By Sarah Mills
LONDON (Reuters) - Jodie Whittaker made history when she took the controls of the time-traveling Tardis as the first female lead in the sci-fi series "Doctor Who".
Now, she says, it is time to build on that achievement, by challenging the casting decisions holding back performers across her whole industry.
Whittaker triggered thousands of online debates when she got the role of The Doctor - a shape-shifting alien Time Lord played by men since the show first appeared on British television screens in 1963.
"It was a very important discussion to have and it was a very important thing to do. It's an alien. It can be a woman. The qualification didn't require a certain gender to play the role," Whittaker told Reuters in an interview.
"But now it's done and we've realized the world didn't end and it's okay ... What will be exciting is when casting ... maybe does represent more of the society that we live in."
Many fans welcomed the change when she first got the job in 2017.
But former 'Doctor' Peter Davison spoke for others when he mourned the passing of a role model for young boys - and some critics have questioned what they see as the political correctness of her episodes' themes and the casting of other characters.
"When it isn't such a surprise to see a woman on screen, when that conversation dies down, that will only be a good thing because it means we've moved on," Whittaker, 37, said.
"But until we're there, let's keep the conversation fizzing," she added. "In regards to me, that chat, it's proved that I can fly the Tardis."
She returns to TV screens with the start of a new 10-part series on New Year's Day.
The new series promises guest appearances by actor Stephen Fry and comedian Lenny Henry, as well as the return of old favorites including the Cybermen and the "interplanetary thugs" of the Judoon.
(Reporting by Sarah Mills; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Andrew Heavens)