My apologies, fair readers, for neglecting to blog last week and for posting this one late. I was busy last week, what with the holidays and giving a science fiction presentation last week at the Roanoke Library. Perhaps I’ll post two blogs this week to make up for it.
I’d originally intended to write about something else, but with the brewing, well, brouhaha over this topic, I felt I should say something. If you’re not a Whovian (fan of Doctor Who), feel free to skip this post. It’s one of my favorite franchises, so I felt I should give my thoughts on the matter.
Recently, some fans have been clamoring for a female Doctor. At the risk of sounding sexist and/or misogynistic (FYI: I am neither), this is a bad idea. Here my reasons why.
1) It’s motivated by political correctness
No matter what showrunner Steven Moffat or anyone else says, the big reason this is getting pushed is because of political correctness. The Doctor has been male all his life. Making him a woman is nothing more than an attempt to placate an outspoken minority of women (and possibly feminists?) who, apparently, think they need to be represented by the character. It’s stupid, perhaps even insulting. It assumes women can’t enjoy a good story unless it features a female character(s). The Hobbit films made the same mistake adding a lady elf to the cast who wasn’t in the book because they thought it’d attract a female audience. The truth is that a good story can and should be enjoyed by everyone regardless of the characters’ ethnicity, age, and/or gender. Making the Doctor a woman because it might appeal to a female audience is shortsighted.
2) Gender is not interchangeable
I could be wrong on this, but I wonder if making the Doctor female is at least partially inspired by this modern notion that men and women aren’t that different (other than their “plumbing”). This idea is, in general, false. The differences between men and women go beyond reproductive organs and hormones. There are huge differences emotionally, mentally, and psychologically. Men and women think differently. Gender and sexuality isn’t some tabula rasa (“blank slate”). Much, if not most, of it is innate. There seem to be exceptions because of the corruption of sin. God created mankind male and female (Genesis 1:27). (I realize I’m talking about fictional aliens here, but its born out of ideas related to humans). To suddenly switch that is an insult to both genders.
3) Ruins the “romantic” appeal
I was chewed out a bit in a Facebook group for saying this, but I know this is true. One of the appeals of Doctor Who (particularly the new series) is that it’s a romantic fantasy. A handsome and mysterious man who comes to young women and offers to take them on fantastical adventures. While not every Companion falls in love with the Doctor (precious few don’t on the new series), this appeals to men because they want to be the man who leads the adventure, and women want to be taken on adventures. By making the Doctor a woman, this dynamic is ruined. Either she asks (or drags) men on adventures, which won’t appeal to a male audience, or she’ll ask other women to join her, effectively making the show a “chick flick,” thereby alienating the male audience. This sounds harsh, but it’s reality.
4) It’d alienate old-school fans
Doctor Who has been around for over 50 years. Like it or not, that means the franchise has built traditions, and those aren’t easily broken. One of those is the Doctor being male. By changing that, many, if not most, longtime fans who’ve been watching since the days of Tom Baker (or longer) will abandon the series. It wouldn’t be the show they loved. It’s hard enough keeping people on board after the Doctor regenerates—adding a gender swap would be killer.
5) More backlash if and when “she” regenerates back into a man
The flipside of the issue would be the backlash that would probably come if and when the hypothetical female Doctor regenerated back into a man. You can bet accusations of sexism would get thrown around. Feminists would probably say something about the show going back to its “chauvinist roots.” If this was being done because the female Doctor wasn’t well-received and, much like what happened with Colin Baker in the 1980s, she was being quickly replaced, this controversy would kill the show.
6) Female versions are usually either new characters or reboots
Gender swaps have been done before with traditionally male characters, but in most of those cases those were either brand new separate characters or part of a reboot. For example, in the mid-2000s, Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, seemed to die at the end of “Avengers Disassembled,” a tragic storyline published by Marvel Comics. A young woman who had admired Barton then took up his name/mantle and became a superheroine in his honor. Or when SyFy rebooted Battlestar Galactica, Starbuck was a woman. The former worked well and the latter, while weird, also worked for most people. But since the 12 (or 13, depending on how you look at it) incarnations of the Doctor are technically the same person, it wouldn’t get a pass. Now, if the Doctor passed on his name to a worthy Time Lady as his dying act, I think fans could support that. (Sidenote: Ever seen a traditionally female character becomes a man?)
7) Difficult to write (and cast?) well
I’m not saying a female Doctor wouldn’t have the Doctor’s trademark quirks and witticisms, but I’d argue the usual challenges faced with recasting the Doctor—age, appearance, costume, etc.—would be worse and judged more harshly. If a young actress is cast, will that alienate older fans? Should she dress and/or act sexy? Some fans already object to how some the female Companions have been eye candy, so you can bet there’d be an uproar if the same happened with a female Doctor. Her every word and action would be scrutinized. (This isn’t to say there aren’t any actresses out there who play the part, though).
8) Need more nonviolent male heroes
As someone pointed out on the Fans For Christ Facebook page, one of the things that makes the Doctor great is he is an nonviolent hero. Most other famous fictional heroes—James Bond, Superman, Aragorn, etc.—distinguish themselves in battle. They aren’t bad characters, but the Doctor differentiates himself from them by using his intelligence and wits to save the day. This is a great thing for boys to see and admire so as to remember that not everything can be solved through violence.
9) Oversteps the limits of regeneration
While the concept of regeneration has been around since the First Doctor, the rules surrounding it have been murky. Except for a few throwaway lines implying a gender swap was possible through it, it never happened until this season when it was learned the villainous Master had become a woman (I argue this is open to interpretation). Regardless, I say a gender swap is beyond what regeneration can do. It makes sense that things like hair color, eye color, and body build can change because that’s still using the basic building blocks available. Swapping genders means adding whole new organs, glands, and hormones. In other words, it’s going from a renovation to a complete teardown and rebuilding. That’s ridiculous, even for Doctor Who.
10) Lesbianism (or Bisexuality)
As said, a staple of the new series has been Companions falling in love with the Doctor (to date only one hasn’t). If the Doctor becomes a woman, would she still have her old attractions, or would they switch too? Doctor Who is a family show, and despite Britain having a liberal definition of what constitutes such a program, I doubt a lesbian or bisexual Doctor would be deemed acceptable. Yes, there have been oblique pro-gay lines in the series sometimes, but most of those go over kids’ heads. And yes, there was Captain Jack, but even he wasn’t allowed to go full-throttle homosexual on Doctor Who (that was saved for Torchwood, which was an adult show). Again, it’s asking for trouble.
These are purely my opinions. You are welcome to disagree. If you’re a Whovian, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject, whether you agree with me or not. Please leave comments so we can discuss it.