Dr Who: travelling through space, time and gender?

The Day of the Doctor was an outstandingly popular event across the whole world of fandom. Cinemas showed the latest episode, and here in sunny (I mean rainy…) Cardiff, the home town of the TARDIS, it was celebrated probably unlike anywhere else.

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The TARDIS expertly landed on top of Cardiff Castle in celebration of 50 years of the BBC’s beloved Time Lord

If you didn’t know, the Day of the Doctor celebrated 50 years of the quirky, white, middle class male who is actually an alien from out of space, gracing our television screens.

The character, a Time Lord from a planet named Gallifrey, has a unique ability – to regenerate. This makes the show unique. The actor can be changed as often as the show likes (they keep changing the rules on number of regenerations…) and that means the show can run indefinitely – particularly as the Time Lord can jump through time and space!

However, the idea of regeneration is sometimes too hard to bear for simple human brains, and it has often been the subject of controversy. Every time a new actor is unveiled as the next doctor, uproar ensues; 2 months later they love him more than the last.

So, why not a female doctor?

In 1979, Romana, the Doctor’s Time Lady companion regenerates, showing the ability to pick and choose what she looks like while she does so – including changing gender. This surely implies that the doctor does indeed have capabilities to change sex just like his contemporary.

We did a poll to get your thoughts on whether there should be a female doctor. It was a close call, with a slight lean towards ‘no’, but is that because we just can’t bear change? With a show that has the ability to really subvert the norms, to change their lead character whenever they like – why not trial a woman? It’s not as if they couldn’t abandon it if it didn’t work.

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Kitty in delight, surrounded by her Dr Who collection

Mega-fan and photographer, Kitty Kems moved to Cardiff bay in order to be near the filming of Dr Who, along with her husband, who she admits is even bigger a fan than she is. “I buy him Dr Who Valentine’s cards every year,” she admits.

Kitty doesn’t think the Doctor should be a woman.

“But the Doctor is a man!” she exclaims, as if the idea is preposterous. “There are female Time Lords – the Doctor is just a male one.”

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Arrr! Terry also works as a Jack Sparrow impersonator

Terry Cooper, author of science fiction series, Kangazang! (audio books read by Colin Baker) has been a life long fan of the doctor and is pretty sure a female doctor will come along sooner or later.

“It has been hinted at with Dr Who that he could become female, even recently, the short film ‘The Night of the Doctor’ with Paul Mcgann that was aired just before the 50th, he was offered the choice to be male or female and even before that in the Sarah Jane Adventures, Matt Smith said he could be anything. It’s one of the things they keep touching base on but they haven’t taken the risk.”

With a show who has seen a multitude of actors, is it really so much of a leap for him to be female?

The true Doctor Who fans will always tune back in, because the show is more popular than the actor

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Feminist fan, Deborah, who blogs at diary of a goldfish and the f-word, brings up a really significant point regarding the doctor being male.

The Doctor is a special and important role model for boys, next to all the hypermasculine brawn-over-brain action heroes.

Deborah feels the companions have provided a much needed strong female character, even in older series’ they are no pushover. Later seasons have introduced intellectual women, who may not have the knowledge of the doctor, but they are by no means unknowing or naive.

She continues, “I think the Doctor has a particular character – it’s been played very differently by different actors, but there’s still a sort of soul that’s always been there in every incarnation. But I really don’t think that it’s to do with gender.”

Perhaps this is a very valid point. While women need heroines, and probably don’t have enough of them, little boys need heroes too, and although there is a realm of super men for them to pick out of – they are all so un-relatable. Superman may present himself as nerdy, hidden behind glasses and Peter Parker is no ladies man, but ultimately they are a complete fantasy. They are physically unrealistic, with the strength to literally hold the world on their shoulders and abs that a body builder would strive to achieve. The doctor is usually skinny, never very muscular, mostly quirky looking and relies purely on brain power and wit. He isn’t an overly masculine, testosterone fuelled hero, and yet he still saves the world.

This could also explain why so many women love him. He sweeps them away from the ordinary world, but he is safe, a best friend. But do the companions compensate for the lack of female hero?

By adding romance in the Doctors story arc with companion, Rose, we worry that current Dr Who producer, Steven Moffat just isn’t recognising the fact that the Doctor and the companion shouldn’t be lovers – by adding romance, there is an element of ‘damsel in distress’. Many feminists have been appalled by some of Moffat’s choices, but that is an entirely separate discussion…

Hopefully, with the revert back to an older Doctor, the romantic inclusion will come to an abrupt closure.

Recently, Chella Quint wrote a brilliant article for The F-word, celebrating her passion for the doctor, despite Moffat being a “rather sexist show runner.” She told us that she would love the Doctor to regenerate as a woman, and even have a female sidekick too! When we asked if she thought the Whovians’ opposed to a Time Lady would switch off, until biting the bullet and switching back on as they do with every regeneration, she said;

“I don’t think fans would even leave in the first place, let alone ‘bite the bullet and come back’ as you suggest. True Whovians enjoy complaining and ranting and speculating. It’s part of the fun.”

Journalist and blogger, Christie Tucker believes, “the key message of Doctor Who is that no challenge is insurmountable and that even unremarkable little guys can be important” the doctor has many times been described as afraid, as in essence, normal.

When we set out on this quest to decide whether the doctor should indeed be a woman, we were convinced that he should… why not, just for a laugh! But now we aren’t so sure…

He is an alternative hero for men – a new man, if you will. This makes him relatable for all,including women, because he isn’t oozing with machismo. Maybe it is indeed worth preserving his role within pop-culture and keeping him as him.

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A few of the most popular suggestions for actresses to take on the beloved Time Lord  have been Dame Judi Dench, Helen Mirren and Emma Thompson…  who would you vote for?

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