Hi! Eleanor here. Every fourth Monday, I’ll be bringing you…my opinion. Whatever that happens to be on that particular Monday. You’re welcome.
Other opinions of mine can be found at my blog, The Grumpy Girl Monologues.
In the control room of the TARDIS, Clara looks on, horrified as The Doctor begins to glow a warm orange. His skin burns brighter and whiter as his face slips from its usual, playful nonchalance to a devastated panic.
“Geronimo,” he whispers. And then like a spark finding the gasoline tank, he explodes into a light so painfully brilliant, Clara is forced to shield her eyes. The Doctor collapses on the floor, a rumpled mess of tweed and fluffy hair. The music swells, and then it stops.
The light is extinguished, and sweet, clever Clara takes a peek at the aftermath. The Doctor clamors upright, straightening out an ill-fitting jacket with elbow patches that no longer align with elbows, scrunching up the sleeves to reveal smaller, more delicate hands. The Doctor looks to Clara, bewildered.
“Doctor,” Clara begins, eyes wide, “You’re a-“
“I’m a g-“ the Doctor runs those smaller hands down the rest of the body, taking in a new shape, curves where curves had never once been.
“-woman,” Clara wears a bemused grin as she watches her Doctor come to terms with a fascinating new reality.
The Doctor pulls down the television monitor, utilizing it as a mirror, and looks at herself. Thin, shaped eyebrows, a small, rounded nose. Fuller lips. Moments of deafening silence pass as the camera is tight on the new, regenerated Doctor.
Finally, she opens her mouth to speak.
The screen goes black.
When it was announced that Matt Smith would be departing Doctor Who at the end of the year, I felt betrayed. After losing Ten, I had only just begun to learn to love again, and the imminent departure of Eleven left me feeling personally victimized by Steven Moffat.
Such is the life of a Whovian.
Shortly after the press release, the Internet exploded. Tumblr began a furious, seemingly unstoppable campaign for Benedict Cumberbatch, because in Tumblrland – all the things need Benedict. There was a small faction lobbying for Alan Rickman. By small, I mean, it was me. And then rumors started to fly about making Twelve a female.
And to that I said, “what?”
Making the Doctor a girl? Really? But it’s…the Doctor. If series eight of Doctor Who regenerates Eleven into a female Twelve, what would that mean for the show and its fans? How would that even begin to work?
The Doctor, in all the different bodies and mentalities, is a famously masculine character. He compulsively insists he knows where he’s going when he doesn’t, he never remembers his wedding anniversary, or often that he’s even married; and he wears the same outfit every day. In a series that has seen eleven different actors interpreting the same character, those tiny threads of continuity are the flashes of memory that make us say, “oh there you are, Doctor.” So what would change if the Doctor regenerated into an hourglass figure?
In many ways, it would be just another regeneration. The gap between men and women’s roles has been closing in the modern era, and quickly. The Doctor would still abhor the brandishing of firearms, crash land the TARDIS in the wrong year, and save London from peril every Christmas. Only this time, she might have a Burberry case for her sonic screwdriver, and get some of those jackets taken in at the waist. However, what about traveling backwards in time? The benefit of a male Doctor throughout history is that he could walk into any period and have all the same rights. If the female Doctor rolled into Victorian England and started trying to boss people around, she’d be ignored, and then locked up until her husband came to claim her. The Doctor fighting Daleks AND discrimination? Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds exhausting. Then again, there’s a chance the writers would ignore the issue completely – the Doctor’s storyline doesn’t always favor historically accurate realities. How has no one in England noticed that the horse-drawn carriage chauffeur is a potato-shaped alien?
Additionally, it is important to consider what this reversal would mean for the Doctor-Companion relationships we have loved over the years. If we gender-swap the Doctor, would the same take place with the companions? With Eleven and the Ponds, we got a peek of what a Doctor-dude bromance would look like, but even then, Amy was the Doctor’s main concern. Rory was just, sort of around, for the most part. A driving theme in the show is the importance of having a balance between the Doctor and the universes around him, and that balance has traditionally been achieved with an opposite gender co-explorer. So if the Time Lord becomes a Time Lady, wouldn’t a kid brother be the best co-pilot? Would a male companion be as easy to acquire as the female companions have been in the past? What kind of charm would a female Doctor need in order to get a guy to drop everything he’s doing and hop a box across the galaxy? I can’t even get a guy to hop in his car and drive two blocks to the grocery store for milk that we BOTH need.
All debate aside, let’s say December rolls around, and we’ve got a not-a-ginger Ms. Doctor Who and a semi-willing dude companion by her side. What will the fandom do with that? Despite being united on the common ground of love for the story, lines are drawn every which way in accordance with favorite companions and preferred Doctors. I have gotten into arguments, actual fighting words exchanged in defense of Ten, and I’d do it again. Sure, there are pockets of fans rallying behind the badassery of River Song, but the majority of female fans are writing fan fiction about the day when the mad man in the blue box rescues them from a world of endless mediocrity. And the male fans are simply writing themselves into sonic screwdriver wielding Time Lords. It seems that in the history of time and space, women certainly have been doing a large amount of waiting to be rescued, and I, for one, find waiting to be terribly boring. A female Doctor might be the ticket out of that damsel in distress purgatory; a rallying battle cry that says, don’t let me be clever despite being a lost, idling girl, let me be clever because I am clever.
In countries all over the world, women are waging wars against inequality, and just as Star Trek had done in the past with interracial marriage and other social issues, the Doctor Who culture has an opportunity to use its platform to give women a little bit of support. The Doctor and her TARDIS, saving entire worlds and species in Manolo Blahniks.
It’s safe to assume that little is off-limits with Moffat at the helm. I mean, he threw Sherlock Holmes off a building and insists that he is alive, why not this, too? But as it is often said, with great power comes great responsibility. If the Who empire did regenerate Matt Smith into a Time Lady, they’d need to make sure they did it right, especially with our society in its current state. It couldn’t be a joke; it should be taken lightly. If the writers and the company aren’t up to the challenge of a social revolution, then maybe this regeneration really should turn Matt Smith into Richard Madden.
Or Alan Rickman.
Please, please let it be Alan Rickman. I’ll never ask for anything else. I swear.
Eleanor Thibeaux is a writer, audio engineer and cake-enthusiast living in the Northern California Bay Area. She can often be spotted on the freeway in her Scion TC dancing and singing along with Disney show tunes during in bumper-to-bumper traffic. You can’t hear her, but she sounds REALLY good. She can found on Twitter, and on her blog, Grumpy Girl Monologues.