The Next Doctor

Matt Smith is leaving Doctor Who, someone new is coming into the role, everyone is speculating (with various degrees of tongue in cheek) about the likelihood of the role being filled by a woman or a black man or by Sophie Okenedo.

I don’t think it’s going to happen, folks. It’ll be a 30-ish white guy you’ve never heard of before.

Okay, it might be a black man. Paterson Joseph is widely acknowledged to have been Steven Moffat’s second pick for the role, and he had a lock on the part right until Matt Smith gave an incredible audition. I’d be surprised though, simply because of the weight of demographics. There are *so many more* white working actors out there, because there are more opportunities, institutional racism, blah blah you know how it works. If you dip a hand into the pool and pull out a wriggly actor, odds are good it’s a white guy. I’ll bet on those odds.

But the new DW won’t be a woman. They might even have auditioned women, but they won’t cast anyone who isn’t a chap. I think this is because the creators, either explicitly or intuitively, sense that a female Doctor will violate something about the show.

…and I think they’re right. Doctor Who is, among many other things, a show *about* men, and their relationship with women. Specifically, its about a certain kind of man, generous-spirited life-advantaged empathetic highly confident antiestablishment, like a genteel Edwardian adventurer with a rogueish streak, or indeed a TV creator, or most of the key decisionmakers in the creative sphere. The female companion is the means by which the show critiques this figurative man. In a sense, for better or worse, Doctor Who is about presenting a redemptive alternative masculinity.

So: there is nothing in the fiction of the show preventing a female Doctor (indeed, the show has explicitly allowed for it, very recently), but coded into Who is a gender-based dynamic that would be upended totally by casting a woman in the lead. For this reason, I don’t think they will.


There are meant to be 13 Doctors (according to one story from the 70s, never mind all the other stories that say different) – that number has seeped into public consciousness and can’t really be ignored. The show will have to confront this limit in order to move past it. Then, I think, it will have an opportunity for conceptual collapse and reimagining; and so I predict a woman Doctor will appear on the scene, but she’ll be the Fourteenth Doctor, at the earliest.

Let me be absolutely clear: I would be SUPER HAPPY if the creators decided to violate this thematic tenet of the show. It is NOT essential to Who. It wouldn’t be the first major violation of the series’ thematic structure (refer: the Doctor is an asexual being). I would be stoked to be wrong. I would watch the shit out of Olivia Colman as the twelfth Doctor, to take the name being chucked around at present. But it ain’t gonna happen, and this idea of a violation is why.

(Yes, I’m being deliberately provocative by calling it a “violation”. I’m a blogger and I sin as a blogger sins.)

The whispers I’ve heard say the next Doctor was cast months ago, in January. I guess we’ll know soon enough.

(Oh, and while talking Doctor Who, Stephanie left an interesting comment responding to the “Steven Moffat’s issues with women” critique in the Friday linky.)

7 thoughts on “The Next Doctor”

  1. For some reason I have it in my head that one of the reasons they could allow for the 13th doctor to be female in order to restart the cycle again. But I am not sure I could face a plotline with a doctor who is awesome but also pregnant. Possibly because I am so deeply sick of my own bump-related clumsiness and lethary at the moment and the idea of heading off on adventures right now is about as appealing as doing Crossfit until I vomit.

  2. A female Doctor who suddenly gets pregnant after eleven male doctors all manage to avoid knocking anyone up in 50 years of the show would be very revealing, in terms of the writers’ attitudes to gender.

  3. Whoever they pick I just want them to stop using the damn sonic screwdriver for absolutely everything.

  4. And just imagine the hilarious jokes about women drivers when she tries to control the TARDIS.

  5. Oh god, it had better not be. Ayoade is a decent director, but he couldn’t act his way out of a wet paper bag if he had chainsaws for hands. The whole joke about him not being able to act in Garth Marenghi is because he CAN’T ACT.

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