I’ve been having debates with many people about the prospect of the next Doctor in Doctor Who being female. Rather than keep repeating myself, I’m going to write my argument here.
Yes, it’s plausible
It has been established in the show that Time Lords can regenerate into different genders. It was hinted at in the classic era of the show and well established in recent series, so it is entirely possible. I’m not arguing that it’s not possible and I’m sure at some point it will probably happen, but I’m not keen on the idea and I certainly don’t think the 13th Doctor should be female.
The word ‘should’
I used the word ‘should’ very purposely in that last sentence, because it’s the word that everybody’s been using when it comes to the female Doctor debate. The media and fans keep saying “The next Doctor should be female.” But that is completely and utterly wrong. The next Doctor should be an actor who is right for the part.
The reason, I believe, that people are using the word ‘should’ is because at the moment we are living in times where equality and gender is a very prevalent topic. Women are being seen as equals, gay people have more rights and transgender people are being accepted – all of which is great. I’m all for those things and support them wholeheartedly. I have several friends who are female, gay and transgender. But when people start saying “The next Doctor should be female” it does feel like they are saying this change should be made to make the show comply with some sort of gender equality or political correctness rather than tossing it out as an idea for a creative way to develop the character. This may not be the case, but it’s hard to deny the cultural influence.
And yes, Doctor Who has always embraced these sorts of issues. It had one of the first gay kisses on television, there was a transgender character in Sleep No More in Series 9 and the latest companion, Bill, has played a strong gay female character. The show has always moved with the times – and often been ahead of the times – with cultural and political issues, but it’s generally been quite subtle or in a none invasive way.
There’s also the notion of the next Doctor being black or a different ethnicity, but that’s not been as widely discussed as the female option. Again, I’d like to see a Doctor of a different ethnicity. The Doctor’s always been an iconic British character, but British people are no longer all just white people, we’ve diversified, so it would be good to see this represented in the show. But why aren’t people making more of a bigger deal about this? Why are people focussing on the female? Like I said, gender is a hot topic at the moment and I believe people are wanting to change the Doctor to female as part of this movement.
Another argument that I’ve heard is, “They should make the Doctor a female so that females have a strong role model.” But that is just ridiculous. There are countless strong female characters in the show. The companions are female and especially recently they have all been strong, clever, independent women. Characters like River Song give females the strong, kick-ass role model they need. If anything, the companions are often more important than the Doctor, as the series tends to focus more on their lives and they constantly save the Doctor from trouble.
We’ve already had an example of a well known Time Lord changing gender in recent years in the form of Missy, formerly (sort of) the Master. There was quite a lot of discussion at the time this happened, but people have generally accepted the change well. I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of Missy. Part of that may be because I’m not overly keen on Michelle Gomez’ style, but it’s more because the character doesn’t feel like the Master anymore.
If you look at Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor and Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor, you can sort of believe that they’re the same character. They don’t look, talk or act the same, but you suspend disbelief. The thing that ties them together is that they’re both male. Whereas if you compare Missy to Roger Delgado’s Master, they’re completely different and my mind struggles to accept that they are the same character. If she had have been an incarnation of the Rani, then that would be much more believable.
So for me, Missy has spoilt the character of the Master and I’ll never quite look at the character the same way. Therefore, it worries me that the same thing will happen with the Doctor.
Not right now
As I’ve said, I’m not fully against the idea, but another factor that we have to look at is what’s going on with the show at the moment. Capaldi is leaving, Pearl Mackie (Bill) and Matt Lucas (Nardole) are leaving and the showrunner, Steven Moffat is leaving. That means a new Doctor, a new companion and a new overall style. The same thing happened when Moffat took over as showrunner. Before we’d had Rose as a familiar character to ease the transition from Ninth to Tenth Doctor – a technique that had been used for most Doctors previously – but then Series 5 introduced a new Doctor and companion at the same time and the show visually looked very different. It was a big change and took a few episodes to adjust, but thankfully it worked.
Now we have the same situation with Chris Chibnall taking over. He’s already said he’s got big ideas for the show and the style will no doubt be very different to Moffat’s style. So with the show changing dramatically already, would you then risk changing the gender of the lead character that’s been a male for 50+ years? Imagine the backlash Chibnall would get if he didn’t get it right. It would effectively ruin the show.
So I think if they are going to make the Doctor female, they should at least let Chibnall establish himself on the show first, have a male Doctor for now and then explore it later when all the hype has gone down.
What’s the answer?
If I was Chris Chibnall, I would either stick to a white male Doctor or introduce a Doctor of a different ethnicity as a segue into different Doctors and then revisit the idea of a female Doctor for the 14th or 15th Doctor. Hopefully by then the ‘hype’ would have died down and it would be being done for artistic purposes.
Of course whatever happens I’ll still keep watching the show. I’ve always gone into it with an open mind and I’ve accepted that this might happen and I’m willing to give it a try. If it doesn’t work out, then they could just do one series and we’ll try to avoid that incarnation in future conversations.
At the end of the day, the BBC and Chibnall will do what they think is right and we’ll have to put up with it.
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