Written by John Hussey
This article was certainly a long time coming. Particularly because it’s such a controversial subject matter that quickly descends into very heated arguments that get out of hand. I for one have been caught in the middle of these arguments on numerous occasions in the past when posting and writing for Doctor Who TV (a brilliant Doctor Who website, filled with the latest updates and fan articles/reviews, which you should definitely check out if you’re a Doctor Who fan).
So before you take one look at the article’s title and simply walk away, or do the more childish thing of spouting aggressive statements in the comment section without first reading the content, please just sit back and read my opinions and try to understand the other side of the argument in a respectful manner. I know I’ve heard many people ask me why I don’t want a Female Doctor, and so here’s my chance to discuss my thoughts in an in-depth discussion which will hopefully give more weight to my argument.
I suppose the first thing that comes to mind is tradition. I know for some this might seem like a stupid reason to validate my argument, but when you have problems with change (although strangely enough I have gotten used to the concept of change within Doctor Who) you tend to find it hard adapting to new ideas when they’re suddenly thrown at you. So naturally I need time to adapt to the change and get used to it, thus my state of frustration and panic fades away to allow reason to take a more prominent seat within my mind.
However, when it comes to the whole Female Doctor idea I’ve felt that I haven’t heard a good enough reason as to why this change needs to happen. In my eyes The Doctor has always been a man (because he is in fact a man) and every regeneration has seen that tradition maintain. You could go as far as to argue that the tradition of the show is The Doctor is identified as “a white British male”. Now I can see why in the modern age people have begun to question this tradition, because let’s face it, equality is a huge element now.
But, and this is a big but, you can’t go around demanding that equality is forced in our face at every turn. There needs to be a reason as to why equality needs to be utilised instead of it being done for the sake of it. It’s fair to say that we live in a rough time in which we have to be careful what we say in case someone is offended. Now for the most part this is good because it shuts down acts of racism, sexism, and homophobia. On the other-hand it develops problems because people use this to their advantage and corrupt the system.
Because of this I am instantly claimed to be “sexist” because I don’t want a female playing The Doctor. Honestly, this really gets on my nerves and really goes to show that the other side of the argument is weak in their defence by sinking so low. It’s happened to me loads of times and you get to the point where you can’t fight back because you’re being deemed such a horrible thing despite the fact that my opinion is perfectly harmless.
To answer the question of whether or not I’m sexist: No is the answer. The reason I don’t want a Female Doctor doesn’t stem down to my lack-of-faith in an actress being able to pull off the role, because chances are the right actress could do it. But it’s simply a matter of tradition, and of course there’s a lot that has to be considered when thinking about such a radical change. Now I know I’ve contradicted myself by saying I hate change, but don’t mind the change in Doctor Who. This is because I’ve trained myself to understand these changes.
In short I have to (in a way) make it apart of my daft life scheduling, to which when disrupted makes me feel uneasy. It could be something as daft as people getting in my way when I have planned to do something, or being unable to get a planned task done (say a particular X-Men review series) because of time constraints due to other work commitments during the day. I guess in a way it’s down to how the change is shown to me. If I feel it adds to the mythology of the show then I see it less as a harmful thing, and more of a expanding element to make the show grow in development.
The idea of The Doctor changing gender just doesn’t seem like a clear development and more of a gimmick. Consider the fact that the original premise of the idea came from Tom Baker making a joke about his replacement. So with that alone spans my personal opinion on the idea: “It’s there to be a joke!” This was best shown for the 1999 Doctor Who Comic-Relief spoof, “The Curse of Fatal Death”, in which The Doctor keeps using up his regenerations in silly accidents and ultimately ends up as a woman (played by Joanna Lumley).
But that’s all this concept was ever meant to be, a bit of harmless fun for laughs which worked so well in “The Curse of Fatal Death” because it was simply a spoof. So when fans began to get more and more on-board with the idea, to the point where they became demanding, I started to feel more and more confused as to why this idea was so favourable. And this led to why I currently find this entire argument one sided. It’s because the fans that want this idea have no legit reason why they want a Female Doctor (beyond the statements “just because” or “it should happen”).
Or, it’s a simple fact that the fans who want a Female Doctor simply shout louder than those who don’t want a Female Doctor, thus become more aggressive and hateful with their comments, making it hard for someone like me to win in an orderly fashion because there’s no rationality within the argument. In many ways I often wonder to myself whether they actually know why they want this to happen, similar to a child demanding something and upon receiving the said item they either quickly grow bored of it, or become confused because they now don’t know what to do with themselves.
So to all those who don’t understand my reasoning, I would like to pass that question back to you. Tell me (in a reasonable and respectful fashion) why a Female Doctor should happen and maybe a civilised discussion can take place.
One could argue that the whole concept of a Female Doctor has only really become possible within the show because of one individual, Steven Moffat. As you well know by now I used to have the strongest opinion of this man, to the point where I would defend him against the most aggressive of fans, but now I merely join them in spitting out venom. I know I shouldn’t because it’s extremely disrespectful to the man, but on the other-hand I find it hard to speak nice things about him since he has single-handily broken down my favourite show.
I would go as far as to say he’s let the power of being show-runner get to his head, along with the simple fact that nobody controls his actions, therefore he’s allowed to develop any concept of his choosing. Unless of course the BBC force him to do all these stupid things, in which case, I sincerely apologise Moffat. Ever since the throw-away line of The Eleventh Doctor pondering on “whether or not he had regenerated into a woman” fans have jumped up to declare that Time Lords can change gender. Me, on the other-hand, just thought it was meant to be a joke because he had long hair and he was confused (something regeneration is known for).
Then came the comments in “The Doctor’s Wife” in which we learnt that a Time Lord named The Corsair regenerated himself into a woman. But again, this wasn’t anything I was concerned with because it was deemed “a controlled regeneration”, meaning The Corsair deliberately did this because he wanted to. It wasn’t the first time the show told us that Time Lords could control who they became, i.e. Romana at the beginning of “Destiny of the Daleks”. It was only when Moffat admitted years later that it was him who sowed these little ideas into the scripts were I began to become annoyed. This was him declaring that he was forcing the idea into the show’s mythology.
Now, I am fully aware that every show-runner has had their own stamp on the show, thus changing or adding to the mythology to suit their needs. But never have I really seen a problem with this until Moffat came along. Maybe it could be down to the fact that I’m strongly against the idea of a Female Doctor, but the way he’s been forcing it in without any good reason makes me even more angry and uncomfortable with the premise. I’ve already stated that the idea feels more like a gimmick than a progressive element, but what makes matters worse is the whole “equality argument”.
This arguments almost declares that things have to happen “because it has to”. For the most part I agree with these statements but not when it means that shows and films are attacked or forced to change because a certain character has to be black, or a certain character has to be female, or a certain character has to be gay, that’s when things go too far. At the end of the day it shouldn’t be forced down our throats, it should already be an accepted thing. Plus it should come down to who the best person is for a role (within the right circumstances).
You can’t say that for The Doctor because he’s a male character. I think with The Doctor it’s the fact that he can change his appearance and so people believe this can be exploited. Well it can’t. Regeneration is meant to be a healing process. Yes The Doctor changes his flesh and all of his cells but that is completely different to changing genders. The implications you have to consider are quite deep. There’s the obvious factors that males and females have different bodily functions and to have The Doctor suddenly replace these bodily functions in an instance could prove to have fatal consequences.
Plus it’s simply the idea of how far does it go. How much does his character change because he’s now a different gender, because let’s face it, males and females act very differently. And then once he’s become a woman, does he automatically become a man again upon his next incarnation or does he stay female for a while. I think another of my major worries is “will it even work”. I worry that such a radical change will ultimately change the show entirely, to which it’s not recognisable anymore. It may even turn into a joke. Furthermore, I would really hate to see The Doctor’s character ruined. An idea should help to develop something and not hinder it, to which I say the concept of a Female Doctor doesn’t look to add anything.
If The Doctor does become a woman how does this affect him (both mentally and physically)? Will The Doctor’s sexuality change? How does this affect his relationship with his current companion? How will the universe accept this change? Will they just pass it off as if nothing happened, or will it be become a major spectacle? Does this change the way he will fight his enemies? And does this change his past relationships, e.g. him being a grandfather to Susan Foreman, and being the husband of River Song?
Does the BBC dare take so many risks with the character that we’ve all come to know and love over the last 53 years? These are all big questions to ask and many of them will change so many key concepts and characterisations that have become crucial to the show’s core structure. My guesses would be that they wouldn’t take such a gamble, thus keeping The Doctor the same but with a female appearance to compliment the fans that cried and begged for the change. And so that alone leads me to say, “If you’re going to keep the character exactly the same (thus not changing anything now that he is a woman) what is the bloody point of having the change in the first place?”
I guess another argument I could state is that The Doctor has never really expressed an interest in being female. I know that’s a massive leap but it is an important factor. In the real world we have come to accept the idea of someone changing genders, usually coming down to the idea that the person isn’t comfortable with their sexuality or appearance, thus wishing to change to become who they really are. It’s rather poetic if you ask me. But, when applying this idea to The Doctor it doesn’t have the same ring to it. In fact, it makes the concept even more ridiculous, and utterly creepy, almost like twisted fan-fiction you’d expect to find on the deep-web.
At the end of the day he wouldn’t be changing because he wants to, rather because he’s being forced to, which doesn’t sound very fair. The other side can argue that it is considered canon now that Time Lords and Time Ladies can change gender using regeneration, but as I said above, this is down to Moffat’s perception of the show. He has forced it to be canon. By making The Master female (on a whim, and just because) he nearly made me rage quit the show because I felt so betrayed. Making matters worse the change made the show feel even more sexist than if The Master hadn’t have changed.
I look to the fact that he’s now called Missy (short for The Mistress). Now, forgive me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the point of his title meant to mean “Master of All”, similar to The Doctor meaning “The Man of Healing”. This fits with his goals of wanting to be “The Master” of the universe, thus it isn’t the conventional meaning. Which means having his title changed to “The Mistress” is completely missing the point, and therefore completely taking away from his character.
But, even if we were to say he was called “The Master” because he was a man why does he have to be called “The Mistress” just because he’s now a woman? Isn’t that a bit old-fashioned, and dare I say, a little sexist? His female form could still be called The Master right? A woman can still be a master, and plus it wouldn’t make Missy stand out so much, as if she wasn’t The Master.
Which gets me to the point of what would happen if The Doctor became female. Would he be demoted to The Nurse? I know that would be even more old-fashioned than “Master” to “Mistress” because you can now have a male nurse and a female doctor. But the point still stands! Will The Female Doctor have to be made more different to define the fact that he’s now a woman, which irritates me even more because the change shouldn’t outweigh the character.
I know we’ve currently had thirteen actors cast as The Doctor but none of them stand as more important than the other because they’re all playing the same character. So just because The Doctor changes gender, or race, it shouldn’t be made more important because then that stands to reason it’s only being done to make a statement, which would be a very selfish decision indeed.
You don’t need to exploit good shows in order to make it clear that “equality” should become more prominent. Simply make shows revolved around the concept. Just keep it away from Doctor Who unless it actually adds to the show. The Master turning into a woman hasn’t added to the show. If anything, it’s demeaned his character through Moffat making his female incarnation nothing like his previous forms, added with stereotypical female traits (not to mention a strange romantic interest that The Master suddenly has with The Doctor, which is honestly quite sickening).
Then you had The General becoming an all-in-one display of “equality” by changing from a man to a woman, white to black, and ultimately it’s revealed that The General was originally a woman. Forced much? You could even say that the new companion, Bill Potts, is another example of “equality gone mad” by making her both black and gay. Is it necessary to the plot? Hard to say just yet, but I bet it won’t be all that important and is just there to tick all the boxes in this strange state of society.
And here’s a daft old question whilst we’re on the subject of “equality”, “If The Doctor does become female, and his companion is still female, isn’t that sexist too?” I mean, you’d have zero representation of a male character, thus delivering a reversed situation. But if you did have a male companion would that become too awkward, what with the surge in romantic connections within the modern era of the show?
I think the simple answer to all this is instead of trying to change male characters into female characters (on the basis that there’s not enough strong female protagonists) is just to create more original female protagonists and show the world that they can be just as popular, if not, even more popular.
Look at characters such as Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor, Wonder Woman, and Black Widow to name a few from the top of my head. These all stand as great female characters that even males love to watch because they are strong and independent, thus challenging the popular belief that men are more capable in a tough situation (which is obviously a load of old bollocks).
To finish off I would like to offer the suggestion that we’ve already had a female Doctor. It’s called the companion! I know not all of The Doctor’s companions are female, but the majority of them have been and have stood the test of time as being both likable, and strong, characters that match The Doctor’s intellect, his bravery, and his determination. Look no further than characters such as Sarah Jane Smith, Romana, Ace, Martha Jones, Clara Oswald, and River Song.
In the case of Romana she literally was the most accurate equilvent, being a Time Lady. But we have to look at this word carefully. It doesn’t mean they have to be the same, but rather like, thus having their own identity, which Romana certainly had, thus making her a perfect match for The Doctor.
Sarah Jane Smith didn’t start out as the bravest of characters but she had lots of independence to investigate on her own in order to uncover secrets. Come her own spin-off series, The Sarah Jane Adventures, she became almost better than The Doctor by protecting the Earth with her own companions from her attic in Ealing.
And despite the controversial nature of Clara Oswald I guess we can say she is the closest companion to become The Doctor in the end, having travelled through time to save The Doctor throughout his many lives, learning to be a mirroring image of The Doctor, and ended up with her very own TARDIS. So it’s fair to say that everybody can win with this simplistic idea which has been a core aspect within the show since the very beginning.
I’m going to call it quits there. I think I’ve dragged this article out long enough. No need for conclusions because the article speaks for itself. I’ve tried to be as detailed as I could possibly be, and so with that, I hope that I’ve conveyed my opinion across as best as I can in order to showcase why I really, really, really don’t want a Female Doctor. Please don’t hate me for my opinions, and if you’d like to talk about your own take on this argument (whether it be to agree or disagree with my statements) please comment below and share your thoughts. I’m really interested to hear what you have to say. And please join me next week with even more Doctor Who content as I review the premier episode of Series 10, “The Pilot”.