Stop Doctoring The Doctor

Seriously, stop. Yes, I know. Peter Capaldi is leaving Doctor Who. So, yes, endless speculation over who will replace him. It's all so boring and predictable. So let's dispose of the usual suspects, shall we?

First of all we have, from the people who didn't pay attention to the whole "why the doctor was getting younger and younger and why he suddenly got older" storyline, the We Want David Tennant Back Because He Was Sooooo Dreamy lobby. These are the people who cried foul because Capaldi was so damn old and, well, ugly. These folks want Benedict Cumberbatch, or Collin Morgan or Bradley James or someone like that. Look, Tennant's pretty boy Doctor may have attracted a new fan base to the show, some of whom even stuck around, but trying to bring that back is just cheap. The Doctor is supposed to be the elder statesman, the wise man, the long-suffering parent to a planet full of children. Tennant just didn't cut it. Smith did that much better, but Capaldi was the best at that job since Pertwee. We don't need another young GQ Doctor.

Next up we have the We Want An American Actor To Play The Doctor For Reasons We Can't Satisfactorily Articulate lobby. Seriously, this group's suggestions range from the plausible (Jeff Goldblum) to the interestingly weird (Nicholas Cage) to the ridiculous (Keanu Reeves). There's no real reasoning behind the request, they just want to see someone they know in the role. The Doctor is British. Having him be Scottish was bad enough. But American? No, you took our Marathon bars and our Opal Fruits and our Action Man, stay the hell away from our Doctor.

(As an interesting aside, the biggest opponents to the Doctor as an American lobby comes from American fans. Just as I grew up with the Doctor, so did they. One of the reasons they love the show is precisely because of its lack of Hollywood pretentiousness, its lack of spectacle over substance, and they want to see it continue.)

Then we have the We're Still Pissed That Star Trek: The Next Generation Went Off The Air lobby. These want Patrick Stewart. Both these and the previous lot are intersected in our little Venn diagram by the We're Still Pissed That Firefly Went Off The Air lobby, who want Nathan Fillion. Whilst these suggestions have their intriguing side, just no.

Next, meet the Scooby Gang lobby. They miss Buffy and want Anthony Stewart Head as the next Doctor. Maybe, he has the gravitas to pull it off, I suppose. He, though, like Stewart and Fillion, suffer from the already-famous stigma. Head playing the Doctor would just be playing Giles playing the Doctor. I mean, he's got that whole Been In The Show Before vibe going for him, so maybe not a totally terrible idea.

Idris Elba. I actually don't have a problem with this one.

Then there's... this one's difficult. Merely mentioning it will result in accusations of mansplaining and patriarchy. Opposing it will no doubt incense people beyond reason, but here goes. There's the We Want The Next Doctor To Be A Woman For Reasons That Are No Better Articulated Than The American Lobby But Are Somehow Held To Be Higher lobby. Names are occasionally floated--Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley (who already played the Doctor in a Comic Relief special, something that's often overlooked)--but really, all they want is anyone with a vagina. 

It's this last lobby that are especially troublesome because, unlike the rest (with the possible exception of the Buffy Brigade) this one actually stands a chance of happening. And it would be disastrous.

I hear keyboards being warmed up so I'll be quick.

In 1981 Tom Baker announced he was leaving the show after 7 years, still the longest tenure for any actor in the role. At the press conference where his retirement was to be announced, Baker was to make a few comments for the press, wish his successor luck, then hand over to John Nathan-Turner, then series producer. This, he did, but he did it in a unique way. He did the normal speech, always value my time on the show, look back with fondness, made great friends, time to move on, yadda yadda. But then he said "I wish the next Doctor Who the best of luck, whoever he--or she--may be."

It was the prefect mic drop moment. He turned, walked away, and left Nathan-Turner to face a suddenly very alert press. Did he just say "she"? Seriously? A female Doctor?

The media loved it. The fans loved it. We debated it. Could it be? Should it be? It was new, it was fresh, it was exciting. A female Doctor? How delightfully epoch making! How genre defining!  How mold breaking! Of course, the next Doctor was already waiting in the wings--Peter Davidson--so the question was moot, but it was excitingly moot. What could have been, we sighed and mused. A female Doctor in the eighties would have been a black female officer in Start Trek's Original Series (or a middle eastern doctor in DS9 in the nineties). It was in-your-face, it was bold, it was big. It was an idea ripe for the time. It was the idea that the time demanded.

But that was 1981. Thirty-six years ago. The idea raised its head again, three years later, when Davidson retired and Colin Baker took over, and again in 1987 when Sylvester McCoy became the Doctor, Back then it was a fresh, exciting idea. Now it's bland. It's boring. We're in the 3rd Millennium. We have female action heroes. We have nuanced female baddies. We have a female Thor. We have the Master as a female. And none of this is a big deal. It's yawn. Today it's the equivalent of a female Captain in Star Trek: Voyager. No longer new or challenging or novel, it's a big bucket of who cares?

Worse, it's pandering. The day the Doctor regenerates into a female is the day the series jumps the shark, It'll be over. And that day I'll stop watching, with great regret. I'd have watched if the fifth, sixth, or seventh Doctor had been female, because that would have been Doctor Who. The series will continue, for a few years, but it'll no longer be Doctor Who. Doctor Who does not pander. Doctor Who is groundbreaking, it respects its audience, it pulls no punches. It doesn't do things just to please a small but vocal group of sometime fans. And it does not jump the shark.

Okay, it did once, with that movie, but it managed to right itself eventually. Everybody gets one.

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