​Why people's problems with a female Doctor Who are wrong, wrong, wrong

Illustration for article titled ​Why people's problems with a female Doctor Who are wrong, wrong, wrong

Look, before we get started, let me assure you all that I know the character is called The Doctor, and not Doctor Who. But you can't just have an article headline, even on io9, that only mentions the Doctor, because many people won't realize you're referring to Doctor Who. The same is true in my time, but inevitably some Who-ligan will correct me. The show hasn't aired in 30 years, but these people feel it is super-fucking-important to make sure you know he's only called "The Doctor." It's like, we live in the post-apocalypse, people. Why don't we try to invent running water again before we stress about Doctor Who nomenclature.


By the way, this awesome cosplay in the pic above is by janey-jane. Check out more of her awesomeness over at her DeviantArt page.

Doctor's Orders

Fake Name:

Apocalyptic Postman,

I'm writing to you from late November 2013, at a time when the Doctor Who 50th anniversary celebration has just passed. Though I should be satisfied with the excellent productions cranked out in association with the program, particularly the centerpiece "Day of the Doctor," which only a curmudgeon could have found serious fault with.

Alas, despite the show's standing and worldwide popularity, I am filled with unease unto dread, plagued with the nagging vision of Doctor Who's impending apocalypse with every new regeneration since David Tennant's. At the heart of this vision is nearly-overwhelming fear: namely, the fear that someday the character of the Doctor will be played by a woman.

Now hear me out; this is no hyper-traditional, vaguely sexist off-the-cuff remark like the recent one by Peter Davison based on that's-the-way-it-always-has-been reasoning, I promise.

Here's my thought: Regardless of whether the producers of the show at that time have found *the* perfect choice for the first-ever female Doctor, regardless of her acceptance by fandom, regardless of how seamlessly this transition naturally flows from the plot line, the truth is the majority of mainstream viewership will simply see the move to a female Doctor as complete and utter jumping the shark. This would not be due to stupidity or some general lack of imagination, I believe, but rather because it would *look exactly like* complete and utter jumping of the shark.

In my vision, Helen Mirren or Olivia Colman or Billie Piper (gods help us) is revealed as the choice to play the Nth Doctor. Millions turn off (and turn off to) the program immediately upon the announcement. By the end of season one, episode one of the new Doctor's reign, lines otherwise thought merely pithy and/or throwaway will be found to be little more than cheap shots and/or evidence of the scriptwriter's lack of knowledge of women, thereby alienating another large portion of viewership. By the time this generation's Sylvester McCoy is called in a futile attempt to save a program universally judged as "camp" at best, the writing's on the wall. Soon, the program is exterminated more fully than any Dalek could have managed.

So tell me, please, Mr. Postman, in hopes that insomnia will not rule my nights when Peter Capaldi's contract is not reupped, tell us from your future vantage point: Will the Doctor someday be cast as a woman? And how much longer do we have after that?

Okay, first of all, I'm not using your real name as I suspect a few (thousand) people may (virulently) disagree with you. No need to let those people have your real name and Google-stalk you to tell you how wrong you are. Second, what?

I think your primary argument — which you have worded impressively poorly (which, hey, I have done on many an occasion, so my sympathies) — is that Doctor Who shouldn't have a female Doctor because 1) people won't like it, 2) the writers will use it as a platform for cheap jokes ("Now that's I'm a woman, maybe I should be called the Nurse!") and 3) the show will turn into camp.

Let's break this down.

1) People won't like it. Hey, I'm a pessimist, but even I think most people could handle a female Doctor. Sure, there will be fuddy-duddys like Peter Davison who feel otherwise, but I guarantee you he thinks every change to Doctor Who is a grievous error. Besides, this argument is based on your latter arguments — people are going to need reasons to dislike a female Doctor beyond just her having boobs, and I think your latter arguments are also incorrect.


2) The writers will make cheap jokes about it. This is plausible, but self-defeating. Lots of shows can't write decent female characters, but does that mean we should never feature shows with female characters? Obviously not. Likewise, we can't not have a female Doctor just because it might be shitty. And besides, I don't know that the current Doctor Who guys have given us any reason to believe they'll be any worse at writing female characters than anyone else. Amy Pond, River Song and Clara have all been pretty good. Sure, the show has other writing problems, but I've never considered the female characters to be one of them.

3) The show will turn into camp. Excuse me, have you seen Doctor Who before? The show with farting aliens, serial fez wearing, and "Fear Her"? Are you really telling me that a female Doctor is somehow worse for the series than the Slitheen? No. Just… no.


Coming from the future as I do, I can tell you that the Doctor swapping genders is something that definitely happens before the apocalypse, so you'd best make your peace with it. The female Doctor didn't add or subtract any problems from the show (other than, you know, the problem that the Doctor had always previously been played by white dudes). Although I will admit that someone did make a "The Doctor? More like The Nurse!" joke, but the Doctor immediately decked them, so it was all right.

P.S. — I find it exceedingly odd that you liked the 50th anniversary special but are vastly disturbed at the idea of a female Doctor. Perhaps because a female Doctor only has potential problems, while the 50th anniversary special had actual problems. Don't Doctor Who fans have enough to worry about right now without making up additional issues?


Illustration for article titled ​Why people's problems with a female Doctor Who are wrong, wrong, wrong

Sense of Wonder

Clay K.:

wonder woman needs a female director with no bs. there is only one person for this job:
kathryne bigelow.


I wouldn't necessarily say she's the only person for the job, but I don't know of anyone better suited. I'd say it's a moral necessity to have a woman direct a Wonder Woman film, lest we get Man of Steel But With Boobs, but I would doubt Warner Bros. feels the same, because having an actual woman direct Wonder Woman is a good idea and Warner Bros. doesn't seem to particularly care for those.

By the way, Charlie Jane is exactly right when detailing the potential horrors of Zack Snyder's Wonder Woman (that the dude who made Sucker Punch is the dude who is bringing WW to the big screen make me mildly nauseous). My only hope is that WB keeps Zack Snyder on the main DC movie-verse franchise, and hires someone else to direct a solo Wonder Woman movie. Although it will almost certainly be McG. "Hey, he directed the Charlie's Angels movies, he gets women!" a WB executive will shout triumphantly, his nose frosted with cocaine.


Illustration for article titled ​Why people's problems with a female Doctor Who are wrong, wrong, wrong

Magic Trick

Brian ?:

Is Marvel trying to be anti-magic/spiritual?

I mean in the first Thor movie everyone clearly stated they were gods and that they used magic. Then in Thor 2 everything is no longer magic just complex science, and Odin says that asgardians are just more powerful long lasting versions of mortals.

And in Agents of Shield a saint and mythical warrior turn out to be just a guy, and a portal to hell ended up just being another planet. Marvel has a Satan and Mephisto, but they didnt even toy with the idea of it being hell.

Isn't all this "all magic is just science" motif gonna be a problem since they are making a Black Panther and Dr. Strange movie, and both of those characters have a good understanding and usage of magic?


I understand your point, but I don't think it'll be much of a problem. Despite the "magic is science we don't understand yet" of Thor, there's still room for actual magic in the Marvel Universe, whether it be Dr. Strange, Scarlet Witch in Avengers 2, or… another character in the Marvel U. who uses magic that isn't Loki. It may be a bit jarring, after the "realism" of the Marvel movie-verse so far, but I think audiences can handle it, and if Marvel is going to make a Dr. Strange movie, and by all accounts and common sense they are, I'm reasonably sure they have a plan to do so that will gel with the rest of the movies.

What Marvel doesn't want to do is introduce the idea of divinity or religion into their movie-verse, because that can possibly do is piss certain people off. So no hell, no Mephisto, no gods Norse or otherwise — just crazy alien beings whose technology ls called magic and which looks for all intents and purposes like magic and who were also worshipped as gods by various humans in the past despite not really being gods. Marvel really doesn't want to say Thor is an actual god, because someone, somewhere, will immediately ask about Marvel's Jesus, and there's no right answer to that question.


I admit, though, I'm really curious if the Scarlet Witch will actually have her "hex powers" in Avengers 2. Hex powers sound like a pretty hard thing to show on screen, and the Marvel movie-verse isn't really prepared for magic yet. Introducing it with a lower-tier character in Avengers 2 doesn't exactly sound like the right way to do it. I'd think Marvel would need to introduce magic in, say, a Dr. Strange movie, establish the rules, get audiences used to it, and then introduce it into the movie-verse proper.

Weirdly, if Avengers 2 just says the Scarlet Witch has a power that affects probability and luck, then that might actually fly. She could theoretically be in a big fight scene, causing loose bricks to fall on evil robots, helping Hawkeye's arrows hit exactly the right place to shit them down, causing malfunctions, etc. It only gets weird if they call it magic. For now.


Illustration for article titled ​Why people's problems with a female Doctor Who are wrong, wrong, wrong

Free Enterprise

Ken P.:

I fear the Dr. Who 50th has put the Trek 50th in a Kobayashi Maru like scenario. Having multiple regenerations and being unbound by time and space means the Who 50th can cash in on 50 years of nostalgia without feeling overly contrived or cheesy, you know like Star Trek Generations.

However, there have been times where Star Trek can successfully appeal to nostalgia i.e. Spock and Scotty's appearances in TNG and the DS9 tribble episode. Personally, I would avoid screwing with continuity, aged actors, set and prop design and focus on making good Trek. But that's presumably what they do anyway with mixed success and don't you think the fans will revolt without somehow devising a way for all the Enterprises and Voyager to all dock at DS9 without seeming contrived?

Do you see an out for this no win scenario?

Yeah, don't worry about it, because all Paramount is going to do for Star Trek's 50th anniversary is re-release the shows on DVD and maybe — maybe release the third nu-Trek movie. There will be no anniversary special, especially not one set in the classic Trek universe (there may be a documentary-type special on TV, but I doubt it). There will be no official celebration, nothing that pulls together all the classic series, except maybe a commemorative poster or something. I imagine the closest thing we'll get to an on-screen acknowledgement of 50 years of Star Trek will be the third movie rehashing something from the original movies — probably space whales — but Paramount was almost certainly going to do that anyways, no matter the year.


Illustration for article titled ​Why people's problems with a female Doctor Who are wrong, wrong, wrong

Homicide Squad

Tim S.:

Dear Mr Postman

Finally watched Man of Steel. Did not have an issue with Superman Killing Zod.


Because Superman *would* kill in that situation!

He killed Doomsday. He killed Darkseid. If those were extenuating circumstances, this was too.

Thank you for your service

Yes, Superman has killed people in the comics. And Batman has used guns and Wonder Woman was the Justice League's secretary (see above) and Green Lantern killed an entire city of people and Captain America was a werewolf for a while.


In 70 years of comics, there have been a handful of comic writers who have decided to let Superman kill bad guys, but because it happened before doesn't make it right for the character. I'd say the millions of times Superman has not killed villains is a bit more indicative of his character. And I'd say if Batman refuses to kill people, which he does, then Superman should refuse to kill people even harder.

Again, if you want to see the problem with Superman killing bad guys, go check out Injustice Vol. 1. It's based on the DC videogame from the Mortal Kombat guys, but it's one of my favorite superhero books of the year for this very reason (and it's good besides).


Do you have questions about anything scifi, fantasy, superhero, or nerd-related? Email the postman@io9.com! No question too difficult, no question too dumb! Obviously!



I'm pretty jazzed for Capaldi's take on the Doctor. But for Doctor 14(ish), or just for alternate reality projections, who are some of the women on your casting list who would do an amazing job in the role?