DOCTOR WHO: IS IT TIME FOR A WOMAN?
British science fiction legend “Doctor Who” debuted part two of its seventh season last weekend. the new series has been running since 2005. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the 1963 debut of the classic Doctor Who series.
So it’s a big year for us geeks.
Regular readers of the blog know about Doctor Who already. I talk about it a lot. For the rest of you, Doctor Who is the continuing chronicle of a time-traveling alien who has saved the universe many times over, travelling back and forth in time in his big, blue box called the TARDIS. When an incarnation of the Doctor reaches the end of his life – generally by unnatural causes – instead of dying, he regenerates into a new body with a new personality. He’s done that ten times now. It’s part of the reason the show has lasted so long.
And it’s a juggernaut.
This week’s episode was “The Bells of St. John’s” and I quite enjoyed it. As with the best Who’s, it moves fast and I’m not sure they ever quite explained why the bad guy was doing what he was doing. And none of it may have made a whole lot of sense. No matter. This is a show that will often, leave, um, gaping story holes. But the show is often so good – characters, story, a nice balance of drama and jokes and frights – that you’re just happy to be along for the ride.
This episode was like that. And I am…happy.
So. After fifty years, where are we? The doctor we get now – the eleventh, if you’re keeping score – looks every bit his 1,000+ years. This is a weary character who has literally lost his best friends and is mystified by his new companion. This season is building up to a planned anniversary epic episode featuring various past Doctors and other shout-outs to the show’s past.
If there was ever a time to talk about what the direction for the next fifty? years, this is it. And people are.
Mostly, what people are talking about is whether the next incarnation of The Doctor, which is anticipated in 2014 or 2015, should be a woman. It’s something I remember being talked about as far back as Tom Baker’s era as the fourth Doctor in the 1970s. But lately, the movement is gaining some steam.
There are a lot of good reasons for it to happen. There is no reason that a sci-fi show (or science fantasy, which more accurately describes this show) can’t be centered around a female lead. There have been others. Ripley in the “Alien” movie franchise comes to mind. Also Scully from TV’s “The X-Files”. A woman should have her own sci-fi show. Lots of them.
Just not this one.
Absolutely, bring in more female writers, producers, directors and guest stars. But The Doctor is a man, has been a man, for fifty years, without so much as a peep about the possibility of changing gender. It’s not canon, in other words. And to do so now, even with the best of intentions would likely be the end of the show. Here’s why.
After all they build up, the effort would fall under the weight of expectation. The only way it would work is with a brilliant show runner with the right vision for the new female Doctor, skilled writers and network exeutives that will leave them alone to do their work the right way. These would have to be people who get that you’re not writing The Female Doctor, but rather the Doctor, who just now happens to be female. There’s a difference.
The latter is taking an iconic character and breathing new life into her with some new attributes.
The former is a train wreck because what would happen is that producers and network executives would compel the writers to give us Lara Croft as The Doctor. It would be more about the making the Doctor sexy and sassy and whatever other stereotypes executives can think of, instead of just writing the same funny, passionate, adventurous character we’ve loved for half a century, and adding in the best aspects of a woman’s point of view.
So, for me, it’s not that I don’t want the character to be a woman. It’s just that I don’t trust the powers that be to do it without killing the show.
And I’m just not willing to take that chance.