Peter Davison is wrong about a female Doctor Who, but he’s not being sexist – so stop saying he is

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Davison said “if I feel any doubts about it, it’s the loss of a role model for boys, who I think Doctor Who is vitally important for”; in the past, he’s said that he thinks a female Doctor with a male companion might mean “you’ve got more of a stereotype than anything else”. Essentially, Davison considers the Doctor a good example of a non-traditional, non-stereotypical male role model. 

The character is, broadly speaking, counter to a lot of the facets of toxic masculinity and patriarchy; he’s openly emotional, driven by curiosity, intellectual rather than violent. Referring to, say, the various male superheroes of cinema – all of whom, when you break it down, solve their problems with their fists – is rather missing the point a bit. It’s perhaps the only coherent and cogent argument against a female Doctor that isn’t actually a sexist one – one that can be argued from a feminist perspective.

Yeah, this was a difficult one, in hindsight. Especially that title – it’s much too confrontational. Should be something closer to “wait, hang on, slow down”, but I was rather cynically trying to play to multiple crowds at once, getting clicks and shares from both pro and anti-female Doctor crowds. And, I suppose, both pro and anti-sexism crowds. It’s less than ideal, but hey, I don’t get paid a lot for these if they don’t hit 10 000 views. (Actually, that said, I’m almost certain I pitched the more tentative “he’s not necessarily being sexist”, but still.)

Anyway, so. Basically, as I’m sure some will remember, a few different newspapers took a quote Peter Davison gave out of context, and essentially tried to paint him as an out-of-touch old guy in an attempt to get a few extra clicks. This apparently went exceedingly well, because lots of people felt the need to jump in and explain how wrong he was, etc etc. Eventually he left twitter because it got so out of control.

Now, far be it from me to think he needed defending as such – though again I suspect there was a slightly cynical attempt to, I don’t know, befriend him or something going on on some levels of my thinking – but I do find his actual objection to a female Doctor, on the basis of a male role model thing, actually quite interesting. At least, that was how I interpreted it; I was almost certain I’d seen a quote to that effect from him making it more explicit, but I couldn’t place it in the end. Which was a nuisance.

Anyway, though, yeah. So this was just an article basically to the effect of, you know, back off a bit, he said he thinks it’s a good idea, but expressed a brief caveat. (Which I suspect he wouldn’t have bothered with if he realised this would grow beyond a quiet convention interview.) In the grand scheme of things, there are probably quite a few other things to critique.

(Though it would be a pretty fair accusation to level at me that there are definitely other more important things to defend, and I’d accept that.)

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In anticipation of the Thirteenth Doctor

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So!

It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for. Or is about to be prepared for.

When Peter Capaldi announced he was leaving, I wrote this article for Metro suggesting some possible replacements. Eventually, a new frontrunner became apparent – Kris Marshall. I have to admit, I wouldn’t be a fan, and I’m hoping he doesn’t take the role. My preference, broadly speaking, would be a female Doctor – I’ve collected together everything I’ve written about it here.

As to who I’d like specifically? Well, there’s always something to be said for unknowns (they pretty much all have been so far, to me at least). But outside of that? Well, I’ve been an advocate of Natalie Dormer for years now – it was thinking about her in the role that made me realise how much I’d like to see a female Doctor – but in recent months I’ve been coming around to Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

I do, admittedly, take a little bit of hipster pride in that – I first watched Fleabag in December, before Capaldi announced he was leaving, and immediately knew that Phoebe Waller-Bridge would be perfect for the role. I reckon, actually, with that Metro article above I was probably the first to publically suggest her for the role, so I feel vindicated that everyone else agreed with me so wholeheartedly. I’m still clinging to the vain hope she might still take on the role, though in my heart of hearts I know that’s still a little unlikely. Just a little.

The new last-minute favourite is Jodie Whittaker, who I’d also love – and have been wondering about for the past few months, suspecting that everyone had overlooked her when suggesting the other star of Broadchurch for the role. Whittaker, again, would be a great choice; I’ve always thought she was the real star of Boradchurch, really.

I don’t want it to be a man, particularly. Obviously! If it was, I think my preference would be Sacha Dhawan. If it is going to be another white man – and, unfortunately, I do rather suspect it is – then I’d hope it’s someone that I haven’t heard of. (And then it’s a fakeout! He’s the new companion! They’re preserving the surprise, for when Capaldi regenerates into Phoebe at Christmas!) There’s always something exciting about an unknown.

Indeed, there’s something exciting about this all, really. A whole new era. Once more unto the breach. Here we go again. Sontarans perverting the course of human history. I really, genuinely can’t wait, even where I have little worries and misgivings.

But of course, a necessary word on Capaldi. When he was first cast, for days and weeks afterwards I’d occasionally just say “Peter Capaldi” and grin, I was so excited. He lived up to the promise and more; he’s my favourite Doctor. The Doctor. And he deserves a lot of thanks for that.

I’m watching the tennis now. Any moment, we’ll know.

See you on the other side!

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