Whenever the time comes for a Doctor to change actors, some bright spark kicks up the idea of changing the gender of the character from male to female.
I’ll be the first to admit, my immediate, visceral reaction is to respond with, “that’s stupid,” but I’ll admit, that’s an emotional reaction and not one based on any logical reason.
I’m not sure that logic holds true in Doctor Who. Let’s face it, with the track record of the last few years, they could pull any illogical, stupid excuse out of their collective arses to justify such a change and try to dress it up under that old standby, “It’s such a flexible format, you can do anything!”
And, of course, there’s, “He’s a Time Lord, not a Human. You can’t say what that means.”
Yes, yes I can. For example, we know from repeated examples that the Doctor’s life depends on his hearts and although he has a respiratory bypass system (Does that mean he can breath through his butt?) he still needs to breath, just less often. In short, Time Lord biological functions do bear some resemblance to human biology – he isn’t filled with rainbows farted by unicorns – at least, not yet.
I’ll take a stab at explaining why it isn’t very logical that Time Lords would be gender-switchers – even though that’s not why I think he shouldn’t change.
Put simply, like humans, Time Lords/Gallifreyans seem to have biologically similar gender functions. Pairings such as Leela and Andred or Susan and David carry the notion of compatible biology far enough. Also, assuming that regeneration is still working with the same basic genetic material and that each version of the Doctor is at least a potential recombination of the same genes, not only does a gender swap seem improbable, it confers no evolutionarily beneficial purpose. How could it provide Gallifreyans with a reproductive advantage? With the Doctor being the last of his species… not much point.
There is; however, one circumstance, where it might convey such an advantage. In certain reptiles and amphibians here in the real world, there are documented cases of spontaneous gender changes – but these always seem to come about in extremely one-sex dominated populations – a necessary step to continuation of the species. Perhaps, under those circumstances, I could find a compelling excuse.
(For example, if the Doctor and the Master were stranded on an island, and one of them regenerated into a woman… yes, I could see that as an advantage to both the continuation of the Gallifreyan race and to crap-awful fan fiction writers everywhere.)
But, as I said, the best arguments for a female Doctor are never about plausibility.
They’re about story-telling and role models for young women.
The former is wishful thinking. There’s no reason to believe that the stories would be any better, nor would they really have any extra flexibility unless they’re going to take Doctor Who down the path of addressing gender issues all the time. They’re simply not going to do that. Casting the Doctor as a woman would be a gimmick and would not have any meaningful change on the content or pattern of the show, because that’s not what the show is about.
The later argument is the one I find most compelling. There is a school of thought that says girls need more nerdy female role models.
I agree. They need to see that women can be smart, intelligent, science-based, competent, inquisitive, compassionate, problem-solving leaders – all those qualities that the Doctor embodies.
They need to believe that a woman can achieve all the things men can do – and not because of some government program that forces quotas or other equality measures – but because they earned it themselves.
I firmly believe that – and that’s why the Doctor shouldn’t regenerate into a woman.
Because a female-regenerated Doctor didn’t earn her place in the TARDIS. It was handed to her by all the male Doctors that came before. It’s a cheat. Hell – it’s an insult. Romana earned her stripes as a woman and a Time Lord, a female Doctor would have earned neither. What message does that send to young woman?
By all means, let’s have more female role models on TV and in the movies, but lets make them real ones and not just gimmicks.