Steven Moffat has angered fans of Doctor Who by making a joke about the possibility of a female Doctor. Fans had bandied around names such as Idris Elba, Sue Perkins and Miranda Hart for the 12th Doctor in the hope that the show would take a progressive direction by casting either a person of colour or a woman. However on The Doctor Live: The Next Doctor the equally beloved and reviled show runner said:
I like that Helen Mirren has been saying the next doctor should be a woman. I would like to go on record and say that the Queen should be played by a man.
The joke has caused outrage because it ridicules not only the fans who want a Doctor that is a woman but also Helen Mirren and the very idea of a female Doctor. Rather than ignore the issue or acknowledge the potential of a female Doctor, Moffat laughed at the possibility.
It’s difficult to know where to begin with Moffat’s comment. First as a point of pedantry I’d like to point out that Queen Elizabeth 1 was played by a man, Quentin Crisp, in Orlando in 1992 so surely there is now no impediment to a female Doctor?
Second much as we’d like him to be the Doctor isn’t a real person and the Queen is. Moreover, the Doctor is a fictional being who can regenerate at will and who can, according to the show’s internal continuity, change gender and race with each regeneration. Why then is the idea of a female Doctor so ludicrous?
For Moffat, perhaps it has to do with the way he writes his female characters and what it tells us about his view of women. As show runner for Doctor who and Sherlock (the less said about Coupling the better) he has grown a reputation for writing thin female characters who are always defined by their relationships to men. Even those who are apparently strong and independent are robbed of their agency and find completion in the arms of a man. Ultimately these women are male fantasies who can be clever, sexy and funny only because they ultimately return to their rightful place as wives and mothers.
With Sherlock Moffat should at least have the (flimsy) defence of being true to the Victorian source material. Yet his inability to understand what makes a strong woman shows in his treatment of Irene Adler in Sherlock was questionable at best. He was quoted as saying he didn’t think that Irene’s original victory – outsmarting Holmes and a king in order to live the life she chose with the man she chose – was feminist enough.So he turned the one woman who could beat Holmes at his own game into a self-identified Lesbian who falls in love with Sherlock and is betrayed by her emotions and in the end is rescued by Sherlock. Irene is the embodiment of the male fantasy of a smart, capable, aloof lesbian who nonetheless falls for their dubious charms. A heroic rescue is just the icing on the cake.
So maybe its for the best that Moffat didn’t case a female Doctor because given his previous female characters I wouldn’t have high hopes. Moffat has also said that women were the most set against having a female Doctor. Maybe those he asked thought the same as I do – that he couldn’t handle a female Doctor. Either way I would like to point him in the direction of tumblr to see the howls of outrage from women across the world following his comments last night.
In any event I’m very excited for Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor. He’s the same age William Hartnell was when he took on the role making Capaldi the joint oldest Doctor at time of casting. Looking at the two side by side is either a comment on either how different 55 can look on different people or how different 55 looked in 1963 but that’s for another article. Peter Capaldi is also a very different sort of person and actor from Matt Smith and I’m looking forward to seeing how Jenna Louise Coleman’s character Clara deals with the change as she’ll be the first companion since Rose to experience the transformation.
If it had to be a white man instead of the one legged black lesbian I was hoping for at least it is an interesting white man. I am not nervous about Peter Capaldi’s capabilities. I am nervous about Moffat’s ability to carry the show forward. In the immortal words of Malcom Tucker I hope it will soon come time to say ‘fuckety bye’ to the man who showed such promise in the ‘Empty Child / The Doctor Dances’.
About Peter Capaldi, Steven Moffat and Doctor Who
- Steven Moffat: ‘A female Doctor Who just didn’t feel right’ (express.co.uk)
- Helen Mirren: I so didn’t want to play Doctor Who anyway (metro.co.uk)
- Meet The New Star Of ‘Doctor Who’ (huffingtonpost.com)
- “Doctor Who” Announcement: And the New Doctor Is…. Peter Capaldi! (nerdist.com)
- 15 yr old fan, Peter Capaldi, named the Twelfth Doctor 40 years later! (tellyspotting.org)