PRO FEMALE DOCTOR:
by Stuart Graham
A recent Guardian article stated that the BBC may have just low-key announced the new Doctor as being Broadchurch and Fleebag actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge at the end of a Newsnight episode.
Conversations have already began to spiral, on my social media anyway, about if Waller-Bridge is the right choic,e and if the Whoniverse is ready for a female to take control of the TARDIS.
Rumours about the new doctor have been spinning around the internet since current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, announced that the tenth season of the show would be his last. His final appearance being the 2017 Christmas special.
Despite the barrage of names that have cropped up as being shoe-ins for the iconic time lord, a great deal of the debate seems to centre around the idea of the Doctor regenerating into a woman.
This isn’t the first time a conversation of a female taking charge of the TARDIS has flooded social media and online forums. At the end of Matt Smith’s run as the eleventh Doctor, rumours about Olivia Coleman and even Sue Perkins taking up the sonic screwdriver began to circulate. The decision however was made that Capaldi was the right option, and three series later we find ourselves at the same crossroads.
Now, I would say that the situation has changed since the last regeneration debate. Three seasons ago we had never seen a time lord regenerate into the opposite gender, and fans didn’t know whether the Whoniverse allowed for time lords to do so.
Yet in the last few years we have seen the character of The Master, previously portrayed by John Simm (excellently so, I may add), come back into the show as Missy, a female regeneration brilliantly executed by Michelle Gomez. Along with this, we witnessed an onscreen gender-switching regeneration at the end of season nine after the Doctor shot a time lord on Gallifrey.
So now that we approach the debate with the knowledge that it is entirely possible for the the Doctor to regenerate into a female, I as a fan find myself asking one question: Why the hell not?
I’m not about to suggest the show has become straight-out bad, far from it. However, I think there is a staleness beginning to creep onto the show as we see the same formula play out episode by episode and series by series.
The formula they have is a good one but as fans grow more and more used to it there needs to be variables thrown into the mix to keep it a little exciting for the hard-core Whovians, who have been watching since the Eccleston era or before.
In recent series, Bill Potts, the openly homosexual companion was this variable that kept things a little different, removing the rather dry Doctor-companion romance possibility that we had seen in so many series previously.
Bill was exactly what the show needed to stay fresh, but as actress Pearl Mackie has recently announced that she will not be returning for another series, we know that something else will need to keep fans on their toes going forward.
Thus I think a female doctor would change the show just enough to keep things interesting without departing from the core structure that got them this far. Not only would a new door be opened for the writing from casting a female as the Doctor, but thematically the show could take some time to explore the differences in how the Doctor is treated as a character now being female and how the companion-Doctor relationship develops with the change. Giving the show a bit more depth from allegorising some still rather prevalent social issues.
Now, I am fully aware of the risk present with the possibility of casting a female in this role.
The show seems to be at a tipping point between breaking back into the greatness it once boasted in the Russel T Davis-Tennant years or falling into the oblivion of taking another hiatus due to low rating and low viewing figures.
The blame has jumped from Capaldi not “being right” as the Doctor to the more popular argument of Moffat’s writing having become so self-indulgent and convoluted that not even doctors of quantum physics can follow some of his absurd plot points and story arcs.
Now with both Moffat and Capaldi leaving the show after this year’s Christmas special there is a opportunity for great change. The risk here is that if the show does in fact cast Waller-Bridge, or another female as The Doctor, and the show continues its downwards spiral then it will always be remembered that it was a female who drove the TARDIS into another decade of the show being off air, whether it was in fact the actress’ fault or not.
Yet I feel a bigger risk would be to continue running through the same formula and expecting the audience to stay captivated by this. Chris Marshal, despite his talents as an actor, would be so safe a choice for The Doctor that the show would actually fail to grow into anything new and the show would likely rot in a dull stationary position.
So, considering all this, would casting a female as the next Doctor be a risk for the show? Yes.
Is that risk worth taking for the possibility of a bad-ass female Doctor spearheading an incredible new era for the show? Hell yes.
AGAINST FEMALE DOCTOR
by Cameron Watson
Hell yes? No. Well, not yet anyway.
Don’t get me wrong, I think having a female Doctor would be an absolutely incredible thing. As Stuart has said, the amount of possibilities that opens up with this would be interesting to no end. New character development would unveil so easily and the comedic potential between a dominant female Doctor and a (want for a better word) submissive male companion would be a brilliant dynamic to explore.
Big name’s in the behind the camera world of TV and film also said they would throw in their hand if there was a female Doctor, one being the incredible Joss Whedon. With a talent like that onboard the show could be infinitely better. Directing has never been a big selling point on the show and is never really commented on, if someone with a brilliant vision for directing joined the team the show could explode in a new way that we haven’t seen.
However, I don’t feel this is the right time to introduce it.
We have just had the incredible Michelle Gomez portray a female Master (Missy) over the course of Capaldi’s arc who has demonstrated the amazing ability a woman can bring to a timelord which was never expected.
Pearl Mackie also brought about the first openly gay companion into the series and was written so well that it was forefront and sold in every line she made. It was a series that took sexuality in such a blasé way. With a Roman soldier saying that because Bill only liked women, she was archaic.
But with a change of writing team, the show needs to calm down a bit. I’m not saying it needs to retreat to safe territory for the next few series, but the new writing team needs to establish itself before it launches into a female Doctor.
We need them to show themselves as great story tellers and can handle the Whoniverse well before they jump into something as daring as a female Doctor.
Give them one or two series with a male Doctor – who is rumoured to be Chris Marshal which is an excellent choice – to really ground themselves and play around with their storytelling style, then slowly introduce the possibility. Find a fantastic actress to take up the mantel and launch in to it.
I think in the next ten years, if the show does continue for that long, we will see a female Doctor and I am really looking forward to it. But for now, we need something a little safer to make sure it doesn’t immediately flop and cause it to disappear off the air for a while.