Peter Capaldi’s recent announcement that he is to leave Doctor Who at the end of the year has opened the flood gates for actor, after actor, after actor to be suggested as the next Doctor. And of course, we can’t anticipate the next incarnation of the Time Lord without having the age old debate of whether or not there should be a female Doctor.
Personally, I do not believe that there is a single good reason why the next Doctor should not be a woman. In fact, I think there is a good argument to be made that this change could be exactly what the series needs right now.
For me, the Doctor Who of late has become somewhat stale and stagnant. I don't believe that this is in anyway Capaldi’s fault; he's been excellent but let down by some disappointing writing. In 2018 Chris Chibnall is taking over from Steven Moffat as head writer and executive producer and I’m really looking forward to that, but it's going to take more than a few new ideas to completely rejuvenate the series. I think Doctor Who needs a complete rebrand and shake up (logo, theme, TARDIS, Doctor, promotion, etc) in order to allow Chibnall to have that total fresh start that is needed, and perhaps bring back on board some of the viewers who have left over the past few years.
You're not necessarily going to make something new again by casting yet another white man as the Doctor. To paraphrase the worst promotional line in the history of Doctor Who (as spoken by the Doctor in the Series Eight trailer),
"Same Old, Same Old. Just the Doctor and [insert young female companion name] in The Tardis."And this is one reason why I believe a woman should be cast.
I’ve had people who are against the idea say to me it’s sensationalism, it's stunt casting, or it's just being done for the sake of doing it. But to that I say no. It isn’t, or at least, it doesn't have to be. Sure, casting a woman may alienate some viewers, though it is more likely to peak many other people’s interest in the series, and I think it would go some way in improving the general appreciation of Doctor Who which seems to have slipped in recent years. I really do think that is what Doctor Who needs right now, and I don't feel it will be accomplished with another male taking on the role.
An argument I have had put forward to me many times is: ‘But you wouldn't make Sherlock Holmes a man’… But they made Watson a woman in Elementary and that works fine, so why not? The beauty of Sherlock Holmes and indeed the Doctor is that they can be and have been reinvented. Gender swapping is an established part of Doctor Who lore. I am certain Missy and (although I didn't think it was particularly well handled) The General were testing the waters for something like this.
As with Missy, a gender change for the character of the Doctor could be done for a narrative purpose. This is one of the great things about Doctor Who. It’s innovative! It can turn things on their heads and try out new ideas. The beauty of this series is that, if it works, then that's fantastic, but if it doesn’t, regeneration is never far away. But they will never know if it will be successful until they try.
Making the Doctor a female could also allow for some great comedy - it's quite likely that people they encounter on the series would automatically assume that the Doctor’s male companion (that is if the companion is male) is the one in charge, when in fact it's the woman.
A show like Doctor Who which utilises time travel could also tackle some very important political issues, not only in the past, but in present day too. Talking of which, Hayley Atwell is my first choice for the next Doctor - I think she is absolutely fantastic and would be tremendous in the part. She played the titular character in Agent Carter, in a series where she had to deal with 1940’s sexism and be a strong woman in a male dominated world. I think that would be an excellent theme for Doctor Who to tackle. (And may I suggest her Agent Carter co-star James D'Arcy as her companion. They are both excellent together.) Tackling themes on gender equality could be very important and powerful message to young children watching the show, especially in the times we currently live in.
So, for those people who say they wont watch the series with a female Doctor, to that I say fine. Good riddance, even. I have a sneaky suspicion that they will watch anyway, even if it's just out of intrigue. But I have to admit to struggling to understand how any fan of Doctor Who could find it hard to accept something like this. You’d think Who fans would be more inclusive than that, right?
I’ll leave you with a little image I made...
Nick is a 2000 year old alien who travels through time and space, saving the good and conquering the evil... or so he likes to think.