Aug 9 2013 9:00am

Doctor When? The Dialogue Surrounding the 11th Doctor’s Regeneration

Doctor Who Peter Capaldi

Straight off the bat, let’s say it—Peter Capaldi is going to be a stellar Doctor. The show has never cast an actor who couldn’t play the part, and it’s unlikely that it will start now. It’s time to look forward to whatever he’s going to bring to the role.

It’s also time to take a look-see at the current dialogue surrounding the casting of the part, a dialogue asking whether the Doctor could ever become someone who was not white or male. A great deal of the discourse isn’t placing blame or pointing fingers, but rather wondering about the difficulties, the timing, the reasons. Can this character change? Why should he? Why are people asking for it?

Steven Moffat had some words to mollify those who were disappointed by the casting decision, stating that a female Doctor was totally in the cards and could potentially be tackled in the future: “It’s absolutely narratively possible, and when it’s the right decision, maybe we’ll do it.” He followed it up by explaining that he didn’t feel enough people wanted a female Doctor. More specifically, he made the claim that most of the people he had spoken to who seemed against a female Doctor were women themselves.

Whether or not Steven Moffat did, in fact, ask a large sampling of female fans and creators about the Doctor’s gender is frankly irrelevant. In fact, what the fans asked for is irrelevant as well. The issue here is simple—writers write what is interesting to them. Showrunners run shows in ways that they feel best suit their strengths. Steven Moffat is not going to change the Doctor’s gender unless he finds writing the Doctor as a woman an interesting and enjoyable prospect. He clearly does not.

Which is his prerogative. If Steven Moffat doesn’t want to write a female Doctor that is precisely why he shouldn’t write her. When you don’t want to do something, you’re liable to do it badly. And the fact that he knows that is a good reason to hold off is relieving.

Still, the desire for a female Doctor is compelling to many of us, for so many reasons. For some, it’s the desire to see a woman in a role that women have always adored and often emulated. (The sheer volume of female Doctor cosplayers should be evidence enough that ladies are interesting in assuming the mantle.) For some, it’s the simple fact that there’s no reason why the Doctor shouldn’t want to—if you have the ability to regenerate into a different person every couple hundred years, why wouldn’t you spend at least one of those stretches trying out something completely new? Especially if you’re the Doctor and “new experiences” are practically your surname. For some, it’s recalling that Doctor Who has always had some unsettling British Imperialist underpinnings, and making the Doctor something other than a white man would alleviate certain uncomfortable inferences within the show regarding his savior complex.

For some, it has to do with with proving the progress we’ve made; transgender writer Jennifer Finney Boylan wrote a piece for The New York Times titled “Diversity and Doctor Who in reaction to Capaldi’s casting, to remind everyone that the triumph of seeing yourself reflected back by a beloved character is an empowering moment, one that could inspire so many:

“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.”

But what if it’s all a matter of good timing? Neil Gaiman weighed in with his thoughts recently, saying that he felt a female Doctor wouldn’t be a good fit after Matt Smith’s run:

“Some of that is stuff I’d find hard to articulate, mostly having to do with what kind of Doctor you follow Matt Smith’s Doctor with: 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.”

Which begs an interesting question: if the next Doctor is going to be darker (a move I’d agree with), would making this edgier incarnation the first woman Doctor have hurt the prospects of a female version? The show already had a interesting run-in with a similar problem in the 80s; Colin Baker’s Doctor was originally intended to be a much more shadowy customer, which was one of the reasons why his first action in that body was to strangle poor Peri. Baker claimed that he had wanted his uniform to be all black before producer Jonathan Nathan-Turner turned around and handed him the Coat of Rainbow Nightmares. While many problems in the production led to Baker’s eventual dismissal from the part, for many years he was blamed for his portrayal, given a hard time for being “unlikable.”

Doctor Who Six Sixth Colin Baker

Christopher Eccleston’s ninth incarnation received no such criticism for playing the Doctor with an edge, though that might have been due to Nine’s struggle with post-traumatic stress. If the first female Doctor was one of those darker incarnations, would she receive the ire Colin Baker did, or the applause garnered by Eccleston? Generally entertainment (and society for that matter) does not look well on women who have ego, who are openly angry; maybe Gaiman’s instincts are on point in regard to a female Doctor’s ability to survive on the show.

And what about casting a person of color in the role? Gaiman said that a black actor had been offered the part and turned it down (though he wouldn’t say who, and did not make it clear if they had been offered the role of Eleven or Twelve). Why did this actor turn down the role? And could it have anything to do with worry over fan reaction?

One can only imagine the backlash that will occur if (hopefully when) the Doctor regenerates into someone not white. A contingent of Whovians have always shouted loudly at what they perceive to be “stunt casting” on the show—producer Jonathan Nathan-Turner of the classic series was taken to task for characters like Tegan Jovanka and Peri Brown, berated for trying to attract Australian and American audiences with them… and Tegan and Peri were still two white women.

Doctor Who Tegan Jovanka, Five, Turlough

Beyond that, some fans are concerned over how the Doctor’s race might limit historical serials. Though Ten simply told Martha to “walk around like she owned the place” in “The Shakespeare Code,” Martha did have to deal with prejudice directly in the “Human Nature”/“Family of Blood” two-parter, so the show is not beyond addressing the problems faced by people of color. With that in mind, it looks as though a portion of viewers fear the show constantly having to call attention to racism in any episode where the Doctor finds himself in Earth’s past.

An insightful piece by livejournal user viomisehunt, “Thoughts on the Dilemma of a Black Doctor,” provides another perspective: that just because slavery and discrimination existed in the past does not mean that, by default, everyone in the past was racist and would automatically take issue with a non-white Doctor. Additionally, there were free people of color in historical times gone by, in European countries and obviously elsewhere in the world. There were many people who fought against prejudice and racial brutality as well:

“Elizabeth the First, after hearing of Hawkins and Drake’s savage raids on African villages, predicted the Heavens would retaliate. Over half of the Abolitionist Groups in the USA were white Americans, and nearly all of the members of UK’s Anti-Slave Trade Groups, Abolitionist groups, Anti-Caste Society, and Anti-Lynching group in the UK were white. Although a scary large number of persons possibly rose as one with Enoch’s River of Blood speech in 1968, according to reports an equally large number of persons were appalled and stood against it.”

So the point is twofold—Doctor Who will always have the ability to shrug it off in lighter tales, making race a non-issue the way Martha did when she met Shakespeare. That’s a workable solution for some occasions because the Doctor always knows how to make himself the most important person in the room, and the color of his skin should not negate that particular superpower of his. But they also have the ability to show history as it truly was when the story calls for it, to make it clear how these historical institutions affected all people. They also have a chance to give the Doctor a very unique period of growth navigating that. It’s the sort of challenge you know he would welcome.

Doctor Who Paterson Joseph

In answer to whether or not the Doctor should be a woman, should be a person of color, the answer was always yes. It’s just a matter of when, of how, (and of course) of who. The reactions to the Twelfth Doctor’s casting decision raise all the right questions about how it must be managed and why so many people have come down in favor of it. Now it’s just a question of where we go from here and how soon we can look forward to it.

Emily Asher-Perrin just wants to know what the Twelfth Doctor's uniform is already. She has written essays for the newly released Doctor Who and Race and Queers Dig Time Lords. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

Adam Whitehead
1. Werthead
I think it makes more sense for #14 to be a woman, and note that based on what's going on with the John Hurt Doctor, Capaldi may actually be the #13 incarnation of that particular body, though only the 'Twelfth Doctor'.

Narratively, this makes more sense. If the Doctor is expecting to die as he only has 13 incarnations (and it would be a mistake for the BBC to ignore what has been a cornerstone of the show's mythology for almost 40 years) and not only still regenerates again but also comes back as a woman, that opens storyline possibilities: why is he/she still alive and why has he come back as a she? Sure, dialogue has established that Time Lords can regenerate into women, but there must be a reason the Doctor hasn't previously: such as that all of his regenerations have been due to trauma, and obviously his genetics default to 'white dude', probably due to some kind of base programming. This changing requires a narrative explanation.
2. pu
I always thought the 13 incarnations ethos was a rule that was enforced by the Time Lords. With there being no more Time Lords, is there anyone or anything to keep the Doctor from going past 13?

Obviously, Moffat would have to address that somehow but, if true, it honestly could just be a throw away line in one episode.

Just curious.
Adam Whitehead
3. Werthead
I always thought the 13 incarnations ethos was a rule that was enforced by the Time Lords.
No, and I have no idea why this idea keeps coming up. If the Time Lords can simply give themselves another set of regenerations when the old one runs out, Borusa would have simply done that (somehow) rather than setting in motion his crazy immortality scheme in The Five Doctors.

There is fanwank that Rassilon shared his secret for immortality - which seems to still be based around regeneration given he regenerated into Timothy Dalton - with all the Time Lords during the Time War to allow them to fight more effectively, which is certainly possible. However, the 13-regeneration limit was 100% a firm, genetic reality for the Doctor and all the other Time Lords during the timescale of the original series. It drove a lot of the Master's storylines for the last 13 seasons of its run, after all.
Christopher Bennett
4. ChristopherLBennett
@1: Not all of the Doctor's regenerations have been due to trauma; the first was evidently due to old age, and the second was essentially an execution imposed by the state -- emotionally traumatic, to be sure, but presumably controlled rather than physically violent.

To the suggestion in the article about the Doctor wanting to change sex: he's wanted to be ginger for a while now, but it hasn't happened yet. While some Time Lords (notably Romana) have been shown to have control over their regenerative process, the Doctor apparently doesn't have that training or ability, and his regenerations have always been rather random. And given that we've never seen a Time Lord change sex and only heard of one doing it, I imagine it's sort of like bisexuality in humans, a trait that only a minority of the species possesses. And since the Doctor's random regenerations have always turned out male, that suggests he's not, err, bi-regenerative by nature. Maybe if the Doctor had great control over his regenerative process, he could choose to override his biology and change sex, but he doesn't have that control.

As for the racial issues with a black Doctor, those could be averted by having historical adventures in parts of the world other than Europe and America. A black Doctor wouldn't seem out of place in historical Africa, obviously, and would be no more exotic than a white Doctor in India, China, Japan, pre-Columbian America, etc. Not to mention that there were a fair number of Africans living in various parts of the Roman Empire, even a few as far north as Britain. If anything, it would be nice to see the series explore parts of Earth history beyond the usual European/American stuff. We've seen some of that in "Marco Polo" and "The Aztecs," but not much else.
Adam Whitehead
5. Werthead
There is widespread fan speculation that the Doctor and other 'older' Time Lords do not have much control over their regenerative process, whilst Romana and other 'younger' Time Lords/Ladies do, so that tracks with that.

As for the trauma thing, the First Doctor clearly did not want to regenerate. It was time to go, and he didn't want to so kept holding back the regeneration until it happened anyway, overriding his will. The suggestion (made by the Tenth Doctor) that the person whom the Doctor effectively is 'dies' when he regenerates and a new consciousness and personality walks off with his memories indicates that the Time Lords do not see regeneration as a way of cheating death, merely passing on their memories and experiences to someone else (incidentally, this may explain how multi-Doctor stories can happen: two Doctors crossing timestreams and meeting is not as dangerous as say, two versions of the Ninth Doctor and Rose, which caused chaos in 'Father's Day', because the two incarnations are effectively different people).
6. Llama
I agree with @4.

I'm female and I would never want a female Doctor. I would want a show about a female Time Lord or a Doctor Who with more powerful female aliens comparable to the Doctor, but I don't think the Doctor should ever regenerate into a woman. People can be so hypersensitive about being misgendered and talk about how large a part of their pysche their gender identity is- is it not perfectly freaking logical that the Doctor is just plain old a man and that's who he is? An essential component of the various constants that make every regeneration still 'the Doctor'?

I'm really, really tired of being told I must be a misogynist because I think a male character probably has maleness in his identity and biology and it makes sense for him to continue being male.

It would be nice to see a black or Asian or something else different Doctor, because race is a social construct and there's no reason why he couldn't be if Time Lords don't inherently, biologically look like white people.
7. marie brigid
@6: THIS THIS THIS. I'm a woman, and I would love to see a non-white actor play the Doctor, and I would love to see a female Time Lord (or better yet, lots of them), and I would even enjoy a story that took place in an alternate universe where the Doctor was female. But I don't want to see our Doctor, who regenerates at random but comes up male every time (and if that doesn't argue a firm gender identity, I don't know what does), get a sex change purely because some people think it would bring about beneficial social change.
Ian Gazzotti
8. Atrus
It probably sounds misogynist because there is no such thing as "maleness" except as a social construct. Also, while the Doctor looks biologically male, there has been no hard proof that he is in the human sense of the term.

I still think that if we could have Joanna Lumley as the Doctor in 1999, even if in an affectionate parody, it shouldn't be a problem at all, for anyone, in 2013.
Christopher Bennett
9. ChristopherLBennett
@5: Yes, but systemic failure due to old age does not constitute physical trauma. Medically, trauma means a wound or injury. Which means that, strictly speaking, the only Doctors to "die" of trauma were the Fourth (blunt force trauma from a fall), the Sixth (blunt force trauma from a crash), and maybe the Seventh (a combination of ballistic trauma from a shootout and some form of internal trauma from botched surgery). The Third and Tenth -- and arguably the Ninth -- died from acute radiation syndrome, the Fifth from acute poisoning, and we don't know what killed the Eighth (but we may find out this November).

So it would be more accurate to say that all the Doctors except the First and Second died of violence, and only the First succumbed to natural causes.

@6: I'm trying to remember when we've seen nonwhite Time Lords. K'anpo/Cho Je from "Planet of the Spiders" looked Chinese (or was supposed to -- the actors were white). One of Romana's "trial" regenerations was, I believe, a tall black woman. And there was Mels in "Let's Kill Hitler," but she wasn't really Gallifreyan. Other than that, we haven't seen many Time Lords in the new series, so there haven't been a lot of opportunities for more diverse casting.
10. Fraught
@8. There are sex differences in the brains of humans. Time Lords have two biological sexes apparently identical to humans. It stands to reason they probably have differences as well. Gender is not /just/ a social construct.

Dude, it was a paraody. It's totally irrelevant.

It has nothing to do with it being 2013 and the supposedly enlightened future. No one is saying he shouldn't be a woman because a woman couldn't have that character-skillset-whathaveyou, they're saying it's part of who he is that he's a man and it's not a feminist issue that a male character simply /goes on/ being male.

An alternate universe female Doctor I could definitely get behind. She could run into the Doctor Prime and then have a spin-off. Or they could come up with a new Time Lady character. Or they could bring back Romana. Or someone could come up with a new sci-fi series featuring a female protagonist and maybe even some deeply explored female-female friendships. I think all of these are better, more reasonable courses of action than insisting an existing character get a sex change just because.
Amy Bryson
11. bonhoor
I completely agree with Neil Gaiman's comments as it aligns with my instincts on how the story would progress given the new John Hurt Doctor story line coming up.
My daughter doesn't want a female Doctor and neither do I. I did enjoy Romana though when I was young girl.
I'm hoping an older Doctor might encounter the 10th's "daughter" and explore that relationship.
12. Jeff R.
@3: The Time Lords were able to offer the Master a fresh set of 13 regenerations. So they do have the capacity to give more.

Borusa's desire for immortality does mean that there is a second limit beyond the 13-life limit, a point where even if you keep using whatever means they were planning to use to give the Master that second set you'll stop being able to do it. That second limit is probably 507, which is the only number that has been mentioned as a limit to regeneration in New Who.
Ian Gazzotti
13. Atrus
Fraught@10: Differences in the brains: that might as well be, though sex and gender are two different things, and it's all a bit more complicated than a straight male/female.

But really, "it's part of who he is" and "X goes on being X", about Doctor Who? A show and a main character that are all about change? He was an actor, he's been several others. He was a man from the future, now he's an alien. He had a heart, now he has two. He was crotchety, he's been a clown, an action man, a quiet indecisive, a madman, a schemer. He was old, he's been young. He was a traveller, he's been stranded. He was a fugitive, he's become a hero. He's been asexual, he's now snogged several people. He's been 12 faces and bodies and harstyles. What the Doctor is, apart from the set of memories he keeps every regeneration, is anything.
14. Alex Gittens
I think a minority Doctor (Asian, black, whatever) would be easier to sell than a female Doctor, simply because his interactions with his companions would not have to change as much.

If the Doctor were female, we'd face the huge question of what to do about her sexuality and her companions: would we say sexuality is a constant, so she's a lesbian, and keeps female companions? Would we have the same platonic-but-not-really attractions between the Doctor and her companions (male or not)?

These are interesting questions, but I don't really see them as the sort of questions natural to Doctor Who at this point. OTOH, I think the sorts of questions raised by race and prejudice are right up Doctor Who's alley. And who says aliens are all white, anyway?
Christopher Bennett
15. ChristopherLBennett
@14: Huh? The thing about the Doctor being a romantic figure for his companions is only a product of the '96 movie and the revival series, and hasn't been uniformly the case there. Donna's relationship with the Doctor was strictly platonic, as was Rory's, and Amy's attraction to him was just a temporary thing when she was running from commitment to Rory. And in the original series, there was pretty much never any romantic subtext between the Doctor and his companions -- except between the Fourth Doctor and the Second Romana, seeing as how Tom Baker and Lalla Ward were involved in real life and it bled through into their performances together.

So there's absolutely no reason why sexual attraction between the Doctor and a companion is some sort of obligatory, default state of affairs. Historically, it's the exception, not the rule. The Doctor doesn't "keep companions" for sexual reasons -- that's a bizarre misreading of the character. He travels with friends, because he's lonely and likes having people to share his experiences with. Because he's seen it all, so traveling with a short-lived human lets him experience novelty and wonder through their eyes.
Sky Thibedeau
16. SkylarkThibedeau
I know the Doctor will never look like me! *sigh* He/She/It will never be a Ginger.
Cain Latrani
17. CainS.Latrani
Still fascinated by the idea of Tilda Swinton playing the Doctor. Not sure why. Just fascinated by the very idea of it.
Anthony Pero
18. anthonypero
@8, 10, 13:

We're not talking about the social construct of gender, male/female/transgender/other. We're talking about the actual physical sex of the Doctor. So, yes, in that context, there certainly is such a thing as "maleness". It comes with having a penis. Although there ARE some severely rare medical cases where a baby girl is born with a vagina and no penis, but is, in reality, genetically, a male. Doesn't happen the other way though.


There was one constant amidst all those changes...

And none of it matters. Whether or not it SHOULD happen belongs in the realm of personal opinion. It CAN happen, if the person running the show wants it to happen, and there is in-world historical precedent FOR it happening.

In my opinion, the article's main point is dead on; this should absolutely not happen unless the showrunners and writers are desparately WANTING to do it. In any other situation, it would be a disaster.
Cain Latrani
19. CainS.Latrani
Prior to Matt Smith, I was pretty much ambivilant about the whole thing. The next Doctor would be the next Doctor and I would go on watching the show.

After Matt Smith, my attitude towards it has changed.

This is in no way Matt Smith's fault. He's been a decent Doctor. I haven't overly enjoyed his run, but that's more the fault of Moffett than it is Matt.

Moffett has done, in my opinion only, a terrible job of running the show. The Amy/River/Doctor story arc was overly drawn out, and not terribly interesting to begin with. Mostly because I was expecting River to turn out to be Romana, or some other lost Time Lord, such as the Rani, who had been memory wiped for betraying the Time Lords during the Time War. Something that would have radically changed the nature of her realtionship with the Doctor, and how the viewer saw her death.

That aside, I'll never be able to get past the death of the Doctor story arc. Apparently, the not death of a Doctor shaped robot is a fixed point in time that will cause history to unravel is messed with.

Uh huh.

More than a new Doctor, I'm looking forward to a new showrunner. If they want to make the Doctor into a bi-sexual half Asian half black woman, I'll not blink much. The Doctor is the Doctor, no matter who plays the role.

Just, please, spare us another universe destorying Doctor prision made out of Amy's love child that's a robot. Please.
20. Hater of Nonsense
>>It probably sounds misogynist because there is no such thing as "maleness" except as a social construct.

Time for someone to open a basic biology book...
Ian Gazzotti
21. Atrus
@18 and 20: Genital reconstruction surgeries on infants are more common than you might think (they just get done without recording them or informing the parents), and it's equally not uncommon for people you would quickly identify as male or females to actually have hidden physical attributes you'd otherwise attribute to the other sex. We call "male" someone who has a certain mix of these attributes and "female" those with another set, but the reality is any "male" could have some "female" attributes or viceversa, as biology (and hence sexuality) is more fluid and sometimes imprecise than basic textbooks teach.

Let's not forget that not too long ago we had a self-identified woman treated as a man from the sports industry just because her uterus didn't conform to the idea of what a woman should be. So no, "maleness" and "femaleness", even in the biological sense, are not solid laws from nature, but definitions made up by us humans, and that we're willing to change on a whim when it suits us.

So saying that the Doctor (or anyone) has a "maleness" just because he has an Adam's apple and no boobs is a fallacy; all we know is he currently identifies as male, which is more worth than what's inside his pants, but also completely different.

And by the way, if this "maleness" is so important, you totally could have a woman play a male Doctor, sorta the way Cate Blanchett played bob Dylan in I'm not there. :)
22. Athreeren
On another subject, the telegraph article mentions that "Capaldi, 55, will first appear as the Doctor in a “very, very short scene” at Christmas, Moffat said, but will take over properly in 2014. "

The same way Jenna-Louise Coleman was to appear first in the 2012 Christmas special, and certainly not in Asylum Of The Daleks. Moffat is such a liar, I don't understand why we still read his interviews. I'll believe Capaldy won't be in the 50th anniversary special if I haven't seen him at the end of the episode.
Ashley Fox
23. A Fox
I'm looking forward to Capaldi... Though they will need to get a new companion. Jenna acts like herself, I cant imagine she will be able to keep up. With Smith his Dr was already established and kept the audiances attention. As for non-white male? Shrug. It could have been good. I dont buy into a female not being suitable for a darker Dr, in fact the opposite. In days like ours it makes more sense. But if Moff cannot see that, then this choice is for the best.

Ad honestly I'm actually pretty ok with the Dr identifying as male. And with the Time War on the horizon? There's plety of oportuninty for his dominance to be put into perspective with his gender bias or lack thereof.

RE: The limit on regens, & an above poster on the "council" of Time Lords being able to allocate more regens.

I think it would be a very neat, easy & logical way to circumvent this buy tying it in with Hurt Drs story. During the Time War, when they are facing extinction it would be a logical reourse to "store" this ability somewhere. Our Doctor, the TARDIS, Eye of the World...or somesuch. The Dr being the last survivor...well, perhaps part of the reason why Hurt is buried, so furtively, in the Drs timelime/psycheverse is becuase he is guarding/containing that secret.

@10 I daresay the last ep demonstrates that Time Lords brains are not subject to hormones in the same way as ours are! lol. No testosterone marginality. Atus has already pointed out that gender and sex are different (thank goodness).

Also its been demonatrated- a lot- that the Doctors sexuality is not in line with ours. Bi would be a good aproximation.
Christopher Bennett
24. ChristopherLBennett
@22: Moffat wasn't lying about when Coleman would first appear; he changed his mind when she inspired a new idea in him. Creators do that all the time, you know. As a writer myself I'm constantly surprised by the way laypeople tend to assume that we have every idea completely planned out from the beginning, when in fact we're constantly rethinking and making new discoveries and tossing out our initial plans. Given that our whole job is to make things up, why is it so hard to believe that we're making it up as we go?

And why would you expect Capaldi to appear in the anniversary special? The Doctor isn't regenerating until the Christmas special a month later. Unless you're imagining some kind of Watcher deal, there's no reason why the new Doctor would appear in his predecessor's second-last story.
Lee Anderson
25. DSNiner
Thanks for the enlightening essay, Emily. It helped greatly in getting me over my own lingering regrets that yet another white male had been cast as the Doctor (although I have to admit, it was hard to hold onto my disappointment as Peter Capaldi is a terrific choice).

However, a minor correction is in order. The producer of classic-era Doctor Who to whom you referred was in fact John Nathan-Turner, not 'Jonathan Nathan-Turner'.
Alan Brown
26. AlanBrown
I kind of like Werthead's idea (@1), that when the last death comes, and the Doctor is facing it like it is really The End, and, all of a sudden the Doctor regnerates as a woman, and everything is all, 'What is going on? How did this happen?' And then we spin off on a whole adventure of how it happened. And I have no problem with a woman Doctor with woman companions--we have had plenty of platonic companions over the years.
Everyone points to Neil Giaman's statement about the Corsair's female regeneration being evidence that it could happen, but when Matt Smith first regenerates, I remember him touching his long hair and saying something like 'oh my, I'm a girl this time.' So, there is another line of dialogue that hints that a female regeneration is possible.
I don't mind the Doctor staying a guy, and Mr. Capaldi is a gifted actor who I look forward to watching, but I sure would like a woman-led spinoff. I was disappointed at River's story arc as they left it. When she first appeared, she was this cool adventurer who seemed to have a whole life of derring do on her own. But the more we saw of her, the more it looked like her entire life was all defined by her relationship with the Doctor. John Barrowman recently suggested a show featuring him and River traveling together and having adventures, at some time before they both met the Doctor (or in between times, or maybe both before and after, if you want to get all timey wimey about it). That sure sounds fun to me!
Christopher Bennett
27. ChristopherLBennett
@26: Considering that the Doctor has virtually never been without a female companion, I assume a female Doctor would just as inevitably have a male companion at any given time (though it could be alongside a female companion). Not so that there would be sexual tension between them, but in order to appeal to viewers of both sexes.
28. Athreeren
@24: "I've lied my arse off for months – you know nothing, so don't make presumptions." (Stephen Moffat)

As with Oswin, having the 12th Doctor in the 50th anniversary episode would allow Moffat to show us who this new character is before his time. Also, the anniversary is a Doctors reunion, and from the point of view of each Doctor, they are the last one until now. The N Doctors episodes are always written from the point of view of the current one, because we already know how the former ones stories ended, but it needn't be the case. Moffat loves timey wimey stuff (he coined the term), for instance with the appearances for River Song in the wrong order: since he already knows who is the next Doctor, it would make sense that he gives him some part in this episode, just one month before his official introduction.

Finally, though I said that I do not trust Moffat's interview, he said that the 50th special would go forward and be the start of a new story, and including the new Doctor would be the most obvious way to do that.
Ian Gazzotti
29. Atrus
ChristopherLBennett@27: I actually miss the days of the TARDIS families. I wouldn't mind having again 2-3 regular companions, a la Susan-Ian-Barbara or Tegan-Nissa-Turlough.
Christopher Bennett
30. ChristopherLBennett
@29: Well, we've come close lately with Amy, Rory, and River.
Ursula L
31. Ursula

Can't get much more family than the Doctor traveling with his in-laws.
Anthony Pero
32. anthonypero

Actually, some of us still cale "male" a person with an xy chromosome pair and "female" a person with an XX chromosome pair. Any changes that are done to a person's anatomy don't really change this. Those changes are the very definition of "social construct."

Whether these definitions apply to an alien with two hearts is an entirely separate issue. And also irrelevant, because the point of Science Fiction is to reflect our own societies back at us in a way that is acceptable. That's why I'm not arguing either way for a male or female Doctor. If the showrunners feel that they need to do this, then they should. That's what Science Fiction is all about, making social commentary. My asserstion was merely to challenge the statement that biological sex, as opposed to emotional gender, is a social construct. Its not, its a biological construct that we can't change, no matter what we do to our bodies. Our daddys (or doctors for you test tube babies out there) either give us an x chromosome or a y chromosome, and nothing we can do (at this time in our evolution of science, at least) can change that pairing.
Mordicai Knode
33. mordicai
It is as foolish as pretending that the monarch of England could be a man! Or that there could be a male monarch of England in a fictional program. Absurd!
34. harmonyfb
I just want Romana back. ::sigh:: I don't need the Doctor to regenerate into a woman. But I do need for Romana to come back from e-space and have that discussion with the Doctor. ("Where the hell is Gallifrey? And what you do mean, Adric's dead?")

Also, a snide line or two about how Rose was a dead spit for Romana's second face would make me quite gleeful.

On the subject of casting actors of color as the Doctor...go for it, BBC! (Just not Idris Elba, because he needs to be playing James Bond. Like, immediately. If I wish hard enough, I'm sure that will happen.)
35. KF
@Emily Asher-Perrin:
"did not make it clear if they had been offered the role of Eleven or Twelve)"

If you read his follow-up posts on the subject, he makes it clear that he's not talking about an actor that was offered the role of Twelve.

"Why did this actor turn down the role? And could it have anything to do with worry over fan reaction?"

I'd think the time commitment would be a more likely factor. It doesn't seem likely they'd turn it down over worry about fan reaction.

@4, @26 ChristopherLBennett:
"And since the Doctor's random regenerations have always turned out male, that suggests he's not, err, bi-regenerative by nature."

There's a theory that they're not entirely random, that each regeneration is a reaction to the life and/or death of the previous Doctor. Certainly, in real world terms, the casting of each Doctor is in part a reaction to the previous one. Maybe things just haven't aligned yet for a female regeneration. Note that Eleven momentarily thought this might have happened right after he finished regenerating. (I'm pretty sure Gaiman has said that was part of the inspiration for the bit about the Corsair that he included in "The Doctor's Wife.")

"Considering that the Doctor has virtually never been without a female companion, I assume a female Doctor would just as inevitably have a male companion at any given time (though it could be alongside a female companion)."

That's true, but the main companion for Two was a male (Jamie). Three different women as companions during that time, but just the one Scotsman.

More generally, with regards to the article above, I don't think he has to regenerate into a woman at some point. I don't think it's inherently misogynist if he doesn't. And I don't think people who want him to remain male are inherently misogynist.

But the possibility is there, and I'd like to see them exercise it. I think it'd be a good thing, for the show and for many (okay, not all) viewers. I know it'd make me very happy. There are so many possibilities in this show. It's a celebration of possibility. So why not extend that to gender?

I'll keep my fingers crossed for a female Thirteen.
Christopher Bennett
36. ChristopherLBennett
@35: Yes, but it was never just Jamie -- there was always at least one female companion in the mix. The only times in the original series where the Doctor had no female companion were "The Massacre," where it was just the First Doctor and Steven Taylor (though they picked up Dodo Chaplet as a companion in the closing minutes) and "The Deadly Assassin," where the Fourth Doctor had no companions at all (and indeed there were no women in the entire story save for a voiceover part). Technically you could add "The Keeper of Traken," for Adric was the Doctor's only formal companion at that point, but Nyssa was introduced there. Wilfred Mott was technically the Doctor's sole companion in "The End of Time," but that doesn't quite count because Rose, Martha, and Donna all made return appearances.

So it's always been extremely rare for the Doctor to spend any length of time without a companion or temporary associate of the opposite sex. I wouldn't expect that to change if the Doctor became female.
37. JohnElliott
@9: None of Romana's "trial" incarnations was black, but the first one wasn't any human skintone -- she was silver.
Anthony Pero
38. anthonypero

Hmmm, and here I thought he said "Queen" when all this time what he really said was "monarch" silly me.

He was referring to the current Queen of England, Elisabeth II, being portrayed by a man in a movie. Which has probably happened in a comedy sketches before. Actually, it was recently done on Saturday Night Live. But it couldn't come off as anything but slapstick.
39. BeeblePete
I agree that the Sixth Doctor's regeneration crisis was designed to challenge the restrictions of the character 's heroic role.

In recent years, however, I've realised how triggering that moment must have been for some of the audience, particularly females. I think that first outing was a bad place to put such imagery in front of the audience.

At last weekend's Nine Worlds convention I attended a panel with Gary Russell, who thankfully put things right in audio. He said he met with Colin in 1998 before they recorded anything and they reviewed that character carefully before proceeding.
41. Yarrow
@32 Anthony, you may still rely on chromosomes (or actually one small pair of our many chromosomes) as your definition of sex, but many do not (including scientists). Thanks Atrus, for pointing these things out so thoughtfully in this thread.
There have been many definitions of 'sex' over the years - and for the bulk of history this has been the presence or absence of a penis. However, new 'truths' of sex have emerged as scientific research moves on - people are still trying to claim truths about brains and sex, as some have pointed out, many of which will turn out to be flawed. The problem with any of these truths in that they don't ever map onto the social realities that we think of as 'sex'. What do you call people who are XXY, XO, XXXY etc.? Do they have no sex? The wrong sex?
I am assuming (perhaps wrongly) that the 'reality' of sex (or more accurately, normative and socially-powerful understandings of sex) has been simple for you, but please don't allow this to prejudice you when it comes to the complexities that I and others experience around matters of sex, gender and sexuality. We're discussing speculative fiction here, I had thought, so imposing out-of-date scientific 'facts' onto a complex reality seems especially absurd.
Christopher Bennett
42. ChristopherLBennett
@41: It's one thing to acknowledge that there are exceptions to the basic definition of sex, that there's a blurred middle ground between them. But it's quite absurd to claim that means that male and female don't even exist except as social constructs. The shore is a middle ground between land and sea, and you can't define absolutely where the dividing line is because it's always moving and shifting, but that doesn't mean that land and sea are imaginary categories. There's a very gradual transition between the Earth's atmosphere and the vacuum of space, but that doesn't mean you can breathe in space if you're free of social prejudices. It just means there's a transitional zone between the two distinct categories rather than a binary divide.
Orayelle Johnson
44. Orayelle
Just please don't give us a woman Doctor....please.
Anthony Pero
45. anthonypero
@43: I think you are confused on what is being said. You should read the whole thread to make sure you are following what @42 is arguing.
Christopher Bennett
46. ChristopherLBennett
@43: I don't think I'm the one you meant to direct those comments toward. I'm perfectly aware of the difference between sex and gender.
48. AgentofACORN
I thought it interesting that when River regenerated from a toddler into Mels, she went from white to black. The man in the alley with her was black, so that had a major effect on the choice of skin color I think.
Christopher Bennett
49. ChristopherLBennett
@48: Or it could've been random. Then again, I recall reading that David Tennant gave his Doctor the same accent as Rose because he (or RTD) decided that maybe he's "imprinted" on her accent somehow. Though that doesn't explain where the Seventh Doctor's Scottish accent, or the Ninth's Northern one, came from.

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