Note in 2018: I need to go back and edit this a fair bit, because it’s a bit messy in a couple of places – I can’t imagine that’ll be much of a problem though, since this isn’t exactly the most vital and up to date piece these days anyway.
I am becoming more and more involved in… “heated debates”, we shall say, about the prospect of a female Doctor. My own thoughts on the matter are here and here, but a quick tl;dr is, essentially, that I think it’d be a pretty good idea. (I even made a trailer!) As a result of this, I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with the number of people who will just completely dismiss this idea, because they think it’s just a “PR stunt”, or it’s to “appeal to SJWs”. (I got a clarification on that one: SJWs are people “who insists on forcing diversity everywhere, even where it’s not needed”, as if diversity is somehow a bad thing.) I even got accused of being in a cult, actually, which made me laugh. Anyone who wants to join the cult is welcome to do so; I’ll try to make sure there’s biscuits.
So I figured it might be useful to have this. ‘Tis a list! The opinions of all the myriad Doctor Who cast and crew members who have, at some stage or another, advocated or been accepting of a female Doctor. (I have stretched the definition of cast and crew somewhat.) Obviously their opinions aren’t in any way more or less valid than those of the viewers, but they do go a fair way to dismiss the suggestion that the idea of a female Doctor is something that only five tumblr bloggers want. Hopefully this will be useful to a variety of people in a variety of situations.
[It is worth pointing out, of course, that biased though I may be, there are a great number of entirely reasonable people who aren’t a fan of this idea. For every piece of abuse lobbed in my direction, I’ve had an entirely civil and pleasant debate with someone who didn’t share my views. Whilst I’ve never been convinced by any of the arguments I’ve come across, I wouldn’t want to lump everyone who disagrees into one homogenous group!]
In the interests of fairness, I’ll include a short list at the end of cast and crew members who don’t support the idea. They are the minority. If I haven’t mentioned someone, then assume that I simply haven’t been able to source any quotes from them. Please do reblog this list with additions, if I’ve missed anything; people like Andrew Cartmel, Gareth Roberts, Chris Chibnall, and a sizable chunk of the companions, like Janet Fielding, all stood out as notable omissions to me. (If anyone on this list happens to see it and would rather not be included, they can ask to be removed)
Note: As of 2017, this list is now brilliantly out of date. The Chibnall comment above now seems almost portentous. In any case, though, I don’t anticipate updating this list further – the argument, at this stage, is essentially concluded.
I’ve been researching this for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve compiled a pretty comprehensive list, including both text and video interviews, with some pretty far reaching (even obscure) sources, and a grand total of 77 different individuals; I’d really appreciate it, then, if people would share this link around, so as many people as possible can see the post. I also look forward to being accused of having made these up, so please do follow the links included to see actual literal proof of these things. It’s probably worth checking them out anyway though, because they’re often very small quotes that are part of much larger, rather interesting, interviews. (If you’re on mobile: literally every quote has a link going back to the original source.)
And thus we begin with…
He does make a bit of a joke there (your mileage on how funny it is may vary) but the important thing is, of course, that Colin is for a female Doctor. Per 2017, vocally so.
“We need more equality among the sexes because it isn’t there yet. We don’t give women enough credit. Women can be heroic in science fiction and can be intelligent, complex characters, of course. [..] It’d be interesting and they should try it.”
Sylvester does appear to have changed his mind more recently though. (Note: Per 2017, he changed it back again. Go figure.)
This one is fairly well documented. He was quite a fan of the idea of Tilda Swinton playing the role. McGann has been a proponent of this idea for a long time – here’s another quote from him from back in 2003.
“Why not? It’s one of those parts that any actor could bring something valid to, because it can be anything and it’s a sort of blank canvas every time.The fact is that the difference is a virtue with each Doctor. […] It can be anything.”
To the best of my knowledge, Hartnell, Pertwee and Eccleston have never commented on the possibility of a female Doctor, but I’ll edit the post if anyone can source quotes.
“What would be so wrong with having a woman in the role? It’s already an alien who changes shape and has a brain we can’t really understand. Just as long as she still acts like the Doctor.”
The book referenced can be purchased here. (Note: Per 2017, Purves has apparently gone back on this opinion, though this is not from a reputable source.)
“The role of the companion has developed over the years; I don’t think young people today are prepared to accept that women are doormats. It would be great to have a female Doctor. The Queen or Helen Mirren would be good, or Joanna Lumley could bring a bit of Patsy to it. Patsy meets Doctor Who: yes!”
“I don’t think there’s a good reason the Doctor can’t be a woman. I don’t think we should fixate on it, either. We shouldn’t cast someone just to have a woman Doctor or a black Doctor or an Asian Doctor. If it works well dramatically and it’s the right person, then, yes, why not cast that person? If it’s a woman that time, cast a woman.”
“The Doctor has come a long way over the years, and I think it would be an easy change, as far as the storyline goes, to see him regenerated into a female body. Everybody I know disagrees with me, but I can see a female Doctor being really cool.”
“I think that maybe they should go out on a limb next time and try it. That always stirs things up a little bit and makes things exciting and it’s nice to see different things and challenges happen like that.”
“The companions today are there to challenge the Doctor, to contribute. They are intelligent, gutsy, strong, positive role models. Do I think there is room to change further? Yes. I’d love to see the Doctor be a woman one day, or a different ethnicity. It’s one of the major strengths of the show. The Doctor can be anything”.
“I’m open to the Doctor being a woman…but also PETER CAPALDI! C’MON! That’s great!”
“….female Doctor…Wumni Mosaku, Nina Sosanya, Jocelyn Jee Esien, Gina Yashere – would be my choices.”
“I think [Capaldi]’s a great choice! I would’ve preferred a woman though… I got really annoyed at lots of my friends in the Doctor Who fandom, I’d no idea they’d react so conservatively and negatively to [the idea of a female Doctor]. They seemed to think it was okay to say an awful lot of s***.”
“And I have absolutely no objection to it being a woman. I think it would be brilliant to have a female Doctor one day. But it should be just because the right person comes along, not because anyone thinks, ‘Oh, we’ve got to do it. I’ve got to tick this box.’ That’s desperate. You should do it because someone walks in, you just go ‘Gosh you’d be amazing.’”
Also worth pointing out: Moffat has demonstrably done more than anyone to set up and make the idea of a female Doctor acceptable. Potential issues with Moffat’s writing of female characters aside (because that is not a discussion I am really prepared for) he should be given due credit for having made these steps.
Just for fun, though, here’s another Moffat quote, from back in 1998:
“Well, it has been proposed many times that the Doctor could gender swap, and I think maybe they should have done it in the series.”
“[Casting a female Doctor] would absolutely be on my list of things to do in the following regeneration. (I was the one who wrote the line about the Corsair changing gender on regeneration, in “The Doctor’s Wife” after all, and made it canon that Time Lords can absolutely change gender when they regenerate.)”
Sarah Dollard (Writer of an upcoming Series 9 episode)
[Source added 4/10/15. Wonderfully succinct, isn’t it? Dollard has also suggested Anna Chancellor and Tilda Swinton as being good candidates for the role.]
(It is possible that I’ve misunderstood what Miles is getting at, but the basic meaning I’ve taken from this is that he is okay with the idea of a female Doctor. If anyone has any other quotes that suggest otherwise, or prove this better, please let me know)
“Only, in order to distinguish ourselves from a certain series of fan audios being produced in the Southampton area, we decided that we were going to have a very special sort of Doctor. A female Doctor.”
Notably, other DWM staff, such as current assistant editor Peter Ware (fun fact: his sister used to be my optician) worked with Barnes on this female Doctor project, so that’s another one to add to the list.
“I’d be perfectly happy with a female Doctor. Asking *should* the next Doctor be female is a different question, though. Of course opening out such an iconic character to women is great from a feminist point of view. I’m also trying to look at it as a mother of two boys, though. I think it’s extremely important to have a male role model who isn’t all about guns and machismo. Would the same messages come through if a woman was in the role? I’ve no idea. My children loved Sarah Jane, so I hope it would be the case. But I’d like to have a psychologist’s opinion before I came down on one side or the other!”
“It seems so obvious to me that the Doctor might one day turn into a woman that I was surprised to discover the depth of feeling against the idea.”
This quote was from Doctor Who Magazine issue 463, however McCormack does talk more about a female Doctor here.
[When asked who she would like to see as the Twelfth Doctor] “I would have liked Ben Whishaw, Idris Elba, Sue Perkins or Ben Miller. If it is Peter Capaldi I will be utterly rejoicing, as he is a distant cousin of mine (compare the noses).”
Producers (and similar)
“At a later stage Doctor Who should be metamorphosed into a woman. This requires some considerable thought – mainly because I want to avoid a flashy, Hollywood Wonder Women because this kind of heroine with no flaws is a bore.”
“Just thinking about a female doctor takes my breath away. I would love it! However, I’m not entirely sure the world is ready for that. Let’s see what happens to the one we’ve got. 🙂 Speculation was never my strong suit.”
Charlotte Moore (BBC One Controller, 2015)
“Peter Capaldi is a fantastic Doctor, and he’s broken the mould. But I’d never put a bar on that. The great thing about Doctor Who is that anything is possible.”
[Source added 29/9/15, courtesy of whovianfeminism.]
“If I were involved in the casting of the next Doctor, I’d suggest at the first meeting ‘let’s brainstorm with the constraint of ‘no white men’ and see what list we get, and then we can start considering white men in comparison with our favorites from that list.’”
“A female doctor would have to be led by the plot rather than tokenism or novelty. If you come up with a good storyline, that’s a good reason to do it. But ‘Why not?’ isn’t really enough in itself. The very important thing with the Doctor is that you are trying to convince the audience that it is, literally, the same person each time. You want to have someone who’s a bit different, but not so radically different. I’m not saying it couldn’t work but you’re making it tougher for the audience.”
“I would have said yes, I’d have loved to have played Doctor Who.”
“I think they need to re-examine his surname – ‘Who’ is very oriental. It’s about time they had an Asian actor as the Doctor. And a female one.”
Meg from Northamptonshire (Fan)
Rachel Wallace (Whovian, 6th Doctor cosplayer)
And, as I said, those against:
We have Peter Davison, Toby Whithouse, Terrance Dicks, Michelle Gomez (for now), Katy Manning, Sophie Aldred, Deborah Watling, Billie Piper, Ian Levine (predictably), Ben Cook (as far as I understand), Nick Briggs (note that this was over ten years ago; his views are likely to have changed by now), novelist AL Kennedy, Telos publisher David Howse, writer Mark Campbell, and, indeed, quite a few aggressive “fans” on internet messageboards.
Note: Since then, Ben Cook, Katy Manning, Sophie Aldred, Michelle Gomez and Billie Piper have all chnged their minds, and are in favour of it. The same could well be true of some of the others listed (although not, obviously, Terrance Dicks or Ian Levine).
It’s worth presenting Russell T Davies slightly separately though. He’s said here that he thinks that various female actresses could do a good job, and that whilst children would accept it, the potential backlash would mean that it was unlikely to ever happen. This was, I imagine, coming from the level of backlash he got from Queer as Folk, and all the ‘gay agenda’ nonsense that’s hurled his way because of it. It should, however, be remembered that RTD has always been committed to increasing diversity in the television he makes, and the landscape of media now is a different place to when he made the original comment; I think 2015 RTD would be more supportive of the idea than 2008 RTD was.
Note: Per 2017, RTD is a firm supporter of the idea.
In any case, though, that concludes this little list. Sure, some of the links I made were a little tenuous, but with such a breadth of people supporting the idea of a female Doctor, I don’t think it really matters whether you can pick out a couple that might not count. (By the way, to save you the effort of counting, it’s 63 against 14.) Once again, if anyone can provide me with more accounts, I’ll edit them in. That goes both for people who are for or against a female Doctor; biased though I may be, never let it be said that I am unfair.
To those of you who’ve linked to this article, in the hopes of demonstrating your point: I hope it’s proved useful, and that you’ll share it with others, so that they can find it useful too.
To those who had this article sent to them, because they were arguing against a female Doctor: why so? I am curious to hear your proposition, and I’m particularly hopeful that it might be one I haven’t heard before. I doubt it, though. (If you see this and feel the need to send hate mail, please do send it to me directly, rather than anyone who’s happened to reblog the list, or indeed is on the list. Thanks. Your consideration in the matter of hate mail is appreciated.)
As a closing note, I remind you all of the words of the Doctor himself: “Life depends upon change and renewal”.
Something to think about, isn’t it?
With thanks to every website sourced, without whom this level of detail would have been impossible. Doctor Who archivists are a wonderful breed! I’d also like to give a shoutout to /u/Cleops from reddit, who gave me some wonderful help with resources whilst I was compiling this post.