If you read any thread on the subject, it seems a pretty even split. 50% of people are vehemently against having a female Doctor, to the point many claim they will stop watching if one is cast, and 50% of people are vehemently for casting a female Doctor, to the point many claim they will stop watching if one isn’t cast.
But if you look at the actual fan base, not the casual viewers or internet trolls, but the real Who lovers, I’m not sure that it’s so evenly split. The world is in a strange time. It’s been shook up, and TV could use a shake too.
I’m staunchly in the pro-female Doctor camp (not because there aren’t a lot of dudes who would do a great job, but we’ve seen a lot of dues do a great job, let’s mix it up a bit), but I’ve already written about that here.
What’s interesting now (aside form the overwhelming amount of overt sexists and bigots that have felt the need to crawl out of the woodwork and voice their opinions on this) is that Chris Chibnall and the BBC are going to have to cast SOMEBODY as the new Doctor, and whomever they choose, they will immediately be alienating part of their fan base. FUN!
You could argue that’s always been the case, but it’s a little different this time. More than ever, fans have been voicing their interest in the casting of a woman or a person of color as the Doctor. This, unsurprisingly, has resulted in people from the show being asked their opinions.
Both Peter Capladi and David Tennant suggested a female actor to take over as the 13th Doctor, Capaldi saying he’d like to seetake on the role, and Tennant tossing Olivia Colman’s name into the the ring. Colman is Tennant’s co-star in Broadchurch, a series created by Chris Chibnall, who will be taking over as Doctor Who showrunner come series 11. What Chibnall wants to do isn’t entirely clear yet.
Billie Piper, former Doctor Who companion, Rose, said she wouldn’t take on the role herself, but is definitely hopeful that another woman will. Jenna Coleman, former companion, Clara, says there’s no reason a woman couldn’t play the Doctor. Catherine Tate (Donna) thinks there will be a female Doctor at some point, John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness) wants a female Doctor, and Matt Smith, the 11th Doctor, once suggested that Charlize Threon tackle the role and expects to see more diversity in the show’s future.
Colin Baker, Doctor #6, has said there’s no reason the Doctor shouldn’t be a woman. And the 8th Doctor, Paul McGann, recently suggested Tilda Swinton play the new Doctor.
Mark Gatiss thinks a female Doctor would be fantastic.
But Peter Davison (5th Doctor), Sylvestor McCoy (7th Doctor), and Alex Kingston (River Song) have all said that they’re against the idea of a woman playing the Doctor (though Davison did a certain amount of backtracking after receiving fan backlash).
But the person who gives me the most hope that we might have a female Doctor is actually Doctor Who brand manager, Edward Russell, who says in the past he thought the Doctor should remain a male character, but has recently changed his mind. Why does the brand manager’s decision matter? Because it’s all about the money.
And then there are the people who aren’t yet connected to the show that have been calling for a female Doctor. Helen Mirren has been rallying for one for years (her ideal candidate would be a gay black woman), and Hayley Atwell said she’d happily take the role were it offered to her. The latter has released an avalanche of speculation after the cancellation of Agent Carter has opened up her schedule to start a new long term project.
On the other side, are all the male actors that have been suggested lately: Ben Whishaw, Eddie Redmayne, Rupert Grint, and Richard Ayoade among the most talked about. I’d allow that last one, since it would serve to break the race barrier. I’ll talk more on that in a minute. Also, being madly in love with him doesn’t hurt.
One of the most confusing casting suggestions, and one I think would be a horrific move for the show, would be for Capaldi to regenerate back into Matt Smith. The show is about change and renewal and there are so many incredible actors who would do new and interesting things with the role. We should give them the opportunity. I love David Tennant as the Doctor, but I’d never campaign for him to be the full-time televised Doctor again. Because that’s a terrible idea.
And it has almost happened. After Tom Baker left the show (he suggested being replaced by a woman), the producers considered bringing back Patrick Troughton (because secretly he’s ACTUALLY everyone’s favorite Doctor). As much as I miss Troughton’s take on the Doctor, thank GOD they didn’t implement that model.
I think what happened was that someone asked Smith if he’d ever return to she show and he said “yes.” To my mind that meant he’d like to come back the way Tennant did for the 50th, or other Doctors have done for specials. I have no problem with that. That’s fun. But several people thought, “oh, cool! He wants to come back full-time!” I honestly don’t think he does. And he really really REALLY shouldn’t.
The call for a non-white actor to get cast as the Doctor has resulted in quite a few POC being suggested. This is great. But they’re mostly men. While casting a man of color as the Doctor would be a breakthrough in itself, women of color have a much harder time in film and TV. If Doctor Who wants to continue to claim that it’s progressive, it needs to do something big to prove it. And soon. Casting a woman of color as the Doctor would be a great way to do that. I mentioned Lenora Crinchlow as a possibility awhile back on my podcast, A Disused Yeti, and I stand by that, but there are so many others! I’m worried the BBC won’t cast a woman of color, claiming “too much too soon,” and I lament their cowardice.
Actually, let’s talk about timing for a second. I have seen several sites asking if the time is right for a female Doctor (oddly, I don’t see a lot of sites asking if the time is right for a male Doctor). Let’s take a look around. Did you hear about the Women’s March? It became a worldwide effort and shows that women want to be seen and want to be heard. And while women organized it, many men were involved in the effort as well (fun fact: both Pearl Mackie and Peter Capaldi were at the Women’s March in London). Gender-swapped cosplay and crossplay continue to grow in fan culture. A woman ran as the Democratic nominee for U.S. president in 2016 (and won the popular vote), and the current British P.M. is a woman. Look at the Star Wars films that came out in the past 2 years, hugely successful, led by women and minorities, proving these casting choices are profitable. Why wouldn’t the Doctor be a woman?
I believe that one day we’ll get a female Doctor and a person of color. I don’t know if it will happen yet, but it will happen. And when it does, it’s going to be a really frustrating time to be a fan. You think people are fighting now? Just you wait. But eventually the dust will settle and we’ll keep on keeping on. Why don’t we just get that nasty part over with?
Look, I’m sure I’ll grow to love whoever becomes the new Doctor. But if it’s a white guy, my initial reaction will be to have a fucking fit.
A final note to Chibnall: please have some fucking guts. I imagine that you do, because you were mad enough to take this job. So do something mad with your casting, something new and fresh, make some fans angry straight out the gate. I think you’ll find the rewards rich.
As for you BBC: I don’t think I’ll quit the show completely, but if a white guy is cast as 13, I’ll likely become one of those more casual fans. I usually tune in, but I don’t buy the merch. And I won’t see the show as forward thinking and progressive anymore. And I’ll say so to every passerby who will listen. Ready or not, it’s time for a new Doctor. “Here we go again.”