Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Thoughts on the New Doctor

In case you haven't heard by this point, BBC decided to something completely unheard of with the character of the Doctor in the hit show Doctor Who.

See, the Doctor is a Time Lord that has a special ability originally conceived for plot convenience, namely that he can transform/shapeshift into a new person when he's dying.  This is what has allowed the show to continue for so many years--old actor retires, get a new one.

BBC decided to go against decades of tradition by older white man for the part.

Way to break the mold, guys.

Now, you may have heard the buzz all over the internet because there were many people that were really upset by this.  See, people have been campaigning pretty hard for a female Doctor or a PoC Doctor for many years, but most especially since Matt Smith announced he was leaving.  This was a prime opportunity to try something new with the series, to really shake things up.

There all sorts of terrible reasons people give for why the Doctor should stay white, male, cis-gendered, and heterosexual, but all of those reasons are stupid--sorry, but they are.  They don't stand up to scrutiny.  It's been mentioned before that Time Lords can change races--River Song--and genders--The Corsair.  This opens up so many cool new ways to allow exploration of the Doctor's character, particularly in relation to his companions.

While the Doctor used to travel with people of all stripes, since his revival with Eccleston, it's mostly been young, attractive women that are instantly in love with him and want to jump his bones: Rose, Martha, Amy, Clara.  This is especially true under Moffat, who's even gone on record to explain why he feels the Doctor does that, but it mostly seems to be a justification so he can keep the Doctor the male power fantasy that he currently is.

I've mentioned before that I'm tired of the young, attractive, smart, quippy companions that flirt with the Doctor.  None of those things are bad individually, but when you constantly get the same type of character, it gets old.  I'm tired of the females flirting with the Doctor.  Donna Noble was my favorite companion because she and the Doctor were just great friends--best friends.  Sure they quipped, they fought, they constantly tried to outsmart each other, but it was in the awesome brother-sister way that made their relationship so endearing.

Bickering, snarking at each other.  They were awesome!

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that Peter Capaldi will be great.  And it is an interesting choice to make. Since the last three Doctors have been young, relatively handsome men, it'll be interesting to see what an older Doctor will do, especially after the more goofy, effeminate Doctor that Matt Smith played.  However, it was sort of bogus to cop out of the decision.

From what I've read online, Moffat comes across as a bit of a douchebag.  I mean, maybe he's completely different in person, but all of the interviews always make him seem incredibly smug, and his handling of this situation is just awful.

When Matt Smith decided to leave, BBC was careful to say that a woman had not been ruled out to replace Matt Smith.  However, Moffat has gone on record saying that the only person he considered was Peter Capaldi.  Boob Tube Dude (@TVMcGee on Twitter) said it better than I can:
Had Moffat come out and said, "You know, I heard all of those suggests for a female Doctor. And they bring up a good point! Changing things up is part of this show's DNA. Had I thought of a good way to bring that into the story organically, I would have leaped at the opportunity. But instead of change for change sake, I went with an actor who filled my idea of the next Doctor." Those that wanted change would have grumbled, but at least felt as if the showrunner heard and understood cries for a Doctor that was different from its predecessors, even if the show ultimately went a different way. Instead, Moffat chose to actually attack those that suggested that a female Doctor would be a good thing. Singling out Helen Mirren, who told him once that it would be good to have a female play the role, he said, "Well, I'd like to see a man play The Queen."
You should read that whole article I linked to, as it has loads of smart things to say about why his comment is problematic.

(For no small amount of irony, a man actually did play the Queen.  Queen Elizabeth I, that is, in the 1992 film Orlando.)

Thankfully, there are rumors that Moffat will only be around for one more season (or, for the British--"series"), which, honestly, is probably for the best.  He has written some fantastic scripts, but as a show runner he has completely driven me bananas.  He has absolutely ruined one of my favorite characters (River Song), and when he ran out of mystery for Amy and Rory, it was like the show just dried up and became this boring slog.  You can have married characters be interesting.  I don't know what it is with serialized writers thinking marriage makes characters boring, but people in DC have echoed similar things.  It's why Spider-Man is no longer married to Mary Jane, and why the DC reboot has pushed all the characters back to younger versions of themselves with no kids or marriages or anything.  Bo-ring.

To be somewhat fair, Neil Gaiman has commented on this.  His responses are at least fair, and they make me wish he were running the show rather than Moffat.
And here, for what it’s worth, are my other thoughts: Do I think it’s time to cast a woman as the Doctor? Not yet. Not quite. And lord, if and when they ever do that, I want them to keep it the biggest secret in the world until we see it happen on our screens during the regeneration. Would I like a person of colour as the Doctor? Absolutely. Paterson Joseph was the Marquis de Carabas in Neverwhere, because he aced the auditions, and beat all the other actors, mostly white, who tried out for the role. I’d want that kind of performance at the audition for the Doctor. And there are certainly actors good enough out there that it feels like a missed opportunity. Does that mean I’m disappointed by Peter? No, just excited to see what kind of Doctor he makes. He’s an Academy- Award winning director, an amazing actor and I really liked him when I worked with him before.
[I]f I were show-running (I’m not) I wouldn’t cast a woman as the Doctor yet, and it would absolutely be on my list of things to do in the following regeneration. (I was the one who wrote the line about the Corsair changing gender on regeneration, in “The Doctor’s Wife" after all, and made it canon that Time Lords can absolutely change gender when they regenerate.) 
Some of that is stuff I’d find hard to articulate, mostly having to do with what kind of Doctor you follow Matt Smith’s Doctor with: someone harder and much older and more dangerous and, yes, male feels right to me, as a storyteller. Where you go after that, ah, that’s a whole new game…
I was rather disappointed that Paterson Joseph didn’t get it last time, although I’ve loved Matt’s Eleven.) And yes, I have no doubt there will be [an actor of color]. (I know one black actor who was already offered the part of the Doctor, and who turned it down.) Just as there will be a female Doctor.

If Moffat's response had been something like that, I wouldn't have been happy necessarily, but I don't think anyone would be as pissed off as they are.

The most frustrating thing about this is not that there wasn't a female Doctor, or a black Doctor, or a combination of the two.  It's that there was never a chance.  His comment about a man playing the Queen was annoying because he's essentially saying, "What an absurd idea.  That'll never happen."  It completely writes off any hopes we had as a bunch of silly fluff.  It's doubly hurtful when you learn that Capaldi was the only person that Moffat even considered.
Asked whether the list of potential actors to play the Doctor was a short one, Moffat told The Mirror: “Yes. The list went ‘Peter Capaldi’. It was a very short list.”
I understand Capaldi was considered for last season's run, but it was decided that Matt Smith was the better fit,

And I also want to stress that this has nothing to do with Capaldi.  He seems really nice, and I'm sure he'll do a brilliant job.  But Moffat seems determined that there won't be a female Doctor, especially not during his run.  And that is just so sad.


  1. Thank you! I completely agree! Moffat is an excellent screenwriter but he needs to be more open-minded. Personally, I didn't want a female Doctor this time around but I think it would be absolutely brilliant to have a Doctor of a different colour. I think it would be best to have a female Doctor in 2 or more series.

    1. Hey! Thanks for the visit! I didn't really know much about Moffat until the Female Doctor campaign started gaining volume, but the more I hear from him, the less I like him.

      I don't really see any reason to wait on either or both, personally. However, since Capaldi's been cast, there's nothing I can do about it but accept it and wait to see if it's good.

      I remember thinking it would be a cool storyline for the Doctor's 14th incarnation to be a ginger woman--then he'd FINALLY be ginger, but it would be past the 13 limit that was set in place. However, I grew less fond of the idea because I don't like insinuating that the Doctor becoming a woman was a BAD thing or a problem.

      It's why I would have preferred a female Doctor now. Nothing particularly special about this transformation. Saving it for the "last" regeneration, or even the 14th, means potentially making "becoming a woman" or "becoming a PoC" something he has to solve, and I dislike the connotations of that.


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