Opinion Octogram

Published on June 6th, 2013 | by James Colvin

12th Doctor Fantasy Casting Is A Fantasy

So. A 12th Doctor. Exciting, eh. Already, bloggers and professional print media journalists alike are touting their predictions for who’s in line to succeed Matt Smith. Hardly surprising – Twitter’s absolutely rammed with speculation. In fact, Ladbrokes are already taking odds, with James Bond’s Bill Tanner and RSC stalwart Rory Kinnear odds-on favourite at 3/1 at the time of writing. For some reason.

Rory Kinnear

We also have a pretty lively thread full of suggestions here at Kasterborous.

However, let’s back up a moment.

Chipping in with her tuppence, the wonderful Laurie Penny (columnist for New Statesman and The Independenttweeted: “Guys: this isn’t a vote. The only way that New #doctorwho time is like a national election is you just know it’ll be another white guy.”

That has always been a bone of contention, hasn’t it? And you know what? I’m with Laurie.

Well… Personally, I’m not a fan of Steven Moffat’s characterisation of women. So I wouldn’t want to see a female Doctor right now. In fact, I’d rather see some diversity on the writing staff, all of whom are middle aged white men, all of whom have executive produced another television show previously. But I digress, what I’m arguing for here is the imagination.

Matt Smith on the cover of Doctor Who Magazine 460

Remember the cover of the last Doctor Who Magazine – the one with the ‘Who Is the Doctor?’ header and Matt Smith stood in front of all the past actors in the background. That prompted the response: an enigma, obviously. But also – wouldn’t it be boring if the answer was just ‘some white guy’? More than that – isn’t the enigma being watered down by frequent repetition of the Doctor being a white, able-bodied, usually middle-class male?

Forget any past ‘rules’ that have been established – only through repetition and fan fixation on them. Those are what makes a show stagnate, not risk-taking. Quite the reverse – Attack of the Cybermen/Colin Baker years – massive riffs on what had gone before and nothing else. Creative vacuum. Tom Baker era – hell, the concept of regeneration in the first place – nothing like that had been done before. And the result was much more exciting and unpredictable.

Instead, take a broader look at the tradition of storytelling the show belongs to. The closest equivlaent to the Doctor is Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius – an ambiguous and polymorphous trickster, who challenges repressive authorities. Makes recurrent appearances in different forms – including more than once as a woman.

All of which is by the by. The 12th Doctor is almost definitely going to be some young white male British actor. But that doesn’t mean we should close our minds to the idea of something different just because what some wealthy media professionals will be doing. That – and the misconception that the consistent casting of a white man somehow maintains the ‘integrity of the character’ comes from the fact that the BBC are making a cautious gamble with millions of pounds’ worth of license fee money.

Cold War 3

But we’re not saddled with the same burden. We’re not television executives, we’re not bookies and there sure as hell isn’t a seer among us who can tell us exactly what’s going to happen.

No. We’re better than that. We’re fans. We’re fantasists. Let’s remember that fantasy casting is just that: a fantasy. So there’s no need to shy away from a bit of imagination. Open-mindedness is a wonderful thing.

Which brings us round to this.

Shirley Henderson for the Doctor.

The rest of you are wrong.

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24 Responses to 12th Doctor Fantasy Casting Is A Fantasy


  1. I reject your notion that the Doctor is stale because he regenerates constantly into a white male. That just means he happens to be a white male!

    That’s like saying I’m stale because I wake up every morning as the same race or that shows are stale because they have continuity and history.

    Now, I ‘d certainly like some better writing on the show. If we can do that by getting more minorities, women, or just better writers, full speed ahead!

    There seem be some who think Doctor Who is racist because he hasn’t regenerated into other races (despite it being an uncontrolled thing), and that’s a silly claim. Besides, the people clamoring for Idris Elba seem to all be fan girls who just think he’s hot. So, I’m not thinking some sort of equality movement is really behind this.

  2. avatar FrancoPabloDiablo says:

    White, Black, Green, Young, Old, Male, Female, Tall, Short, Disabled, Able Bodied, Bald, Afro, Gay, Straight! Why does it even matter? Why should somebody get a job just becuase of one of the aforementioned qualities? I’m all for equality but whatever happened to employing ‘the best person for the role’? You don’t employ a black male just because he’s a black male! You don’t employ a female just because she is female! You don’t employ a white male just because he is a white male! Let’s move beyond this PC crap and just hope we get the best person cast in the role regardless of anything else!

    Oh, and I hear that Whoopi Goldberg is going to be the next James Bond by the way!

  3. avatar TimeChaser says:

    While exploring the idea of the Doctor being able to regenerate into bodies of apparent different ethnicity (black, asian, etc) or changing into a woman, let’s not forget one of the central principals of the series: he’s a TIME TRAVELER. Going back into the past presents certain problems if he’s anything other than an apparent white British male. Remember how Martha was treated in Human Nature/Family of Blood. It could present new possibilities for drama, but it also means he looses some of his credibility and authority if he goes back to any time where someone of another ethnicity or gender wouldn’t be a Doctor.

    Just food for thought.

    • avatar Gruff says:

      You make some good points, but surely the authority/credibility issue would often be worth exploring within the story? Also if writers found it difficult to encapsulate this in a 45minute story, then they could always use the psychic paper shortcut to create a workaround that would leave the authority questioner bamboozled.

      It also depends upon the setting:
      In historical stories it would sometimes be an issue that needed to be addressed, in current stories it would still need to be looked at (sadly), but in future stories it would/should not matter. Alien planet stories would be fine too. Daleks are a racist bunch, but they would not separate between us humans based upon our colour, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or anything else.

  4. avatar Callum says:

    What an absolute load of rubbish!!! What if the doctor is another white male? So what? The show shouldn’t have to give way to arrogant, narrow-minded and, to be frank, racists like this author nor make the character a black female in a wheelchair to be ‘different’ or win a “well done” from tv critics. It is an unspoken rule that the doctor gradually generates into a younger incarnation of himself and this is appreciated by true fans. If the doctor were to become a female the timelords would seriously have to re-evaluate how they moral relationships on Gallifrey; this would just ruin their credibility in my opinion unless done in a tasteful and considerate way and portrayed to us, the audience in a way which doesn’t make the timelords appear to be constantly playing for both teams in a tactless and creepy manner. Don’t get me wrong, i wouldn’t mind seeing a female take the role nor a person of alternative ethnicity; speculation about the next doctor shouldn’t involve a race or sex row. I would hate to see the show be forced to take this direction because of idiot articles and authors.
    Before i end my rant, i would just like to say yes i am a brown-haired, white, able-bodied british male myself and have been a doctor who fan for years. The doctor should go to the best ACTOR whether they are black, white, asian, female or a little bit of everything listed :P But c’mon guys we all know that at some point in the doctors 13 lives, we all want to see his happy little face when he looks into the TARDIS’s console and sees himself with long ginger locks ;)

  5. avatar dailypop says:

    “The 12th Doctor is almost definitely going to be some young white male British actor.”

    Too right… and we are the program is the poorer for it. Worse still, a young white British ‘quirky’ actor with a strong ‘sexy’ streak.


  6. I’m not sure how I come across online, but I like to think I’m pretty open-minded on the subject of what the Doctor should look like. I certainly have no problem with him changing skin colour. If he changes gender – yeah, it creates problems, but it’s an intriguing concept, as long as it’s written well (and not as a joke plot device) it could work… maybe? I’m not entirely convinced, but I can very easily have my mind changed.

    I just don’t know why it’s So Important. This is the casting of a fictional character. A high profile character, sure, but it’s not some major glass ceiling holding women back that has to be broken through.

    In the real world though – now that’s a different matter. The show really needs to have a female show-runner occasionally and should definitely have female writers far more often than it does now. Not for any kind of box-ticking reason, but because it would enrich the range of stories written. Women would bring different viewpoints which can only benefit the types of stories that make it to screen.

    Back to the casting of the Doctor, I didn’t agree with all of Laurie Penny’s slightly cynical tweet, but she said one thing I totally agree with: “This isn’t a vote.” I wonder if we’ve had public-voting “talent” shows inflicted on us for so long (especially on Saturday evenings), that a lot of people think they should have a say in how fictional shows are written or cast. No – that’s not how it works, it completely undercuts the creative process. We can complain about weak plots and speculate about casting choices as much as we want, but we should be under no illusion that production teams are under any obligation to take any notice of us.

    And if the 12th Doctor is another white male? So what? For a show that can “go anywhere, do anything”, there are all manner of limitations that have been placed on it: the TARDIS will always be a blue police box, the Doctor will most likely always be British (try suggesting another nationality on a forum and see how far that gets you), the Daleks will always be angry pepperpots… Hey, the TARDIS console will probably always be six-sided? Why are we happy to accept those limitations, but it’s suddenly become So Important that we get a female Doctor?

    Again – I have to say I’m open-minded and will happily accept whoever gets the role. I just wish fans wouldn’t get so attached to their own wishes and theories.

    • avatar Bob James says:

      Very, very well said, Mr. Steve Andrew. The people at the BBC responsible are going to cast the best actor for the role. No matter who those people in management have been over the eras and years, one thing has remained a constant. They have never chosen poorly. Over the course of 50 years, and of course exempting the 11-12 years the show wasn’t on the air, the casting of the Doctor has always been consistent. Everyone will have a favorite of course, as a matter of taste and opinion, but they have never chosen an actor who, even despite some perhaps shaky starts, has failed to deliver on the role. That, right there, is a considerable accomplishment.

  7. avatar lozzer says:

    When RTD brought the series back from the brink he was constantly asked “what are the new Daleks gonna look like?” “Will you keep the Tardis as a Police Box?” He always new that the wheel wasn’t broke and it didn’t need fixing – The same still applies, I have no idea why people suddenly want such drastic change – yes, I think a non- white actor would be interesting and is long overdue, I’m all for that, but please, lets put the scissors away and stop all this nonsense about castrating our beloved Doctor. He’s a bloke end of – black, white, Chinese, Indian, I couldn’t care less, but just because he’s alien doesn’t mean he can change sex – I mean, what’s next? “Ok, we’ve had the female Doctor, didn’t quite work, I know, lets make him a talking giraffe this time around.” Please respect the integrity of the character – whatever next… Oh I know – Mr Marple…

    • avatar lozzer says:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Rn77V1tG38

      End of time – The Doctor and Wilfred in the cafe talking about the inevitable regeneration – The Doctor – “Everything I am dies, some new man goes sauntering away…”

      Note the word ‘man’.

      • avatar Dave says:

        The Corsair was a Time Lord and has been described as both male and female… so it’s not impossible for a gender change to occur. In your example I would say the Doctor was referring to his past experience of regeneration. The Corsair does seem to be an exception rather than the rule however, Romana would seem to indicate a separate and distinct female form of Gallifreyan.
        On a personal note, I’d be disappointed if a woman was cast as the Doctor, not because I think a woman would make for a poor Doctor, but because it would break the traditional image of the Doctor. A woman might very well play the role better than any male who’s yet filled the role… but it wouldn’t be the same, she would be The Doctor, she’d be The First Female Doctor.

        • avatar lozzer says:

          That as a joke included into the script by Moffat. Look at the little wink of mischief in the Doctors eye. He’s clearly implying it was a trans-gender reference.

  8. avatar Dr Hula Hoop says:

    CHARLIE SHEEN

    Join the group here…

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/163687933804245/

    • avatar Bob James says:

      Those of you in the UK (I’m assuming he’s in the UK) who care about Dr Hula Hoop, it’s time for an intervention. Hula Hoop’s drinking is clearly out of control. Please make haste and help the man. Unless he has turned into a woman, then, help the woman.

  9. avatar Neu 75 says:

    I reckon Bidisha should be the Doctor if that’s the logic then.
    Seriously, this debate about the ethnicity/gender of the role of the Doctor is getting out of hand and losing almost all perspective. The agenda is thundering down like Maxwell’s silver hammer over what is at the end of the day is a television role.

  10. avatar DWFanPenn says:

    I’d like to see Nick Scovell as the Doctor. :3 I know he’ll be perfect for the part.

    • avatar TonyS says:

      You can see him in the part on You Tube :)

  11. avatar BOJAY says:

    Steven Spielberg once suggested to Philip Segal (TV Movie Producer) that David Hasselhoff was once quite interested in the role. And he is “older” now…………

    • avatar TonyS says:

      Thank goodness Segal ignored him then

      • avatar BOJAY says:

        I was there at the particular convention when Segal discussed this (back in late 1996), and the look on his face said it all, it was priceless. I really believe that Philip Segal was trying to bring Doctor Who back to us, and American “interests” got in the way. He also stood fast and was insistent on Paul McGann being cast, when the partner parties at Fox and Universal were pushing for a bigger name actor.

    • avatar BOJAY says:

      A thumbs down? I was , of course, being extremely sarcastic. See the comments below…….

  12. avatar BOJAY says:

    Or above. I can never get this “reply” placement right here.

  13. avatar JMOthanks says:

    I can believe that the Doctor can regenerate into to another race. I even accept that!! But, a woman “no”…The Doctor is a male..period. If anyone seen the classic series you will see that they are female time lords. Like “Romana” and the “Rani” both time ladies…
    I could be wrong but, that is just my opinion.

  14. avatar cphammond says:

    I think this article is very naive. Firstly, it’s predicated on the idea that racism and sexism are the same thing, they are not. I have no problem with the doctor regenerating into a different race, from a biological point of view Matthew Smith regenerating into Alexander Siddiq would be no more a physical transformation than Colin Baker into Sylvester McCoy. What always bothers me about the debate is the notion the doctor should be “Black”. Why Black? Why not Asian? Why not Hispanic? Is it because those in the debate aren’t being ‘right on’ enough suggesting an actor with sci fi credentials like Alexander Siddiq? Is he not ethnic enough? Would the Black doctor maintain the Edwardian English gent look and characterisation? Would that be Black enough for those leading the argument? or, to pander to the naive, would we instead see a stereotype doctor, a shades and leather jacket wearing Doctor, one who knows how to be a hit with the ladies and shoot a few hoops, perhaps one who puts up some african art in the console room? Now that WOULD be racist. For my money the casting should be open and the best guy gets the job, if the best guy is Black, native american, Asian, Hispanic or White then that’s the guy who passes the audition and gets the role, how the hell else should casting work? Lets just not have a token Doctor, or deviate from the character.

    As for explaining the doctor’s influence in the past if he wasn’t white, that’s slightly more difficult, after all if the show was about the doctor explaining his appearance and the fact he is not a bus driver or slave to ignorant locals it would be a very different programme. if the show were to become the doctor on a moral crusade to help ethnic minorities that would also be tricky and not the show doctor who is/was intended to be. Most of all if the doctor were to start commenting on human cruelty and ignorance he’d never leave the 1970′s! Wouldnt he go and sort out aushwitz or the slave trade? Doctor Who is Saturday night escapism isnt it! it depends if the powers that be felt tackling racism head on instead of through allegory (daleks are nazis after all) made for good stories? But my feeling is making a black doctor the vehicle for lots of commentary on race issues would itself be racist, like race issues are something only THEY are interested in? Isn’t a black doctor commanding the respect of historical figures more progressive than showing him being treated like dirt by them? But then it is ignoring a historical truth? It’s a complicated question, too complicated for this piece to solve. But it shouldn’t be a question that stops us casting the right man, which leads me nicely to my next point.

    As for the doctor being a woman, that is the worst idea I’ve heard. The doctor is a man, that’s the character. The clamour to cast a woman is a naive view of sexual equality, like letting ‘the women’ have one doctor will keep them quiet. What problem does casting a female doctor solve? As I see it the problem is a distinct lack of strong female characters like the doctor in sci fi in specific and tv in general. Casting a female doctor stinks of tokenism and a lack of understanding around the real feminist perspective. Equality is not about giving the girls a go, it’s about creating interesting female characters and them being the lead in the show. But for “sonic lipstick” Sarah Jane Adventures was a good stab at this, as was River Song, in the wider science fiction universe we have Kira Nerys, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Kara Thrace (Starbuck). Before anyone points out that Starbuck was a man in the original battlestar galactica the new one is a reboot that bares little or no relation to the original its not a sequel series that is part of the same continuity or canon. Kara Thrace is shown as strong, spiritual, capable. She is a leader and a warrior, however she is a wife, and briefly a mother, this is a strong female character, where her feminity is crucial to the character. Having a one off female doctor incarnation does not redress sexual inequality, its condescending, it’s letting ‘them’ have a turn with the men’s toys. I don’t want a female doctor I want a tv show where the lead can be a strong female character. A character my daughter can look up to without the risk that in 2 years she’ll be a man again. The idea of a female doctor is part of a sexist discourse, it’s a sexist idea that suggests women can’t be good characters in their own right, which, given the characters i quote above is rubbish.

    I hope the best actor gets the role and that if a white man is cast there isn’t a sense of disappointment, aft all judging an actor by his colour before he has even put on a costume is the very definition of racism.

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