A familiar voice has once more waded into the debate over whether the Doctor could be female - but Sylvester McCoy, aka the Seventh Doctor, would appear to have changed his tune. Previously a champion of the idea of a change of gender for a future incarnation, his opinion's changed. But as you might expect, our next question must surely be "why"?
And as we begin to look into that we can surely consider his opening statement on the matter. Speaking to Alan Kistler as part of the author's research for Doctor Who - A History, he had said:
"I wonder sometimes if Doctor Who would lose some fans with a woman in the role. But we need more equality among the sexes because it isn’t there yet.Compare & contrast with his most recent musings on the issue. Speaking to the Daily Mirror, he's reported as saying:
We don’t give women enough credit. Women can be heroic in science fiction and can be intelligent, complex characters, of course. If the Doctor can change from looking like Colin Baker to looking like me and change yet again so he looks like the not-as-handsome Paul McGann, then turning into a woman doesn’t seem much stranger.
It’d be interesting and they should try it."
"I support feminism, but I’m not convinced by the cultural need of a female Doctor Who."From McCoy's perspective it would change what he sees as a key part of the programme itself.
"If they changed it to be politically correct then it would ruin the dynamics between the Doctor and the assistant, which is a popular part of the show."An element which he had singled out while reviewing Rose for the BBC's Entertainment section upon the relaunch of the series in 2005.
"Christopher Eccleston was quite alien as the Doctor. He looked wonderful. He had this manic grin which worried me. We were not sure if he was on the edge of insanity or not, which was rather good. He just ran into danger with such gusto, he galloped at it joyfully.Could his change of heart have come about as the result of a debate with a fellow former Doctor? For Peter Davison has also had much to say on the issue in the past!
Billie Piper was just quite fantastic, she really was wonderful in the role. The relationship between the two of them was quite extraordinary."
"My instinct as a viewer is that the Doctor is a male of the species, even on Gallifrey, and probably shouldn’t undergo a sex change. He’s usually accompanied by a very strong female companion. Reverse that, you have an uncertain female Doctor with a very strong male companion — and that does seem to be very unbalanced."But was not the cricket-whites clad one often uncertain in his actions? And you might wonder how he can possibly pass comment on any possible imbalance between a female Doctor & male companion when its never been tried before. Of course, chance is a fine thing. So-called traditionalists may consider it blasphemy if such a thing was indeed mooted, but as it hasn't yet been attempted can anyone be so quick to damn the idea?
The Doctor's Wife has already planted the seed, of course!
DOCTOR: Oh, come here. Come here, you scrumptious little beauty.Depending on point of view that's either a cat among the pigeons or the promise of radical change in Doctor Who's long-term future. The idea that similar could indeed happen to the Doctor continues to split opinion! Argument continues to rage both for & against.........
RORY: A box ?
AMY: Doctor, what is it?
DOCTOR: I've got mail. Time Lord emergency messaging system. In an emergency, we'd wrap up thoughts in psychic containers and send them through time and space. Anyway, there's a living Time Lord still out there, and it's one of the good ones.
RORY: You said there weren't any other Time Lords left.
DOCTOR: There are no Time Lords left anywhere in the universe. But the universe isn't where we're going. See that snake? The mark of the Corsair. Fantastic bloke. He had that snake as a tattoo in every regeneration. Didn't feel like himself unless he had the tattoo. Or herself, a couple of times. Ooo, she was a bad girl.
Ultimately its a matter of perspective. As Neil Gaiman, writer of The Doctor's Wife, opined in the wake of Matt Smith's exit -
"Someone harder and much older and more dangerous and yes, male feels right to me as a storyteller. Where you go after that, ah, that’s a whole new game … I’d rather see a female Doctor as a reaction to whatever Peter Capaldi is, than as a reaction to Matt’s creation."
Jennifer Finney Boylan's Diversity And Doctor Who for the New York Times stretches the point further.
"If the Doctor can regenerate into any form, it seems, oh, just a little dispiriting, that time after time he invents himself as a white British male."With the long-standing rule of thirteen regenerations per Time Lord, as stated in The Deadly Assassin, having been broken, could the future post-Capaldi era be the right time to invert it even further?
Finney Boylan later adds...
"As the producers think about whom they want to take on the role next [for the 13th incarnation], they should keep in mind the way people’s hopes are lifted when they see someone breaking the glass ceiling, even when it’s for something as seemingly trivial as a hero on a science-fiction program. Equal opportunity matters—in Doctor Who’s universe as well as our own."And can we really trust the rules given that so many have been broken? Of course, it could be the case that if a future Doctor were to be one of the fairer sex it might prove to much for some areas of fandom and shake those who "have about as much sense of adventure as dormice" when it comes to these things.