Timey-Wimey, Gendy-Bendy Matters of National Importance

In the latest of my very occasional ramblings on the extremely niche subject that is: sexism, social justice and science fiction, EYEconsider the vexing question of whether or not the Doctor should loose his balls.

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Eccleston, Tennant, Smith, and Capaldi but Who next?

So the BBC need to find a new Doctor and Harriet Harman & co have proclaimed that they can and must cast a woman in the role (with a pretty male assistant to boss around).

EYEhave suggested a minimum qualification criteria for anyone making public pronouncements on the matter which would disqualify Harman on the basis that she no more watches Doctor Who than Gordon Brown listens to the Arctic Monkeys.

The Prime Minister has already confirmed that it’s entirely up to Auntie but, for the benefit of any fellow nerds out there, here are my thoughts on this massive* matter of the day.

*(Massive = Mostly manufactured by the media to generate clicks from fan boys and feminists).

Can the Doctor be a Woman?

Yes, obviously.

Just to flash some fan boy credentials, the possibility of a black doctor was confirmed as far back as 1969 and, although it took longer to establish Gallifreyan gender bending opportunities, there is nothing in the holy whoivian cannon* (of what has come before) to stand in xir (?) womanly way.

*Cannon: Refers to the material or concepts accepted as officially part of a fictional story within the unique universe of that story.  It describes a concept of connected chronological continuity that is especially important to fans of fictional genres requiring a large degree of suspension of disbelief (such as fantasy or science fiction).

The very first episode introduced a Time Lady; Galifrey had a female President by the 1980’s and the Doctor’s ‘wife’ finally confirmed that Time Lords can swap sexes in 2011. Since then Stephen Moffat has hammered the point home to the verge of inevitability, not least with the Master-Missy transformation, and even teased the possibility that the Doctor was once a little girl.

Besides this is science fiction and both Catherine Tate and Joanna Lumley could argue that they have already played the part.

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Must the Doctor be a Woman?

No, obviously. (Unless you think that politicians and ideologues know best)

Frankly the strongest argument against a transition is that some of those who want to see it most are the least likely to stick around and actually watch xir (?) adventures.

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Should the next Doctor be a Woman?

No, probably (but then again what do EYEknow).

I wish sometimes that the politics of that would take a backseat and we’d just talk about the art, because it’s not really about that. It’s just about ‘would it work?’

“The day it will work is when somebody says, ‘That person would be amazing,’ and the most conservative, most traditional member of the audience says, ‘Oh God, yes. I would hate the idea of a lady Doctor, but that one would be great.’” Charlotte Moore – BBC1 Controller

The average age for gender reassignment surgery is early forties, so you could argue that the Doctor is leaving it a bit late to be developing gender dysphoria. Then again, xe is on xir second 2,000 year diary (and has the memory of 4.5 million years trapped in a confession dial) so maybe xe (?) just feels like a wee change.

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Big Who hitters like Bille Piper, Mark Gattis, David Tennant and Peter Capalldi have all spoken in favour of the idea. There is little doubt that the Doctor getting in touch with xir (?) feminine side would be a fun and fascinating story but for me it feels more like a one off. Ironically John Hurt’s role in the 50th Special could have been a great opportunity to present such a compelling narrative.

Russel T Davies was firmly against the idea on the simple logical basis that he didn’t think parents would necessarily thank the BBC for having to explain the concept of sex changes to their pre-pubesant children.

Stephen Moffat, in contrast, has played things more shrewdly.  On the one hand he reckons he has done more than anyone to make the possibility of a female Doctor a reality (apart from actually doing it obviously) but it could be argued that he has mischievously half opened an extremely loaded can of worms only to kick it down the road for his successor to worry about.

Most fans are supportive of a black or ethnic minority Doctor, but a female doctor would completely change the dynamic of the show. “You don’t want to tick that box just for the sake of it. There’s a formula that’s been working for 50 years and it’s there for a reason. Sebastian J Brook – Doctor Who Online

Russel T drew in a large female audience with compelling storytelling driven by the perspective of a working class girl falling for a mysterious, dangerous outsider. They have stuck around for Moffet and both show-runners should be congratulated for making the return of Doctor Who an incredibly inclusive experience.

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Perhaps the lady legions deserve a turn at the Tardis for sticking around but personally EYEthink there are more than many less forced and much more ambitious scenarios to explore.

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From Rose Tyler: Earth Defender to The Doctor’s Daughter and The Diary of River Song, not forgetting the Paternoster Gang Investigates or ‘Me’ and Clara’s Long Way Round, there are many stories still to be told and many strong female characters to tell them. To date only Sarah Jane has had an extended journey of on screen adventures but it’s interesting that Harriet Harmon seems less bothered about exploring any multitude of alternative universes than getting a woman to replace a man.

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So Should the Next Doctor be a Bloke?

Yes, probably (but it doesn’t really matter what EYEthink).

The BBC makes children’s television to serve children and it’s selfish to insist that our memories remain sacrosanct. It’s not about us. It’s about preserving the essence of the character and the stories, while still allowing them to evolve and compete with the oceans of other stuff clamouring for children’s attention.    Gaby Hinsliff (Former Observer Political Editor)

When the 26 year old Matt Smith was announced as David Tennant’s replacement, EYEconcluded that it was probably time for me to finally put away my fascination with childish things and leave Who to the yung’uns.

Not in any sort of begrudging way. It seemed fair enough that they might reframe towards a more youthful demographic but I just wasn’t convinced I’d stick around*.

‘My’ Doctor was Tom Baker and ‘my’ Doctor will always be a bloke.  Overcoming unimaginable evil, armed only with brains, a screw driver and a magically manic, mischievous grin, he was a brilliant role model for my impressionable young mind and EYEthank him to this day.

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It strikes me that now, more so than then, that there are fewer strong, moral, positive, anarchic and fun male role models in the lives of this generation’s little boys and girls.

So personally EYEwould rather add to the cannon than potentially disarm it.

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*Matt Smith turned out to be my second favourite incarnation which only goes to show how little EYEknow.

So Who should Who be Next?

A Golden Globe nominated Sweat Shop Boy (in my humble subjective opinion).

To be honest my only wish is that the creative team get complete free reign to go after the man or woman their instincts tell them will best help to tell the sort of stories they want to tell. If they do then they should find their audience, and unless they ditch the central components of the show, EYEwill probably still be one of them.

But for what it’s worth, here’s my pitch…

Casting of an actor of Christopher Ecclestone’s stature signaled that the Beeb had serious intentions about the standard of reboot they were commissioning and EYEcan’t help thinking that if he’d stuck around the story might have taken us to a slightly more intense and darker place.

Things worked out brilliantly despite (and even slightly because of) his unexpected departure. The more traditional light hearted groove that the show eased into has served it well, Capaldi’s appearance teased the possibility of something darker but, compelling as his performances have been, most would probably agree that the show has been slightly coasting and that a fresh slate wouldn’t be entirely unwelcome.

So my pitch would be to turn back towards a slightly grittier, less fairy-tale tone. Something closer to the tone that Russel T started with in 2005, mixed with the grounded ground rules of the Pertwee era. And the man EYEthink they should turn to… Riz Ahmed.

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He’s got a convincing range, impressive track record (including a recent turn in a galaxy far, far, away) but he’s not yet so familiar that it would get in the way of taking us all on another wonderful journey.

And he’s an MC…

Imagine that, a rapping Doctor!

(Then again, EYEthought Matt Smith would be a come down, so seriously, what do EYEknow).

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