As we all know now, Peter Capaldi is leaving Doctor Who this Christmas. Naturally the Internet has already begun to fill up with suggestions as to who could replace him as The Doctor.
I want to start with a confession: I have, historically, always been opposed to the casting of anyone but a white male as the Doctor. It's not a racial prejudice thing, it's not a gender prejudice thing, it's just a white male is how the character of the Doctor is and always has been. To me, I felt that anything other than a white male would feel like stunt casting. I can still remember the sense of relief I had when I was watching that 2013 trainwreck The Next Doctor Live as host Zoe Ball shouted Peter Capaldi’s name - and the relief wasn’t just because it meant that insipid drivel of an announcement show was almost over.
But since that announcement I have come round to a way of thinking that suggests otherwise is the case. Why should the Doctor have to be white? Why should the Doctor have to be male? That’s what I want to explore here.
There have been thirteen actors to play the part in an official capacity (and even more once we go into alternates and stand-ins and so on) and every single one of them has been a white man. Yet we know that it’s well within the rules of regeneration that the Doctor, as with any other Time Lord, can change both of these factors!
We've even seen it. In 2010’s The End Of Time the 11th Doctor briefly believes he’s female, something he’d only even consider if he knew it were possible. In 2011’s The Doctor’s Wife we hear him talk of The Corsair as a Gallifreyan known to have been both male and female on different incarnations. In 2014’s Dark Water we actually meet a female incarnation of The Master who has gone on to become my personal favourite version of that character. In 2015’s Hell Bent it happens onscreen at last as The General transforms from a white man played by Ken Bones to a black woman played by T’Nia Miller, the latter incarnation even going so far as to say she’s “back to normal” now she’s a she.
Heck, to not do it is almost a continuity error by this point for the number of times it’s been suggested! Indeed, the whole of The Peter Capaldi Era has been filled with subversions of traditional race and gender roles. So here’s a thought: Why would it be so bad to have the Doctor regenerate into the form of a non-white person, or a female person, or even both?
Peter Capaldi has left some incredibly huge boots to fill and so perhaps something completely different would be the best possible way to replace him. It would also have the added benefit of drawing a big audience and getting people talking about the show.
If that’s not enough, how about this: We simply can’t ignore the very real and very terrifying fact that Donald Trump is now, somehow, serving as "President" Of The United States. This is a man who has proven time and time again that he is racist to anyone who isn’t white, sexist to anyone who isn’t male; the blunt fact is that he is directly and deliberately opposed to anything but straight, white, and male. As the wonderful Janine Rivers argues here it has probably never been so important to start putting non-white and non-male individuals into prominent positions. There has never been a more opportune moment to go that direction than now and it might well play a part in doing the world of good.
Or as the Doctor himself once said:
“Life depends on change and renewal.”When he's not obsessing about Doctor Who whilst having I Am The Doctor play in his head, Dr. Moo can usually be found reading up on the latest in Quantum Physics. As you do when you're a physicist.