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Published on July 8th, 2013 | by Meredith Burdett

Should More Female Directors Work on Who?

With all of the recent debate that’s been happening regarding whether the Doctor should transform from a man into a woman during one of his regenerations, gender equality has been something of a hot topic within the world of Doctor Who.


Doug Barry, writing an article for Jezebel has looked behind the camera for Doctor Who to take this particular issue and open it up a little more: there were no female directors on Doctor Who at all during Series 7 (2012-2013).

Now, could this be a matter of complete coincidence or is Barry completely correct when he talks of institutionalised sexism within this particular industry?

Certainly over the years that Doctor Who has been on screen, the number of male directors compared to female has been far larger but when we are lucky enough to get a woman in the director’s chair, we normally end up with Doctor Who gold dust. For example: Paddy Russell (Pyramids of Mars and Horror of Fang Rock), Fiona Cumming (Castrovalva, Snakedance and Enlightenment) and Hettie MacDonald (Blink).

Considering that Doctor Who was brought to life and gathered immediate popularity through the bravery and intelligent choices of a woman, Verity Lambert, should it be time that the show’s producers gave more women the opportunity to work behind the camera?

You can read Doug Barry’s full article, which doesn’t just single out Doctor Who, and see if you agree with it here.


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About the Author


What happens when an eight year old kid watches the 1993 repeat run of Planet of the Daleks? He pretty much ends up here writing about the show that grabbed hold of him and never let go!

10 Responses to Should More Female Directors Work on Who?

  1. avatar heikoc says:

    It’s not surprising that doctor who has not only too little women that write episodes, but also too little that direct them. It’s sad anyway.

  2. avatar FrancoPabloDiablo says:

    How about just hiring to the best person for the job regardless of sex? Also, you can’t compare a female director to a female actor talking over the role of the Doctor! When Paddy Russell and Fiona Cumming et al directed the show (brilliantly by the way) that didn’t screw up the show by making Susan’s Grandfather her Gandmother!

    • avatar Bob James says:

      This is a sticky issue. I agree that, as far as directors, writers, and even showrunners go, that the best person or people for the job should be chosen. And I don’t believe that either Russell or Steven have problems or issues with women inhabiting any of these roles. So what is then the issue? Perhaps there aren’t a whole lot of women stepping forward? Perhaps there will be in the future? Any example of a woman occupying any role in the making or production of Doctor Who has been a notable one. Many wonderful, one of a kind contributions have been made by women, without question. So why hasn’t there been more? I don’t know. And I don’t think that the powers that be at the BBC should put in place any sort of quota system. In the name of fostering equality, that more often than not leads to the wrong people being employed in the wrong jobs. The only conclusion that I can arrive at is to let the talent find talent, let the creative voices come forward and be heard. And even then, I don’t think that there will ever be so much as a 50/50 split.

  3. avatar Spider-pope says:

    Please don’t bring that Jezebel crap here too, it’s bad enough that io9 seem to care what they say. Jezebel is not a site campaigning for equality for women, it want’s preferential treatment for women, making them complete hypocrites.

    The job should go to the best candidate. It should not be decided on a need to fulfill a quota.

  4. avatar TimeChaser says:

    I agree that the job should go to the best candidate, regardless of gender. However, its also true that there is inequality going on in the industry, and I’m sure there’s some untapped/unnoticed talent out there that could be utilized, so perhaps Doctor Who should be a show that leads the way within the industry, using as many female writers and directors as males.

    • avatar Spider-pope says:

      The thing is Jezebel doesnt want equality. They want favouritism. Equality means both genders being given an equal chance, with the job going to the best of them. What they are arguing for is if a man and a woman go for a job, the woman should automatically be selected solely because of her gender.

      It’s exactly the kind of sexism they declare all men indulge in. Merely switching the target does not render it okay.

      Doctor Who should absolutely use as many female writers and directors as possible, IF they are the right people for the job. Choosing who to employ based on which set of reproductive organs they have, on the other hand, is ludicrous.

  5. avatar Mark Lenton says:

    Is it grossly sexist that most of the companions over the years have been women? I suppose some will argue that it is…

    We’ve had female exec’s on the team solidly since 2005 right up until the last resignation… but if the rumours of the reasons behind that are true then we may be thankful that Brian Minchin is male… it might help keep minds on the job until the showrunner changes.

    On similar subject… Is it not staggering that with the ratio of gay actors in the profession being so much higher than in the general population, that we haven’t had a gay actor playing The Doctor yet?

  6. avatar Bob James says:

    That we know or are aware of. And it’s definitely true here that the best man got the job each time.

  7. avatar rickjlundeen says:

    I do think it’s more a matter of who’s stepping up to write and direct. Sci fi has always seemed to net more boys than girls, it’s simply a fact. I’m more than happy to have more women write and direct, as long as they’re good—and frankly, after a few eps this past season, I think there’s been room for improvement on a couple levels. There always is I suppose since there always seems to be one or two bad eps in each season.

    But please don’t start hiring women just because they’re women. That way lays madness and stupidity.

  8. avatar Christine says:

    The worst thing that can happen to any woman, is being hired because you’re a woman. So, no, please no quota systems. It’s not a real solution at all, can cause the wrong person to be in a certain place, and will lead to many frustrated people – and certainly not just men either!

    Coming second on the bad-worse-worst line is if it is said there are equal chances but there just aren’t. There is an old boys network in place in many sectors and most of the participants don’t even realise that they’re excluding a substantial part of the available talent because they won’t find them within their specific network. This truly is a kind of institutionalised sexism, and not the kind of intentional sexism that certain jobs should not be done by women or something. That makes it so difficult to stand up against, as no one is intentionally trying to miss out on talent!

    Obviously it also doesn’t help that women often enough get asked awkward questions about how they handle their lives at home – questions men generally are not asked. But this last is not a reason for not having women on board I should think.

    Whether you agree with quota systems or not (and I for one could not find a pro quota statement in the referred article), still one should be aware of this kind of hidden institutionalised thing. Not by hiring only women or a quota of women, but really by extending existing networks so this kind of unintentional discrimination will stop. And if it is true that the Scify thing is more for boys (thankfully there are exceptions as I have been into Scify since I was little), well then it would be logical that there would be some more male writers and directors and a smaller number of female ones. But no female directors at all? Does that mean there are no male directors among soapseries because that’s generally more for women (again, with exceptions of course because I’ve never liked them and don’t watch)?

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