LONDON, ENGLAND, UK (BBC NEWS) – Jodie Whittaker, the first woman cast as the lead role of the BBC’s iconic sci-fi programme “Doctor Who”, expressed hopes on Monday that fans will embrace her role as a symbol of diversity rather than fear the shift from a man. Whittaker, 35, breaks a tradition back to the start of the television series in 1963 that the Doctor is a man, travelling the universe as a “time lord” in a telephone box to protect the weak and combat evil aliens. “I hope, you know, my gender isn’t a fearful thing for the fans,” Whittaker told the BBC, in her first broadcast interview since her casting was announced last month. Her casting was largely viewed positively by fans and commentators but some on social media argued that the role of the Doctor should not be played by a woman. Whittaker said that she had missed the reactions as she was not a social media user. Ultimately, Whittaker hopes that her casting will help fans of the programme to embrace diversity. “Doctor Who” is one of the BBC’s most popular scripted programmes, and has inspired a devoted fanbase in several countries, with clubs, conventions and fan publications. She will be the 13th Doctor. Whittaker replaces actor Peter Capaldi, who has played the programme’s lead role since 2014. She has previously appeared in British crime drama “Broadchurch”, and British cult film “Attack the Block”, among other roles. Her casting comes as the BBC deals with the public relations fallout from revelations that it pays its highest profile female on-air talent significantly less than men in comparable positions.