Stephen Moffat Confirms At SDCC That The Doctor CAN Regenerate As A Woman – But Would You Want That?
With all the cool revelations coming out of San Diego Comic Con 2015, I’m going to take a moment to look at one that wasn’t actually especially surprising, but which is a good thing to have a debate about.
In his Q&A session, Doctor Who showrunner (I’m leaving the question mark out of ‘Doctor Who?’ because it makes the sentences look weird) Stephen Moffat confirmed that the Doctor could regenerate as a woman. This has been hinted at very strongly, for instance when Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor first emerged, he was pleased to realise that he wasn’t a girl. The rules around cross gender regeneration were made even more apparent with the introduction of Missy, who we previously knew as timelord the Master.
While it had been suggested as a possibility before, we’d only ever seen male Doctors and Masters, and Melody/River in female bodies (there may have been other ‘time ladies’ in Classic Who, but I can’t get into watching that – it just looks like people with preposterous costumes on talking gibberish in Shakespearean actor voices), so Missy set a precedent that was worth asking Moffat about, even if he may have felt he’d put enough clues in the show about this topic already.
Now, if we get anal about it, there have been 12 numbered male Doctors, plus John Hurt’s ‘War Doctor’ in the 50th anniversary special. If there was an equal chance of a regeneration resulting in a male or female Doctor, you’d think in all of those regenerations we’d have had a timelady (or six) by now. You could say the BBC was being sexist, but instead let’s just do some sci-fi handwaving and say, I don’t know, they are far more likely to regenerate as the gender they are born as or something.
Because if there’s one thing Doctor Who definitely isn’t (at least in the Russell T. Davies and Stephen Moffat eras), it is afraid of diversity. Doctor Who and its spin off Torchwood have had diversity in droves, with key recurring characters including people of all ages, races and sexual preferences (like Captain Jack Harkness, who literally has ALL sexual preferences – though his character development in Torchwood, perhaps because both showrunner Russell T. Davies and actor John Barrowman are gay, did end up positioning him as being more of a gay character than the pansexual we were first introduced to).
While the classic Who formula may have been the Doctor choosing a pretty young Earth girl to travel with him, as well as women of this archetype like Rose, Martha, Donna, Amy and Clara (and Zoe Slater off of Eastenders in that awful Easter special with the bus and Lee Evans), we’ve also had a range of other people fit the role of companion. If you’re going to do one of the most important episodes of your show (David Tennant’s last episode) with Bernard Cribbins in the position usually played by an attractive woman, it shows that you feel fairly secure that people will still watch your show if you deviate from its own traditions!
So, if it is not an inherent sexism in the show and its team that has stopped us having a female Doctor so far, and I really can’t see them avoiding it because they’d be worried about explaining why the timelady protagonist is married to River Song, what is it? Personally, I think it is simply that it would be jarring. While every new Doctor brings something new to the character and has a personality of their own, there is still the sense of them all still being one entity, and that entity has always been male.
A regeneration is different, storytelling-wise, to a reincarnation, so while it feels easy to accept (for example), that in Avatar, the female protagonist Korra is a reincarnation of male protagonist Aang (and all the other avatars before them), and they share the same soul, this is partly because they both have separate childhoods, live in different periods, and are shaped in different ways. It would be jarring for Aang to die in a battle and wake up the next day as an adult Korra, surrounded by the very same people, and just be like ‘OK, looks like I’m a chick now – hope you’re cool with that, Katara.’
It is probably mainly for that reason that I don’t really want to see a female Doctor, any more than I want to see a female James Bond. There are plenty of Strong Female Characters™ in the Doctor Who stories, and I honestly feel like it’d just be messing with possibly the BBC’s most loved character of all time just for the sake of it. If they want to play around with making him more ‘diversity friendly’, making him a woman is not, after all, the only option.
What do you guys think – would you like to see the Doctor regenerate as a woman, or not?