Before “Harry Potter”, one long-running native franchise that most Britons could easily recall when asked is the delightfully fantastical sci-fi TV program “Doctor Who” on BBC.

One key factor to its extreme media longevity is the quirk enabling different performers across the decades to assume the lead role of the titular Doctor. The “regeneration” ability of the Doctor’s alien species allows for them to survive potentially deadly injuries through a complete rearrangement of their cellular structure, resulting in a different “reincarnation” with different personality quirks.

Twelve actors have assumed the mantle of the Doctor using this plot device since 1963. With the impending retirement of Peter Capaldi the Twelfth Doctor, the producers are ready to take a bold move in having the Thirteenth Doctor be a woman.

Surprising choice

BBC announced that their casting choice to succeed Peter Capaldi in the role of the Doctor would be made in a TV spot at the end of their coverage of the 2017 Wimbledon Championships men’s singles final. Thanks to a quick victory by Roger Federer the spot was played quite early, and what was revealed turned out to be quite the shock for longtime Whovians. b, the British actress of film, television, stage, and radio, has been chosen to portray the thirteenth incarnation, and indeed the first female version, of “Doctor Who”.

The TV spot, which lasted less than a minute, showed a figure in a long coat with hood walking through a rustic locale. The figure in black then magically produces a familiar key in its hand, before pulling back its hood to reveal Whittaker, standing in front of the iconic TARDIS time machine.

The 35-year-old actress and self-professed feminist noted how overwhelming it was to be cast in the legendary BBC program’s lead role. “It means remembering everyone I used to be,” she said, “while stepping forward to embrace everything the Doctor stands for: hope.”

Concept proven

Doctor Who”, broadcast on BBC over five decades, follows the adventures of the alien Doctor from the race of Time Lords.

He journeys across space and time with a similarly continuous succession of different companions aboard the TARDIS, famous for its outward appearance as a British police box. In between dramatized lessons in history and various sciences, the Doctor and his companions confront various existential threats not only to mankind but the entire universe, with him dying and regenerating repeatedly in the process.

It was confirmed by the show’s producers that the Time Lords like the Doctor can regenerate into different genders and species as needed to blend in. One villain, the rogue Time Lord called the Master, has already regenerated into a female called Mistress or Missy. Jodie Whittaker, the 13th Doctor, will first appear in the “Doctor Who” 2017 Christmas Special on BBC.