The following is an opinion piece about the future of Doctor Who. You might not care about someone else’s opinion. If that’s the case, might we interest you in a new limited series starring Kit Harington from Game of Thrones?
Doctor Who is a television and science-fiction icon not just in the United Kingdom, but really around the world. Whether you watched classic episodes on PBS, or hid behind the couch watching the original run on BBC, or discovered The Doctor and his Tardis after the 2005 reboot – you know the special place Doctor Who has in geekdom.
It’s maintained its popularity after more than 50 years from a lovable (if sometimes grumpy) main character, some adventurous stories – and the fact the show can reinvent itself with every new recasting of the lead role. Yet, there is one major thing that all 12 people who have starred in the series over the years have had in common: They have all been white men.
That needs to stop. Like right now.
Don’t get me wrong – there has been nothing wrong with many of the actors who have taken on the role over the years. Even Peter Capaldi, who might not be everyone’s favorite, has embodied the spirit of the character who travels through time and space to protect anyone threatened by outside forces. But even though The Doctor’s Tardis might be stuck in the shape of a 1960s relic, the show itself doesn’t have to remain a 1960s relic.
There are times I wonder what’s happening with this fandom, where we can accept the fact that Klingons make wholesale changes to their appearances every decade or so, but we can’t even begin to fathom a woman holding a sonic screwdriver. And there are all kinds of reasons circulating out there, too.
My favorite is that The Doctor simply cannot be a woman. That despite what we’ve seen on screen over and over again with other Time Lords, including The Master and River Song, Time Lords have a defined gender and it simply cannot change.
But I need to tell you a little secret. Doctor Who is not real. The “rules” are whatever the writers want them to be, and trust me, they’ve changed more times than many of us can count.
It’s a fictional world with fictional guidelines and constructs, so if incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall wants a woman to take over the title role, all he has to do is, gasp! … cast a woman.
It might be nice to believe gender inequality no longer exists, especially in Hollywood. But that’s about as fictional as Doctor Who.
Sure, it’s far better than what it was when the show premiered in 1963, but society has a long, long way to go.
How do we break down those barriers in our real lives? By beginning with the barriers in our entertainment. Television is a powerful medium, something we welcome into our homes on a daily basis. If we see strong woman on television, then we can get over our Neanderthal thinking and finally believe strong woman exist in real life.
I wish I never had to write something like this. I wish we had a society that could be gender-blind, race-blind, sexuality-blind … where we focus on someone’s qualifications instead of which restroom they’ll use.
We’re not there yet, but I do think we’re making progress, even if it’s slow progress. And while casting a woman in Doctor Who certainly won’t single-handedly change the tide on how women are treated in society (and especially the workplace), but every little bit helps.
And the best part? It’s not a charity move to cast a woman. There are so many extraordinary actresses out there, and many of them could easily become by far the best Doctor the show’s ever had. Let’s explore that a bit, and do something new and refreshing for Doctor Who.
Or we can pretend it’s still the 1960s, where women were not generally considered strong leaders despite the fact Doctor Who itself was led by an amazing woman in its early years, Verity Lambert.
Extraordinary women are not unique or rare. In fact, they’re quite common – I would say just as common (if not more) than extraordinary men. Because we shouldn’t even have to make distinctions among men and women – the goal for the future of Doctor Who should simply be, “Let’s hire the best actor, whoever he or she might be.”
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