IT has global reach and near-universal appeal – not bad for a low budget sci-fi series that spent several years in the ether and has had to battle countless controversies.

Doctor Who prepared to enter a new era yesterday as the BBC announced the first ever woman to take the role.

The mysterious main character began as a cloak-wearing grandfather in 1960s London, regenerating into recorder-playing Patrick Troughton three years later after original actor William Hartnell fell into poor health.

Since then the mystery-solving, Dalek-beating traveller has appeared in a myriad of guises – all of which have been white men.

There had been calls to cast a black actor in the role this time round, with Idris Elba, David Harewood, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Paterson Joseph all named as potential Doctors.

In an interview last year, Steven Moffat, who ends his time as showrunner as fellow Scot Peter Capaldi bows out, said: “It should happen one day.

“I mean, we’ve tried. The part has been offered to a black actor.

“But for various reasons, it didn’t work out.”

Those stepping into the Tardis should expect an onslaught of criticism harsh enough to throw even the Sontaran Space Fleet off course.

Troughton was dismissed as “idiotic” and “over-exaggerated”, as if aliens with wanderlust should lack a sense of fun, while critics derided Dunoon-born Sylvester McCoy for his umbrella-wielding turn in the late 80s, with some detractors even blaming him for the show going off air for several years.

When it did return with Christopher Eccleston in the part, the Lancashire actor faced serious flack for exiting the role after just one series, something he later attributed to “clashes” with show bosses.

However, that anger was not directed at his successor, Paisley actor David Tennant, who was voted the UK’s “favourite Doctor” in a Radio Times survey in 2013.

And Capaldi, who fell in love with the series as a child, had that love returned by his fanbase.

Discussing the first woman to play the part, Capaldi said: “Anyone who has seen Jodie Whittaker’s work will know that she is a wonderful actress of great individuality and charm.

“She has above all the huge heart to play this most special part.

“She’s going to be a fantastic Doctor,” he added.

Native to Huddersfield, Whittaker appeared in alien invasion comedy Attack the Block and Charlie Booker’s Black Mirror series before appearing as Beth Latimer, the mother of a murdered boy, in ITV hit Broadchurch.

On landing her new gig, she said: “There was no persuasion needed.

“If you need to be persuaded to do this part, you’re not right for this part, and the part isn’t right for you.

“I also think, for anyone taking this on, you have to want to fight for it, which I certainly had to do. I know there will have been some phenomenal actors who threw their hats in the ring.”

Incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall said he always intended to cast a woman in the part, telling reporters: “I always knew I wanted the 13th Doctor to be a woman and we’re thrilled to have secured our number one choice.

“Her audition for the Doctor simply blew us all away. Jodie is an in-demand, funny, inspiring, super-smart force of nature and will bring loads of wit, strength and warmth to the role.”

Speculation was rife yesterday about whether or not she would keep her accent for the role.

The trailer which announced her casting proved no help, with the actor staying silent throughout.

Tennant’s tone went south when he laced his Converse to fight the Cybermen, taking on a London accent following discussions with Russell T Davis, who brought the programme back in 2005.

In a 2006 interview, he said: “Russell said we’d like to not go for another obvious regional accent, because I suppose they’d done that. Not that, I hasten to add, a slightly off-London accent isn’t a regional accent, because it is, but it reads slightly more generically than a Scottish accent does."

Capaldi stuck to his regular brogue when replacing Matt Smith, with the character exclaiming: “I am Scottish, I have gone Scottish. I can complain about things.”

Despite his excitement, viewers weren’t so thrilled, particularly those in North America, who struggled to make out the dialogue.

Sharing gripes on Twitter, one fan said: “First noticeable downside of Capaldi: my dad can’t understand his Scottish accent so he rewinds every two minutes.”

Another quipped that he should be renamed “Doctor What”.

As Whittaker enters the “Whoniverse” to yet another controversy, even pausing to reassure fans not to be frightened of her gender, some have tried to remind audiences exactly what it is they are arguing over.

One posted: “If you’re fine with ‘magically regenerating time-travelling alien’ but struggle with ‘female’, have a word with yourself!”

BBC bosses are sure the trouble will pass – after all, one of the character’s nicknames is “the Oncoming Storm”.

Charlotte Moore, the broadcaster’s director of content, said she expects the nation to “fall in love with Jodie Whittaker”.

Moore, who has held her role since July 2016, added: “Making history is what Doctor Who is all about and Chris Chibnall’s bold new take on the next Time Lord is exactly that.”