So, rumour has it the new Doctor is going to be a woman, Phoebe Waller Bridge (I hadn’t heard of her either). But because ‘diversity’ is the watch-word of 2017, cue a trillion nerds online raging between ‘Yesssssss! About time!’ and ‘OMG the whole thing will be RUINED, waaaaaaah!’ and obviously, plenty in-between too.
First things first, I should say I don’t have a dog in this race. I’m no more likely to watch Dr Who if the Doctor was a naked Idris Elba (actually, maybe I would).
BUT WHATEVER. Diversity is obviously on this blog’s remit and the last thing I’m going to do is ignore the opportunity for a good ol’ ruck about this, so here’s my thoughts on the arguments for and against a female doctor who. SO LET’S GO …
1) We’ve had LOADS of blokes, why not a woman?
This would seemingly be quite a straight-forward argument, but apparently not. Yes, even though the Doctor was supposed to run out of regenerations already, that’s fine but apparently being a woman is not. Mmmm’kay. Back up, mofos.
Far from it being ‘diversity for diversity’s sake’, there has been an ongoing conversation about a female Doctor Who for aeons now, with plenty of potential viewers indicating they would be very interested in this. Hence the never-ending bloody debate online about it.
Plus, as you can see from the above graphic, audience figures have been on the slide for the franchise … Perhaps something new would liven them up? Gotta be worth a try. When audiences begin to switch off, pretty much anything is up for grabs in gaining them back. If it means it will gain NEW FANS too, then it’s a win-win. MORE: Top 5 Diversity Mistakes Writers Make
2) Switching genders needs a STORY reason
Riiiight. So the doctor can switch ages, faces, even personality …. But we can’t cope with him having a fanny instead? Seriously?
Look, the guy is an alien who travels through space and time in a police phone box. He kidnaps ‘companions’ at seeming random and then insists on Stockholm Syndrome-like adoration from them while continuously putting their lives in danger! (Arf). But apparently this is ALL okay, but not if The Doctor were female. Because, reasons. MORE: How To Use Girl Power In Your Story
3) Female Doctor = NEW storytelling opportunities
When Matt Smith was introduced as the Eleventh Doctor, lots of fans said he was ‘too young’ to be a Time Lord. Apparently, being wise only comes with age … Except The Doctor is age-less surely, he bloody regenerates in all sorts of guises! Plus The Doctor being unexpectedly young presented all kinds of storytelling opportunities and fun devices, not least The Eleventh Doctor’s iconic Fez hat. He’d apparently had one before, but it became more of a focus in this incarnation. Kids in particular loved that fun aspect of The Doctor – I even remember looking everywhere for a fez for my son at the time.
In the same way, a Female Doctor would present more storytelling opportunities. Whilst being female is not in itself a personality trait any more than age is, it can still shape our worldview. Ergo, a female Doctor inevitably means a new slant on things, *whatever* that means. In a show nearly six decades old, that’s gotta be good. MORE: Stop Saying ‘Diversity’. Start Writing VARIETY!
4) It’s not ‘TRUE’ of the character
Here’s a few arguments I’ve encountered about this:
- Doctor dangly bits. It’s been floated that if the Doctor could regenerate as a woman, this would throw up all kinds of questions about the anatomy of Time Lords. (This can be summed up as thus: we started with a man, so the character should be a man).
- Dr Who is a MALE iconic figure – his masculinity is important in the storylines. (Is it? He’s clever and quirky, certainly. He’s a scientist. Maybe even a philosopher. But I see nothing inherently ‘traditionally masculine’ there – plus women can be all of these things, too).
- This is just an agenda push. (And yet this is floated EVERY SINGLE TIME a franchise includes female characters. Since when is a character being female an automatic gimmick or political statement, instead of that feted STORY CHOICE itself?).
But anyway, apparently the writers would have put major thought into him being a man and there is a COMPELLING STORY REASON for this, rather than it being say, standard doctors were male ‘back in the day’ when Dr Who was first written. Whatever the case, it’s weird how proponents of this argument don’t look these writers up and ask them (or their relatives), isn’t it? MORE: 1 Simple Trick For Writing Diverse Characters
5) The Diversity Brigade is highjacking an iconic role!
First up, where’s The Diversity Brigade and where can I sign up?? This sounds awesome! WE NEED BADGES.
Secondly, if diversity is such a non-issue, HOW can it be ‘highjacking’ anything? I always wonder at the people who claim we ‘don’t need’ diversity (because apparently everything is fine), but then weirdly they FREAK OUT over the likes of Dr Who, Ghostbusters or whatever. Based on their own logic, why does it matter?
Thirdly, switching up roles of NON-diverse characters is not ‘highjacking’. It’s merely changing stuff around and seeing what sticks and what doesn’t.
“Aha, but how would you guys like it if we changed an iconic role like Ellen Ripley to a man??” they’ll cry.
Err, Ripley WAS a man. She was the first ‘official’ gender-flipped character.
Also: there literally aren’t enough Ripleys! To swap her back really *is* highjacking. Even kids know that if someone with a lot of stuff then takes even more THAT’S NOT FAIR!
MORE: Top 7 Things Screenwriters Can Do To Improve Diversity And Inclusion
It’s pretty obvious where I stand on this issue. A female Doctor looks pretty inevitable in Doctor Who and for the record, B2W says why the hell not.
But also, if you don’t want a female Doctor for emotional reasons? That’s fine. Just because you don’t, doesn’t make you an arsehole, whatever Twitter reckons. It’s just a bloody TV show.
But DON’T pretend there needs to be a ‘story reason’ for a female Doctor or you are objecting on the basis of ‘being a writer’ ! These are the facts when it comes to writing and diversity, whether you agree or not:
Audiences ARE rejecting the ‘same-old, same-old’ characters, because they are BORED OF THEM.
This is why diversity is on the menu everywhere you look right now. It’s an OPPORTUNITY for trying new things and thinking beyond the normal margins – it’s an exciting time! All this is actually GOOD for writers, so to rail against it when you are one yourself is frankly, dumb.
So, with audience figures much less than Doctor Who’s heyday with the tenth doctor, it’s important to remember human beings prize novelty: every time the Doctor is up for regeneration the idea of a female Doctor is discussed. But more importantly, a female Doctor could well bring a legion of new (probably child) fans, just like a young eleventh Doctor did.
And that’s what it’s all about, whatever us old farts think.
A very fascinating, well thought out look at diversity… but I still want a reason for a female Doctor.
Lots of love, Mr Old Fart
Way back before 2004, when there was talk of Dr Who getting a relaunch, there were all kinds of discussions concerning who should play the new Doctor. I remember people bandying about names like Alan Davies and Stephen Fry. I also remember the idea that found a lot of traction was that the Doctor should be played by Dawn French.
I would have loved to have seen a Dawn French Doctor Who. And when Michelle Gomez turned up as Missy, everyone in our house said “She’d be a fantastic Doctor!”
The whole Time Lord gender thing cuts no mustard with me. This is a race who regenerate all the time – you can’t tell me they don’t swap between genders over the course of thousands of years. Possibly even species. Who knows? It’s fantasy. Knock yourself out.
I’m an old white male who grew up thinking Troughton and Baker were brilliant (I never really took to Pertwee, for some reason). I admit I had issues with Matt Smith at first because the BBC seemed to try just too hard to sell the idea of such a young actor at a time when us old farts were feeling shoved aside in an increasingly ageist culture. But then I saw what could be done with talented actors like Smith and Gillan and a fresh sweep of imaginative, invested writers and all my fears were wiped.
So I’d be delighted with a female doctor. A black doctor. A black female doctor. Whatever, whoever. It can only enrich the series. I don’t mind what they decide to do, as long as they do it well. Love the show the way the fans do. Invest in the characters, in the stories, and respect the heritage whilst being prepared to embrace innovation. They’re decent writers. It’s not super hard. At least, it shouldn’t be.
Because if they can’t write good enough stories, it doesn’t matter who the new Doctor is.
My vote goes to Kate O’Donnell for a trans Mrs. Dr. Who.
Yes, great idea!
Ripley wasn’t a man, she was written gender-neutral as per all the characters in Alien. A better example would be Servalan from Blake’s Seven.
Oh funny. I thought the producer himself told me Ripley was originally a fella. Thanks for putting me straight random internet guy! 😉
Hey, your own graph showed with each Doctor that was less handsome than David Tennant the ratings declined. Doctor Who blew up because of the fact young female fans like handsome men. My teenaged daughter completely stopped watching the show when Capaldi came on board. So did thousands of other female fans. Not because the stories got lame, he just wasn’t a dreamy-eyed bloke. I’ve talked to plenty of female “Who” fans that aren’t interested in a female lead series. And also hated Clara for taking such a prominent role in the show often diminishing the Doctor’s shine.
Boy bands (not girl bands) are a phenomenon for a reason after all. Just like all of Marvel’s feminist and pro LGBT comics viewership is going to tank. The pundits, executives, and talking heads will be mystified. But it’s simple they are making content for an audience that is not interested in their message.
Err, girl bands ARE a thing. As are female leads >> (the top #3 GROSSING movies last year ALL had female leads, in fact). So yeah, audiences ARE interested. But enjoy living in 2009!!!