As a fan of Doctor Who this is a topic I was never going to get away from.
So for those not in the know about Doctor Who; the show features the main character of The Doctor. A Time Lord with the ability to change his face when faced with death; a complete body regeneration if you will. Since this element was introduced to the show in 1966, The Doctor has now regenerated thirteen times, with thirteen actors. Also to keep in mind is that this rule also applies to one of the shows reappearing enemies is The Master; a Time Lord whose main goal is to concur the universe and to gain immortality….as Time Lords can die if their body is too badly damaged; and a Time Lord only has thirteen lives. To fans like me, I know both The Doctor and The Master have now both cheated at this rule; but that’s besides the point.
We are currently in the era of the newest Doctor played by Peter Capaldi from The Thick of It fame. However at the end of his first series, it was revealed that The Master has returned; who was now played by Michelle Gomez. Since then this has sparked debates whether Capaldi’s replacement would or should be a woman; with some fans saying yes, others saying no. So what do i think? I’m split upon the issue, as there are good points and bad points made by both sides. Honestly this blog will most likely be me saying: “The Doctor MAY never be a woman” rather than “The Doctor should never be a woman”.
The first thing I’d like to mention is how many cast members and people from the show have been asked their views. Such as current show runner Steven Moffat expressing how he would pick a woman if she was the right choice. While former companion Catherine Tate to even former Doctor Sylvester McCoy agreeing on that, this may not happen. Speaking on Catherine Tate on the issue she mentioned her thoughts; i couldn’t find the source, so I’m paraphrasing here. Anyway she said: “The core audience of Doctor Who is children, they’re the largest market to appeal to in terms of selling toys and other merchandise”. This isn’t bashing the show at all; a children show can be smart and entertaining for adults to watch; look at examples like Adventure Time, Avatar The Last Air bender and Batman the Animated Series. Either way ” half of that audience is young boys, who want to be The Doctor. So the BBC would need to appeal to that target audience in order to keep the show a float, as that has been keeping the show popular for fifty years now”.
While yes Doctor Who has plenty of female fans; the child fan base of both genders idolize the character in different ways. The boys who want to be The Doctor; while the young girls fall in love with a powerful role model such as him; in the same way a One Direction fan cries in joy over fancying Harry Styles. And yes, this process can work in reverse if you apply it to a show like Kim Possible. Either way for both genders it’s going to be a very awkward transition for them to take. The childhood crush for the girls becomes a woman; while the hero the boys imagine themselves as changing that drastically. What I’m saying is, for a market stand point it’s too risky of a move, and the chances of this change are slim….at least while we still have Capaldi around; unless the BBC are certain that their audience will be fine with this choice; and the show still makes money once Capaldi’s out and the new lady is in. I mean if the show can go well transitioning from the young Matt Smith (Capaldi’s predecessor) to the old man that is Peter Capaldi.
Now all that was whether I feel if it WOULD happen; i looked at the situation from a marketing stand point and thought about it succeeding for the studio. This is my opinion on whether it SHOULD happen or not. My answer is…..sure. I wouldn’t mind the gender change as long as her first episode doesn’t bang this change over the head of the viewers; .e.g there will backlash on message forums if they make a joke over The Doctor now having boobs, or fail to give the actress some dignity without reaching the realms of being juvenile. If this does happen after Capaldi admits his leaving the show, the first question I’ll be asking is whether the new actress can act or not. It’s the same reason i didn’t complain about Smith’s and Capaldi’s ages (Matt Smith is the youngest actor to play the role, while Peter is the oldest Doctor in the new series reboot) I’ll live as long as the choice was right. And given how popular those two were and are; that seems to be the right approach.
I said about how the BBC needs assurance from the fans that this decision is the right one. And I believe recast of The Master (or Missy as she’s being called) is proving that. Many reviews of her first episode where she’s revealed as the character (Death in Heaven) have spoken positively of her performance. And i agree; she’s a fun to watch, charismatic character; who also performs the evil manipulative side very damn well. So why are we OK with Missy but nervous about a female Doctor? Well while she is fun to watch, she keeps the parts of The Master’s character that make him great villain. The Master has always been cruel, scheming and manipulative. All of these elements are present in Gomez’s performance. It’s the same reason why the show has survived with the main role being changed all the time. The Doctor is a person who cares about people, hates violence upon others, and saves people because it’s the right thing. And each actor keep that side of the character into account. It’s literally the same person with a new face; despite the personality changes, the morals and idea of the character is still there.
So why are some people still curious about the gender swap? I think the picture below explains it best. As fans we grow attached to the characters we like, but when we grow to like said character for so long, the announcement for the departure of the actor who brought said character life isn’t easy to move on from after so long. Hence why there’s so many people debating about the death of (spoiler alert) the death of Jon Snow in Game of Thrones; people got attached for so long they didn’t want him to leave. Naturally this will put pressure on the new actors of The Doctor, to bring new life to the character, while hoping the fans don’t tear you apart on message boards. And this will be felt on the first woman to take the role. Hell this sort of back lash happened when Matt Smith was announced as David Tennant’s replacement…ANNOUNCED! But as long as Moffat or whoever picks a woman who fits the role of The Doctor, we should be safe. In end that cycle will continue as it did when both Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi were announced to play the role. And as long as this person is a good actress that plays the role right, then i and most fans will be happy that our beloved character is still entertaining us.
Now I want to discuss suggestions of women who i think should be The Doctor:
- Haley Atwell. As she’s shown on Agent Carter and the Captain America movies, she’s strong performer who shows her independence with great confidence. Not to mention where well spoken expressions in her performances makes her suitable for a smart character like this one. And she’s expressed interest in playing the role; so that’s a good start.
- Lana Parrilla. I know she’s an american actress in a discussion about a British character; but keep in mind this is who I’d like to play The Doctor, not who will. Anyway Lana uses the smartest person in room motivation in Once Upon A Time; and she handles it effortlessly. She’s confident, has a great screen presence, can handle smart ass remarks greatly. Which would work well if given the right companion to have banter with. I can easily see her as the female version of Capaldi’s Doctor.
Helen Mirren. OK now i maybe thinking unrealistically there. At Helen’s age she’ll be able to show the friendlier side of The Doctor, while the rest of acting range will allow the protective, tougher when needed and determined sides of the character. This has worked with the 3rd Doctor and his companion Jo Grant, along with the 6th Doctor in Big Finish’s audio dramas. Making the character a father like figure to the companions, helping them and those around them. They can do the same thing but reverse the genders. Helen has shown she to be a great actress, so she can pull of any one of The Doctor’s personalities easily.
- Lura Pulver. I’ve mentioned the confidence of these actors, not just in the way the perform, but how well their characters are. For those who saw Lura in Sherlock, she nails that on the head. She’s shown to portray the resourceful character whose three steps ahead of her enemies. And given how The Doctor isn’t an over powered superhero; this works well in Lura’s favor when playing a character who relies on his brains to live another day. If she can do that role as a villain; she can do it well as a hero.
But that’s may thoughts, what do you think?
If you liked this blog, here are two videos you may find interesting on the topic; both of which are for and against the subject.
- Will Doctor Who ever have a female Doctor by ERod Blockbuster Buster:
- The Problems with making The Doctor a woman by Council of Geeks:
Thank you for your time.