A female Doctor Who writer may not think it should happen, but as a man I'd love a female Doctor

A L Kennedy thinks the Doctor has a "guy type of eccentricity" which wouldn't translate across gender lines. Personally, I think a woman Doctor would freshen up the show

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The Independent Online

“Could the Doctor ever become a woman?” It’s not a new question. After all, this universe is uniquely equipped to replace its lead actor at the first whiff of a contract dispute. But the tone of the question has changed. It’s gone from being an irreverent last-orders musing (alongside “Where are the toilets on the Enterprise?”) to one of substance and even controversy. With an African American Johnny Storm, and an all-female Ghostbusters, film-makers are responding to an increased appetite for diversity (often, disappointingly, in the face of fan protest). Given that, the repetition of the same demographic comes under renewed scrutiny. He’s over a thousand years old and can change his appearance, “age”, personality and even accent – why never race or gender? 

I am something of a Doctor Who tourist. I dipped in and out as a child, having grown up during the lean post-McCoy years, and was sucked into this new run by my kids. It’s a show I really enjoy watching with them, because it offers a fun mix of horror, heart and science fiction to which they can relate, without ever feeling patronised. But lacking the kind of loyalty a true Whovian might have, I am puzzled as to why this change hasn’t happened already. 

After all, unlike Battlestar Galactica and Hannibal – two shows which had to make alterations to the source material to change a character’s gender– Doctor Who is one long tapestry. It doesn’t have to overwrite anything, merely forge onwards. There is nothing within the show to say that The Doctor, in theory, can’t be anyone. And with the villainous Master recast as Missy, the show itself has laid the track for exactly this sort of change.

So what’s the problem? There will always be purists, but recently the writer A L Kennedy voiced her opposition to a female Doctor on the basis of his “guy vibe” and lacking a “girl type of eccentricity”. That’s a position I find odd, because if there is a “guy vibe”, it is presumably supplied by the male actor (which surely influences the writers) and I am not sure I know what a “girl type” of eccentricity is.

Having written for the Doctor herself, Kennedy is doubtless better equipped to quantify these attributes, but is seems to me that over the twelve actors who have played the part, a wide variety of traits have been on display. Intelligence, compassion, irritability, wit, arrogance, humility and even eccentricity are equally exhibited by women, just not often on screen. Perhaps the reason we associate many of these qualities with masculine characters is because they are seldom afforded to female ones.

In an ideal world, complex and varied female roles would be so ubiquitous that the notion of a female Doctor wouldn’t be as provocative as it is. For my part, as a tourist, it makes sense for a franchise entering its sixth decade to continue find ways to freshen itself up. Show runner Steven Moffat has hinted he is open to it, saying that he tends to cast an actor, not a gender. On that basis, the possibility remains that a woman can pick up the screw driver, and not just for a chuckle. When the wonderful Peter Capaldi decides to exit, the cries to break the fifty-year string of white male faces should be louder than ever.

 

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