3 Ways 'Doctor Who' Can Fix Its Women Problem

An open letter to Steven Moffat.

Hi Steven,

Congratulations on another successful season of "Doctor Who." (As well as the engagement of Sir Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch -- I'm sure you had something to do with that.) But listen -- we really need to talk, Steven.

Last Saturday's (November 1) episode of "Who" gave hope to many -- and inspired rage in a loud-yet-vocal few -- when it revealed that the latest incarnation of its popular, typically-male villain, the Master, had gone female:

... And so on and so forth. You get my drift.

But don't listen to them, Steven. You did the right thing. Michelle Gomez is a fantastic actress, the Master's resurrected story arc is emotionally resonant without being manipulative, and, most importantly, Missy is a Time Lord. A Time Lord is an alien that regenerates into a brand new body whenever it dies with no real control over what it ends up with, so why wouldn't a former resident of Gallifrey morph into a woman at least half of the time?

Ahh, yes. That's where the crux of this whole thing lies -- some of your viewers seem to be shaking in their sand-shoes because they think that Missy is a precursor to that other Time Lord, our Doctor, actually becoming female. You've pooh-poohed this notion yourself, unfortunately, most notably that one time you likened a female regeneration to the Queen of England being played by a man. (Hopefully you've realized by now that those two scenarios are not the same thing. Helen Mirren has.)

Adrian Rogers, ©BBC/BBC Worldwide 2014

Doctor Who (series 8) ep 11

And the thing is, I really want to give you the benefit of the doubt. I've been really impressed with Clara's characterization this season, which undeniably at least partly comes from the fact that you listened to all of the critiques about her, well, lack thereof last year.

But still, the fact remains that many of your -- and Russell T. Davies' -- Companions, and just female characters in general, have largely existed as wide-eyed extensions of the Doctor; a sexy/sassy collection of catchphrases with a token nickname like "The Girl Who Waited" or "The Impossible Girl." More a simple puzzled to be solved then a living, breathing female herself.

As much as myself and millions of other women love your show, it's frustrating to see us so frequently dismissed and misunderstood by your writers. Your female characters can be so one-dimensional, in fact, that I frequently wonder if a first female Doctor under your tenure would even be a good idea. The notion of this historic character being the next River Song -- and thus earning the smug "I told you so's" of misogynist Internet trolls worldwide -- is almost even scarier than the fact that she might never exist at all.

To make sure that this never happens, here are a few female-friendly things that you can tackle first. Because sometimes, baby steps are important!

1. Hire Female Writers

BBC America


This is step one -- a seemingly very obvious step one -- and it would hopefully help solve a lot of your show's most egregious sins against its female characters. (Or lack thereof. Seriously, couldn't at least a couple of the scientists in "Mummy on the Orient Express" have been lady-scientists?)

As The Guardian pointed out, a woman has not written an episode of "Doctor Who" since 2008. That means that neither Capaldi nor his predecessor, Matt Smith, has spoken a line of dialogue written by a woman. You have to understand that, especially for your female fans, this fact is appalling.

Diversifying your writing staff by adding a group of talented, Whovian women would do you -- and your show's beloved universe -- a world of good. Women generally understand how women think better than men do (and vice versa), so having a few on hand would definitely help you when it comes to figuring out how to make the Claras, Amys, and even Rivers of your show more fully formed.

2. Respect The Companions


Doctor Who

Again, props for what you've done with the magnetic and wonderful Clara this season. Her increased role in the TARDIS has not gone unnoticed, or unappreciated.

But even during Clara's most defining moment in "Flatline," when she assumed the role of the Doctor while he was incapacitated, she immediately sought his approval once all was said and done. The Clara I've grown to love would not need to do that, especially at that point in the season... she had just nearly ditched the Doctor due to his disregard for humanity, after all. She was on shaky ground with him. (And also, believe it or not, women are not here to seek male approval -- even when they're as cool as the Doctor.)

It's understandable that the Doctor's Companions are attracted to the glamorous and fantastical lifestyle he provides, but there's got to be more to them than a lust for travel. Showing who these Companions are outside of the TARDIS -- and bringing their doubts, fears, and even love lives into the TARDIS -- is crucial. (Psst... and again... having some more female writers around would really help you out with this.)

The Doctor is an alien, so we need his Companion -- and our audience surrogate, really -- to be as human as possible for the more emotional elements of your show to work.

3. Stop Feeding The Trolls

Doctor Who (series 8) ep 12

Seriously, Moffat: It's understandable that you read the Tweets and blogs critiquing your show. There's even a chance in Nethersphere that you'll come across this one.

But over all, "Doctor Who" is under your creative control right now, and the opinions of your (hopefully soon diversified!) trusted writers and staff should hold more weight than that guy with the Twitter egg as his profile pic who spews venom about your show week after week. No matter how much vitriolic, women-hating crap comes out of these people's mouths, if you write a female Doctor -- and more importantly, write her well -- the masses are going to keep watching.

Will there be growing pains for some fans, adjusting to a larger female presence on "Who?" Maybe. But if they can accept a crack on Amy Pond's wall that connects to an Atraxi prison, the dead coming back to life as Cybermen, and the Ood, they'll probably manage.