Doctor Who News misc-larapulver

Published on April 2nd, 2012 | by Christian Cawley

The Lady Doctor Will See You Now

What’s all this? Another take on the “female Doctor” rumour? Surely River Song has all of the female qualities of the Doctor that we could possibly want?

Whichever way you look at it (and for reasons of sanity, we’re firmly on the “Doctor should be male” side of the argument) this debate is set to run and run, even if the Time Lord makes it to regeneration 755 without having changed sex.

Reports in the Daily Express today suggest that following the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, our hero will regenerate once again, this time changing sex. The lucky actress to play the part will – allegedly – be Lara Pulver, recently seen in Steven Moffat’s Sherlock as Irene Adler.

“The 50th anniversary series will end with a very big twist,” we’re told. “The Doctor becoming a woman will give the show a new lease of life. Lara has already been mentioned as a real contender for the role.”

“A new lease of life”? Just as well, then, because it has become so boring lately, what with the Silence and Amy’s pregnancy and fake Amy and the Doctor’s death and River Song’s true identity and Churchill and… well, you get the point.

Pulver’s a great actress and she would be great in Doctor Who. She might make a great Time Lady, but she wouldn’t sell being the Doctor to me, nor, I suspect, the rest of the Kasterborous team.

But of course, before we rule it out completely let’s consider the one time the Doctor did become a woman: Joanna Lumley in the 1999 Comic Relief special The Curse of the Fatal Death, written by… Steven Moffat.

(Remember, of course, that this is a rumour. And if it isn’t, perhaps it’s time to merge Kasterborous with Cult Britannia…?)


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About the Author


A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

25 Responses to The Lady Doctor Will See You Now

  1. avatar FrancoPabloDiablo says:

    The Doctor is NOT a woman! This same story has happened for what seems like eternity (certainly it was happening before i was even born). It WON’T happen – EVER! The makers of our brilliant show are not stupid (quite the opposite in fact) and realise that this old story is great publicity fodder but also realise that to make such a move would most certainly be suicide for Doctor Who. Hardcore fans would not tolerate it and the general public would also not accept it. Let’s leave The Curse Of Fatal Death as the only foray into this absurd reality of televised female Doctors!!!

  2. avatar Simon says:

    How is River Song like the Doctor? They’re very different characters.

    I could see a female Doctor potentially working though it is a risk to see if the mainstream audience, never mind the fan audience would go with it. But in the last series there were a few noticeable references to Time Lords changing gender back and forth through their regenerations – Moffat keeps on flirting with the possibility however jokingly.

  3. avatar Rick Lundeen says:

    I’m not saying it should or shouldn’t be done. A quality actor is a quality actor and quality will out. And I’d like to think the Who audience is at least open minded. although I’d feel better if they just stick with guys in the role.

    That being said, it is a risk. But haven’t they taken big risks in the past? Hartnell to Troughton was a HUGE risk, the biggest they’ve ever taken. A totally different person in the lead role in any show other than a soap opera is always a big risk but this show is big on big risks. If Moffat makes the decision to bring in actresses to audition, I wonder if he writes the character differently? If so, he’d probably junk the whole idea of gender switching as if the Doctor’s not the Doctor, then it’s a fail. But if he writes the character as he does normally and a woman pulls it off, and pulls it off brilliantly, I say ok, let’s see what you’ve got, but there are consequences and the show might change dramatically and it might be catastrophic, who knows?

    Here’s a show where there’s no limit to what can be done. Maybe they’ll start pushing that envelope even more now. As far as the ongoing gag on will they or won’t they have a female Doctor, as a joke, it’s lame, it’s played out, it’s beating a dead horse and unless they’re really going to do it, the powers that be, Moffat, whoever, should just shut up about it.

  4. avatar Andrew says:

    Yawn. Just an old joke that’s been going on since 1981, which will never happen. To big a risk. Though it would be great to have a proper Time Lady, Romana ought make a come back. How about a spin off with Lalla Ward at the helm?

  5. avatar penfolduk01 says:

    Personally I’m agnostic on The Doctor becoming a woman.
    I remember reading about how when Gene Roddenberry did the original Star Trek pilot “The Cage”, that the studio execs were so against their being a female first officer, that the actress got demoted to being a nurse in the series. Things change. Just like The Doctor does.

    Having said that, assuming this isn’t entirely a late April Fool joke, I can see Lara playing The Rani, Romana (remember purely in TV continuity she was last seen running off with K9 Mark 1 in E-Space), or even a version of The Master.

    Or it could be some hilarious spoof episode where some alien device swaps the genders of The Doctor and his companion. Just to get everyone’s backs up…

  6. avatar Simon says:

    Are we more likely to see a female Doctor than an older Doctor again? I say this because having just seen the end of series 2 of Fringe I reckon the very brilliant John Noble would make the most perfect Doctor. Though I hope Matt Smith sticks around a good while yet!

  7. avatar shadowfireflame says:

    …for reasons of sanity, we’re firmly on the “Doctor should be male” side of the argument…

    What a curious statement, and I’m really not sure what is meant by it. Whose sanity? I can assure you one male Doctor after another is not doing wonders for mine.

    Why should the Doctor, who canonically regenerates into different forms, not once in twelve times take the body of a woman (or, though this argument is not about this, a person of color)? What an eye-opening experience it would be for the character (and for us)! What a chance for differing dynamics between the characters. (A female Doctor’s relationship with River Song comes to mind…)

    Why should major actresses on this show be constantly relegated to the traditionally female roles of being companions and love interests? Of course being a male would certainly help the Doctor in most time periods, but wouldn’t he relish the challenge of becoming female?

    I, for one, have been not particularly interested in the recent Doctors, but I would be absolutely guaranteed to watch if the Doctor were a woman.

    • Thanks for your comments, shadowfireflame.

      I feel you’re in a minority on this. While it might be interesting to see the Doctor in a female body for a short time (something that has already been done in the risible New Earth – awful for reason beyond the body swapping) the fact remains that male actors get a bad deal on British TV (although this is clearly different in cinema).

      What have actors got beyond the Doctor? GPs/vets, dull consultants, detectives, put upon husbands, alcoholics. Repeatedly, across all soaps and dramas. It’s depressing (although not as dull as some of the actors called upon again and again, but that’s a different argument).

      Female actors on the other hand have all of the strong, headlining roles, from teachers to tarts, high-ranking policewomen and doctors, novelists, adventurers… the list goes on. It’s a different deal in comedy, but then that’s a whole different subject.

      One thing I think you’re quite wrong on is “Why should major actresses on this show be constantly relegated to the traditionally female roles of being companions and love interests?” That’s relegation? Often solving the problem for the Doctor? Are we watching the same show?

      In an ideal world it would be great if the Doctor could regenerate into a woman, but let’s face facts, Doctor Who may not be formulaic on a week-by-week basis but it is very much a formula-driven show for whom much of the appeal lies in not just the pretty young female companion but the Doctor’s relationship with her. While this might have been very understated in the 1970s there remains a level of tension that simply would not work if the roles were reversed.

      I honestly think that switching gender for the Doctor long term would be a widely unpopular decision in a true jumping-the-shark moment.

    • avatar FrancoPabloDiablo says:

      Chill out! The Doctor is a MALE. Deal with it.

  8. avatar daniel clements says:

    Wont happen because simple thing is the audience would plummet after a week.

    Shes great in Sherlock and has some stand out scenes…but no.

    I do feel though that a non white Doctor is well overdue…provided hes the right actor

  9. avatar Matt Badham says:

    I thought the lass who played young Amy would have made a good Doctor for a few episodes. The Doctor could easily be a woman… it would work.

  10. avatar Mugen Pharoah says:

    I’m totally pro-female Doctor. See Romana for how it could work.

    Secondly Sydney Newman himself believed that the Doctor “should be metamorphosed into a woman” so it is there in the DNA of the series.

    And whether anyone likes it or not it will happen one day, especially as we know the Corsair mentioned in ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ gender switched several times.

    There is absolutely no reason why the Doctor shouldn’t ever be female, and anyone trying to argue against it will end up bleating that ‘err…he just shouldn’t be’ or something as equally vague as the doctor is ‘male character’ and that just isn’t good enough in this day and age.

    • I think you can do better than that, Mugen. Namechecking other (completely separate) characters and briefly mentioned Time Lords isn’t an argument. As for Newman, if we listened to him, there would be no Daleks.

      Within the narrative there probably isn’t any reason why the Doctor shouldn’t be female – but it would very probably put the show to bed for another 16 years. So good luck with that.

      • Actually, I’m going to change my position slightly on this: I need to be convinced that this would work, and as yet no one – not even the great Joanna Lumley in the clip above – has managed to do this.

        So convince me :)

        • avatar Mugen Pharoah says:

          It’s both incarnations of Romana. Just watch episodes like ‘Androids of Tara’ where she carries a lot of plot. She is far more a prototype female Doctor than River Song.

          The programme can easily cope with a female lead, and I too am not convinced by Lumley at all – I think that’s the wrong way to go completely.

          Like any Doctor being cast, it would have to be the right actor – and if that actor was female and could do the job then why not?

          Just think how radical Troughton’s casting would have seemed back in the sixties – far more radical than imagining the character as a woman. He’s totally different to Hartnell but so obviously the same character and so obviously the right man for the job.

          All this idea of ratings plummetting is ridiculous – if this was borne by ratings data fair enough, but, like this issue and the whole article is purely speculative.

          As to Sydney Newman a hell of a lot of what makes the show what it is can be accreditted to him – and the programme worked quite happily when Terry Nation took out the Daleks to develop his own series that never happened (shame that though), so I think it does hold considerable weight that he was of the opinion the character could be female.

          I think some people can’t imagine a woman in an authoritative role like the Doctor but this isn’t necessarily an individual sexism thing more a problem with society – one that a strong female role model as the Doctor could address.

          • Well the strong female role nonsense is my point – they’re EVERYWHERE on TV. Why do we need another? Landladies in the Rovers, headmistresses, detectives, politicians… the female roles in drama are consistently across many dramas both serial and continuous designed to “keep coming back” to face adversity and overcome it, often at the expense of men.

            It makes fantastic TV, often. But name me another strong male role model on TV. There are none. How does that reflect our society exactly?

          • avatar Spider-pope says:

            Just in answer to Christian, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are about the only two that spring to mind.

            As for the topic at hand, well its from the ‘Daily Express’ so i don’t think anyone need worry that it’s true. But a female Doctor would neuter my interest in the show so the ratings would drop by at least 1.

            If you want a strong female science fiction lead, fine. But go make your own new character and show rather than twist an existing one to suit your needs.

          • avatar Mugen Pharoah says:

            Whatever anyone thinks about this issue it will happen one day anyway. Whether that’s next year, five years, ten or fifty a future production team will go for a female Doctor.

            In Greek myth, Teiresias was the wisest of the humans as he had experienced life as a man, then woman then man again – and I happen to think that it would be a terrifically interesting area for the Doctor to move into.

            Isn’t it always the case that any new incarnation is approached with some sense of trepidation, I know it is for me. And another thing from this discussion, as a sideline, I totally agree how utterly awful ‘New Earth’ was – and I remember thinking Tennant wasn’t going to work out after that stinker – but thank God it picked up after that.

            For me, the character of the Doctor has become such a huge cultural icon that he is now, as a character and concept, as immortal a British icon as Sherlock Holmes, King Arthur, the Beatles or Biggles and will be just as prone to reinvention as any other of these characters – so a female version is inevitable – certainly due to the flexibility Who’s format allows.

            Personally I don’t think the Irene Adler route is where you would go with it – imagine the steel of a Judi Dench Doctor or a Helen
            Mirren – that would be much more interesting.

            And Romana is SUCH a female ‘Doctor’ – any coincidence why she wears a pink version of Tom Baker’s costume in Destiny of the Daleks? While I know she is a separate character – duh – in story terms she functions in a similar way to the Doctor and proves that a female Doctor could work.

            I am totally totally against gimmick casting though for the Doctor whether male or female so I think we can agree on that – and as to these strong female role models on TV you claim Christian – you must be watching TV on Pete’s world or something. All I see are women in matriarchal roles or defined only by their relationship to men. If you look at genre TV, which is what I was thinking of, and looked for for strong female characters with authority who aren’t just defined as ‘the woman’ or their authority isn’t associated with something like motherhood or their sexuality then you have a very very small f field. Starbuck in BSG (not Dirk Benedivct version, obviously) seemed pretty strong, but I’m struggling to think of anyone else right now.

            A female Doctor is very little threat to the longevity of the show – listening to fans too much, as in the 80s, is a far more threatening thing.

            So everyone should relax, it’s probably not going to happen soon, it it may one day, so what, we love the show, it will go on for
            centuries, if you don’t like one doctor maybe you’ll like the next…

            Saying all this I want Matt Smith to stay as long as possible ideally and want to put all this ‘next incarnation’ stuff to the back of my mind.

            I’m off for a lie-down and a jammie dodger.

  11. avatar Dean says:

    I quite happy with the Doctor staying male although I’d still watch with a female actress playing the role. Trouble with Lara is that’s she’s a bit too polished & refined. The Doctor has always been a bit scatty & off-the-cuff.

  12. avatar Matt says:

    The Doctor has always been a man, why change it? When I think of The Doctor, I think of a male figure, because, you know, he IS. Always has been. It’s not being sexist to think that way; he’s been male for the shows, almost, fifty years, it would seem odd to say the least to change that now.

  13. avatar Frank says:

    How about Lara Pulver as the RANI, that would be great casting. But The Doctor…NO!!!

  14. avatar DavidF says:

    No production team would ever take responsibility for such a risky change. In fact, I’d be astonished if the idea has ever even been seriously suggested, in the whole history of the show, by anyone other than journalists. Why risk alienating the fanbase so needlessly? Why risk raising questions that parents would struggle to answer to their confused children? Absolute nonsense, and Moffat would never go anywhere near it. Nearly as tedious as the cliches about Doctor Who fans hiding behind sofas and daleks not being able to go up stairs.

  15. avatar CLU says:

    if time lord doctor will be changed to woman, all his done and his relationship with others in past story will have bad feeling. What are people feeling when the watching new Lady Doctor, remembering Doctor and Rose’s relationship. Of course,writer can find thousand explanation on it.

    If lady doctor can not have success in the show, believe writer will change doctor to be man again. So doctor will be sometime lady and sometime man. Why make our doctor to be HERMAPHRODITE??

  16. avatar Pierre says:

    It’s not the gender of the character that is going to spruce things up again…it’s the basic makeup of the show’s management. John-Nathan Turner nearly destroyed the series by making it a pandering, intergalactic kiddie superhero romp. Hey…I love the show…have been a fan for over 30 years. However – Steven Moffat’s TRUE talent is in writing…NOT necessarily in producing the show. The choices of scripts, actors, and now series formats are starting to become as sporadic and cliche’ as Skittles colored Daleks. Give us GOOD scripts, give the gimmicky plot devices and “story arcs” a rest for a while, and that will give the series a leg up – that is…if the BEEB actually believes this amazing show really needs one.

  17. avatar Chris says:

    Well, I would find it a bit weird but not for any sexist reasons – it’s just inconsistent with the rest of the series. Regeneration hasn’t really been thoroughly explained in the series but as far we’ve seen so far there are male time lords and female time lords. We have consistently seen males regenerate as males and females as females so to have the Doctor regenerate into a female would be a bit random. I’m no biologist (or alien biologist) but I always assumed time lords had some basic DNA-type encoding in their physiology which ensured they were always a recombination of the same basic genes (as well as retaining their memories of course) which ensured that after regeneration they were still essentially the same person – maybe gender is included as part of that. Anyway, that’s enough fanw**k from me.

    Please note that I haven’t actually seen any of the new series yet, this is all based on my knowledge of the original 26 seasons!

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