Why isn’t the new Doctor a woman?
By Chris Tyler
So the new doctor has been announced and although the choice of actor has been approved of fans so far there is still a group of people out there going “But I wanted it to be a woman”
In story there are good strong reasons why the doctor (as far as we know) has never been a woman for the same reason why the doctor has never been an ethnic minority (unless you count Scottish) or an Alien (although, if the doctor can regenerate into anything but a humanoid biped then it has never been described or seen on screen with any Time Lord, perhaps they simply can’t or it’s not “the done thing?”)
But whilst other time lords (Romana for one) have demonstrated a particular talent for picking and choosing regenerations as well as the transition from one regeneration to the other being smooth the Doctor has never been particularly good at this, every regeneration has been pot luck, every regeneration has been fraught with difficulties and the doctor has had about as much control over it all as he has had over the Tardis. So in story the regenerations cycle isn’t really under the Doctors control, maybe he wants to be a woman but it’s just never happened in much the same way that he wants to be Ginger.
Or perhaps it is a choice, perhaps the doctor has no control over who he ends up being but can control gender and is perfectly happy not to be a woman since he spends a lot of time on earth and doesn’t want to have to deal with all the ridiculous sexism that happens there.
Out of story much as Peter Capali is bound to grow on me (I think he’s a better choice than Matt Smith was) but it’s a safe decision. Good, dependable, slightly interesting but not brave in any way shape or form. Of course no matter what your politics the person who takes on the shoes HAS to be a great actor first and foremost, fortunately there are lots of great actors. You could argue that Matt Smith was a brave decision and I’m all for older Doctors but I must admit that my favourite choice was Chiwetelu Umeadi Ejiofor who is also not a woman but at least is of a different ethnicity and also a fantastic actor the only downfall would be having to learn how to pronounce that name, then Tilda Swinton an extraordinary actor who I thought would be able to bring some authority and androgyny to the role and therefore satisfy everyone. And then James May but only because I’d like for the new companion to go “It’s bigger on the inside?!?” excitedly and for the Doctor to go “Yes, it is! And I’ll tell you something interesting about that…”and then spend the rest of the episode explaining dimensional mechanics to an increasingly bored companion. The other advantage of that is that you can then cast Jeremy Clarkson as the Master. (What’s he after? POWWERR!!)
The real reason that we probably didn’t get a female doctor this time round is that the writers don’t know how do to it. Of course the best way to do it is it just cast a woman and then simply never draw attention to it, the doctor is now a woman, so what? The most intelligent and mature reaction we can have is no reaction because on a galactic scale gender simply isn’t important. Unfortunately on Earth in a writers room it still is and so I think they just went “We don’t know how to do this”. On forums I saw exchanges like, but if the doctors a woman then she can just get it on with the Master then right? And someone else replying “oh I’d like that” which is why fans shouldn’t be allowed to write the show. I’m fairly sure that the doctor’s objection to snogging the master isn’t his current sex but the fact that he’s an evil megalomaniac who’s tried to kill the doctor repeatedly. Just because it’s science fiction doesn’t mean that just anything can happen. Does it Mark Gatzis?
On the other hand some people need to take a good hard look at why they want the next doctor to be a woman, I’m not sure that “it’s about time”or “Because we have established that time lords can regerate into women” are really good enough reasons. In the end the only question a writer should ever ask is “Does this serve the story” and that’s a question only they can answer although I’m not sure how it wouldn’t provided they got the right actor and that’s a caveat that applies to anyone who might potentially be the doctor.
There is this test for sexism that gets trotted out every so often because people continually get it wrong, overwhelmingly.
“A boy and his dad they get into a severe car accident. They were rushed to the hospital where they were put in separate rooms. The Doctor goes into the boy’s room and says I cannot operate on this child, he is my son. How can this be?”
The answer is of course that the Doctor is the boy’s mother but surprisingly few people get that at the first pass. That’s because in society there is still an ingrained notion that women are nurse and doctors are men and it looks like that’s the way it’s going to be for a while.