This is Peter Capaldi. Come this December he will portray the 12th incarnation of The Doctor as Matt Smith regenerates away. Smith has been my favorite New Who Doctor as he seems to be a bit warmer than the previous two while still maintaining the same manicness that we’ve come to expect. He seemed more fun to hang around and showed he could make a mistake and bounce back from it. He had his angry and darker moments but not as badly as Tennant’s Doctor. I’ll miss him but I’m curious to see what Capaldi will bring.
While I have no problem with the choice, there were plenty in my Twitter feed who WERE disappointed because they think the Doctor should be played by a woman. Anyone who disagrees seems to be presented as sexist or anti-woman or some such and I suspect I’ll get the same treatment. Then again, when have I cared about being opposite of the group? If you’re willing to actually read through the whole article first, though, I would like to plead my case and show that I not only have no trouble with a strong female character in Doctor Who but proudly support the sadly few we’ve had. That doesn’t mean it should be the Doctor.
Now I’ve seen reasons for giving the Doctor a female regeneration and none of them make sense to me. I’ll be making a few different arguments against it, but here’s the big one.
FEMALE TIME LORDS EXIST!
Barring Russel T’s sending the Time Lords away (another of my issues with him, plus making sure it couldn’t be undone), female Time Lords (or Time Ladies) exist in-continuity. They serve on councils. They hold high office and are held in high regard. They deal with the Doctor. Romana, the first Time Lord companion, was a woman. She eventually became President in the Big Finish audio drama series Gallifrey. Has anybody asked for Romana to become a dude?
How about the Rani, a foe of the Doctor’s I would really like to see again and for some reason I keep seeing Kate Mulgrew in the role. One of the regrets I had in my review this morning is that we didn’t get the Rani as the baddie. She’s a great foil for the Doctor and represents science without morality. Maybe Capaldi should have played her instead?
Yes, I know there aren’t even female leads in these kind of shows and my listing off some good one, including ones you all gush over, wouldn’t change that. While I don’t think there should be a zero total difference in how many of any group there should be (make a good character and give him or her a good story to be in), I wouldn’t mind seeing more female butt-kickers so long as they aren’t all Buffy clones. That’s getting old; how about some variety? You can take down baddies without being “badass”, something I’d like to see in male crimefighters as well. And many of them have found ways to do so but now I’m just going on a tangent.
But there are plenty of women in this series, despite cries of sexist treatment of characters even by some actresses over the series’ history, who can stand right with the Doctor. Tegan would stand up to anyone until her common sense kicked in. Ace once took out a Dalek with a baseball bat. Leela…was Leela. Then you have new series companions like Martha, Donna, and Amy. Even Rose, for every other thing that was wrong about the self-interested little…sorry, almost went tangent again. She not only stood alongside the Doctor against menaces but in the episode Dalek helped the Doctor find his (for lack of a better term) humanity again, his moral focus. Too bad hers was so off center, the smart-mouthed little…okay, let’s just move on.
Let us also not forget Sarah Jane Smith, a character who was so on the Doctor’s level (or as close as you can get) that she ended up with her own show. (And I would comment that K9 And Company felt more like a pilot for The Sarah Jane Adventures than for a K9 show and I wouldn’t have a problem with that if the pilot wasn’t so terrible.) I’ve only been able to see the first season but it seems in-line with a Doctor Who spinoff, moreso that a certain other show I won’t mention. There was also Bernice Summerfield, a character who never appeared in the show but thanks to audio dramas, comics, and novels made a strong showing. Strong women do exist and although it’s the Doctor’s name in the title he couldn’t get by with companions of both genders. All the way back to the early shows, it was Barbara and Ian who first showed the Doctor what it really means to be a human being.
I’ve also never heard a good reason beyond real-world gender issues to having a Time Lord switch genders except for “but he’s an alien, and you can do anything with that”. As someone whose ability to suspend disbelief is almost legendary, that’s bull! There seems to be a movement to making Time Lords and other Gallifreyans as alien as possible, because apparently two hearts, thirteen lives, and advanced technology mixed with smug superiority isn’t enough for some people. (Don’t get me started on the “loom” nonsense from the novel Lungburrow because it isn’t my only problem with the story even though there were parts I found rather interesting.)
There’s a point however, where it becomes too much, where it’s obvious you’re throwing stuff in there just to throw stuff in there. I could come up with a lot of stuff easily, some of which would rip off the Vorlons from Babylon 5, but would it make sense? What advantage is there to having the Time Lords regenerate into Time Ladies (or vice versa, which again is never explored) When you create an alien “being cool” only goes so far except in kids entertainment and I don’t see how changing genders works in kid logic.
What we need are the Time Lords back the way they were, before Russel T. Davies screwed them up and over. This has led to great fan productions like Professor What or official works like Gallifrey. Instead of womanizing the Doctor (which is different that making the Doctor a womanizer…save that for Captain Jack), just make new strong characters in the mold of the Doctor. I don’t believe in altering old characters when creating new ones would allow the old character to operate as always and letting a new one find his or her own place in continuity and fiction.