Joanna Lumley plays a female Doctor in the classic spoof Doctor Who and the Curse of the Fatal Death, but if Doctor Who's creator had gotten his way, she might have taken on the role for real, replacing Colin Baker.
When Doctor Who was struggling in the mid-1980s, during the infamous Colin Baker era, the BBC's Michael Grade approached the show's original creator, Sydney Newman, for advice on how to rescue the show from its doldrums. (Newman called mid-1980s Doctor Who "largely socially valueless, escapist schlock," a judgment it's hard to disagree with.) And in a newly uncovered letter, Newman told Grade that there was only one way to fix the show. He offered a two-stage plan:
1) Bring back Patrick Troughton, the former Doctor from the 1960s, temporarily, to help steady the TARDIS for a bit, and prepare the way for a more radical transformation. (The letter is dated Oct. 6, 1986, just about six months before Troughton's death.)
2) Have the Doctor later regenerate into a woman. Possible candidates included Frances de la Tour, Joanna Lumley and Dawn French. (Actually, I'm not sure if Newman suggested these actors, or this was just fan speculation.) And this new female Doctor should travel around accompanied by a trumpet-playing schoolgirl in John Lennon glasses, and her elder brother, a "yobbo" who sprays graffiti everywhere.
But he was concerned that a female Doctor shouldn't be too perfect. He wrote to Grade: "I want to avoid a flashy, Hollywood Wonder Women because this kind of heroine with no flaws is a bore. Given more time than I have now, I can create such a character." In return for his advice on how to fix the show, he wanted to be brought back as a kind of "Executive Director" to implement these ideas, and he wanted a permanent listing on the show's end credits. But Grade spurned Newman's advice, and instead turned Colin Baker's Doctor into Sylvester McCoy. [Telegraph]