WHO will be next..?
Ah it's that time again, when an actor hands in his notice and cyber space comes alive with speculation as to who will be the next Doctor, in the BBC's premium Saturday night family show Doctor Who. Any fan worth their salt has an opinion, from the ludicrously out there A list dream picks (mine's Huge Laurie and Kenneth Brannagh for the record), to the chin scratcher realities that are more likely to fill what is a relatively demanding role for a modest price. And, as has become part and parcel of the debate, Whovians and columnists looking to fill a few pages, inevitably sink their teeth into the now standard 'could/should the Doctor be non Caucasian and/or female?' question.
Well to the first part I say with the right actor, yes of course, get over it you daft racists, and while we're at it, open up the same debate on the ethnicity of the next James Bond. But on the second question, as to whether the Doctor should be female, I'd say there's a lot more to it than the standard argument of 'it's about time'. Part of the reason I say this is that it would require a certain amount of character alteration and explanation, which is fine if the head and subsequent writers are prepared for that and casting is impeccable, rather than pandering to the demands of some and producing a gimmicky twist.
It's only ever been suggested in passing that a Time Lord's regeneration can alternate between genders, so you'd probably need more than just a jokey explanation, one that takes into account the Doctor's romantic history and sexual orientation, and his roles as a father and grandfather, dealing with these issues in a way that the whole family can understand and relate to. It's not impossible, but it would require time and effort; with the show, the concept and the fans afforded the respect they deserve, and should not be about Steven Moffat (or any writer) leaving their mark on the show. I cringe at the very possibility of a bear in a dress sideshow approach that revels in the 'look, a Doctor with boobs!' novelty or worse still, a series arc that relies heavily on the running joke of a transgender Doctor. It would get tired very quickly, and if not handled properly, would be more insulting to women and transgender persons than side stepping the subject altogether.
|Jacqueline Hill as Barbara in The Aztecs|
I'll hold my hand up and say that I truly love Doctor Who, but I also recognize that it's a far from perfect show, that along with various other sci fi serials, could more than benefit from an increase in women writers (I wonder how vocal the campaign will be to see a female lead writer and producer when Steven Moffat leaves?) and as a result, there are issues with the representation of some female characters that I will actually go into more detail about tomorrow. But before people start getting up in arms and throwing around the term 'sexist' (a common and in my opinion unjust accusation that tends to be slung at Moffat in particular) it is perhaps worth noting that if we want an equal playing field through the introduction of a female Doctor, then it needs to be done well, with careful planning and recognition of the wealth of history that came before. Just because something can be done, does not mean it has to be done, not on a whim or a fancy anyway, so personally I'd like to see the creative gender balance addressed first, so that when a female Doctor is on the cards, she is rounded, developed and still in essence 'The Doctor' we've come to know and love.