TV

Doctor Who Round-Table: Is It Time For A Female Doctor?

By Katherine Erlikh, Cecelia Grey, Amber Lena

On Sunday, the world finally learned the answer to to one of humanity’s most burning questions in recent times; just who will be playing the 12th Doctor? While Peter Capaldi was received with mixed reactions, those who were holding out for a female or non-white actor in the role experienced a very particular kind of disappointment. This disappointment quickly turned into annoyance and even anger for some as showrunner Steven Moffat’s discouraging comments began to make their way around the Internet. In response to Dame Helen Mirren’s cries for a leading Time Lady, Moffat had this to say: “Well, I’d like to see a man play The Queen.” He later remarked that women in particular don’t want a female lead.

Three of MTV Geek’s resident geek girl bloggers sat down for a round-table discussion about the matter and examined the pros and cons of having a female Doctor.

Katherine: On Sunday, the BBC announced that Peter Capaldi will be playing the 12th Doctor. Of course, this is a choice that has made many people upset, because they greatly desired a lady Doctor. Some, in particular shook their fists at the sky, cursing the name of Moffat. Myself, Cecelia Gray, and Amber Lena have gathered here today in sight of MTV to join in debate on the topic. Now, to start off, how does everyone feel about the new Doctor not being a woman?

Amber: I for one am disappointed. I have been very vocal about my desire to see a lady Doctor (or a non-white male actor) sometime in the near future. In fact, one of my top choices for Twelve was Peter Capaldi’s “The Hour” costar, Anna Chancellor.

Cecelia: I am totally okay with Capaldi, and I would have been okay with it even if they had chosen someone I’d never seen or heard of before. But, Capaldi is going to be fantastic so I’m even more okay with it.

Katherine: Personally, I was very, very relieved that they picked someone older. I was half expecting another really good looking young guy that would cater to the Hot Topic crowds. Although, again, I would have liked Misha Collins, but that’s been an obvious “no” from day one as he would have been far too busy filming in Vancouver.

Amber: Really though, what’s most off-putting to me is not the fact that they didn’t choose a female Doctor this time around, it’s the comments that Steven Moffat has made about the matter. Firstly, there’s that now infamous retort about if the Doctor should be a woman, then he’d like to see a man play the queen. There have since been remarks made that he believes people don’t want a female Doctor.

Cecelia: I don’t. I’m that guy.

Katherine: Same here. I actually thought the “I’d like to see a man play the Queen” remark absolutely hilarious, and very reassuring.

Amber: But why? Why shouldn’t the Doctor be a woman? I have to admit, I immediately took offense. To me, that was Moffat’s way of saying that he won’t ever cast a female Doctor.

Katherine: A female Doctor would suck. A lot. It would be very rubbish, especially in Moffat’s hands.

Cecelia: I thought the comment was insensitive and I disagree with the sentiment, which is basically, “The Doctor is too iconic,” but I still don’t want a female Doctor. I figured out why, though.

Amber: But why?

Cecelia: I think a real solid link through each incarnation of The Doctor is this unfortunate male gender norm that comes with being a Husband or Father that makes men feel they must be the sole provider and protector. The companion’s job has always been to let him know he doesn’t have to do it alone. A female Doctor doesn’t have that complex, and I would see it as a huge break in the continuity.

Amber: We live in a modern society though where that is definitely not always true. Why must it still be true on “Doctor Who”?

Katherine: Time is irrelevant to “Doctor Who,” as is our “modern society.” Why would a being not belonging to a particular time period be affected by the norms displayed in ours?

Amber: I think it would be refreshing to see a woman take on that role of provider and protector.

Katherine: I think it would just play out gimmicky and cheap. Like fanservice or something.

Cecelia: I think so too, I think the tendency to play up a motherly instinct would lead to bad writing. Or they’d go the opposite route and write “River Song: Doctor” edition.

Katherine: Motherly instinct is not something we find in The Doctor. Sure, he was a father and a grandfather, but for the past 900 years and 11 lifetimes, (12 now) he has been male.

Amber: Why would a female Doctor have to be motherly?

Cecelia: She wouldn’t, I’m saying in the current writer’s hands she probably would be.

Amber: I’m not going to hide the fact that I take issue with many of Moffat’s female characters. However, I still think it’s high time we see a Doctor that doesn’t fit the same white British male archetype.

Katherine: Yes, but he would just take that and ruin it. It’s clear he doesn’t want a female Doctor, and if he were forced into bringing a woman Doctor into the picture, I think the writing quality would be rather… subpar.

Cecelia: I really want to see a non-sexualized companion much more than I want a female Doctor. The show would need to change hands, then a female Doctor could happen.

Amber: I do agree that I’ve found the companions to be… less than ideal. I think that’s why I want a genderflop. Female Doctor, male companion. I want a female Doctor whose gender isn’t an issue–just the same old Doctor who happens to be female-bodied.

Katherine: I don’t want a female Doctor, ever.

Cecelia: What’s your reason?

Katherine: It would just be odd at this point, to make him a woman for no good reason, when he’s regenerated into a white British male twelve times out of his allotted thirteen.

Amber: I think that’s what would make the final regeneration into a woman so brilliant. The Doctor is finally a ginger! But he also happens to now be a she. That would be fantastic, to me.

Katherine: It would not be a woman any more than it would be a ginger. Just the same as Dean Winchester never gets his pie, Doctor doesn’t get to be a ginger.

Cecelia: But gender would still be an issue, a male companion letting a female Doctor know she didn’t need to defend the universe alone or being generally sassy and correcting her would probably end up being seen as slightly misogynistic.

Amber: Then I’m all for a female Doctor and a female companion. Point is, I want a lady Doctor to happen. Soon.

Cecelia: I want a platonic male/non-sexualized female relationship like 10/Donna or even something like Jamie and 2. Also I think Lady Doctor Lady Companion would get really “Charlie’s Angels” really fast and I don’t want that.

Katherine: I just want an epic bromance. We’ve been short on epic bromances lately.

Cecelia: RIP Donna/Tenth Doctor bromance.

Amber: I think we need to stop problematizing gender in television roles. What if the Doctor was written just as the Doctor has always been written, but they happened to cast a female actress? I think that would make for amazing television. There are so few female roles that aren’t all about the woes of womenhood. I want one where a female is allowed to kick just as much butt as the guys without her gender being a huge issue.

Katherine: Martha kicked ass. Donna kicked ass. Rose kicked ass. Amy kicked ass in miniskirts.

Cecelia: It’s still an issue in society and TV doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It will be an issue until it’s no longer an issue in the real world.

Amber: Who is to say that television can’t be a way of exploring what the world would be like without that issue?

Cecelia: And we could have a female Doctor that kicks ass, but I would still find it to be a huge break in the continuity. Also, it should be. I advocate for it as often as I can and with every role I’m cast in. The reality is, there are few writers who write that way.

Katherine: If he’s a being outside of time, why would he suddenly grow a uterus? Or whatever it is that lady Time Lords have.

Amber: It’s already been stated in canon that it is possible for a Time Lord to regenerate into the opposite gender.

Katherine: Possible, yes, but regenerations seem to be based on the Doctor’s mental state. Why would his mental state suddenly want to be a woman? I just don’t see it happening. It’s a major deviation from his pattern, and it either end up being something everyone makes a big deal about, or it would be something that just gets ignored with a shrug like, “Oh, no big deal,” and it would suck.

Amber: And perhaps it’s time to get some new blood in the “Doctor Who” writer’s room.

Cecelia: It is, I agree, but I still don’t want a female Doctor. I want better female roles in general but the Doctor isn’t one of them.

Katherine: I think what I most disliked about Smith’s Doctor, is that he seemed to “forget” a lot of stuff about humans that he knew in the 1st through 10th regenerations. Like when 9 could step out of the TARDIS and say “Hmm, something’s wrong, history is off-course here” and be right.

Cecelia: Because 10 refused to go and 11 became a man-child. I always accepted that.

Katherine: A lot of his character and knowledge was written out for the sake of alien humor, and I’m not sure if I want that. I hope that 12 will have more of that fire and electric type power that 9 had. Look at me talking about the Doctor like he’s a Pokemon.

Cecelia: He forgets things because he’s not really thinking clearly all the time because ADVENTURE! EXPLOSIONS! FRIENDS! He’s 12, sometimes he comes back to the real base of The Doctor and is terrifying but mostly he’s 12 and really excited about things so he forgets.

Amber: Actually, he’s 11.

[crickets]

Cecelia: THE WORST.

Katherine: Well played.

Amber: Thank you. I find that all this discussion makes me want a well-written female Doctor even more than before. I think the Whovian audience at large is ready for a leading Time Lady. A strong female Doctor whose gender isn’t presented as an issue would be groundbreaking. I would like to see “Doctor Who” push more boundaries. And I’m still rooting for Anna Chancellor to take over the TARDIS one day.

Katherine: I think I want the Doctor to be the best man for the job… but definitely a man. Throughout his career he’s been a bit too male of a role. I think that Rose’s mum was right and there ARE other things he’s got two of, because he’s acted it for the past 900 years. Even if we get more than 13 Doctors because River gave up her regenerations, and we could have a 14th 15th, or even 20th Doctor, I’m not sure if I would want one that’s female.

Cecelia: I want more well written female characters in general on the show, but I think writing The Doctor as female would be an enormous break in the continuity. I would much rather see another relationship like Donna and 10 where the female companion doesn’t have a crush on The Doctor and they’re bromance soulmates. I think to say, “We NEED a female Doctor” diminishes the role of the strong female companions he has surrounded himself with. The title isn’t important to me when the women are still the ones who often save the day.