She Geek Critique – Doctor Who and Gender

If you’re a fan of Doctor Who (aka a Whovian) or simply savvy in pop culture, you already know that the identity of the 13th Doctor has been revealed. (For those not into Doctor Who, the character is a Time Lord who regenerates instead of dying… you know what? Go watch Doctor Who!) It’s an exciting time for Whovians and there’s always love and hate over the choice. But this time around there’s even more being said because, for the first time in the show’s almost 55-year history, the Doctor will be female. 

For the first few decades of the show it was never really questioned why the Doctor always regenerated as a man. But, obviously, times change, the world evolves and Doctor Who, like many sci-fi properties, has grown to not only reflect but embrace the realities of modern culture (including interracial relationships and LGBT characters). It was firmly established that Time Lords could change gender when regenerating when The Master showed up as Missy. And it was reinforced as not “a fluke” when a male to female regeneration was shown on screen in a 12th Doctor episode (“Hell Bent”).

So now what? We know 13 is female, but we don’t get to meet her until Christmas (that’s when the regeneration is taking place – catch up with the end of this past season if you don’t know what I’m talking about). But what does that mean for the character and show? Hopefully, not much. The best female sci-fi characters of the past few years are written as if it doesn’t matter what gender they are. Look at the leads in Killjoys or Dark Matter, or a lot of other females on those shows – it seldom makes any difference that they’re “the fairer sex”. They talk and act and are treated as equals, so much so in most instances that you could pretty much swap out a man for the role and nothing would change.

That’s what I’m hoping for with a female Doctor. Sure, there will be characters who have known the Doctor in the past who will be surprised and some will treat her differently, at least at first. (We’re all waiting for the announcement that Jack Harkness is coming back because that’s the interaction we really want to see!) And, obviously, there may be scenarios where being female could make a difference (Victorian England, anyone?). But I think that viewers will get used to seeing a woman in the role pretty quickly and new showrunner Chris Chibnall (who worked on Torchwood, another show with fantastic female characters) knows he has his work cut out for him to win over the doubters. I for one have faith in the Doctor Who writers’ abilities to make sure this momentous regeneration, ultimately, won’t matter very much.

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