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Regeneration Speculation

Note from the future: This is a very old post and was relevant at the time. Also Jodie Whittaker is amazing as The Doctor.  We return now to your scheduled ‘old rants’ reading. 

I’ve been trying to write a blog post about Doctor Who, regeneration and the role of The Doctor being played by a woman for some time now. Mostly I go round in circles and learn a little bit more about my own tastes, personal prejudices and slowly gain a greater understanding of inequality and sexism. It’s a very useful intellectual exercise for me, but consistently makes for a bloody boring wall of text as I1 waffle on. I’ll try to make it less dull, without tying myself up in knots about how to make the world a more egalitarian2 place.

So duly warned, here are some things to consider about regenerations.

a) Every regeneration is a reboot – I think people get distracted by the fact that because Doctor Who’s reboots happen as part of the narrative, rather than outside it, that this makes changing the show’s format some how easier. It’s not. The story and casting are only part of making a show. Casting Tilda Swinton (for example) as The Doctor is as easy to do as casting Katee Sackhoff as the next James Bond.

b) Having a preference for a certain shape, colour, gender or anything else in your future timelords does not make you a bigot, in the same way that preferring Roger Moore to Sean Connery as James Bond does not automatically make you anti-Scottish.

Being a bigot is the thing that makes you a bigot. For example, if your reason for not wanting Tilda Swinton to play The Doctor boils down to “girls smell”, then you need to have a word with yourself.

If, however, every time you close your eyes and picture The Doctor and you see someone who is short, bald and male (and your list of preferences are all actors who resemble Danny Devito) then that’s just your taste and your shouldn’t let anyone tell you that your tastes are wrong or weird; they’re your tastes and you should enjoy them as they’re part of who you are.

c) Casting, if done well, should be based on who the producers of the show think they could do the best work with. No other criteria should enter into it. Which brings me on to point 4.

d) The only way you’re going to get to make the decision is to become the next show runner of Doctor Who. If you’re so inclined, you should make this a personal goal3. I also think speculating on who the next show runner is just as interesting as trying to guess who the next Doctor is. I suspect it’ll be Mark Gatiss next, but I’d love it to be Jane Goldman.

e) With that in mind, lobbying the BBC to produce a version of Doctor Who with a female lead is the wrong approach. Producers should feel free to pick whomever they’re happy working with. Tell the BBC you want more sci-fi and fantasy shows with female leads and female show runners. Please, because the BBC needs to do more SFF in general. Then when the job for show-runner comes up, shout your preferences from the rooftops. 

1: I’m fat white bloke of average height in his late 30’s. I’m happy with my body and gender and very happily married to a rather lovely lady. As such I feel I have very little to add that hasn’t already been said by other fat white lucky sods.

But I like to waffle on, so there.

2: Being an egalitarian does not mean you only have to eat eagles. Yum yum, eagles. You can’t be an egalitarian without being a feminist by the way; can’t be for a fair society without dealing with the most obvious imbalance.

3: A hall of fame that includes the likes of Verity Lambert and Russel T Davies.

Categories: Geek, TV Tags: ,
  1. November 22, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    I like the point that this is nothing more than an in-continuity reboot. I think that gets to the heart of the issue.

    What strikes me whenever this gets debated is that a few people do have sensible arguments, but the majority just seem to be scrabbling to justify their pre-existing view. Very few people seem to have questioned whether their existing view is consistent with their other beliefs about equality.

    It’s not that long ago I was saying I wasn’t really in favour of a female Doctor, based on little more than gut instinct, but it’s interesting that you describe refining your own views because that’s definitely the journey I’ve been on. Right now I’m at a place where I’d say the question is not “Should the next Doctor be female?” but “why SHOULDN’T the next Doctor be female?” Shouldn’t we apply gender-blind casting?

    I accept that the role to date has been of a type (male, white) and therefore has a kind of accumulated set of expectations based on that type. It can even be argued that the Doctor is therefore intrinsically a ‘male’ character, like Sherlock Holmes. But recently the show itself keeps going out of its way to state that Time Lords can change gender (most recently in The Night of the Doctor). If so, gender change is arguably overdue.

    • Tom
      November 22, 2013 at 6:58 pm

      On the other hand, while Time Lords can apparently change gender, they appear to be the exception and not the rule. Of course, the Doctor is an exception, but not necessarily in every way. Moreover, just because they can doesn’t necessarily mean that most of them want to or that there’s any obligation for them to do so. As with so many things, just because you can, does that mean you should? I don’t know if a gender change *is* overdue; why should it even be necessary or desirable?

      I have no particular problem with the idea of a female Doctor (Curse of Fatal Death has long anticipated it, after all) but it would be a major change in the character, and not just a superficial one either. So if it’s going to happen I would rather it were for a positive reason rather than just because it’s “about time”. I think the show suffered enough from diversity for its own sake of it during RTD’s time as showrunner and if you’re not careful the casting of a female Doctor could easily be little more than a stunt.

      • Iain
        November 22, 2013 at 9:02 pm

        But does it *need* to be a major change? I used to say that too. But what if they didn’t sexualise it, or camp it, or do it self-consciously. What if they just did it? And got on with it matter of factly?

        I think a lot of objections are really objections to how it *might* be done badly e.g. ‘Moffat is a mysoginist’. ‘The press would obsess about her appearance’. ‘The costume might be sexist’. Etc.

        But any new Doctor risks being miscast or badly written. Should we worry more if it’s a woman?

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