Saturday, 3 August 2013

A Female Doctor Who: A Female Perspective

It’s the question which is asked every time one Doctor announces his end, and we look forward to a new beginning. It’s 2013;  It’s been 95 years since women were granted the vote (albeit not at an equal age to men), 43 years since we were given equal pay, 38 years since it became illegal to discriminate against women at work, and a shameful 21 months since the law changed ensuring that the first child born to the King or Queen of England would be next in line to the throne, regardless of the number of x chromosomes they owned. So why haven’t we had a female Doctor yet? Should we have a female Doctor? Could we have a female Doctor?

In most civilised societies (or at least the civilised society in which I hang out), the vast majority of people will quite happily state that “women and men are equal, but different”. I actually think that most people who I know believe that. When I ask my friends whether they think the next Doctor could be a woman, the reply usually goes along the lines of “um, well, obviously it’s not like men are better than women or anything, I mean for me personally I would have no problem with that, but you know, some people might not like it”. Just say it. You think a female doctor would suck. You’re not sexist: You do believe that women deserve equal, well everything really. You like women, even love some women. You have a great female dentist/vet/teacher/dog who is every bit as good as her male counterpart, but there’s just something about the Time Lord that makes you think that he should be, well a Lord, not a Lady. So what is so unique about this role which makes so many people feel unsure about whether a woman could take it on? To answer this question, let’s have a look at what it takes to fly that Tardis and go into battle across time and space. 

Physical Strength: The Doctor spends a lot of time running fast and far, so he needs to be in tip top condition. He needs to be able to stay on his feet for long periods of time. No getting tired and having a rest: There are lives at stake. It’s a bit like, say being a nurse on a 12 hour shift, or having labour pains for 20 hours and then pushing out a baby. 
Emotional Strength: It’s not just physical strength that the Doctor needs, he sees some pretty upsetting things and has to be strong. Remember the episode “New Earth” (series 2)? The Doctor finds a warehouse full of sick people, created by the Sisters of Plenitude. No time for crying over their pain, he just had to give them their medicine (in this case a disinfectant shower) and get on with his day. Honestly it’s almost as hard as being a mother. 

Bravery: How many times has the Doctor run into battle, sonic screwdriver blazing? How many times has he come up against an old enemy, a new enemy, and faced them head on? Well leaving aside the times he runs away (see above), the job description of Time Lord requires a fair amount of courage, fighting for what is right in the face of adversity. But are women less brave? Ask Emily Davison, who threw herself under that horse to fight for woman’s suffrage in 1913.  Oh that’s right you can’t, she died fighting for the rights of people she would never meet, not with a few more regenerations up her sleeve, but brave enough to put her one life on the line. 
Super Intelligence: The Doctor’s not just clever, he’s super clever. He’s brilliant in fact. Imagine a scientist who has won a Nobel Prize in not one but two fields, someone whose work saved countless lives out in the fields in World War One, someone who discovered and named chemical elements, and founded medical research centres in two major cities of the world which still exist nearly a hundred years later. Ok so Marie Curie can’t actually be the next Doctor because she died about 80 years ago, but her legacy proves that brilliance is not biased to gender. 

So then, it doesn’t seem to be ability which prevents a woman being the next Doctor, but I’m pretty sure most people who are reading this already know that. Whilst I’m sure that antiquated sexism still rages in some parts of the country, most people I know really do respect and value women. So then exactly what is it which is making us uncomfortable? 

One writer for the Daily Mail believes it’s all about tradition. He writes “A female doctor would…. betray a British tradition”. I don’t buy this; British traditions are betrayed all the time. One was betrayed the day when women were allowed to vote. Another was betrayed when it became illegal to discriminate against people at work because of their age. Yet another was betrayed the day when same sex couples were allowed to marry. That’s why I love Britain actually, because for most of us, when we go all starry eyed over ‘tradition’ we mean that we don’t want to replace the old fairy which goes on top of the Christmas tree each year, not that we want society to stagnate in inequality for no other reason than “that’s what we have always done”.

So could the next Doctor be a woman? Of course. A woman could do that job superbly. Will the next Doctor be a woman? I think it’s doubtful, not because I’m a closet sexist but because whilst I would love it to happen, I lack the imagination to see how it would work. That’s o.k for me, it’s not my job to think of wonderful imaginative plots for TV programmes, it’s just not what I’m paid to do. However for those people whose wages are paid from our license money to make programmes, the excuse “yeah I just don’t see it” doesn’t work. You are paid to see it, look harder. By the time the Doctor reaches his 13th regeneration, if you have found a way round the problem of the Time Lord only being able to regenerate 12 times, then I know you'll have found a way to dazzle your loyal viewers of all genders with a new kind of Doctor.


  1. Lots of food for thought here Clarie. And I completely agree that rejecting something for traditional reasons is dangerous and unfair.



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