Broadly speaking, Doctor Who is a show that ticks along nicely, never really causing too much controversy... until the subject of gender comes up, that is. Debates rage long and hard over whether there could ever be a female Doctor, with previous inhabitants of the role, like Peter Davidson and Sylvester McCoy lining up to give their views, as well as celebrities such as Dame Helen Mirren stating that the time has come for a woman to take on the role. Even showrunner Steven Moffat has spoken about it before, saying it could happen in the future since you cast a person in the role, not a gender.
It seems as though Moffat also has an opinion on the gender of the Doctor's companion, too, since he's gone on record as wanting the role to stay female. Moffat, who is about to enter his final season as showrunner, has now said that to think of changing the gender of the companion would be damaging to the show - as he has always thought of as the Doctor's companion as being female.
Here's the exact quote that Moffat provided Doctor Who Magazine, on the matter:
"Science-fiction is notoriously male. You can tell that because everyone wears uniforms and marches around talking about rules. But Doctor Who has always felt to me, rather female. It's full of kindness and compassion and eccentricity and wisdom instead of violence. And from that point of view it is important that the main character, the Doctor's best friend, should be female. I think it would be damaging to Doctor Who if that voice and viewpoint were not represented."
Moffat is entitled to his own opinion, of course, but his comments are bound to stir up lively discussion. The current Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi, is without a companion right now after the death of Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), but Pearl Mackie is set to make her debut as Bill when season 10 arrives in 2017. For what it's worth, Capaldi will no doubt agree with Moffat's views, since he was very vocal about wanting a female companion to replace Coleman.
Certainly the science-fiction world does have to fight against gender bias, but it's also fair to say that more women and young girls are enjoying the genre than ever. Shows like Doctor Who have gone a long way towards helping with that, by delivering strong female characters for fans to admire, such as Rose Tyler and Martha Jones. Let's not forget that the show has also delivered some great male sidekicks, and there's no reason to think that couldn't happen again - were Moffat to embrace change a little bit more.
Characters such as Jack Harkness and Rory Williams were popular with viewers, and in a show that is suffering from falling ratings and popularity, it might be good to shake things up again. Of course, this would leave Doctor Who without a female presence on the show...unless the Doctor were to change gender too, of course. Season 11 of Doctor Who will see Chris Chibnall take over as showrunner, and amid rumors that he is to start with an entirely clean slate, could we see him going against Moffat's wishes?
Doctor Who returns to BBC 1 and BBC America with a Christmas Special. Season 10 will air in spring, 2017.