There's a question that's been on the mind of many Whovians for a while now, but even more so after Peter Capaldi recently revealed that this next season, Season 10, will be his final as The Doctor.
Who should play the next Doctor?
On a tiny island full of thespians, the list of potential British actors who haven't already played a part on Doctor Who is getting slim. (Not that previously appearing on the show prevents you from being cast again in a major role...) But moreso than discussing who specifically could be cast as The Doctor's next regeneration, some Whovians, seeking more diversity and representation in the show, are suggesting that the next Doctor should be a person of color, or more controversially, a woman.
So, if you're watching this, you're a Whovian who already knows about this and clicked here to see my opinion, of course. I'll get to that, but let me introduce myself a bit. I am a feminist. I am a cinephile. I spend all my free time watching movies, TV, and YouTube. I co-host a movies discussion podcast, where female representation and other diversity and inclusion are important topics. I also co-host a Doctor Who rewatch podcast. I haven't watched Classic Who yet, but I am familiar with all The Doctors, and some major plot points. I am someone who looks for and fights for great female representation in media and celebrates diversity of all kinds. This is my life. This is who I am. I've made media study, particularly women in media, my life.
So, when I say: I don't think The Doctor should regenerate into a woman. You should keep watching to find out why a woman desperate for better representation of women in media doesn't want to see the lead character of an internationally known and loved TV show be a woman.
My reasoning comes from two perspectives of the show: from within the show, as a fictional universe, and from the outside, as a show on television in the year 2017.
So, let's dive into this Whoniverse, and consider The Doctor as a person, er- Time Lord. The Doctor is over 2000 years old. He has regenerated 13 times. In all that livin', in all those regenerations, he has chosen to be a man. Hardcore Whovians may debate me on this- or have more informed perspectives, but from what we know from the show, a Time Lord does have some control over their regeneration, but not complete control. (He's never been a ginger.) Regenerations are not completely random, so I would say The Doctor has a pretty strong sense of his gender identity. I mean, I'm a cisgender woman, who loves being a woman, but I think I might try being a man once, if I could regenerate. But The Doctor is a man. Always.
Other Time Lords have regenerated as different genders. It is possible to change gender (or at least, biological sex?) and skin color/race with a regeneration. To know that it is a possibility, and seemingly not a shocking one, for a Time Lord to change gender with a regeneration would suggest that The Doctor is choosing his gender identity.
I think a sense of gender identity is a pretty strong argument for The Doctor to keep regenerating as a man, but let's look at it how the people writing all these think pieces are looking at the issue; representation in media.
Doctor Who has been around since 1963 in some form or another. Originally on television for 26 years, and back on television since 2005, The Doctor is an iconic British fictional character, among the ranks of James Bond and Sherlock Holmes. In all that time, with all the actors portraying the character, with the possibility of change and reinterpretation and rebooting the whole series anew, the writers, showrunners, producers, have kept The Doctor a white man. For a show in the 60's, this is nothing surprising. There wasn't really another option. That's what tv was. For a show in the 2010's, the audience and the people creating the show, know there can and should be more than just white men on our TVs.
There's plenty of room for improvement on Doctor Who in the area of representation, of all kinds. Wouldn't giving the show a female lead character give the show major female representation points? ...Not really. Representation is about more than quantity; it's also quality. And "representation" for representation's sake isn't really changing anything the landscape of modern television.
I find the idea of changing The Doctor to a woman because some fans and critics are calling for it like this recent fad of rebooting well-known men-starring movies with women in the lead roles. Turning a role written for a man into a woman isn't really representation... It's giving us men's sloppy seconds. Women deserve better. And audiences deserve better. We deserve to see women in roles written for women. To change The Doctor to a woman at this point would be just pandering for views, for the attention from controversy, for the pat on the back from feminists?
So, we want better female representation on Doctor Who. If changing The Doctor to a woman isn't going to help, what will?! I'm glad you asked. Representation of women in media isn't truly representation if it doesn't intersect with other identities that women have. Just adding more young, straight, white, able-bodied women isn't representative of many women. We need to see more queer women, trans women, women of all races, disabled women, older women, fat women. With so many new characters in each episode of Doctor Who, there is plenty of room for a variety of people to play those roles. I’d love to see more women baddies and more diversity in the types of women who come aboard the TARDIS as companions. With Bill, we are getting our second black woman as a companion, but I’d love to see a woman of a different race come aboard the TARDIS. And we’re all getting sick of this older man - younger woman dynamic that’s been going on in the TARDIS forever. Let’s get an older woman running around with The Doctor.
I don’t think The Doctor regenerating as a woman will do the show any good, from a character and story perspective, or a media analysis perspective. I would, however, love to see The Doctor regenerate into a non-white man. It’s about time for that. And we can work on improving the female representation with other characters on the show.