So, like millions of other bloggers around the world today I bring you news of Matt Smith’s announcement that he is to leave Doctor Who at the end of this year. I will be sad to see Matt go; I feel his potential was never quite achieved, for a variety of curmudgeonly reasons that I might harrumph at you in more detail at some point soon. Today, however, I want to twang my tuppence into the pot regarding the choice of actor to fill Matt’s shoes (size eleven? ho ho!). The bubble and froth over this issue has already started – in fact, these days it hardly ever seems to go completely away, simmering beneath most conversations about Who like molten magma. Personally, I tend to ignore these discussions beyond basic agreement/non-agreement – in almost all cases the BBC has historically chosen someone no-one else has considered, rendering these debates rather pointless – but in this instance I sense an opportunity for something new and potentially quite exciting to happen. What if the Doctor was to become female?
Okay, so this is not a new thought by any stretch of the imagination. In the game of “Who will play the next Doctor?” Bingo, this one occurs every time, along with calls for Stephen Fry, Benedict Cumberbatch, Hugh Laurie…etc, etc, ad nauseum. But I think the time is finally right for a change of this magnitude to happen. I honestly think the BBC should be giving serious thought to changing the gender of their Time Lord. Women are awesome and have always been capable of taking the lead in a flagship show like Doctor Who, but now I think the world is finally ready to see it happen.
I have to admit I myself am a little prejudiced in this regard, and prejudiced against his changing ethnicity, but I believe only out of sheer inertia. After 50 years it’s very difficult to see the Doctor as anything other than a white male. He is so familiar to me, an old friend. A really old friend, haha. I’m used to him changing faces but he’s never changed pronoun. I’m trying not to use the phrase “It’s just who he is” because if there’s any character about whom that’s not true, it’s our hero from Gallifrey, whose race seemingly has the power to become almost anything they so desire.
Since the series’ return in 2005 it has worked quite hard to broaden people’s expectations and break with convention. It challenged established lore in terms of what regeneration can do; in The Doctor’s Wife, for instance, the Doctor reveals that “The Corsair” was a Time Lord who had swapped genders at least once during regeneration. A few episodes later, in Let’s Kill Hitler, we actually see Amy’s friend Mels swap her original ethnicity for a completely different one, regenerating into the fabulous Alex Kingston. In wider media, we’ve even had Time Lords change species (although these things aren’t usually canonical until seen on TV). Taking these facts into account it seems that our friend The Doctor has in fact been rather conservative in his approach to his own bodily metamorphoses.
After a disappointing season of episodes, and a growing sense that the show is losing touch with its soul, I’m of the firm opinion that Doctor Who needs a serious ‘ground-up’ revamp, a return to the basics of storytelling that Moffat’s stewardship has seemingly chosen to ignore in favour of breathless action sequences and Hollywood style gloss. In fact, there’s now scope to address some of the issues that “Nu-Who” introduced in 2005, things that have left many fans of the original series struggling to enjoy the show. Having a female Doctor would fit beautifully into that revamp, literally embodying the change. And think what this would mean for the legion of writers out there suddenly having such a fresh perspective to play with! Not to mention what it would mean for female fans of The Doctor to think that they could not just dress up like their favourite character but actually have a woman play the character on screen! After decades of being relegated to the Companion role, the eye-candy, the one who asks the stupid questions to make the Doctor seem more intelligent, how empowering to finally be able to BE The Doctor! In a world where women are standing up for themselves like never before I feel the time is finally right for a female Time Lord to take centre stage.