Should We Switch to a Female Doctor Who? The PodKast Decides…

David Tennant in drag

We’re in contentious territory this week as Doctor Who fans Christian Cawley, Brian Terranova and James McLean try to run the rule over the ongoing “should there be a female Doctor Who” debate.

Yes. We know.

Additionally, there is talk of steampunk in Doctor Who and how it pre-dates the TV Movie, and also a chat about the recent alleged episode synopses for Series 8.

As always, we’ve got some recommendations for you too.

You’ll find everything you need to accompany this week’s podKast in the shownotes below, so if you’re ready, hit play!


This week’s closing theme is the infamous “Delaware” arrangement of Ron Grainer’s Doctor Who tune, by Delia Derbyshire. We like rubber bands.

9 thoughts on “Should We Switch to a Female Doctor Who? The PodKast Decides…

  1. So rare to hear a podcast give a really serious discussion of the female Doctor issue. And even rarer to hear three guys come out against the idea without hedging it with umpteen caveats to fend off accusations of sexism.

    James hits the Zarbi right on the camera over the strong woman issue. Writers (and espesh British and espesh DW writers) seem to have a shorthand for writing strong female characters which is to write them as men with breasts. The only way they can conceive of their being strong is to give them stereotyped characteristics of male strength. So they put a gun in their hands. They have them jumping someone else on their wedding night. They have them taking their spouses (spice?) for granted while they moon over some fantasy shag. They turn Eve Myles into a Phil Mitchell manqué in Miracle Day.

    What’s missing are strongly-written female characters, not women who are written as strong. They can have all the weaknesses and neuroses in the world so long as they’re interesting.
    If they give us a female Doctor, I can see one of two things happening – either they’ll write the Doctor exactly as they’d write a man (in which case why have him be a woman?) or they’d change the Doctor’s character/personality completely (in which case, why not create an entirely new character/person?). If you’re not going to write a female Doctor as a man, you’re going to have to get rid of most of the essential character which has pertained since Troughton – that simultaneous serious authority and schoolboy childishness which is peculiarly male. If you don’t like that character, why are you watching the show in the first place?
    The only way a female Doctor could ever work is to first have a culture of female writers, directors, producers and showrunners. Otherwise a female Doctor is always going to be written as a man’s idea of a woman.

    The younger/older Master question is really just another example of the specious nonsense RTD and Moffat have come out with at times to give a façade of deep meaning and thoughtful design to what are in reality just unavoidable or whimsical decisions. I bet that RTD either just preferred John Simm or just couldn’t get Derek Jacobi long term. But he had to come out with silly talk about the Master having to be young if he was to mirror a young Doctor. It’s O’ Level Film Studies stuff really. Oooh you must have X or the audience won’t be able to Y. That’s only true if you don’t question it. The companion must be young for the kids to identify with her (so why bring on Donna?). The companion must be from contemporary Earth so she can ask the questions for the audience (so why were the 2 Romanas a success?). Of course, a mirror image of the Doctor is not a copy, it’s a reversal so old vs young wouldn’t have been a problem for mirroring at all.

    Charles Dance would be an amazing Master. And that ought to be the only qualification for the role.

    It was also a rare treat to hear someone accepting (but not until you’d gone round the houses) what seems obvious – that River was joking with the brakes issue. But then I’ve heard a lot of people conclude from the “it’s a pity you were busy that day” line that there was some as yet unrevealed person who taught River to fly the TARDIS because it clearly cannot have been the Doctor. Ah, the great contradiction of Doctor Who fandom – a group of people brought up on this show of all shows grows up to have no grasp of irony.

    1. Debate by its nature is academic. Social, political, pop culture. Same application of analytical skills taking the same amount of time or effort. No one says “get a life” when debating European diversity, even though for 99% of people doing so, their arguments at best are back-seat commentating. Same here.
      The question of a female Doctor is a fascinating one as it reflects social trends and mindsets within social media and society. Will it bring about world peace? Nope. Will it change anything? Nope. It’s conversation for the sake of it, which is what 99% of conversation is all about.

  2. I ended a debate re a female Doctor by presenting a montage of images called the Five Romanas. The images were: Mary Tamm, Lalla Ward, silent film icon Louise Brooks (as Romana III in the novels was based on her), Juliet Landau (the new Big Finish Romana), and Ron Jeremy as a potential future Time Lady. Doesn’t work, now, does it.

    1. Very true. I think there is a definite need for strong female characters on television, far more than we have right now, particularly in popular mediums, away from the irrational, spunky, intuitive beasts we often get. I still find Amy trapping the Doctor’s tie in a door so he can explain to her what’s going prior to the potential destruction of the world one of the crowning horrors of female writing. Would a male character be written to do that? No. Male characters are rationale, perhaps a little confused, or meek, but never irrational and emotional like that.

      We need strong characterisation of women as people, more than a gender. We get that from studied and thought-out writing, not gender substitution. I’d point to Laura Roslin in Battlestar Galactica, DSI Stella Gibson in The Fall, Catherine Black in Millennium and of course, Barbara Wright in Doctor Who, as good examples of strong characters who are female, rather than imbued with “female traits”.

  3. Given the extent to which the Doctor has already been emasculated in 21st century Who, I suppose cutting his balls off literally seems the next step…


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