After a few months of betting and speculating and hinting, we have a new Doctor.
It’s Peter Capaldi. To him, I say congratulations– it will change everything about his life. To the fandom, I say get ready– getting used to a new Doctor is always a bit of a bumpy ride. It’s like having your favorite food replaced by something that tastes exactly the same but looks completely different. You can’t wrap your head around it at first, but we’ll all get there in the end. I don’t know Capaldi’s work very well — apart from his turn in Fires of Pompeii and Torchwood: Children of Earth – so I’ll sit back and try to get excited and reserve criticism for when we finally see him onscreen.
No, my criticism isn’t for the choice of Peter Capaldi to play the Twelfth Doctor. My criticism is for who wasn’t even ever considered to play the Twelfth Doctor. Anyone who wasn’t a straight white cis dude.
This is a character who, every time he is mortally wounded, literally becomes a different person right in front of our eyes. He retains his knowledge and his memories, but gets a new face, new body, new personality, new preferences, new quirks– you name it. About every five years (if you leave out the dark years between the old and new show), the Doctor becomes a completely new person.
Therefore, there is nothing to suggest that the Doctor has to be a white man. Nothing at all. And if you needed any further proof, it’s been explicitly stated in canon that Time Lords can change sex (The Corsair) and race (River Song).
So, it’s been said in canon. There shouldn’t be a single naysayer now, right? Well, wrong. The Internet is full of them. And they all seem to ignore one fact. I don’t think that the choice of Capaldi (a white man) to play the Doctor is sexist. The Doctor doesn’t have to be a woman, but women should be considered for the Doctor.
And yet, there’s no evidence that a single woman was ever considered for the role. According to an interview with Moffat in The Radio Times, Capaldi was about the only actor ever seriously considered. Every news outlet and casting director would like to go on record saying that the always cast “the best actors for the role,” but can you really be looking at the best actors if you’re shutting the door on at least half of the reputable actors of Britain, either for their gender or skin color? The answer, of course, is no. You’re just practicing casual sexism. You’ve never seen a female or person of color play the Doctor, so it doesn’t even occur to you that there might be a problematic cycle to break.
I called it casual sexism– but maybe I was being generous. As if to top it all off, in the announcement on Sunday, broadcast simultaneously on live TV all over the world, Steven Moffat said this:
I like that Helen Mirren has been saying the next doctor should be a woman. I would like to go on record and say that the Queen should be played by a man.
I can only assume Moffat thought he was being funny, because otherwise I cannot conceive how anyone would think it’s OK to say such a thing. Because it’s not funny. It’s a condescending misogynist joke. To compare the Doctor to the Queen does not even begin to make sense in any kind of universe.
People keep encouraging me to dismiss what are obvious signs of Moffat’s sexism, namely the treatment of his female companions. Guess what? I can’t dismiss it. Nor can I ignore this obvious, blatant demonstration of his misogyny in casting.
I would love a female Doctor. Not just for the political correctness, not just for the representation, not just for the idea of seeing the Doctor as someone truly dynamic. I would like it because I feel it would add depth and breadth to the character. It would create better plots, more compelling personalities, and far less conventional stereotypes. It has such immense potential– to make the show better, to make it grow, to bring it to new heights at its 50th anniversary. Really, the idea that an alien from Gallifrey has, for 12 regenerations and 1200 years, been confined to the physical appearance of a white human male, is ridiculous. It was never necessary to begin with, and it still isn’t.
To those who say they don’t want a woman or non-white actor playing the role while Moffat is at the helm? I see your point. I agree with you on some days, and disagree with you on others. But we’ve got to take the risk sometime. And really, this is a discussion for another day.
I’m looking forward to Peter Capaldi. And for our Thirteenth Doctor, I’m still demanding a Time Lady.
Written by Laura Koroski
You can find more of her writings at her nerdy feminist blog, Challenge by Geek.