BBC’s hit sci-fi show Doctor Who is known for having more than a few tricks up its sleeve, but this past Sunday night, the TV series had a history-making surprise for its viewers: its first black Doctor.
Jo Martin, in the role of Ruth Clayton, a seemingly ordinary tour guide, revealed herself as the Doctor to Jodie Whitaker, who also plays Doctor Who (the 13th iteration and the first woman). Yes, newcomers, there are many, many versions of the titular character. That’s what time travel shows let you do.
The big reveal came during the episode “Fugitive of the Judoon,” after a TARDIS (a time travel machine used by the Doctors) was dug up from under Clayton’s lighthouse childhood home. Complicating matters is that neither Clayton nor the current Doctor Who recognized each other—making it unclear where and from which time period the new black Doctor Who came from, and which version of the character she is.
What was not-at-all ambiguous was Martin’s warm reception in the iconic role. The show’s devout following lauded her performance; one typical responder said they were “utterly shocked and delighted” by Martin’s Doctor Who reveal. Many others said they hoped Martin stays on.
“Thank you for finally giving a Black nerd and other black nerdy adults and kids a Doctor who looks like us,” wrote one fan. “You really don’t know how monumental this was and how much it made me cry. Please don’t let her be the only one ever.”
Martin, a writer as well as an actress, has previously appeared in the BBC’s Holby City, a British medical drama series, Top Boy, and the blockbuster movie Batman Begins.