When Peter Capaldi announced at the end of January that he was leaving Doctor Who, the rumour mill started up instantly. Dozens of names have been thrown into the running, and with production set to begin on the next series in a few month’s time, it won’t be long until we find out just who exactly is taking Capaldi’s place as the nation’s favourite time traveller.
Several names that have been put forward so far include James Bond’s Ben Whishaw and Death in Paradise’s Kris Marshall, the latter of which is a firm favourite for the role. However, it’s not these guys that are getting the attention of the masses so much as it is people like Olivia Coleman, Tilda Swinton and Phoebe Waller Bridge. The reason why? They’re all female!
This isn’t the first time that people have pushed for a female doctor, but with every new regeneration it becomes more of an issue that the Doctor remains a solely male character. It’s certainly not outside of the realms of possibility within the show for him to switch genders, after all it’s happened on several occasions since Capaldi took on the job. However, the decision to cast a woman is a very controversial one, and there are many fans that would be put off by a female Doctor taking control of the TARDIS.
So what should the show do? There are certainly strong arguments for both sides.
On the one hand,the show has been around since the 1960s and everyone knows the character as a man. When something stays the same for such a long time, it can be hard for people to adjust when it suddenly changes. The combination of a male Doctor and a female companion is a core part of the show’s formula, and it’s not sexist to want it to stay that way. There’s hardly a lack of female representation onscreen.
In contrast to that, the show has been very prominent in giving airtime to people of all genders, ethnicities and sexual preferences, but the progressive stance they take can be hindered by refusing to think outside of the box when it comes to the Doctor. The presence of male to female regenerations in recent series definitely seems as though they’re leading up to a big change for the time lord, and if nothing were to come of that then it’d leave people with the feeling they were being led up the garden path.
What people ought to acknowledge is that it doesn’t matter what the gender of the actor who takes over as the Doctor is, so long as they’re the best person for the job. A woman like Coleman who has proven herself to be incredible in a variety of roles, from the no-nonsense Ellie Miller in ‘Broadchurch’ to the sarcastic Doris Thatcher in ‘Hot Fuzz’, would be a strong candidate for the job. So too would Marshall. It depends what kind of Doctor the new showrunner is looking for.
Personally, I am indifferent to whoever they cast, so long as they keep the show exciting. I’ve almost always been optimistic whenever a new actor has joined the show as either the Doctor or his companion, and those few times where I was doubtful I was instantly proven wrong. As much as the episodes of the show can sometimes be unappealing, particularly since Russel T. Davies stepped down, the fault is hardly ever with the lead actors. The people in charge know who’s right for the job.
Even if that means bringing in a woman.
Just look at Michelle Gomez as Missy, the latest regeneration of the Doctor’s friend and enemy the Master. Her performance is always sensational to the point that she plays the role better than previous incarnation John Simm, and he was incredible. Some of the best episodes of Capaldi’s run have featured her, and I can easily imagine that her upcoming appearance in this series will once again prove to be a spine-tingling success.
So it can be done! It just begs the question of whether the show is ready to go all the way by having a female Doctor. It’s definitely a risk, one that they might not be in the best position to take right now. The ratings are not what they used to be, and a big change like this certainly result in a decline of some sort. The last thing Chris Chibnall wants to do as he takes over the show is to put the final nail in the coffin, so to speak.
The new series would essentially be a reboot though. If rumours are to be believed, then just like when Russel T. Davies left the main cast will be following Steven Moffat out the door, allowing Chibnall the freedom to not only cast a new Doctor, but also a new companion. With someone new in charge, the tone of the show will undoubtedly change, possibly to the extent where a female Doctor will be exactly what it needs.
As you can see, this is something that could be argued about for hours, and sure enough when the BBC do announce who is taking Capaldi’s place there will be an uproar from one camp or another. There is no right answer, because there’s no way to please everyone. That does not mean, though, that the choice they make can be condemned as sexist or backwards if it does stick with the usual formula. There’s nothing wrong with keeping the tradition when it doesn’t actively undermine anyone.
Whatever the result, I have faith that Chris Chibnall will make the right decision.