So it was announced that the Doctor, the humanoid alien main character of the TV series Doctor Who, will be played by a woman beginning next season. http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-40624288
I’m a little disappointed, not in the BBC’s choice of people to play the role, but in their apparently bowing to pressure to have the character change sexes. I am also not surprised in the least, because the last two times the Time Lord regenerated, activist fans demanded that the character be played either by a minority man or by a woman. One person said she was disappointed when the current actor was cast, because the BBC “missed an opportunity” et cetera et cetera. And that’s what irks me about the decision.
A little background. I have been a Whovian since my early teens, starting with the John Pertwee episodes (Third Doctor) and following the series through Sylvester McCoy’s abrupt dismissal and the show going on hiatus. I have most of the novalizations of the original run, plus Dr. Who was the first Role Playing Game that I Game Mastered. I have the old tech manuals, the anniversary books, and a number of other tomes. My sonic screwdriver replica is in a box and the light and noise-maker still work. I have a TARDIS pin that I wear on occasion. I wrote for a fan-zine before the ‘net was around. I was part of the fight between the BBC and the American Doctor Who Fan Club.
When the show was re-started, I was ecstatic! The character who had helped me survive High School and College was back. I liked the first season, was pretty much happy with the second and third new seasons, and then started to get a funny taste in my mouth. The fun wasn’t there as much as it had been. Now, Sylvester McCoy’s incarnation was dark. Watch The Curse of Fenris and a few other episodes if you think I’ve not seen dark in the series before. But when the fun and adventure starts to drop, I get concerned. I hung in there. I mean, continuity gaps? Heh! If there was continuity in the original series, we all flagged it and wondered what was going wrong. 🙂
But I think I began sensing trouble with the introduction of Captain Jack Harkness and the spin-off of Torchwood. The then show-runner made Jack’s sexuality too important, in my opinion. Two episodes of Torchwood were enough and I didn’t go back to that series. The character himself was OK, and rather interesting once you pulled the pieces together, but how certain aspects of his personality were played up annoyed me.
Fast-forward to about two years ago, and Sherlock. There was a bit of a to-do about a major plot thing in the new season, and the BBC apparently received a goodly number of letters requesting or stating that Sherlock and Holmes would reveal a gay relationship. The management said no, that was not the relationship between the two and they were not going to break canon in that way. But the very point that fans would push for it made me wonder what was going to happen on other series.
So when Sunday’s announcement came I was disappointed, but not surprised. I wish the program well, and I hope the new writer and actress are successful. But they broke the series past repair for me. I know I won’t be able to watch it without wondering if she was truly the best person available, or if this was done to satisfy the activists and take pressure off other shows. There’s nothing in canon to say a Time Lord can’t change sexes when he or she regenerates, so that’s not a problem. In fact, the Master came back as a woman and rather successfully. But. Unfortunately, the seed of doubt has been planted in my mind.
After Marvel tried to change Thor’s sex in a side-series, after making Captain America an agent of HYDRA, after the fuss about Holmes and Watson, having a woman play the Doctor feels forced. Yet another popular series bowing to activist pressure and changing things to please the loudest group. Is this fair to the new actress and writer? No. Is it what is really behind the change? I have no idea. But I’m always going to wonder.