Peter Capaldi has officially announced that Series 10 will be his last turn as The Doctor. It’s disappointing, but not surprising. Actors rarely endure more than three full seasons in the role going all the way back to the 1960s, and the smart money was always on the show getting a complete soft reboot as showrunner Steven Moffat steps down for Chris Chibnall. It’s sad, though. In many ways, it feels like Capaldi was just getting started.
As always, when the identity of the next Doctor is in flux, there’s a call for the role to get gender-swapped, something I am an ardent fan of. The idea of Time Lords possibly switching genders upon regeneration has been canon since 2011, and has been floated as an idea since at least the McCoy era. There’s simply no reason not to do it.
However, I’ve noticed that when you express the idea, your motives are immediately called into question. People want to write off the possibility as sensationalistic stunt casting, as if casting someone like David Tennant was anything other than a blatant pander to a new audience while also at the same time being a supremely good idea. The change has to be justified in some way, as a blow to be struck for feminism (and therefore immediately distrusted by many), for instance. The intrinsic nature of male-majority entertainment makes any deviation from that norm seem suspect and “too far.”
Here’s the thing, though. I don’t particularly want to see a female Doctor because I’m an arch-feminist or to stick it to the patriarchy or for any other reason. I want a female Doctor because I think it would be neat. That’s it.
I want it for the same reasons I want Life Is Strange Season 2, or Renee Montoya to be The Question again, or any number of other things I enjoy to continue, evolve and expand. Do many of those things make inroads in representation of marginalized people in media? Yes, but that’s one of the reasons I like them, not the other way around. New is interesting and brings a wider collection of experiences. It’s not because I’ve been given marching orders by the SJW secret cabal to spread diversity. It’s less of an agenda and more of “well, that’s something you don’t see every day.”
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And you know what else is a perfectly valid point of view? Not wanting The Doctor to change gender because it’s what you’re used to and what you’ve liked so far. It is, in fact, the only halfway reasonable argument. I could point out that part of that is probably innate attitudes regarding gender that we all internalize, but no matter what, “I like this and don’t want it to change” is an acceptable argument for everything from media to the recipe for Coca-Cola. You’re not a bad feminist or a bad fan if you hope the next incarnation of our favorite Time Lord remains male any more than you’re some sort of fandom terrorist for hoping the opposite.
It gets very exhausting having every single thing of this nature be like this. It was, for instance, nearly impossible for anyone to judge the last Ghostbusters film simply as a film and entry in a long-running media franchise. The howling hordes of masculine fragility couldn’t accept the casting decisions as anything but a declaration of war, and in response the rest of us ended up feeling somewhat duty-bound to defend it from the toxic miasma. In the end, almost no one got to just go see a freakin’ movie. Everything was an event and a line in the sand.
The debate over a female Doctor feels the same way. Because it’s never been done before, it’s treated like it is way more meaningful than it actually is. Opening one of television’s most famous roles to half the population of the planet when there is simply no reason besides nostalgia not to doesn’t have to be a point of contention, and if more women had been cast in roles like The Doctor over the past 50 years, it wouldn’t be.
If the next Doctor is another white dude, I won’t stop watching. My favorite Doctor is a white dude. Everyone’s favorite Doctor (and everyone’s least favorite Doctor) is a white dude. I do think a change would be fun, though, and it certainly couldn’t be worse than, say, digging up the corpse of the Brigadier and making him a Cyberman was.