Doctor Who has been on for fifty-two years, with the whimsical, heroic Time Lord portrayed by fourteen men. The storytelling device used to allow producers to switch from one performer to the next, regeneration, has allowed the creators to explore the nature of identity and has always caused alternately excited and panicked expectation whenever a new Doctor is announced. Some folks pose the question “if they ever regenerate the Doctor as a woman, who should portray her?” This, of course, is met with the predictable response from reactionary men.
“The Doctor has always been a man!” they cry with a sort of wounded outrage that somehow making a character something other than like themselves is somehow stealing from them. They approach the question with every lame excuse imaginable. We are told he has always been a man, and that it would ruin canon, canon I would add that has now included the idea that the Doctor’s people can indeed switch genders during regeneration.
These are the same people who freaked out over a black man playing a Norse god because it “wasn’t realistic” as if there is anything realistic about super heroes or time traveling aliens who periodically switch their bodies. They will cite continuity with serious and stern faces while ignoring the wholesale retcon on a film by film, season by season basis in any of these franchises. Meanwhile, when people of color are routinely white washed, we are told to not take ourselves so seriously.
I realize, of course, all of the above will invite accusations of a double standard on my part. Why is it OK to change the race of a white character, or gender of a male one then why is the reverse acceptable. Any such arguments dismiss the importance of representation. Men and in particular white men are over represented in lead roles in entertainment. Anything that alters that improves the outlook for underrepresented groups, something sorely needed. We know that young people are affected by not seeing people like them in movies and television, so if we can fix that by giving young woman a Doctor they can identify with, then I am all for it.
All this caterwauling by the same crowd that at least props up so-called “men’s rights advocates” (or as I like to call them, “male supremacists”) is just making me want to see it more. It has made me more excited to see a woman take on the role (my vote is for Helen Mirren) not just because it will tick them off, though that is a real nice bonus, but because it would be awesome. It would be awesome as a woman to see a woman play my favorite time traveler. It would also be awesome as a trans woman to see a race of people for whom gender is so fluid, who could be a direct challenge to the importance the patriarchy puts on gender, take center stage. For me it is a win-win-win.
Of course it could be for you too, if you let it. Sci-fi has always been a genre with a proud tradition of making us think about complex issues in a fun way. Pushing back against a woman Doctor is very much not in keeping with that tradition. So if you want to show your geek, or nerd, or whatever bona fides, you would think you would embrace the idea. Just a little food for thought.