Last Sunday I got up at 4am to see the reveal of the next Doctor. And when the big reveal came it was a man. A man who was also white and all those other things, and no one was really surprised. I’m sure there were some people out there who were disappointed though, and I can appreciate why that is.
The idea that The Doctor could become a woman is an interesting one. I’ve got a fairly troubled relationship with Doctor Who
canon but I am willing to accept that, officially, a change of gender during regeneration is not out of the question. There could
be a female Doctor. Hell, I think that maybe there will
be a female Doctor one day; but I’m not particularly disappointed that we won’t be having one just yet. I think there are a lot of pretty valid reasons why they would steer away from that choice:
1. The role of The Doctor is a job that you’ll have for the rest of your life. I think it would be hard not to think twice about it, even if you knew you wanted to say yes. It’s a huge commitment and a huge decision for anyone
Can you imagine being the first woman to say yes? Not only are you agreeing to the enormous responsibility which comes with being the Doctor, you’re also agreeing to be the first woman to take that on. You’re agreeing to brave the inevitable media storm.
You’d never get to be the Twelfth Doctor; you’d always be The Female Doctor. I wish that didn’t matter but the simple fact is that it would. There are probably a lot of people who would never really see past the gender thing. And that would suck.
2. So you’re one of the people in charge of Doctor Who
. There are a lot of strangers on the internet who are very, very convinced that your Head Writer is a sexist pig. Why would you cast a woman? I don’t agree that Steven Moffat is sexist and I think he’s given way too much credit for the decision making process. But the fact is, by casting a woman the show would be opening itself to more
criticism, not steaming the flow. Doctor Who
is more often criticised for what it doesn’t do, rather than praised for the things that it does. There would inevitably be people who saw the portrayal (whatever that portrayal turned out to be) as sexist. There’s a fair chance that by taking that leap, the show could alienate exactly the people who are crying out for that leap to be made.
3. I think that sometimes it’s easy to forget that other people watch Doctor Who
. It isn’t just fans. Not everyone has seen all the episodes and not everyone watches them all in a row. There are thousands upon thousands of casual viewers. Doctor Who
is an institution, especially in the UK and, let’s be honest, if the Doctor was suddenly a woman, a lot of people would be very confused. At the end of the day, Doctor Who
is still a TV show. TV shows need to be successful and draw viewers and do all those other things that TV executives bang on about. Casting a woman would be risky. And maybe that risk is still too high.
4. Another really interesting idea is that maybe Time Lords have a gender identity. Just because they are able to change their gender when they regenerate, doesn’t necessarily mean that they all would. Maybe some Time Lords identify as male and some as female. And maybe there are Time Lords with more fluid identity. I think there’s a lot to be said for this idea. I don’t think it’s backward to say that there’s something very male
about The Doctor. Maybe it’s my ingrained view of sexuality and character talking, but I do find the idea of The Doctor as a woman a little weird. Not bad weird but weird.
I’m not saying that we don’t need strong female characters on TV. Or that the media we consume doesn’t play a role in altering perceptions. I actually care a lot about both those things. I just don’t think that the gender of the Doctor is necessarily the most important thing.
I don’t think we should never
have a female Doctor. In all our discussions, we’ve agreed on several instances where it could work. I am not saying that I don’t want
to see a female Doctor or that I don’t think that it’ll ever happen. But I do think that it’s okay that it’s not happening right now.
Honestly? I’m more worried about the shameful lack of female writers on Doctor Who
. I would love to have more female writers on the show. That’s something that is hardly ever criticised and yet it’s such an obvious thing. I find it really odd that there’s such a vocal discussion about the gender of the lead character when only four of the more than one hundred
episodes in the revived series have been written by a woman. I can’t help thinking that a bigger female presence behind the scenes should be more important.
I would love
to see a female show runner. I can’t tell you how much I would love that. But the chances that a woman will follow Moffat are probably less than they were for Twelve being female. Now that, that
seems wrong to me. I want us to talk more about that.