A long time ago, I came to the realisation that the Doctor would not regenerate back into David Tennant. After I accepted that painful truth, I started to get excited about regenerations.
I’ve been devoted to Doctor Who since Russell T Davies’s reboot in 2005. I’m always devastated when the Doctor’s current iteration leaves. I greet the new Doctor with suspicion and criticism before they inevitably win me over. Until then I’m devasted as I watch them go again. That continuity despite loss is a trademark of the series. And the loss of Peter Capaldi will be a real blow to me, I really liked him in this last series.
On Sunday, I sat through half an hour of Wimbledon to make sure I was there to see the announcement of the new Doctor Who. And when it finally happened, I’ll admit, I had to run to IMDB.
Jodie Whittaker has been in Broadchurch, Attack the Block and Black Mirror. And she is the first woman to take on the role of Doctor Who. From everything I’ve been able to find, she’s a kick ass actor who’s likely to do us proud.
But my feelings were… mixed. I started searching for the usual articles, any hints of upcoming stories or news on the new companion and, of course, I stumbled into the usual that the internet trolls have to offer. None which I’m going to repeat because we can all well imagine.
I don’t think half of the naysayers really understand what their objection is. Because ‘she’s a woman’ is not a comment anyone with a full set of frontal lobes makes. Maybe to deliberately stir up trouble, but I saw plenty of women saying the same thing. Most of them point to ‘political correctness’, that great modern Boogeyman label which gets slapped on anything that you don’t personally agree with.
The truth is, I’m worried too.
But not because she’s a woman. Can a woman play Doctor Who? Well duh! I can name a hundred amazing women actors all of whom could play any role they damn well please.
That’s not the problem here. The problem is the scripts.
No actor can make something out of nothing. If the script’s not good enough, they, like their male counterparts, are going to fall flat. Maisie Williams, who appeared in Doctor Who as Me/Ashildr, explained that female characters rarely get equal attention from the writers.
When you get a script they always include a sentence or two about the character, something like – Jason: 36, strong, built, quick, witty and a description of his personality. Then there’s his girlfriend – Sarah: hot, blonde. And that’s it! ‘Hot looking but in a cute way.’ That’s your character!
The fact is, I’ve been sceptical for a long time if there are many script writers out there who can really create well-written parts for women. My worry is that the writers of Doctor Who will use this as an excuse to fall into every feminine stereotype out there. Even Joss Wheldon, who created the iconic Buffy the Vampire Slayer failed miserably at his attempt at scripting Wonder Woman and produced material which, frankly, fell into every ‘objectified sexy action lady’ category you can name. Mr Wheldon… we expect better from you!
Though it’s unfair of me, it’s sometimes even worse when the writers try. We see it in the constant way we describe female characters as ‘strong’. None of the Doctor thus far have been ‘strong’. They have been tragically flawed, a trickster, manic, witty, bold, courageous, enigmatic, hyper intelligent and comically unknowing. Women don’t get to be all these things. Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who and James Bond to name a few are complex. Female characters are ‘strong’.
Funnily enough, I’ve been writing a blog post all about ‘strong’ female characters. It was supposed to come out today, but I’ve bumped it to next Monday. Look out for it if you’re interested! Once it’s up, I’ll link to it here.
So after a few hours of worrying, I finally hit on three reasons why we have reason to be optimistic.
If there was ever a time to have a female Doctor Who, it’s now. After DC’s Wonder Woman, an example of a female superhero done right, we’ve finally come to realise we’ve been waiting too long for exciting female characters. While I do still want to give Joss Wheldon a bit of a talking to for that script, he started writing it in 2005. It’s incredible to admit, but representations of female character have moved on massively in the last ten years.
Between Missy, Ashildr/Me, River Song and Clara Oswald, the creators of Doctor Who have, either knowingly or unknowingly, been reflexing their muscles; creating powerful female characters who take on a lot of the Doctor’s traits. An eccentric genius, tragic, witty and an unstoppable force. The Doctor is a complex character who we immediately recognise no matter what body he’s (now she’s) in. You can’t blame these writers for being cautious, particularly when there are so few role models for this type of character as a woman (if you disagree, please leave a comment because I’ve been racking my brains trying to think of a female equivalent!)
3. Haters gonna hate
There’s no right time to have a female Doctor Who for certain idiots. Why pander? It reminds me of the riddle:
A father and his son are in a car accident. The father dies at the scene and the son is rushed to the hospital. At the hospital the surgeon looks at the boy and says “I can’t operate on this boy, he is my son.” How can this be?
You’d be horrified, as I was, at the number of people said the surgeon was the ‘gay dad’ or even ‘God’. And this was asked by BBC Three of people three/four months ago. I mean, it’s just embarrassing sometimes.
4. You get what a Time Lord is, right?
At the end of the day, as all us true Whovians know, this is not a female Doctor. This is THE DOCTOR. Gender, for a Time Lord, is irrelevant. As the Doctor says the penultimate episode of the series (in foreshadowing which I really should have seen coming):
DOCTOR: We’re the most civilised civilisation in the universe. We’re billions of years beyond your petty human obsession with gender and its associated stereotypes.
BILL: But you still call yourselves Time Lords?
DOCTOR: Yeah. Shut up.
So despite all my worries and fears, there’s only one thing to say. A female Doctor? About bloody time. Just please, please don’t muck it up or I’m heading over to the script room in Cardiff and I’ll show you a strong female character.
To my fellow Whovians, what do we all think? Can anyone help me out and think of another enigmatic, adventure driving female heroine the new Doctor could derive some inspiration from? Let me know what you think!