As well as being two behemoths of science-fiction, Doctor Who and Star Wars are two franchises that share a number of similarities. Most notably, both series originated from humble beginnings but nevertheless went on to gather legions of loyal fans and in 2016, both are as important and inspirational to the genre than ever before. With Doctor Who now on its twelve incarnation of the Doctor (technically thirteen but that’s a discussion for another time) and the most recent Star Wars movie, Rogue One, currently cleaning up at the worldwide box office, both franchises appear to be in rude health.
Much has been written about the lack of female directors currently working in Hollywood and – as is often the case with science fiction – Doctor Who and Star Wars are making steps towards gender equality both in front of and behind the camera. For its part, Doctor Who has continued to evolve the roles of its female characters. Where the Doctor’s companions were once little more than screaming sources of plot exposition, recent TARDIS guests have been far more detailed as characters and often central to the narrative, whilst the recent on-screen confirmation that Time Lords can change genders during regeneration has opened the door for a female Doctor in the future. As for Star Wars, Lucasfilm head-honcho Kathleen Kennedy recently confirmed that the studio was actively seeking female directors to work on future Star Wars projects and the company has a 50/50 gender split in their executive team.
One director who has confirmed a keen interest in such a job is Rachel Talalay, known not only for her work on Doctor Who but also on Sherlock and the movie Tank Girl. Talalay, in an interview with Cinemablend, was crystal clear about her desire to direct a movie in a galaxy far, far away. Asked whether she’d be interested in the gig, the director states:
“Absolutely. Are you kidding me? Absolutely. Do I not have enough effects experience and enough nerd pedigree? I think not just Tank Girl but I think Doctor Who in terms of science fiction scope, effects scope, iconic projects, love of science fiction, all of the above. It would be incredible to be involved in one of those projects. When you hear Carrie Fisher talk about what it was like to be almost one of the only women around to start with, and now seeing where the series has gone, it’s just so empowering and thrilling and I feel this is part of my mission in life is to strengthen – and Tank Girl being the essence of it – female roles in front of and behind the camera.”
With Lucasfilm on the lookout for a female director, Talalay’s past efforts both in science fiction and a myriad of other genres surely makes her one of the front-runners. The director received much acclaim for her work with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor – in particular the magnificent ‘Heaven Sent’ – and quickly became one of the series’ most respected names behind the camera. And although her recent output has been mainly television-based, Talalay’s stellar résumé would surely mean returning to a movie set would be a seamless transition.
For many moviegoers, the debate of gender in the selection of a director for any movie is a moot point. A popular opinion seems to be that any director – or indeed any member of a film crew – should be picked purely because they are right for the job, rather than because they belong to a certain gender or in order to further a particular cause of equality.
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that around only 9 percent of directors of the top 250 grossing films in the U.S last year were female and as such it’s very clear that with the current Hollywood setup, for whatever reason, female directors simply aren’t being afforded as many opportunities as their male counterparts. Of course in an ideal world, a studio would select directors purely on their ability to do the job but if this was currently the case, the number of male and female directors would surely be far more proportionate than it currently is. Subsequently, positive action from industry juggernauts such as Star Wars is needed if the gender discrepancy is to be addressed and if Lucasfilm are indeed committed to hiring a female director, they have an ideal candidate in Rachel Talalay.
Doctor Who season 10 premieres in April 2017 on BBC.