Of all the mysteries surrounding Doctor Who, the gender of its central character has long been the subject of discussion. Must the Doctor always be a man, and could the Doctor ever regenerate as a woman?
Many people would say the Doctor is male, end of discussion. However, given the current push for feminism and equality in the media and workplace, many fans of the show (including Helen Mirren) have raised their voices in support of the next Doctor being female - though, one previous Doctor is arguing against the idea.
The current incarnation of the Doctor, Peter Capaldi, has argued that the Doctor transcends all gender and just exists as a creation, having said as recently as San Diego Comic-Con 2015 the following:
“We sort of live in a world where everything’s so easy and accessible. The Doctor’s mysterious, he’s a Time Lord. He’s not a guy.”
However, Sylvester McCoy (who played the Doctor from 1987 through 1989) told The Mirror he feels otherwise:
“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? A Tarzanette?”
“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.”
McCoy went on to add: “I support feminism, but I’m not convinced by the cultural need of a female Doctor Who.” He might not be, but current Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffatt has not ruled it out. When Capaldi was cast as the 12th Doctor in 2013, Moffat was asked about whether he had considered making the thirteenth incarnation a female and he replied saying that he didn’t think it was the right time.
Since then, Moffatt has opened up a little more on the subject, having told Bang Showbiz that while he wouldn’t be against the idea of casting a female, he wouldn’t cast a woman for the sake of it.
“We’ve been laying in the possibility for an awfully long time, but you don’t cast that way. I know I’m going to get in trouble for saying that – you cast a person, you don’t cast the gender.”
At a Q&A at the Hay Festival in 2014, Moffat also gave a little more insight into the casting process, and how a possible female Doctor could come about.
“Do you know how it will happen? It will not happen that somebody sits down and says we must turn the Doctor into a woman. That is not how you cast the Doctor. A person will pop into the showrunner’s head and they’ll think. ‘Oh my God, what if it was that person?’ And when that person is a woman, that’s the day it will happen.”
While that may well be the case, fans could well argue that no female actor will pop into the showrunners head while so many seem set against the idea of the Doctor being a woman. Then again, Moffat is his own man. He has already exercised the possibility of gender transformation when the Master regenerated from male into the current female incarnation, Missy (Michelle Gomez). No doubt that would have been met with some raised eyebrows but Moffat pushed on and Missy has proven to be one of the most popular villains in the modern version of the show.
However, McCoy is certainly not in the minority. Former Doctor companion Karen Gillan (Amy Pond) has said she thinks Gillian Anderson or Helen Mirren would make great Doctors, while another former Time Lord, Peter Davidson, said as recently as early 2015 that he was also against the idea.
"I have trouble with the idea of a female Doctor, only because I reckon if you're born on Gallifrey a man, you're probably a male Time Lord."
Both McCoy and Davidson seem to disagree with Capaldi's observation that the Doctor is a being, rather than a person of specific gender. Regarding, McCoy’s comments about a female doctor changing the nature of the Doctor and assistant relationship - surely that would be one of the main points of focus if such a change were to occur? If two kick-ass girls were to explore time and space together, it could transform the face of mainstream sci-fi programming. Similarly, if a female Doctor were to have a male assistant it would give great opportunity to examine the role reversal.
With Doctor Who, the possibilities are, in theory, endless. Whether any of those possibilities ever become a reality, however, remains to be seen. The BBC has a valuable and exceedingly popular franchise on its hands, which it is not likely to want to risk. While changing the gender of a Doctor who regenerates anyway ought to be a small thing, it's clearly not - and for every fan who would be willing this to happen, there would be plenty of people causing an outcry.
Doctor Who season 9 premieres September 19th, 2015 on the BBC and BBC America.
Source: The Mirror