In recent comments to The Mirror, you said that you don’t think a woman should portray the Doctor.
You specifically said: “I support feminism, but I’m not convinced by the cultural need of a female Doctor Who.”
If I may, I’d like to share with you the reason why I think we need a female Doctor.
We call her Munchkin.
Munchkin just turned three years old, but she already loves Doctor Who. She can’t quite remember the plot once an episode is over, and she doesn’t have a favorite Doctor yet
she only just learned how to count to twelve! But she knows the opening credit song, can yell the catchphrases, and loves to get her hands on anything resembling a TARDIS.
I’m introducing you to my baby cousin because she’s probably the most unbiased fan in this debate. She doesn’t care whether the Doctor is played by a man or woman — all she knows is that the Doctor is a funny alien who goes on adventures in a blue box with friends. She could care less about what the Doctor looks like. For Munchkin, and many kids just like her, the Doctor can be anyone at all.
So, why can’t the Doctor be a woman?
You said: “I’m a feminist and recognise there are still glass ceilings in place for many women, but where would we draw the line? A Mr Marple instead of Miss Marple?”
To which I say, sure. Miss Marple can be Mr. Marple, if one of the hundreds of Sherlock Holmes adaptations can have a Shirley Holmes instead. We’re not trying to take away characters from men, but one female version of a character doesn’t negate or erase all the men who came before her. And kids are already swapping the gender of their favorite characters, it’s the adults who are falling behind! One little girl was convinced that her mother was reading The Hobbit wrong and that Bilbo Baggins was really a girl.
So, why can’t the Doctor be a woman?
You said: “I’m sorry, but no — Doctor Who is a male character, just like James Bond. If they changed it to be politically correct then it would ruin the dynamics between the doctor and the assistant, which is a popular part of the show.”
The funny thing is, kids don’t start off thinking that some characters are male or female
that they need to be one or the other. They’re just supposed to be awesome. Sure, both the Doctor and James Bond have been played by men, but they don’t need to be men. A woman could play either role just fine, and kids would love the funny alien and roguish spy just the same. It’s the adults who get all twisted up about it.
Men are playing Jedi, spies, superheroes, adventurers, warriors, and wizards in popular culture. But boys and girls will play their games and pretend to be who they want to be without a care. I used to play those games with boys and girls at school all the time — until the boys told the girls we couldn’t play those games any more. They could be the superheroes, scientists, or soldiers. But if we girls wanted to play, we had to sit and wait for them to save us.
They learned to do that from movies and TV shows. Pop culture told us that girls don’t get to be heroes and have their own stories. They have to be the sidekick, the girlfriend, the wife.
Sure, girls still have a few exceptional women to look up to. But they’re the exceptions. In 2014, a meager 12% of the protagonists in films were women — and the number of female protagonists has declined in recent years. TV shows are only slightly better. In 2014, just 43% of speaking roles went to women.
If I have a political agenda here, it’s that I never want someone to tell Munchkin she has to be the sidekick in someone else’s story. It’s that I want Munchkin to have even more women to look up to. And who better for her to look up to than the Doctor? Why not have her look up to someone who is courageous and caring, committed to justice but compassionate, immensely curious and proud of her own intelligence?
The Doctor’s companions are wonderful, and Munchkin loves them, but any kid can tell you that they’re still not the Doctor. The companions come and go, but the Doctor gets to have adventures forever.
I love the dynamic between the Doctor and his companions too, but I have a hard time seeing how the Doctor being a woman would change that dynamic — much less ruin it.
I love that the Doctor can be a mentor to his companions, and that as he helps them see the universe and grow from their experiences, he also learns from their perspectives.
I like that the Doctor seems to know everything about the universe and wants to teach his companions — but I like that his companions can take him down a few pegs and show him he doesn’t know everything.
I love the Doctor’s fondness and protectiveness for his companions. Sometimes, I even like how these qualities can drive him to be overbearing, influencing him to manipulate and deceive his companions if he feels it’s in their best interest. The Doctor isn’t perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination.
So why couldn’t a female Doctor be all of these things to her companions? Why couldn’t she be a protective mentor, a smugly intelligent know-it-all, even a flawed and overbearing manipulator? If we just want a man to be treating a woman this way, then that’s a problem. I want the Doctor to be parental — not paternal. I want the Doctor to be intelligent, even a little smug, but not a patronizing lecturer.
We know that the Doctor can regenerate into a woman, it’s been established now. I hope that we get to see that story. I hope we get to see something new and unique in the Doctor’s character. Change, after all, is how Doctor Who has survived more than fifty years.
But more than that, I want Munchkin to see something of herself in the Doctor. I want her to see a woman take on that role and carry the Doctor’s qualities and characteristics. I want her to know that she can be as good as any man — that she can be as smart, as adventurous, as curious, as powerful, as respected, and as loved as the Doctor is.
This is why I believe we need a woman to portray the Doctor. And I hope that you will support us.