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

doctor who thirteenth doctor reveal key trailer jodie whittaker chris chibnall

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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Regarding a Female Doctor Who

doctor who female doctor who silhouette thirteenth doctor jodie whittaker argument for against chibnall moffat

Here, I’ve collected together everything I’ve written about the possibility of a female Doctor. 

Some Thoughts on a Female Doctor

It shouldn’t be a case of opening the auditions to men and women, and then casting the best of them. The BBC production office should actively look for and cast a female Doctor. The Thirteenth Doctor should be explicitly female from the genesis of her character, right the way to the casting, the announcement, the writing, and the broadcast. She should be created with a specific gender in mind. 

First, though, we should sort of dispense with the main arguments against having a female Doctor, rebutting them and just generally getting them out of the way.

Some More Thoughts on a Female Doctor

Doctor Who is always at its best when it’s doing something new. The key appeal of the program is the breadth of the narrative; when Doctor Who fully realises the concept of “anywhere in time and space, anything that ever happened or ever will”, that is when it really sings. Innovation has always been the biggest achievement of the show. 

And a female Doctor is the next logical step. It’s the next thing that the BBC can do to open up new possibilities, bring new potential and create new stories.

Doctor Who Trailer – Natalie Dormer IS the Doctor!

When Peter Capaldi eventually decides the time has come to regenerate, the BBC production office should actively look for and cast a female Doctor – specifically, Natalie Dormer. This speculative fan-trailer imagines what her first series might look like…

The Female Doctor Masterlist

A comprehensive list of all the Doctor Who cast and crew members (and a few associated others) who advocate a female Doctor.

Arguing the point against an anon ask

A female doctor wouldn’t ruin the dynamic of the show, or the dynamic between companions – it’d change it.

With Peter Capaldi leaving, now more than ever it’s time for a female Doctor

Change is inherent to Doctor Who – after all, to quote the Doctor, ‘life depends upon change and renewal’. When your new idea has become your old idea, it’s time to get rid of it.

Does the Doctor need to be a male role model?

There’s only really one argument that is, if not convincing, worthy of some genuine contemplation: that the Doctor should be preserved as a male role model, being one of the most prominent fictional heroes who isn’t reliant on violence and aggression, but instead is a template for teaching curiosity and compassion to children. However…

Because it might, hopefully, prove to be quite relevant tomorrow, here’s a collation of everything I’ve written about a female Doctor Who. Not long to go until we find out! I’m quite excited actually.

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Does the Doctor have to be a male role model?

doctor who male role model female doctor thirteenth doctor fourth doctor cosplay jacklyn black

There’s only really one argument that is, if not convincing, worthy of some genuine contemplation: that the Doctor should be preserved as a male role model, being one of the most prominent fictional heroes who isn’t reliant on violence and aggression, but instead is a template for teaching curiosity and compassion to children.

It’s an understandable stance to take; obviously, children’s media is important, and it’s important to have role models in that media. There is something important in having a character who subverts more traditional norms of masculinity – a character who uses his brain rather than his fists. The argument goes that the Doctor is largely unique in this regard, and in turn that’s why the character should continue to be depicted as a man – because he’s the only man in fiction who is like that.

And yet…

I am, of course, still going on about the possibility of a female Doctor. I fear I’m really setting myself up for disappointment when it ends up being… well, Kris Marshall! (I hope not.)

However, this idea of the Doctor as a male role model is the only argument that’s ever given me pause in my otherwise unrelenting viewpoint. So, I wrote an article about it!

(A year-ish later, and I have genuinely no idea what I concluded about. Well, I know what I concluded, just not how or why. Don’t suppose it matters much now exactly, though it might be interesting to see what anecdotal accounts spring up during the actual series itself.)

Oh, and the cosplayer above is Jacklyn Black, who is seemingly never credited whenever this very cool picture is used, so I figure I should make the effort to acknowledge her.

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Could Game of Thrones star Natalie Dormer be the next Doctor Who?

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A hugely talented actress, Natalie Dormer would be a perfect choice to play the first female Doctor.

She hasn’t ruled out the part, either; when asked, she said she “would do any role if I thought the script was fantastic. For me it’s always about the script. It has to be real human beings, contradictory, flawed, complex multidimensional characters. It can’t just be concept.”

The first female Doctor offers a chance for an entirely fresh perspective on an age-old story; every aspect of the show that has, up until now, felt so familiar will change entirely – giving the show a whole new unpredictable energy once again.

It’s a change that offers untold potential – potential that Doctor Who has never tapped before. It’s an exciting prospect to say the least.

An article for CultBox, again banging the drum for one of my favourite candidates to be the Doctor.

The article is based on this video, which imagines Natalie Dormer as the Doctor. Very exciting.

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With Peter Capaldi leaving Doctor Who, it’s finally time for a female Doctor

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Bringing in a female Doctor would change the dynamic and open up a whole new field of storytelling potential. Every aspect of the show that has, up until now, felt so familiar will change entirely – giving the show a whole new unpredictable energy once again.

The fact is, one of the many reasons why there’s a call for a female Doctor is essentially for the same reason why people eventually begin to call for a new Doctor, or a new showrunner: Change offers potential.

It just so happens that this particular change is one that offers a huge amount of potential that Doctor Who has never tapped before – and that’s a really exciting prospect.

Once again, I’m writing about this topic, and continuing to bang the drum in support of a female Doctor. I am really, really hoping we get one this time around – in many ways, it really does feel like the best possible move for the show.

If anyone happens to have a way of putting Phoebe Waller-Bridge in contact with Chris Chibnall, that’d be great…

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These 10 actors would be perfect as the next Doctor Who

doctor who ten actors who could be the next doctor mathew baynton olivia colman zawe ashton phoebe waller bridge kyle soller

Peter Capaldi revealed last night that the upcoming 10th series of Doctor Who is set to be his last as the Time Lord. The Christmas 2017 special will see him hand over the TARDIS keys to a new actor, just in time for Chris Chibnall’s first series as showrunner. The 12th Doctor was a fantastic character that Capaldi really made his own. If he’d decided to stay on just a little bit longer, no one would have complained.

And yet, the time has come for a new actor to take on the role. People are already trying to guess who the next Doctor might be and making all sorts of suggestions as to who it should be. 

Here then, are 10 actors who could play the next incarnation of the famous Time Lord.

Here’s a list of ten people who could, perhaps, play the next Doctor. I was suitably aghast when I realised I’d chosen someone who should never play the Doctor, because the Doctor simply isn’t that type of person – but then, maybe it wouldn’t be so awful for an American to play the role? Hahaha. Anyway. My personal preference would be Phoebe Waller-Bridge, I think; previously I’ve said Natalie Dormer, but since watching Fleabag, Phoebe was my main choice.

In fact, I’m pretty much convinced that I was the first person to suggest her for the role on a big platform like this? While I doubt the subsequent storm was down to me, I do take a little hipster pride in it all.

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Some More Thoughts on a Female Doctor

doctor who female doctor who silhouette thirteenth doctor jodie whittaker argument for against chibnall moffat

Introducing a female Doctor isn’t really a new idea – I want to say that the earliest time it was brought up was at the end of Tom Baker’s tenure, but it’s entirely possible that it happened before then too. At one point in the 1980s, Sydney Newman (one of the creators of Doctor Who) made a serious pitch to the BBC, in which he advocated for a female Doctor: he wanted to move on from the “presently largely socially valueless, escapist schlock”, and create something that would “engage the concerns, fears and curiosity” of the audience, by having the Doctor “metamorphosed into a woman.” (He also said Patrick Troughton should come back for a couple of years first, but that’s beside the point.)

So, it’s been something that has been given serious thought at some stage. Moffat has, in the past year, said that eventually someone will cast a female Doctor, because the time will be right, and they’ll think of an actress who is worth pursuing in particular – but that it’d very much be a case of casting a person, rather than a gender.

What I’m saying is essentially what Sydney Newman said – the BBC should specifically look for a female Doctor. From conception to casting, the thirteenth Doctor should always and completely be explicitly female.

Doctor Who is always at its best when it’s doing something new. The key appeal of the program is the breadth of the narrative; when Doctor Who fully realises the concept of “anywhere in time and space, anything that ever happened or ever will”, that is when it really sings. Innovation has always been the biggest achievement of the show.

And a female Doctor is the next logical step. It’s the next thing that the BBC can do to open up new possibilities, bring new potential and create new stories.

It comes back to a Steven Moffat quote, actually – “when your new idea has become your old idea, it’s time to get a new idea.” The male Doctor has become an old idea. At this stage, it’s time for there to be a new idea – a female Doctor. (Or, at least, it’s an old idea, but it’s one that’s never been realised, so…)

Think, for a moment, about all the different actresses who could play the Doctor. Olivia Coleman. Lara Pulver. Tilda Swinton. Angel Coulby. Katie McGrath. Sophie Okonedo. Natalie Dormer – my own personal choice.

I would say there are very few fans who, if you asked them, couldn’t think of an actress who’d do an amazing job as the Doctor. One who’d be just as good as Matt Smith, David Tennant, or Peter Capaldi. One who’d be just as good as Benedict Cumberbatch, Hugh Laurie, or Alexander Siddig.

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Surely the fact that so many of these fantastic actresses could play the part, and that plenty are willing to do so, is a compelling reason to actually cast one of them? The idea of casting a person rather than a gender is a perfectly fine one – but the fact is that, at the minute, the thinking process is inevitably skewed male. They are, if you like, thinking inside the box. Peter Capaldi was the only person who was auditioned for the role, because they thought he was perfect for it; the thinking leans towards a man. (Not a slight towards Peter Capaldi, of course, he’s excellent.)

Now, okay, I say it’d be new, and at this point, you’re perhaps asking why, or it what way. (Apart from the obvious, that is)

The female Doctor presents a variety of different stories and approaches that you wouldn’t have got with a male Doctor, because it changes the dynamic, and it changes the way in which other characters are going to relate to the Doctor. It’s a new place to take the character – after 50 years now, with a fairly broad character arc, this change offers new choices about where to take the character next.

And that’s key – it is a set of choices. There is no one specific way to do this. Maybe you’d want to tell a story about how someone feels when adjusting to a new gender – the transition between regenerations, and the impact of it, isn’t always focused on for very long, and perhaps this is an opportunity to do so. Or maybe you’d not make such a big deal out of it; concepts of gender could be very different for the Doctor, and it could be as simple as dialogue “This isn’t that different. After all, I’m not sure I ever was a man, exactly.” (I adapted that from an EDA, so there’s a precedent, at least)

I was reading a Doctor Who book once – I forget what it was, probably a guidebook of some sort – and it was talking about the younger Doctors, Davison and Smith, and how they experienced something of a culture shock after their regeneration; because they appeared much younger outwardly, people wouldn’t initially give them much respect, and it’d be harder for them to command authority initially. Obviously by the end of the episode, when they’ve saved everyone’s lives, it’s a little different, but I liked the idea that the Doctor has to adjust to the fact that people’s perceptions of them are different, so they perhaps can’t get they want quite as easily anymore.

Personally, I think that could potentially be an interesting idea to explore with a female Doctor. It could be hard to get right, I suppose, but I think it’s necessary to explore the fact that she would, at some stage, be on the receiving end of sexism. It fits quite well with Doctor Who though – if one of the big themes of the show has always been standing up to oppressors and to bullies and to people who are in the wrong, then misogyny and the patriarchy are logical things to address.

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But, you know, that’s just something I’d find interesting. There’s any number of interesting approaches you could make, and I think it’s something that would really improve and revitalise the show. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that you’d actually increase viewing things by a fair amount, if done right.

The first episode of any new Doctor always attracts a larger audience, because you get more of the casual viewers and general public who are curious to see how it goes. This would apply even more so with a female Doctor, I imagine, because the curiosity would be even greater. I don’t even think you’d alienate that many people, to be honest – everyone is going to be curious enough to watch at least the first episode. Even the massive nerds who threaten to quit the show won’t, because they want the chance to bitch about it online.

If that first episode was successful enough, I think there’s a chance to capture the attention of a lot of people who are more casual viewers, and get them to watch the show again each week. It’d require careful thought – you’d want something more in the vein of The Eleventh Hour rather than The Christmas Invasion. Perhaps it’d be worth showing the first two episodes as a double bill? Debateable really.

In any case, I think we can all say with complete certainty that there will be a female Doctor one day soon. Personally, my hope is that when Peter Capaldi eventually hands over the keys to the TARDIS, the incumbent Time Lord will be played by Natalie Dormer.

Related:

On the subject of a female Doctor Who

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Some Thoughts on a Female Doctor

doctor who female doctor who silhouette thirteenth doctor jodie whittaker argument for against chibnall moffat

So, what with Michelle Gomez being cast as the first female Master (and doing pretty amazingly) it got me thinking about a female Doctor.

Now, in the past, I was pretty set against it. The reasons varied with time (as a stupid 8-year-old, I was making comments about “Nurse Who”, and as a stupid 14-year-old it was “weird fanfiction”) but essentially, I didn’t really like the idea of a change. I became a lot more receptive to the idea over time, and up until recently basically thought, “the audition pool should encompass men and women, and then whoever is the best can get the job”.

But over the past few days, I’ve changed my mind. It shouldn’t be a case of opening the auditions to men and women, and then casting the best of them. The BBC production office should actively look for and cast a female Doctor. The Thirteenth Doctor should be explicitly female from the genesis of her character, right the way to the casting, the announcement, the writing, and the broadcast. She should be created with a specific gender in mind.

Now, I assume a fair few people have just pulled disgusted faces, and are ready to blacklist me from the internet, destroy their computers, and possibly become a reclusive hermit. (Though I imagine most of my fans are already reclusive hermits.)

Hear me out though, because I reckon this is a really good idea.

I mean first, we should sort of dispense with the main arguments against having a female Doctor, rebutting them and just generally getting them out of the way, before I explain why this is THE BEST IDEA EVER. (If you can’t tell, I’m actually quite excited by this.)

Obviously, there’s a lot of nonsense out there. A surprising number of Doctor Who fans are actually sadly quite petty and misogynistic – they’re also amongst the most vocal, naturally. You end up hearing all sorts of nonsense about how this would ruin the show, it’s an unnecessary change, blah blah blah. This article does a far better, and far funnier, job of dealing with those people than I ever could, so here’s a link to it. Some things, though, are repeated quite often, which seems to give them a degree of legitimacy, as if they’re actually genuine solutions.

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Often, you get things like “Oh, there should be a spin-off with Romana/River Song/A new Time Lady instead”, because people tend to think that meets the same requirements that a female Doctor would. And whilst it does solve some of the issues – it’d be a program with a female lead, which is good in terms of diversity – it doesn’t actually solve all of them. It’s something I spoke about a bit last year, with regards to Idris Elba playing James Bond, rather than 009:

James Bond as a character – as an idea – means more than a brand new double-oh-nine character. 009, as played by Idris Elba, could be really cool, but he could never be Bond. And Bond will always take priority. Because Bond means more – because Bond has the history, and the cultural weight – James Bond will have a greater impact. Whereas 009 would be forgotten, Bond would not.

The same is true of the Doctor. If you cast a female Doctor, that is a far greater positive step for representation and diversity than something which would essentially be – not quite dismissed as, but limited to – “just another Doctor Who spin-off”. A female Doctor is a headline. A spin-off is a footnote. Whether that is ‘right’ or not is certainly debatable, but that’s how it would be. The ramifications and impact of a female Doctor would be far greater than that of another spin-off.

The idea of the impact, then, leads relatively neatly onto the next point, which is one of role models. It’s the idea that, essentially, by having a female Doctor, you lose a positive male role model – someone who doesn’t represent stereotypical masculinity, someone solves problems through wit and intellect rather than fighting and violence, and so on and so forth.

That particular argument is a bit of a tricky one, because it does approach a sensible point. It doesn’t, of course, address the question of why boys can’t still look up to a female role model, or suggest the place of a male companion – someone who can just as easily fulfil the role of someone who isn’t typically masculine – or even talk about other positive male role models. Real world examples, like father, uncles, brothers, cousins, friends, teachers, or fictional ones, like Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Spock, and so on and so forth.

So, actually, I don’t think this one is that important. It just seems to approach a sensible point, but by not taking into account quite a few other, very important, factors, it doesn’t quite hold much sway.

doctor who russell t davies female doctor tardis arguments for against new episodes series 9 two parter steven moffat chris chibnall

Those two arguments are, really, the only main ones that are bandied around with much traction; most other things can be dismissed with relative ease. The only other ones that remain are worth mentioning because of who proposed them – Peter Davison and Russell T Davies, who are notable for being amongst the few people associated with Doctor Who that weren’t immediately positive about the idea.

Peter Davison stated that, essentially, he believed that a female Doctor would change the relationship between Doctor and companion – or at least, the way in which we saw it. Because the companion, nowadays, often acts as a conscience for the Doctor, having a female Doctor take instruction from and defer to a male companion might create stereotypes, and not actually be as progressive as one might want. And whilst it is actually a legitimate concern – because yes, you’d need to be careful about the ways in which you approach writing the new dynamic – it’s actually quite easily fixed, simply with careful and considered writing. (Or, a female companion AND a female Doctor.)

Russell T Davies, on the other hand, said he thought it was unlikely to ever happen, because he thought the BBC wouldn’t be able to deal with the associated outrage, and cited things like fathers not wanting to explain sex changes to their children. That’s probably quite a considered viewpoint, given Davies’ own experience with the “gay agenda” media nonsense, so it’s fair to say he knew what he was talking about. But it’s also important to remember that he said this nearly ten years ago – back in 2008. Nowadays, the approach to such things is a little different. You’ve got Caitlyn Jenner in the news, Michelle Gomez as the Master was quite well received, and Davies himself is going to great lengths to ensure greater representation in his own programs, such as casting a trans actress in a trans role on Banana. (Which was great, by the way, everyone should watch Cucumber and Banana.) I think that, when it comes down to it, this particular problem isn’t so much of an issue anymore.

That, essentially, is it. There are no real good arguments against a female Doctor – or at least, none that I’ve ever come across. In the second part of this post, which I’ll upload tomorrow, I’ll discuss the numerous reasons for a female Doctor, and why it really is such a good idea.

Related:

On the subject of a female Doctor Who

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Ooh, I just had a thought.

When we eventually get a female Doctor, there could be quite a nice scene early on in their run…

ALIEN: And what’s your name?

DOCTOR: Oh, John Smith.

ALIEN: John?

DOCTOR: Did I say John? Joanna, I meant Joanna. John, short for Joanna. Without the “an” and the “a” parts, obviously. It’s a family thing you see, John and Joanna… Yes. Joanna Smith, that’s me.

It’d just be a nice way to show the Doctor adjusting to the change. (Assuming that’s the way they want to go with it, of course, that’s hardly necessary.)

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