Belfast Telegraph

Helen, Dr Who is a hero to every wimpy boy, so just leave him alone

By Jane Graham

I usually welcome Helen Mirren's audacious forays into impropriety. What's not to like about a fierce, free-thinking, inspiringly talented woman getting fired up? When she stomped demonically from the stage on to the street last month to tell passing marching bands to bugger off, I found myself cheering her on, despite her having no right whatsoever to direct London traffic.

I gave her a by-ball when she had a go at the 'angry and cruel' British and even put my fingers in my ears and whistled when she made some dodgy comments about Mike Tyson's rape conviction, assuming she'd just got the wrong end of the stick.

Everyone has a tipping point, however, and it rather surprisingly turns out that in this case, Doctor Who is mine. There are times when popular, powerful celebrities, puffed up on their own national treasurey-ness, make the mistake of thinking a conversation can only benefit from them sticking their oar in, whether they know much about the subject or not. Mirren's declaration that it's time for a female Doctor, her oddly irritable proclamation that she's 'so sick of that man with his girl sidekick', and her humble, generous offer to consider the role herself (for a very limited period of course) have wound me up like a clockwork Cyberwoman.

I know – I just know – that there will be hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of kids praying that the media gets distracted and stops demanding radical reconstructions of their precious Doctor. There will also be many grown-ups who'll feel the same. And the irony of it being the show's profound connection with an audience who truly love and cherish it which makes it such an easy target for cultural hijackers looking for a high-profile ideological football will not be lost on these people. Because most of them are pretty smart, too.

For the majority of viewers, including Helen Mirren probably, Doctor Who is just a popular TV drama with a – God forbid! – man at its centre. To committed followers though, especially swathes of boys, the Doctor is a beaming light of hope, the only credible role to be summoned up against bigger, fitter, sportier boys in the gladiatorial playground amphitheatre. (Worth noting though that my fiercely feminist daughter, whose TV watching is rich with female leads, from iCarly to Jessie to Tracy Beaker, says she wouldn't watch a female Doctor Who. I think it might kill her crush on a character most mums would welcome as ideal husband role model material.)

Unlike Spiderman or Ben 10, the Doctor doesn't rely on superpowers, weapons or muscles. He's a weird eccentric who wears glasses, sports a Fez and generally looks like the kid who's first to get bullied in the lunch queue.

But here's the rub – he's actually cooler than all of those other guys, and he always beats them, because he's funny, brainy, knows all the secrets and always gets the last line. He makes the big beefy guys look stupid. And women love him.

For two of my male friends, both of whom you might describe as geeks – witty, clever, gentle, beautiful geeks – he was an absolute lifeline growing up. And he's becoming the same for my six-year-old son, who, as the youngest boy in his class, is also noticeably the smallest.

So Helen, for the sake of all the wimpy kids who battle it out every day; leave our good Doctor alone. I hear Ken Barlow is still a man and he's been around for 53 years. Go pick on him.

Belfast Telegraph

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