The (Female) Elephant in the Room
What if Sunday sees the first female Doctor announced? Guest contributor Mike Falino shares some thoughts.
Let me begin by clearing the air; I used to abhor the idea of the Doctor regenerating into a woman. But as I look back on it now I realize that all my arguments against the idea were superficial at best, and downright baseless beyond that. The following arguments I point out are the same arguments I used before seeing reason. It is my hope that I will convince some of you to entertain the possibility with less outright hatred than before and perhaps even embrace at least the idea of a female Doctor.
Once a Man, Always a Man
One of the most oft used arguments against the Doctor regenerating into a woman is that he’s always been a man and it just wouldn’t make sense. That in of itself isn’t actually an argument, simply a statement of perception. We know from The Doctor’s Wife that it is possible for a Time Lord, in this case the Corsair, to change gender from regeneration. While we may never have actually seen any Time Lord switch genders the fact that it is part of Doctor Who canon is enough to justify a possible change. Likewise, we see Romana I regenerate into Romana II, but not before trying on a few different alien bodies. While it is true that most of the bodies we see her try on are female it is enough to establish that the changing of body types is possible. So why not female? We know the Doctor’s personality changes after every regeneration, so there is nothing tethering him biologically to the male sex. Now some people might allow for the body change but still maintain the problem of femininity. Well, all I have to say is that male seahorses are the ones who get pregnant… Try not to put labels on the gender of a fictional alien when we don’t even fully grasp it in real life.
Also, after regenerating from the 10th Doctor into the 11th, the Doctor has a moment where he checks for his Adam’s apple just to be sure he isn’t a “girl” after noticing his new long hair. That alone sets down precedent for the possibility of the Doctor switching genders because even he thinks it’s possible.
The Doctor Just “Is” a Man
This is actually the only argument to which I agree, but that doesn’t mean I cant’ get passed it and be open to the possibility of a gender swap. The Doctor just hasn’t always been a man; he’s always acted like one. What I mean is that he primarily has relationships with females, both romantic and platonic. The platonic relationships just don’t serve to justify the Doctor necessarily being a man because maybe he just prefers female company for reasons other than attraction. As far as his romantic relationships go, that’s where things get complicated.
While everyone knows the Doctor is an alien people still tend to hold him to human notions of sexuality, which is odd considering human sexuality is far from straightforward. The Doctor might not be omnisexual like Captain Jack Harkness, but he certainly could be bisexual. For most of Doctor Who’s 50 years the Doctor never even showed sexual interest in anyone else, let alone Earth females. For most of the time the Doctor was more of a father figure, or big brother, than a romantic love interest to his companions. You can’t define the character of the Doctor based solely on the most recent seven years of the show while ignoring the other forty-three. Simply put, don’t claim to know how Time Lord relationships work because nobody actually does. It simply hasn’t been completely fleshed out.
If He Becomes a She then it Invalidates His Prior Relationships
This one just makes no sense at all. Just as someone can fall in love again after a spouse dies, or simply after breaking up with a lover, so too can we expect the Doctor to love again. How exactly does changing sexes invalidate prior relationships? If you love someone you love someone, and if you had a relationship with someone no amount of personal evolution will negate the fact that your previous relationship happened. This goes along with the tendency to project personal preferences towards his relationships. It’s the same as people thinking his relationship with River betrays his love for Rose. Well, we know he had a granddaughter a long time ago so presumably he loved someone enough to have a child with. How come nobody is screaming that his relationship with Rose betrays his relationship that lead to his granddaughter?
Perhaps people just think that if the Doctor becomes a woman his prior relationships with women make no sense. Well, if you don’t know by now that some women fall in love with other women, you might want to turn on the news. Him becoming a Her, and Her falling in love with a man (or woman!) in no way invalidates any prior relationships. It’s a completely invalid argument.
Just No…I…He…It’d Just Be… No…I Can’t…
For the most part this tends to be the predominant argument against the Doctor regenerating into a woman. There just is no place for personal preference determining the evolution of a show, or character, especially a show as fundamentally mutable and off-the-wall as Doctor Who. You personally might not like the idea, but that “weirdness” factor just isn’t’ enough to make your case.
If anything, Doctor Who is a show about unexpected surprises and impossible realities. I am at least intrigued by the idea of the Doctor becoming female if only because it would be something completely novel and unique. No other show could do what Doctor Who does, and no show could change the gender of the main character and still be the same show. Doctor Who might “feel” different if the Doctor was a woman, but doesn’t it fundamentally “feel” different after every regeneration?
Each Doctor will have fans and detractors and it will always be that way. There are many Whovians who still don’t like Matt Smith. There are a lot of Whovians who think Tennant was better. There are plenty of Whovians who didn’t like Eccleston, or Colin Baker, or Sylvester McCoy, but the fact remains that the show is celebrating its 50th anniversary in November and it has gone through more changes, both structurally and casting-wise, than any other show in history, and it’s only getting more popular.
Viewership skyrocketed under Matt Smith, and to say that the show would wither and die with a female Doctor is just silly. Who is to say it wouldn’t gain even more fans? Anyone who “threatens” to stop watching Doctor Who simply isn’t as much of a fan of the show as they think. I, for one, embrace the impossible and strange when it comes to Doctor Who, and while I’m not saying I necessarily “want” the Doctor to regenerate as a woman, I certainly wouldn’t abandon my favorite show. If anything, I’d be even more interested to see how it all turns out!