Six Smart Women Discussing Doctor Who

VerityExtraFemaleDoctor-300Nothing sends fandom into a tizzy like thoughts of a new Doctor. Nothing sends fandom into an even bigger tizzy than that like thoughts of a *gasp* woman Doctor! Join Deb, Erika, Kat, and Liz as we discuss why this is such a hot-button issue and why we each feel the way we do about the prospect.  (No, believe it or not, we do not all want a female Doctor.)


Download or listen now (runtime 34:56) 


Comments on: "Verity! Extra! – Nothing ‘Only’ about Being a Girl…Doctor" (66)

  1. bekitty3 said:

    Liz, you are ON FIRE this episode! I’m listening to the episode right now, and I’m finding myself clapping and cheering you. 😀

  2. I kind of come down somewhere between Erika and Kat. No one ever told me that my favorite fictional characters had to be female or that I could only have female role models. I’ve always had male and female role models and favorite characters – even from when I was a child and none of the adults in my life ever batted an eye at that (it was only when I started going to school and my classmates laughed at me for liking things like Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters and even some sports figures that I learned this was a reality. But my foundation was such that I couldn’t be bothered to care about their opinions and life went on as it had before). I’m completely fine with the Doctor staying male because that’s how I was introduced to him and I don’t see a real need for a change. For me, gender is one of those periphery characteristics that I notice about a character, but it isn’t really that important and I don’t get too worked up about it. Personally, I’m not too fussy about what the characters identify as, as long as they serve the story well.

    That being said, I do think there could be a female Doctor – but I would like there to be an in-universe reason for it. My fear is that it would turn into a marketing gimmick amounting to the production team jumping up and down saying “Look at us! Look at us! We made the Doctor a girl! We’re so neat!” and “Doctor Who” deserves much better than that. I don’t want it to become something that smacks of desperation because they think they’re not getting the ratings and they all of a sudden need to appeal to a wider demographic so they make this drastic change. To be fair, they have set up a few little threads within the universe to open the possibility, which I appreciate. If they can make the Doctor female and justify it within the story and not make it this one-note gag just for ratings or whatever, then I’m okay with it (I also agree that there needs to be some personnel change behind the scenes before we get to the point of a female Doctor).

    In the meantime, there are plenty of amazing female companions that I totally love (both from Classic and New Series – and here I join Liz in cheering for Barbara!) and some fantastic male companions as well.

    That’s my two cents – great podcast as usual, ladies!

    • I like your point about not seeing a need for change. Drastic change just for the sake of it tends to bother me. Thus I also agree with your hope that there would be an in-universe reason for it. OR, that if they do it, they simply DON’T make a big deal out of it. What would really bother me is a buncha episodes with the Doctor and the companion going through all the emotional beats of getting-used-to-it. I don’t want that in my Doctor Who. I want space adventures! And aliens! And lasers! And things.

  3. MayorOfUlthar said:

    A female Doctor would make it so he and River were same-sex married partners (assuming those two are married still). Do you think the BBC would go there? Yes there’s Vastra and Jenny, but involving the Doctor in this would be another matter entirely.

    Not opposed at all, but would not like it if a female Doctor meant that River would never be in the show again

    • I think that Moffat’s beautiful and touching send-off in “The Name of the Doctor” was a pretty clear signal that we won’t be getting River again, regardless. I’m 99.9% sure they’ll be casting a fella for the role, and I’m about 90% sure we still won’t be seeing River (except maybe way down the road in some other anniversary-type special).

      I would like to think that the BBC would go there though, but maybe that’s wishful thinking…

      • MayorOfUlthar said:

        There was a finalness to River’s appearance, wasn’t there? As soon as she started speaking, she seemed to me a ghost of the past; a walking flashback. I am just hoping that is not so.

    • MayorOfUlthar said:

      My comment got accidentally submitted before I could complete it. I have no issue with a female Doctor with River as her wife at all, but the BBC might.

      • Right–your meaning came through! 🙂 I just meant that it’s a moot point (moot in the US sense of the word) because I think River’s already gone.

  4. I’ve been thinking about this. There is clearly no in-universe reason that the Doctor cannot be female.

    But I will say that I think that the Doctor cannot be female *now* for the same reason that Deb (I think it was Deb with the “push from behind” comment?) said – there isn’t the production/writing team on board at the moment who could manage it well.

    I think we all appreciate the show differently. I don’t need a character who looks like me to be able to relate to them, but it would be nice to see more representation of the variety of peoplehood (peoplehood?) on television in general. Doctor Who has a larger canvas to work with in that department than many programs, certainly.

    But there is a sort of advantage to having a white male Doctor, I think. Doctor Who will sometimes bring home the lesson that people are people, even if they’re covered in green scales and look nothing like the viewer. But it also (perhaps inadvertently) reminds the viewer on occasion that the Doctor is *not* human. So for the white male audience, he may look like you, but he’s not you. And by extension (to the white male audience), not everyone who looks like you is going to have the same goals/thoughts/motivations that you have. Two sides of the same lesson – judge people on who they are and what they do, not by what they look like. That intelligent slime mold that’s out doing a bit of shopping is just as much a person as the guy with the police box and one of them may be happy to help you with directions and the other may be out to blow up your planet – no telling which is which until you actually interact with them and communicate.

    Personally, I like an avuncular Doctor (although the relationship with River strikes me as much more balanced than say, with Rose, which was just off-putting). Gender and ethnicity are not important to me although the age thing is interesting. Having someone like Matt Smith be able to bring home the “1000+ years old” aspect is very cool and adds to the alien-ness of the character. Here we have this bouncy puppy of a man who can *make things happen* in spite of the fact that he looks like a young guy in odd clothing. He’s not what he looks like, but it’s okay because people are people and you shouldn’t judge them based on appearances.

    • Well said, Mik. (And I think it was me who had the “push from behind” comment. 🙂 )

      • Was it, Erika? Apologies! Yes, a very valid point that they simply don’t have what it takes to manage a female Doctor properly, just yet. I’d love to see a female script editor on board and soon!

    • MayorOfUlthar said:

      I also don’t want to see something like “Star Trek: Voyager”. When Janeway came along, the franchise “jumped the shark”, not because of a female captain or her character, but because of the advancing Bermanization of the Star Trek franchise. Too many people blame Janeway for it, wrongly.

  5. HI all.

    I think its a stretch to have a female doctor. I think a minority doctor is far easier a change for audiences to swallow.I know Gaiman has foreshadowed the possibility, but I think the resistance would be too high, and could ultimately cause backlash to the show.

    Also, there is a dynamic thing. Changing the race of the Doctor does not change the dynamic of the show radically. Making the Doctor a woman does.

    Now, having a female time lord as a major recurring character (if you regenerate the Master, as suggested in the podcast, or have the Rani return, or Romana, etc) would be a way to get the best of all possible worlds.

    I have a sneaking suspicion, perhaps a wish, that Gallifrey is going to be eventually broken out of time lock. Doing so would allow for a female time lord to be a recurring part of the show. Even more delightful, a “love and monsters” style episode with said female timelord as viewpoint main character would be awesome. The Doctor would still be the Doctor, but the possibilities in the DW universe would be seen.

    We’re not likely to get that until more female writers are on the show though.

    • Paul A. said:

      “Changing the race of the Doctor does not change the dynamic of the show radically. Making the Doctor a woman does.”

      Would you mind unpacking that a bit? How do you see the dynamic of the show changing in that situation?

    • Changing the race of the Doctor would still create the same in-storyline issues as changing gender. He would still, in historical stories at least, be moving from a place of privilage to a place where the actions would be questioned and some doors closed

      • It wouldn’t hurt to show him challenged in that way at all – though knowing the Doctor his ‘act as if you own the place’ would simply work nine times out of ten. And how empowering would it be to see that happen?

        I repeat what I’ve said elsewhere. The Doctor is not and has never been a realistic character. The fact that he can get away with saying or doing things no one else could is an essential part of who he is – and wouldn’t it be awesome to show that it’s not actually because of his white male privilege that this is the case, but his essential Doctorishness?

  6. Sabrina said:

    Another great podcast episode! I’ve been wondering when you would cover this topic.

    Let me start with stating that I’m with Team Female!Doctor. From an in-universe perspective I don’t see a reason why it shouldn’t happen. It’s established that Time Lords can change gender/sex and that the Doctor doesn’t have full control over the regeneration process. Perfect set up! What else do you need? No seriously, WHAT? There are so many people saying “Yes, but there should be a good reason!” but what sort of reason would that be other than “because he can!”. It was a good enough reason for him to regenerate into a white dude. There also was never a special in-universe reason given why he should look like Matt Smith all of a sudden. From a production perspective it was just that this young fella was amazing during his audition so they cast him. End of. It should be the same with a female Doctor. Just let women audition and maybe one absolutely excels in the role and then they should just cast her.

    All that talk about how the Doctor is an inherently male character is just empty words for me cause I have literally no idea what that means. I have never heard anyone being able to give a satisfying answer to the question of what makes him so male. The only thing that makes him male is that he was -presumably- born in a male body and he just lived with that like most of us do. But at the same time I can see him -or rather her- being totally fine with a female body and identity. She probably would care for 5 minutes cause everything is new and different but then gets distracted by some shiny thing and she and her companion are off to explore the universe and save civilisations. Cause that’s what the Doctor always does.

    I would however be a bit worried if Twelve would be female – mostly because of the current production/creative team. I’m not entirely sure they would be able to do a female Doctor justice and I really have no wish to sit through a drawn out jokes about women. But in general I agree we really need more women behind the scenes. I remember a recent interview with Jenna where she said it was nice having Billie around cause she’s always surrounded by so many men on set. In other words, currently DW is a sausage fest and it needs to change – behind the scenes and in front of the camera.

    • Michael said:

      You raise exactly my point why I am not on the Mrs Doctor Team right now: I do not think that any of the production team since 2005 has been able to come up with a female character on the long term that came close to what I expect of a new Doctor. Most of them have been either romantic interests (Rose / Martha), spunky, sassy sidekick (Amy / Clara / Donna) or the ultrafangirl River (whom, for the record, I like but each and everything she does revolves around the Doctor).
      In Addition, romantic and sexual tensions have become a big thing in New Who, I can’t imagine how the chemistry of the show would change with a female Doctor although the herself / himself Character – as you said – would be probably by just fine with it.
      I think, we wouldn´t have that much of a discussion if we had a companion of equal intellect like Romana I, Liz Shaw or of equal character like Sarah Jane or Barbara.

      As long as the production crew is such a fraternity, I don’t want a female Doctor. (Just remember the stupid jokes in Curse of Fatal Death about the third setting of the screwdriver)

      As for a non-white actor… why not? Although I am kinda surprised that I’ve never seen anybody suggesting Persian or Northern African actors… why not Alexander Siddig?

      • Sabrina said:

        I think RTD would have been more capable of writing for a female Doctor than Moffat but for the rest I have to agree with you. Admittedly I’m mostly so worried because I know society’s double standard will put an immense pressure on a female Doctor. If anything goes wrong it will be attributed to her gender – not the scripts or the production in general. And then we might only have this one chance and if it fails everyone will say “Well, we tried a female Doctor but it just didn’t work!” which frustrates me to no end.

        It’s doubly frustrating when I think how easy it would be to write a female Doctor – just write her the same way you write the male Doctor! No fuss about beauty products and high heels (as some other posters suggested) – just let her pick a practical outfit and be done with it!

        A PoC would be great, too! And yes, I’m also a bit annoyed that PoC is always conflated to black in this debate. The UK also has an equally large population of Indian people and from what I hear they don’t have a particularly positive representation on telly. That said, I’d love to have Alexander Siddig!! He would be perfect! ❤

  7. Elvis Omar said:

    As always, thoughtful and interesting stuff.

    Playing devil’s advocate for a moment: If the character of the Doctor is cast with a female actor, there will be questions that will be raised in the minds of viewers that wouldn’t be raised if the actor is a male. This is not an excuse to avoid casting a woman, but it points out something that needs to be said over and over again in this context: Until the creative team is 100% behind a female casting, and composed of a significant percentage of women writers and decision makers, it shouldn’t be done.

    The kinds of questions I mean are such as these: Does the Doctor have to learn how to do her hair? Can the Doctor walk in heels or would she have to learn (assuming she wanted to)? Can the Doctor get pregnant (again, assumptions)? How do Gallifreyans reproduce anyway? Can all Gallifreyan Time Lords regenerate as either gender? Is it a choice or happenstance? If it is a choice, why did the Doctor choose a woman this time, and why eleven men in a row (and maybe John Hurt besides)? If it is NOT a choice, how come the Master and Doctor have always been male thus far, and how come Romana (and River for that matter) was always female? None of these necessarily have to be raised in the stories, but some may, and all of them and more will be raised by the media and fandom, and some of them even in the minds of young viewers.

    If Matt Smith’s Doctor fades away, and dissolves into Chiwetel Ejiofor (for example); he might just rub his eyes, look into a mirror and say “Darn, still not ginger”. And there needn’t be any reasonable questions raised, except maybe: How common is it to see Gallifreyans with lots of melanin (or the Gallifreyan equivalent)? But wardrobe, biology, habits, and customs for the Doctor will leave no questions unanswered.

    Having said all of that, I’d be eager to have some of those questions raised, and then answered or overtly dismissed as silly-21st-century-human cultural bias within the context of the story—provided the writers treat the Doctor like the Doctor. And so, I might suggest: TILDA SWINTON! She’d be awesome in the role, and could easily handle any of the media flak about perceptions of gender-crossing casting.

    The other interesting subject in this week’s extra was Kat’s comment about gender role models. It led to an interesting discussion. Oddly, I agree with Liz and with Kat, which doesn’t even make sense on the surface. Most of what Liz had to say about sexist and racism and gender-role-bias would be underlined and highlighted with yellow marker in my textbook. However, television and all forms of creative expression should be an honest statement by the artist(s). It is reality that the Doctor will be a role model for young people (and older people too), but that is NOT why he was created, and should NOT be the major criteria for casting the next Doctor. The only criteria for casting should be: Is this actor capable of bringing significant talent to the role, and is their physicality and characterization compatible with the vision of the senior creative team on the program. In this specific case: Does the actor bring what Moffat needs to tell the story arc he has outlined.

    If we bring “role model” into the list of casting criteria, then we will wind up with Captain Kangaroo and Mister Rogers, or Peter Purves—well, you get the idea.

    Yes Liz, the world of Doctor Who needs to reflect the real world. I’m always distressed when a modern Doctor Who story has no female or non-white characters apart from maybe the companion. Personally, though, I think our mental and emotional energy is better spent promoting strong and logical choices of women to be writers for Big Finish and the BBC’s Doctor Who series, with perhaps the goal of the next show runner being a woman. I could certainly get behind that and push… er… sorry.

    • High heels and lipstick? For real? Have you ever tried to save the world in high heels? Sure, Martha Jones could do it, but that chick had SKILLZ.

      As for hair, wow. Take a look back at other Doctors’ hair and ask that question again. I’m pretty sure she could handle it.

      • Elvis Omar said:

        Of course the Doctor could handle it. He has mastered almost everything he set his mind to; but he’s had 1000 years to do it all. We don’t know how many years exactly it took, but it took from Hartnell until the middle of Davison for him to really be able to reliably and precisely navigate the TARDIS. Anyone can learn gender customs, but it generally takes practice and/or guidance. Will this be played out on screen or referred to as having happened off stage? Either way, question asked and answered. That’s what I meant.

        To suggest that after a millennia as a man, the Doctor could comfortably adopt female customs of dress and hygiene without some transition and guidance, well, it seems unlikely, unless Gallifreyans have that ability innately. Perhaps they do, but even if they do, that is still the question asked and answered.

        More importantly, I was not suggesting that I would be asking those questions, nor that I would be demanding answers to them. Rather I was suggesting that to keep the storytelling honest and consistent, they would need to be addressed somehow. These questions are not an impediment to the Doctor being a woman, they are aspects of the character that probably should not be ignored in the service of good storytelling.

        If the questions are obvious to most viewers, then the show needs somehow to answer them. I was suggesting that unless the creative team is 100% behind it and on the same page, we’re likely to get bad cross-gender jokes, clownish exploration of gender transition, or even some variation of the painful “my high heels broke so he got away” trope. None of want that, surely.

        I would love a woman cast as the Doctor. I’ll wager it will not be a woman this time.

    • Sabrina said:

      I don’t think these oh-so-important questions need to be answered at all.

      For example: We don’t see the Tenth Doctor styling his hair before he steps out of the TARDIS, we don’t see the Eleventh Doctor fiddling around with a hair-dryer to find the right setting that would ensure his hair doesn’t stick out into all directions (and yes there’s an interview with Matt Smith in which he explains the secret to his hairstyle is all in the right use of a hair-dryer, lol) — so why would we need to know how a female Doctor does her hair? As a woman I can assure you there is no big mystery to female hair that is worth dedicating any screentime on DW to. Except maybe something along the lines of: “There’s a whole universe to explore and you are worrying about hair and high heels? You humans and your feeble minds!”

      So yeah, basically what Tansy said in her post below!

      • Elvis Omar said:

        There’s a whole universe to explore and you are worrying about hair and high heels? You humans and your feeble minds!”

        There, question answered. That is all I’m on about. I never once implied how the question should be answered.

        Overall though: My comments have been heard in a light I absolutely did not intend. I should stop trying.

  8. OK there’s no way I’m going to have time to do a ‘My Two Cents’ post this week and the rumour is that the announcement will be made on Sunday, so here are my thoughts…

    1. I want a female Doctor. I try not to think about this too much because I hate the crushing sense of disappointment, which is not what I want to feel when a new Doctor is announced.

    2. Ditto for a non-white Doctor.

    3. Failing either of those, a non-young Doctor. Because the whole POINT of Doctor Who as a show is that we get new stuff all the time. New planets, new tone, new characters, new toys. Repetition is annoying.

    4. If we do get a female Doctor, I want them to be written pretty much exactly as if the Doctor was male. I don’t want high heels or lipstick conversations, and I never ever want to see the Doctor’s underwear. I find it distressing how many people feel that there would be some kind of change to the dynamic of the show around a female Doctor. It should be otherwise EXACTLY the same.

    5.The Doctor is not a realistic character. He walks in a bubble of unreality. Just look at David Tennant’s hair. Do you really think the Doctor sat around in the TARDIS figuring out about hair product? No! His hair defies gravity. He doesn’t follow the rules like other people. He barely eats, except when he feels like it. He doesn’t have a bedroom. It took him 900 years to figure out kissing. He’s the DOCTOR.

    6. A female Doctor should be the Doctor as hard as she can. So she would wear comfortable shoes, and run up and down corridors, and be brave and funny, and hardly notice the difference between being male and female. There might be the occasional attempt by the outside world to impose gender roles or sexism on her, but she should barely acknowledge this, and NEVER be made to suffer for not acknowledging such foolishness. Let the unreality bubble give us this, one female hero who lifts her chin Emma Peel style and talks her way out of situations, and walks into every weird culture as if she owns the place.

    7. If at the same time we got an awesome, interesting long term male companion who was there for his own reasons, not because of his romantic attachment to the ‘real’ companion or indeed the Doctor (though a mild, unrequited crush is acceptable) then that would also be fantastic, because we haven’t had that for a long time and I doubt we will have that as long as the Doctor is male, because it immediately turns the show into one without any women at all.

    “I’m a woman now. Women are cool. Let’s save the universe!”

  9. MayorOfUlthar said:

    Re #5….. Exactly…..

    Also, in regards to the heels thing, remember the Doctor has a uniform. If it is a She, and she settles on a uniform with flats during that first episode, she likely won’t deviate from much for the next 3 years.

  10. bekitty3 said:

    BTW, the way to pronounce Chiwetel Ejiofor’s name is CHEW-i-tel EJ-i-oh-for, according to Wikipedia. The “i” is short, as in “kit”.

    He’s the one who played the Operative in Serenity, and was also Lola in the film version of Kinky Boots. I agree he’d be great as the Doctor.

  11. I was gonna write a long reply here, but I’m going to write a blog post about it instead. The short version is: I think people (probably subconsciously) find it a bigger deal for the Doctor to be a woman because, unlike a new female version of James Bond or Sherlock Holmes, the new Doctor will not always have been a woman. You’re not just making a female Doctor but casting a woman – you’re making a transgender Doctor.

  12. MayorOfUlthar said:

    Ben: Interesting point. So, unlike a female Sherlock being a reboot/reimagining, the Doctor becoming a female would be an outright sex change.

    We have a little more than 48 hours to speculate on this. Or at least speculate on this in this way we are doing now. If the next Doctor announced on Sunday is a woman, there will be a ton of speculation on how this will be handled. The questions will only begin…

  13. I really love your podcast. And I appreciate the breadth of opinion. I just wish Liz would respect her fellow podcasters a bit more and let them express their opinions without constant interruption. Let them finish a bloody sentence once in a while, Liz! Even if you can’t stand what they are saying, I still want to hear it! Respect = listening politely even if you happen to disagree with an idea or a certain turn of phrase. After all, how many times have you vehemently objected to something only to find out that the person speaking actually agreed with you; they were simply expressing an opposing viewpoint in order to discuss it further. Relax! Conversations are meant to be exchanges of ideas. They are not battles to be won, especially not if you’re with people you intend to keep as friends.

    In other news . . .

    Well said, Tansy!

  14. Thanks for another thought-provoking podcast! 🙂

    I think it’s now been established in the continuity that Time Lords can indeed switch gender and ethnicity, so the question of whether the Doctor should be non-white and/or non-male becomes not if, but when, and why hasn’t it happened already? That’s not exactly to say that I WANT it to happen, but I don’t object to it either. Basically, I’m open to the idea of the Doctor being a bowl of porridge, as long as they get a bowl of porridge that can act.

    I also share the concerns about how a female Doctor would be presented by an all-male production team. I can think of many horrible ways that it could be mishandled. I agree that it’s probably more important to get females behind the camera than in front of it. Some female writers and a female show runner would be awesome. Not that I want to see the back of Moffat just yet, but I think when he goes, his replacement should be a woman.

    Change is scary but it’s necessary too, especially in a programme that’s been running for 50 years. I’ll keep watching as long as the characters are strong and the stories are good. As a straight man who is a Buffy fan, I know it’s entirely possible for me to identify with a female hero. Although Buffy tended to hit people more often than I’d want the Doctor to…

    So I say let’s try it. Why not? If there are fans who will stop watching if the Doctor becomes non-white and/or non-male, then I say good riddance to them.

    • MayorOfUlthar said:

      Paul said:

      “Basically, I’m open to the idea of the Doctor being a bowl of porridge, as long as they get a bowl of porridge that can act.”

      I think Odo on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” had a default form that was not much different from a bowl of porridge…

    • Sabrina said:

      “So I say let’s try it. Why not? If there are fans who will stop watching if the Doctor becomes non-white and/or non-male, then I say good riddance to them.”

      And maybe a non-white and/or non-male Doctor actually draws in a new audience! I’m pretty sure tons of people would at least check it out cause they’re curious and maybe they like what they see and stick with it! 😀

      • Sabrina, that’s a really good point. I’m sure a woman Doctor would drive away plenty of people. (Silly, sad people) But how many would *start* watching? Probably more than enough to make up for it. And if the writing and stories and performances stay strong, the show should be able to keep them!

  15. I find this whole thing very confusing. For me The Doctor (and My Doctor) has always been whoever is on screen. I’m not particularly for or against any gender or race and struggle to see why people encamp themselves on one side or the other. I think this whole discussion (which occurs EVERY regeneration) is more about the people participating and their view on society rather than about the show and The Doctor.

    I have fears before every regeneration (thought I would hate every Doctor since the 6th and been delightfully wrong on every occasion) but nothing different about the possibility of a female Doctor.

    I would question how it would affect a TARDIS crew dynamic though. I worry about how companions would be written with a female Doctor.

    I’ll end by posing a question to which I have never actually received an answer. I am very much in favour of independant, strong female characters but have never heard of a pressing reason of why The Doctor should be changed into one rather than a plethora of new ones created. Why is a female Doctor so much better an idea than getting Romana back and having strong female leads in a dozen other shows? It seems that The Doctor has been identified for change rather than changing how TV and movies portray women as a whole.

    • For me the question of a female Doctor is fascinating. I’d love to see it happen, simply because it can. It’s written into the show that the hero changes bodies on a regular basis, and how many beloved TV shows have that possibility wired into its canon? I actually really like all of the female characters on the show and while I can often see problems with how they have been written, I am still very attached to them. I’d love to have Romana back, and so on. But THIS show is special to me, and to shake up the lead role in such a way without the show breaking (because seriously, nothing can break this show, no one who has seen the Twin Dilemma could possibly believe that) would be such a glorious adventure.

      It’s not just about ‘strong female characters’ in shows. Having a female Doctor would change fundamentally very little about the long history of problematic portrayals of women in TV and movies. It would just be really, really awesome to have a woman getting to be *that* character for a while, the eccentric adventurer with the power to save the universe and the battered police box.

      Gender-switching is a time honoured literary convention to play with preconceptions and expectations. It worked excellently with Watson in the recent Elementary, giving us a very new take on Holmes and Watson (and a refreshingly unslashable pairing). The Starbucks of Battlestar Galactica are another great example – everyone railed against that until the first episode, which was brilliant. Very few shows or books or myths are able to do that sort of thing outside an explicit reboot or retelling – BUT DOCTOR WHO CAN DO IT. Without changing the show. Without going anywhere.

      Doctor Who can go anywhere.

  16. MayorOfUlthar said:

    Jezbez: Actually, I’d like that. Romana back… maybe give her another show, a spinoff, with her companions/team being Vastra, Jenny, and Strax… like some have hinted about.

    Then we might get more than 8 or so hours of new “Doctor Who” per year. It’s been rather lean lately.

  17. Henrik said:

    Gender only matters, outside of biological functions (none of which actually matter for a fictional alien anyways), if we let it.
    As such it doesn’t matter if the Doctor is a man or a woman or a whatever beyond the pure aesthetics of it and as far as aesthetics go I would very much appreciate a woman playing the part (hi, I’m a heterosexual male human, all things being equal I prefer looking at women because women are pretty).

    Yes. It’s just a personal aesthetic preference and that preference is going to be different from fan to fan in both nature and strength of the preference but that’s kind of the point. Everyone is going to want something slightly different so I guess some variety would be good but it’s still just a question of aesthetics. The Doctor, just like real people, is a person and not a gender.
    Man, woman or other (there is not enough other on Doctor Who) it’s kind of on the level wether or not the Doctor should wear a hat or have question mark themed accessories.

    It would be an unnecessary artificial limitation to prevent the Doctor from being played by a woman. In a way it’s like how Jack Harkness went from a pansexual Doctor Who sci-fi character to being just a regular bisexual human. That limiting change is of course worse since it affects the behaviour of the character and not just the appearance but it’s kind of in the same vein of stifling conservatism. Why would you do that? If the main character regularly reboots their body what’s the point of insisting that the new one comes with the same kind of genitals as the previous one? It’s Doctor Who! The Doctor can obviously be a woman! Jack should naturally be able to be turned on by a sexy Rutan! The companion definitely should be a talking head of cabbage!

    So yeah, I’d like the next Doctor to be woman, because why not and I think ladies are pretty. It’s a preference if not a terribly strong preference. There have been a lot of male Doctors. Variety is fun. They can add a pretty male companion maybe. A pretty male talking head of cabbage companion. At the end of the day I will care a lot more about who plays the next Doctor than what plays the Doctor (unless it’s a terrible piece of CGI or a talking dog, I’d really hate it if it was a talking dog because there is no way the production team could pull that off).

    The feminine form of “avuncular” is surely just avuncular in every sense other than the strictest etymological one. One could construct a specific word relating to aunts but the meaning of that word would not differ to any real extent from the one we’ve already got.

  18. What a fantastic and thought provoking discussion. Very enjoyable. Thank you all. Personally, I wouldn’t mind a women in the lead. I think it would lend itself to interesting stories. I’ve been through so many regenerations at this point that I always welcome a new Doctor. I’ve not been disappointed so far.

  19. Kind of late to the party since the replacement has been announced. I listened to the podcast on Thursday and only now had time to sit down and comment. Excellent discussion.

    Can there be a female Doctor? Sure, why not? Nothing prevents it.

    Would I be upset if a future incarnation of the Doctor was female? No. I’m sure she would still be Doctor-ish. By that I mean smart, powerful, bigger than life, a charismatic figure, always the one with the plan. I would watch and I’m sure still enjoy the show very much.

    Do I have faith that the BBC could successfully cast a female Doctor? Meh. I’m 50/50 on that. I kind of think that Big Finish could pull it off better. Maybe that’s a good argument for making Nicholas Briggs the next show runner 😉

    Bring Romana back? Excellent plan! Romana 1 is one of my favorite all time companions, followed closely by Romana 2. Having Romana back in the Doctor’s universe would be awesome.

  20. I only want Romana back if Lalla Ward returns for at least her first adventure. “What life am I up to? Still two. How about you? Thirteen? You really don’t take care of yourself, you know.”

  21. Actually if we get a female Doctor after Capaldi, let me be the first to campaign for old Tom Baker as the third Romana.

  22. Obviously we know now who the 12th Doctor is, but I may as well get a jump start on #13, so I’m commenting anyway. :)

    To me, being asked if I want the Doctor to be a woman, is a teensy bit like being asked if I’d like my best friend to wake up as a man tomorrow. (*Disclaimer…I do NOT mean to trivialize what transgendered individuals go through, as I’ve known a few, and it’s a big thing.*) If someone asked me “Would you rather that Sally be a man or a woman from now on?” I’m sure I’d reply that I’d rather she be a woman, because that’s how I know her, and there’d be all those concerns of “what if our friendship changed, would we have the same rapport if she were a man” etc. However, if Sally called me up and said “This is who I am, and I’m going to undergo sex reassignment” I’d be there for her, we’d still be friends, and I’d certainly find that he was still essentially that same person I became friends with many years ago. I’m happy with how things are and am not looking for them to change…but if they did, I’d roll with it.
    I’m familiar with the Doctor as a male, and I love him as such, so while I’m not particularly looking to get to know him as a female, I expect that if that were the case, I’d love her as well, and discover that the Doctor is the Doctor no matter what. Of course, in fiction, that does depend on the writers, and as much as I like the current writers I don’t know if they’ve got the right touch to write a change like that- I’m a little afraid it would become silly jokes about high heels and hairstyles, which it shouldn’t. As Tansy commented above, a female Doctor shouldn’t change/affect the story at all if it’s done correctly, and I’m concerned that it WOULD change.

    I did identify quite a bit with what Kat said though, that if the Doctor were female, she’d look like me in terms of sex, but would be fitter, taller, whatever, and then I’d just relate to her less anyway.

    As a mom of only boys, I do take a bit of issue (this isn’t directed at any of you, but just in general) with people saying that it’s girls that need more female role models, and boys are fine because they already have male role models. What about heterosexual boys needing strong female role models?! Because of course they do. Not in the same way that girls do, but I certainly don’t want my sons thinking women are damsels in distress, and I don’t want them thinking they have to only look up to men. My boys already know Barbara, Buffy, Hermione, Word Girl, and Merida, but I’m positive they’d benefit from even more women like that. Being male doesn’t mean they’re all set in terms of positive role models, of either sex or any gender.

    • Great, thoughtful comment, Jan! I want to echo and endorse what you are saying about the importance of good female role models FOR BOYS. I have daughters but my godson and his brothers are very fannish kids, and all of them appreciate female heroes. (My godson is 5 and still thinks Wonder Woman is the best superhero of all time. We are waiting for the other shoe to drop, but right now it’s awesome) One of the things that I love about Doctor Who is that there is almost always a gender balance in the show of at least one important male and one important female character, in such a small but important ensemble.

      Rory was great as someone to show kids of both genders (especially as the Doctor got more dangerous, violent and unreliable) that men could be heroic AND kind and nurturing.
      I’d love to see an interesting male companion travelling alone with the Doctor because that’s an interesting dynamic – only not at the expense of having any regular female character.
      My solution of course is to have a female Doctor for a couple of seasons, and a really great male companion to travel with her!

      I think it would be brilliant for boys to see that the Doctor could be female and still the same person underneath – there’s so much gender essentialism that goes on in the playground. I think it would open some really interesting conversations. If the writing was full of ‘you can’t do this now because you’re female’ I think that would be a terribly wasted opportunity.

      Having said all that, sigh, not this time (though I love Peter Capaldi, have no problems at ALL being enthusiastic about his Doctor).

      • Kids, little ones in particular, would likely take a female Doctor in stride better than many adults, because to kids, people are still just people (or Time Lords, as the case may be.)
        Ditto on Peter Capaldi…I think he’ll be splendid!

      • Jan, I think you’re right. I suggested to my daughter (8) that she could maybe grow up to be the Doctor someday (after seeing Peter Capaldi talk about playing the Doctor in the playground when he was 9 – she totally does that) and she said, very scornfully, “I think there will be female Doctors long before THAT Mummy, because River gave him her regeneration energy.”

        I love my daughter.

  23. I’m sure it has already been mentioned, but there is a Big Finish “Doctor Who: Unbound” story called “Exile”. It was written by Nicholas Briggs and stars Arabella Weir as the Doctor. It’s definitely more on the comedy side, and cameos David Tennant, too. It was released in 2003, alongside a batch of other “Unbound” stories that posit ideas such as “What if the Doctor got involved with UNIT much later in Earth’s history?” or “What if the Doctor and Susan stuck around on Gallifrey?”
    or “What if the Doctor was a mean old jerk?”

    Anyway, I remember Exile being that kind of uncomfortable funny that British comedy excels in, with shows like The Office. I haven’t listened to it for years, but I really appreciated the “Alternate Universe” approach. And I liked the idea of a female Doctor back then, so it kind of stuck with me through the current series. It’s a general feeling of “why not?”

    • I enjoyed that one! A bit gross out, and I don’t think it needed the explanation behind her being female, but Arabella Weir did a great job. It wasn’t so much ‘what if the Doctor was female’ as ‘what if the Doctor was a drunken ladette’.

      I’d love to see them do another range of Unbounds which were all about female Doctors, just to show the range of possibilities and potential actors.

  24. I agree with some of the comments below, my concern is that they would not write a female Doctor well and the show would suffer as a result. But, I could see a well written female Doctor as an interesting chapter (or several) in the story of the character. I’m just not convinced the current show runners could pull it off.

    That said, while we wait for a female Doctor and the writers to bring her to life, think the companions shouldn’t be discarded as role models. Most of the companions (at least as I recall) have been women and many times they have shown courage, wits and integrity. They, I have always thought, are the ones we are to identify with in any case, not the Time Lord. I have a daughter and am pleased to have Donna and Martha, etc to watch with her. Sure they are flawed, but so are we all. Only the Doctor is a (lonely) god.

  25. Christine said:

    I feel horrible asking this…the quote at the beginning of the episode, love it, which episode?

    • You shouldn’t feel horrible asking! I wouldn’t have known either if I hadn’t edited the thing myself. 🙂 There are actually snippets from a few different stories, including The Time Warrior, Four to Doomsday, and Monster of Peladon (in that order).

  26. […] Also covered: Kat reads Texts From the TARDIS (Classic Edition)! (Bonus: New Who edition) Lynne watches Inferno Special Edition VAM: “Hadoke vs HAVOC”! (Bonus: Who’s Round podcast!) Erika is going to Dragon*Con! & the Parsec Awards! Deb thinks Verity! listeners are awesome! […]

  27. Just putting down in text here (for the good of my soul) that anything I have said previously about there being no canon that says a Timelord can switch genders (mainly due to the Doctor being the only one to mention it and Rule 1 having pre-eminence) is now defunct.

    Night of the Doctor snuck in a quick couple of words to officially change the entire scenery and managed it in a place where there was so much going on that a whole load of my friends never noticed!

    From being in favour a female Doctor but not seeing any canon allowance for it I am now 100% that there is no reason it can’t happen.

    Still of the opinion we need a LOT more female inclusion behind the scenes first though.

    • That’s a really good point, Jezbez. Damn it, I love John Hurt but imagine if 8 had requested a ‘warrior’ form and Helen Mirren was the one to emerge instead… it would possibly be the best of both worlds, with an in-between Doctor being the first to be female and get the more hesitant fans used to the idea in an unthreatening way (with male Doctors around at the same time), plus we’d get Helen Mirren in the role! Sigh, too late now.

      I’ve also seen a comment along the lines of Night of the Doctor retroactively explaining Destiny of the Daleks, as Romana could have had a hotline to the Sisters of Karn or a suitcase full of regeneration elixirs.

      i wonder also if this will change those who howl ‘potions!’ about The End of Time. Nice to see a piece of New Who acknowledge that Gallifrey had a mystic tradition going back at least as far as The Brain of Morbius.

      As for women behind the scenes, I couldn’t agree more! But I’m of the opinion that we should never have to choose between more women behind the scenes and women occasionally getting the lead role – why not both?

      • jezbez said:

        Dispersable aspirin makes a potion. Potion doesn’t have to mean magic, you just have to set it up right (not like End of Time!).

        The problem is whether it still counts as a regeneration this way. If it does then we have the same problem as before. If not, I can’t see fandom taking it too well!

        I don’t think it should be a choice between women on screen and behind it but I distrust my genders ability to have more than one well rounded female character on screen without a little help!

  28. Squibby said:

    I’ve been catching up with some of your older episodes and just listened to this one. I am female, a fan since the 70’s, and very anti-female-Doctor for the sake of change. The Doctor’s gender is a core part of how the character has been built and his core identity as a father and grandfather.

    To me forcing the Doctor to change sex is akin to saying that someone’s race has to change because we have too many white/black/green people.

    Also, if the Doctor changed sex he wouldn’t be female. Instead he’d undoubtedly become a form of transexual Doctor with an identity crisis, just like the Master, and behave like a pantomime Dame.

    If you don’t have enough female role models in television then advocate for more. Don’t just change one of the major characters of television because you feel like pushing a sexist agenda that assumes that a male cannot remain male. Alternatively, you can have your female Doctor and in exchange I’d like to see a male version of Ellen Ripley, Elizabeth Bennet, Lara Croft and any other interesting female fictional through history as enforced gender change works both ways once you start it.

    • Squibby said:

      P.S. You’ve already seen a female Doctor as the show would do it … Jon Pertwee in drag as a tea lady. 🙂
      Actually, I think that’s not too far off how they’d do it.

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