David Dimbleby Fiona Bruce

Question Time with Fiona Bruce: Hang on to your uterus!

amber traffic light
Plus ca change

Question Time BBC One, Thursdays

First it was Doctor Who. Now another BBC institution, Question Time, has taken a brave leap into the 21st century.

And some 20-plus years on from the Spice Girls’ announcement of girl power – a label for the post-classical neo-feminist empowerment embraced by the band, or to use the official anacronym, zig-a-zig-ah ­­­– Auntie Beeb has fully embraced her femininity. The 13th Doctor is a woman, played by Jodie Whittaker, while the new and fourth host of the political pantomime that is Question Time is Fiona Bruce.

Listen to the MMR Question Time podcast here:

Regeneration is the name of the game, with each new incarnation of the Doctor involving a dramatic on-screen transformation, the character morphing into a new physical form and personality, which is a neat dramatic effect.

And so it has been on Question Time, and for Robin Day, Peter Sissons, David Dimbleby and Fiona Bruce, read William Hartnell, Peter Davison, Jon Pertwee and Jodie Whittaker – although it’s not certain we’ll see a dramatic morph moment with David writhing on the studio floor in smart suit and beautifully coiffured hair, transforming into Fiona in smart suit and beautifully coiffured hair.

But this change has not been greeted with overwhelming enthusiasm. Change for most is a strange and terrifying territory, to be greeted with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. That is until we get used to it, and then rail against the next change – although with Dimbleby at bat for 25 years, there’s a possibility some of us won’t be around for Question Time 5.0.

While the criticism of Whittaker’s casting as Doctor Who was straightforward for some (the Doctor was only ever meant to be a bloke and this was political correctness gone mad), the argument they should have made was that it was actually illegal for women to be doctors when the show first aired in 1963. The medical evidence suggested that placing females in any position of responsibility would cause them to spontaneously combust.

And It was interesting how some of the less positive reaction to Bruce’s appointment manifested itself. There was the usual outrage on social media that she was a rabid left-/right-winger – the rule of thumb for deciding which side of the fence you’re barking from is simply the mirror image of what you tend to be yourself – and various bods punting other bods for the job, as in Kirsty Wark, Emily Maitlis or simply A N Other.

Certain parts of the fourth estate took a more measured and cerebral approach, focusing on the attributes that she could and perhaps couldn’t genetically bring to the table.

Much has been made of Bruce bringing a “softer” feel to Question Time, which is nice. A bit like quilted toilet tissue compared to Dimbleby’s old school rough and rasping tracing paper, the stuff you could only find in your old school bogs.

There was also the worry that she was taking on a bit too much. The six o’clock, ten o’clock news and Question Time would be a walk in the park but stick Antiques Roadshow on top of that and you’re looking at a world of pain.

It’s a case of plus ca change really. When steam engines burst on to the scene in the 19th century, questions were asked about whether women’s bodies would be able to stand the physical trauma of high-speed travel at 50mph. The feared consequences included the uterus flying out of the body – a fear that was later proven to be medical fact.

And God forbid Fiona makes a good fist of it. Then what? A female James Bond?

We’ll be podcasting on Fiona’s first foray into the maelstrom of Question Time, so check it out for flying organs on YouTube, iTunes, Spotify or via us. Here.

Listen to the MMR Question Time podcast here:

Illustration: DimbleBruce by Rowan Tallant

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