Regenderation

The debate had broken out again before the  news of Matt Smith’s departure had hit the first editions. Will the next Doctor be a woman? Why does this ‘debate’ continue? PLEASE STOP. It’s over. The arguments have been exhausted. The barrel is being scraped. I had planned not to write this post; it’s redundant and writing it is somewhat hypocritical given my opening plea. But it’s the question I keep getting asked, especially IRL, especially by the ‘not-we’.

So, could the Doctor be woman? Yes. Of course she could.

It’s unimaginable. The Doctor has always been a man.

All sorts of arguments have been put forward that the Doctor could not be a woman. I’ll admit, a couple were new to me this time round, but only because they were so feeble that it was hard to credit their conception.

Perhaps the first objection to a woman Doctor is that the Doctor has always been a man. It’s obvious, if trivial.

The Doctor had always had white hair. Until he hadn’t. Straight hair. Until he hadn’t. He’d always been old/thin/RP until he wasn’t.

The idea that the Doctor could be a woman was first popularised when Tom Baker suggested it as he departed from the role, a moment in history closer to the show’s origins than to the present day. Hearing the idea for the first time, it might have been that the idea was unimaginable: the instant reaction. Then, after a couple of moments imagining it, it had been imagined. The concept had been introduced. So it wasn’t unimaginable any more.

It’s unimaginable. The Doctor is a man.

This is tied into ideas around gender and identity, the fluidity of which may be difficult for some to accept. Perhaps not so much the Doctor himself, who has had to cope, ten times, with his physical form and his personality transformed; but maybe for the audience (and maybe for his wife River). The concept of changing gender is not new, but perhaps the idea of a sudden, spontaneous change is a bit unusual.

There haven’t been many transgender characters in Doctor Who so far (Cassandra, The Corsair, Susan the horse). But all the same, it’s startling, in 2013, to hear a host on a reasonably popular Doctor Who podcast to proclaim that “the Doctor is a caucasian male”. Really? Actually, never mind catching up with 21st century attitudes – how is it possible to follow the show and identify the Doctor in this way? He’s a TIME LORD from the PLANET GALLIFREY; he is AN ALIEN. From the first couple of episodes back in 1963 the writers challenged the audience  who tried to project their particular identification and value system onto him.

Someone told me this week they thought a female Doctor was ‘implausible’. She hadn’t even thought how completely she now accepted the concept of regeneration (a totally ludicrous notion). A female Doctor? Nonsense.

Boys need a rôle model.

The Daily Mail ran an article (no link on principle) arguing that the Doctor, as a hero who resolved conflict using intellect and ingenuity rather than violence was a powerful rôle model for young boys. So, if we accept that the boys could not have a female Doctor as a hero, what does sticking with a male Doctor say about the importance of the young girls among the audience?

We can’t have a female Doctor, Moffat can’t write women.

No, seriously, I have genuinely seen this point argued. But I will admit this was new to me!

The question of how Moffat treats women in his writing is a very interesting one. There is, I think, a case to answer (while I am a fan of his writing, there are a couple of instances of what appears to be casual misogyny that I’d be interested to explore, hoping to be shown to be wrong).

But if we accepted this, it wouldn’t of course be just an argument against a female Doctor. It would be an argument for having few (if any) major female characters while Moffat remains lead writer.

There’d better be a good narrative reason for having a female Doctor.

Really? The way the Doctor is identified, and identifies himself, has far less to do with his sexuality and gender than any other character in mainstream fiction I can think of.

If I toss a coin 11 times, the chances of getting heads every time is 1/2048.

There’d better be a good narrative reason for having a male Doctor for the 12th time in a row.

A woman Doctor is just part of an ‘agenda’.

This often follows from the last argument: having a woman would only be in order to satisfy some sort of politically correct crusade, to appease a pressure group or meet some kind of imaginary quota.

I believe they should get the best, most suitable actor for the role. If that is a man that’s fine.

But it would be a shame to halve the pool of potential actors, and maybe not cast the best actor for the part, by insisting on one particular gender if there’s no good reason to. That applies to a pre-determination that the rôle should go to a man as much as if it were pre-determined it should go to a woman.

A woman Doctor? No, no, no. You are wrong.

This is the only ‘argument’ that holds water. Because if that’s your preference/prejudice/personal predilection you are entitled to it. But there’s no debate to be had, no rationalisation.

That’s why the Today programme ‘debate’ had, for example. two people agreeing the Doctor could be a woman (to Sarah Montague’s apparent dismay). After all it wasn’t until @DrMatthewSweet revealed that Time Lords reproduce on looms that John Humphrys threatened to take the programme off air half an hour early.

That’s why it seems me that there’s nothing left to discuss. Unless I’ve missed something?

About Simon Wood

E-learning officer, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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