War Doctor) of the Gallifreyan Time Lord were male.

As it turned out, having a woman as the next Doctor was one of the conditions set by Chibnall. When the “Broadchurch” creator was offered the role of showrunner, he already knew that the Doctor would regenerate into a woman. Chibnall inherited his position from previous showrunner Steven Moffat.

“Once Peter had decided he was leaving, the next Doctor was always going to be a female Doctor,” producer Matt Strevens told Digital Spy. “That’s what Chris wanted, that was part of his conditions of doing the job.”

He added, “We knew in our gut it was about time and it felt like the right decision, and the character is not gender-specific, in any way really.

“If ever there was a character that was never defined by gender, it’s the Doctor. The Doctor is gender fluid in that sense.”

Although some might call the move controversial, Chibnall didn’t think it was. “It felt like a straightforward decision, it’s not that controversial. It’s very hard to think of many examples in its 55-year history where the Doctor takes a decision based upon gender,” he said.

Bradley Walsh, who will play one of the Thirteenth Doctor’s three companions in the upcoming 11th season, only had glowing praises for Whittaker.

“She’s fantastic in it and worked so hard and is so enthusiastic and she leads from the front,” he told Digital Spy. “This will trail-blaze for a lot of other shows. It’s going to make her a massive star.”

“Doctor Who” season 11 will premiere on Oct. 7 in the UK on a new day slot on Sunday. In Australia where it’s nine hours ahead, fans may have to wait for a few more hours to watch it on free channel. The ABC said it would air the show on Monday evenings, though it had not mentioned specific timeslot.