Doctor ... Who is a Woman?

Doctor Who fans are aghast, or deliriously happy, that the show's main character is having a sex change. Non Doctor Who fans are saying the same thing they always say when they hear details about the show: "Huh?"

We'll get to the good Doctor--whose name is not Who--in a moment. This is set against the bigger question of whether it's okay to change the race or gender of an established character, always (so far) to a person of color and/or womanliness. In general, if it's another case of political correctness gone rampant (I call it Political Over-Correctness) I'm not a fan.

"The next James Bond needs to be black!"
"Why?"
"So we can have a black James Bond!"
"Okay. Or, you could just create a black secret agent from scratch."
"Yeah, but ... then he wouldn't be James Bond!"

Honestly, it's not something I care enough about to argue over, which sets me apart from most people who care at all. If the TV and movie industry disappeared from the face of the earth right now--which isn't the worst idea ever--I'd just go back to reading books for entertainment. Interestingly, if the race of a character in a book isn't specifically mentioned, most people either don't think about it at all or put their own skin color on the character. It never occurred to me, until I saw the wildly entertaining TV version, that Shadow Moon from American Gods was black. You can call that racism or you can call it being color blind, whatever. People will color anything I say here with their own views anyway.

James Bond is an interesting case when it comes to gender and race swapping, because the franchise has already done it--just not with 007. Bond's CIA buddy Felix Leiter has already turned from white to black--twice, if you include 1983's Never Say Never Again. The famous Moneypenny had a similar transformation, while Bond's boss M became a female ... although it should be noted that M is a title, rather than an individual.

You can complain about it all you want, but for me when it does work, it works spectacularly. Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica was just as much fun and kick-ass as a woman in the reboot, for instance. From the time I was old enough to read comics I knew Nick Fury as a white guy, fighting his way across Europe in World War II. Now I can't imagine him looking like anyone but Samuel L. Jackson.

Which brings us back to Doctor Who, who Samuel L. Jackson could totally play if he wanted to. Are you going to tell him no?

On the question of changing a character's looks just for the sake of changing them, the Doctor is a special case. Sometimes the actor playing a character is changed without explanation, as with the James Bond series. (Wait--who's this new Darrin on Bewitched?) Sometimes it's a reboot, as with Battlestar Galactica, and thus not really the same character. But Doctor Who ...

Okay, in case you don't know, I'd better offer a brief explanation.

The original Doctor Who, back in 1963, was an old guy. He was a grandfatherly type, on a show designed as a fun way to teach kids history. (He's a Time Lord, you see.) But the actor began to have health problems, and it was soon apparent he couldn't continue in the roll. It seemed Doctor Who was doomed to retirement.

But wait, the writers said. We've already established that he's an alien. Suppose this particular species of aliens, when facing death, could cheat their way out by transforming into a new body? Regenerate into, say ... another actor's body?

Yeah, they're all the Doctor


That was twelve Doctor's ago. More, really, but we don't have time to go into that complication. In fact, the Doctor has already been a woman, played (very briefly) by Joanna Lumley in a 1999 charity episode.

So there's no story reason why the Doctor can't be female. In fact, one of his main antagonists, also a Time Lord, already regenerated from male to female. The show has had many strong female and minority characters in the past, and the Doctor's most recent companion was a black lesbian. (Is lesbian still a permitted word? I don't care.)

That's Bill, on the left. Black, prefers women, young, smart, and most importantly fun.
So that's where we are in the Doctor's complicated half century. In the Christmas episode the current Doctor is going to meet the first Doctor--that kind of thing happens, from time to time--and then presumably regenerate into someone who looks a lot like the actress Jodie Whittaker. If they did it to freshen up the show and keep things interesting ... well, why not? I'm not sure it's any more of a shock to me than when uber-young looking Matt Smith regenerated into still another grandfatherly type.

I wasn't thrilled back then ("my" Doctor is David Tennant), but I came to like Peter Capaldi's version. That's why I don't understand the so-called fans who are closing the doors of the TARDIS and going home. I know it's not just mysogeny, as some narrow minded people claim. Not always, anyway.

Honestly, I suspect it's just resistance to change in general, and I get that. Contrary to what some will tell you, sometimes change is bad. But you won't even give the new Doctor a chance? Why not? With that attitude, the show would never have made it out of the sixties.

And we'd have missed a lot of fun.

There's a new Doctor in the TARDIS

14 comments:

  1. Admittedly, the odd bit of the show I've seen on television has just left me baffled as to its appeal.

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    1. You're not the only one. I felt that way about the original series too, those few times I caught it--the cheap special effects and all. The reboot that started in 2005 upped the production budget, and it's just a whole lot of fun.

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    2. I grew up on the original series and like it better, actually. Tom Baker is my favorite doctor of all time.

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    3. I've only seen two Tom Baker episodes, Joleene ... the first one was kind of meh, and the second was awesome. Not a representative sample! The only other ones I've seen so far were with the first Doctor, and the animated episodes they made out of second Doctor episode audio.

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  2. I've barely hung on through several crappy seasons. This last season was finally good, but no, I am not interested in it now. I find it an insult that we can't have a female time lord from scratch - a whole new complete character. It's a slap dash attempt to say "look! Equal!" for one regeneration - a clever PR trick which has worked to get everyone sharing and sharing and...yeah. She wasn't cast for her talent, or because she fit, but ONLY because she was a woman. Instead of making gender less of an issue, that attitude reduces her ONLY to her gender. How is that a victory for anyone? I will watch the Christmas special but I doubt I'll watch next season. We have to buy it per episode on Amazon and I'm not really interested in paying the very people I feel insulted women by basically saying that not only is this female time lord very likely disposable (again, it's a good chance he won't be a woman again) but also saying that an original woman character can't get her own fan base without having an already established (from a male character) fan base.

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    1. I think I agree with you on that, Joleene. I mean, all except the first sentence--although I agree the season before last was weak, there haven't been any whole seasons that I really disliked.

      But although I am going to give the new Doctor a chance--I figure this whole thing isn't her fault, after all--I think you're right in the way it came about. I can't say it, of course; any man who says what you just did will be labeled a woman hater.

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  3. I agree with Jo. Plus, I get tired of writers not coming up with new ideas, so they take old ideas and either remake them or take old ideas and try a new twist, which rarely works.

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    1. I've heard there are no new ideas ... but some are definitely more new than others.

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  4. I hate PC and that is the reason they are doing it. Not because the writer came up with something new.

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    1. That certainly seems to be the reason.

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  5. Definitely Tom Baker. I even got the pattern to knit the wool scarf, but never got around to it.

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    1. I wouldn't mind that scarf; bet his neck never got cold. And it's cool that the scarf still shows up, now and then!

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  6. The only reason I'm jubious about a Doctor Who(ess) is that there probably won't be so many really gorgeous companions anymore. I'm not really interested in gorgeous male companions.
    And Karla is right. Tom Baker was the best, just bonkers as he is in real life.

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    1. Maybe I'll change my mind after I've seen a few more Baker episodes. I hope you're wrong about the companions, but I suspect you're right. It will send a bad signal by itself if male companions start popping up.

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