"Introducing John Bishop ..."



TV When at the end of what was a really entertaining Doctor Who tonight, the announcer suggested fans might want to stay tuned for a special announcement, I initially assumed it was the caption revealing that Doctor Who would return. Bit weak, but welcome confirmation even if we know that eighth episodes are in production under COVID rules right now.

Then the Liverpool skyline and some business on a street and well, see above. What looks for all the world like a public information film turns into a casting announcement and feeling of my heart hitting the floor as once again Chris Chibnall turns triumph into defeat, much as he has, at least in the worlds of Doctor Who, since 2006. John Bishop, John bleeding Bishop.

Let's be clear. I'm not a fan of John Bishop. For years he's represented a particular corner of laddish culture which has been anathema to me not least in how he reflects on my city in terms of perpetuating certain stereotypes. There's a moment when his stand-up comedy went from being indentifiably observational to a string of celebrity annecdotes and isn't it funny how a down at heal Scouser gets meet all these stars.

He's currently suffering from COVID and god knows I wouldn't wish that on anyone. He says in that Echo article that he'll be back at work in January and we now know that means filming Doctor Who. Hopefully he'll be well enough to do that.

As some people have noted both Billie Piper and Catherine Tate attracted similarly negative reactions and both turned out to be great and it's entirely possible, if not probably that Bishop will be incredible here too. Neither James Corden and Matt Lucas were particularly fond choices and I agree that Doctor Who brought out the best in them as well even though I have a number of moral objections to both.

But, and this is a huge but, my disappointment isn't just about the cast of John Bishop, it's about what that casting represents.

When it was announced that Brad and Tosin were leaving, I was giddy, not to see the back of the characters necessarily but because of what it meant going forward.

Firstly because for the first time in years we'd be back to the classic paradigm of the Doctor and a plus one in the TARDIS leaving more space within the duration of an episode to introduce more supporting characters and with greater depth because you don't have to service so many lead characters and give them something to do in an episode. Plus it allows for a greater focus on the Doctor as the driving force of the narrative.

Also, because for the first time ever, the show would have two female leads with a whole set of dynamic possibilities. That it was this Jodie and Mandip with all of their chemistry, particularly on show tonight in their short TARDIS scenes together, so much the better. The Doctor and Yaz against the universe. Yaz in particular showed a little of the old TARDIS obsession tonight which creates a whole extra set of possibilities.

Yet instead, we have another person joining the TARDIS and another man and another older white male in the Bradley Walsh mould.

Which means that someone, somewhere decided that Doctor Who wouldn't work going forward without a male lead in the mix and on top of that an older white male. Or as my Twitter friend Lisa-Marie puts it:


Can the next showrunner be a woman? Please?

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