I’ve listened in on a few conversations along these lines this week, and have found myself smiling in recognition at the lines of logic involved. The language of canon has been invoked, and assumed as a non-negotiable in Whodom; you simply can’t ‘break canon’ with the Who tradition thus far, and that includes not only the TV shows but books and radio plays, even the really obscure ones. And as the Doctor was first revealed as a Grandfather, how can be become embodied as a woman? Ah, comes the rejoinder, the thing is, the word ‘Grandfather’ in Galifrean could be interpreted in a gender-neutral sense; ‘Grandparent.’ And just think of all those little clues already hidden within the canon itself….think of ‘Doctor Donna’, as the Ood foretold. Hmm, comes the more pragmatic response, well, the real thing is that the Doctor has to be male because if he becomes she, she will alienate troops of die-hard Whovians and the community will be decimated. Women have to fancy the Doctor (not that that seemed to have crossed the minds of casting agents back in the Pertwee years), and men have to want to be the Doctor. Mess with the basic human psychology of it, the show will flop, and the vast revenue it yields for the BBC will be lost.
We shall see. Speaking as someone who has happy childhood memories of the Dr Who exhibition at Longleat, and who mostly enjoys the show very much, I’d love to see a female Doctor, and I have quite a good candidate in mind. (No, it’s not me.)
Some of you may sense some parallels between this debate, and another one, also involving women, lead representative figures, a canon of sacred writings, the interpretation of those sacred writings, the fear of alienating faithful followers, and some aspect of financial risk in doing so. Some of you might not. But anyway, who do you think’s going to be the next Dr Who?