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Published on February 13th, 2014 | by Drew Boynton

Hey, Moffat, Where Are All The Female Doctor Who Scriptwriters?

Behind the scenes, when it comes to writers, Doctor Who has been a bit of a boys club lately. It was 2008 when a woman last wrote for the show, when former script editor Helen Raynor scripted The Sontaran Strategem/The Poison Earth. To put it in perspective, that was near beginning of the Tenth Doctor and Donna’s time together.

Over five years on, there have been no more stories written by women.  None in the whole era of the Eleventh Doctor!   This seems particularly strange since Doctor Who has one of the most diverse fanbases of any show in the world.

It is also somewhat ironic because, during Steven Moffat’s time as showrunner, we’ve seen the rise of some of the most prominent and strong female characters in the show’s half-century history:  Professor River Song, Amy Pond, Madame Vastra and Jenny, and the various Oswalds.  There has been some criticism though, that these leading women are often written in too similar a fashion… like they’ve been “Moffatized.”  They tend to be quick with a one-liner, have nicknames for people (usually the Doctor), possess a certain breezy sexuality, and are bold in the face of danger.

Could a female writer add more depth and “realness” if given the chance to write for Moffat’s female characters?

When there are women writers out there such as Debbie Moon, creator and writer of the BAFTA-nominated children’s fantasy series Wolfblood, who seem interested and willing to give it a try, it would certainly seem like a possibility.  In a recent comment on her blog page, Moon mentions that she would like to write for our favorite Time Lord, saying:

I’m hoping I’ll get to do a Doctor Who one of these days…

It’s probably more of an innocent comment and not a guarantee (as a novelist, Moon is only likely to join Jenny Colgan as the only notable female Doctor Who writer at the moment), but with someone like Moon–and surely there are many other very capable and experienced women writers available as well–isn’t it time they were given a chance? Doctor Who has had women writers before, from Barbara Clegg (Enlightenment) to Jane Baker (The Mark of the Rani, et al) to Rona Munro (Survival), but hasn’t the time come when there should be more female Doctor Who writers on TV?

When it comes to women writers, is Doctor Who behind the times?

Kasterborites?

(With thanks to Ian.)

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About the Author

Drew has been a fan of Doctor Who ever since he flipped through the channels late one night and saw a girl blowing up an army of funny robot men with nothing but a slingshot and some old coins. He currently lives somewhere in the woods of Missouri with his beautiful wife Barbara.




17 Responses to Hey, Moffat, Where Are All The Female Doctor Who Scriptwriters?

  1. Victor says:

    Yes, there should be female writers involved. Simple as that. The fact there’s only been one in almost ten years of the modern series is really poor. I don’t think for one moment that it’s been on purpose, there’s nothing sexist going on, but surely you want a range of voices working on a show, and that being the case you’d want some female voices in the mix..

  2. Tony Sobol says:

    There’s a brilliant list someone did on Livejournal recently of female writers who should write for Doctor Who. Wolfblood’s Debbie Moon and Being Human’s Sarah Dollard would be two names I would be VERY keen to see on a Capaldi episode, but also for your consideration…

    Lucy Watkins (Merlin, Atlantis)
    Cath Tregenna (Torchwood) – Her episodes seemed well received back in the day – time to jump up to the parent show.

    And if they want a big time writer… Jane Goldman (X-Men: First Class, Stardust) would fit the bill nicely.

  3. TimeChaser says:

    Absolutely. I agree that the tendency to use male writers most of the time is not intentionally sexist, but if there are talented female writers out there (and there are) who are willing to write for the show, I say give ‘em a chance.

    For the most part, the only women writing for Doctor Who have been in the novels. There are a few writing for Big Finish as well, though it seems Jacqueline Rayner has done the majority.

  4. Anthony says:

    Excellent article, hopefully it gets the right people thinking about approaching female writers for the program.

  5. IGettings says:

    Debbie Moon’s writing on Wolfblood has been consistently good. Admittedly, not every great writer “gets” Doctor Who, but she would be a valuable asset. Would be very surprised if no one mentioned her to Moffat or Gattiss or others as a potential asset to the show.

  6. Simon Magellan says:

    Definitely need new writers – not just female, though that would be welcome too – but feel some of the writing over the past couple of years has been a bit, well, samey for want of a better word!

    By the way – “as a novelist, Moon is only likely to join Jenny Colgan as the only notable female Doctor Who writer at the moment” – er, don’t forget AL Kennedy or Trudi Canavan or Richelle Mead or Malorie Blackman!


    • Hmm, that should perhaps have been “most notable” you’re absolutely right (although I could only recall Richelle Mead)…

  7. Ian says:

    The lack of real diversity in the writing pool should be the real issue, not what gender they are. It’s still mostly the same group who were writing it nine years ago.
    Fresh blood, of either sex.

    • castellanspandrel says:

      I agree, Ian.

      Not sure why the directors have tended to move on after a few years but never the writers.

      They say it’s the hardest show to write for, but there are decent ones on other programmes that look tailor-made for Who, such as Jack Thorne (The Fades).

      Now that Neil Cross has made the jump, hopefully others will follow. And why not just consider story ideas from up and coming writers who’ve not had the experience yet? No harm done if it’s a “no”, you’d think, but then I don’t know how it works at the Beeb.

      I think the ‘head writer’ set-up drains the incumbent, and both Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat have been spread thinly over too many scripts. Fresh blood, please!

      • Simon Magellan says:

        I would compare the situation (not just with the show but with the Beeb in general) with the 60s/70s/80s – there was much more emphasis on getting new writers into television – the BBC, and Doctor Who’s production office – would read scripts and give feedback. There’s no way now that the situation where a 17 year old fan could end up writing for the show, as happened in 1980 with Andrew Smith, could be repeated.

        Ironically, given it is run by fans now, DW is more closed to fans with writing ambitions than ever before.

        For those not aware, the BBC long ago closed themselves off to new writers – no production office will read submissions and they have to go through a dedicated unit, called The Writers Room, which has limited submission windows (four this year, each for different types of scripts – drama, radio, comedy and childrens).

        In 2012, RTD was behind a BBC Wales Drama Award to “find new talent” – I was a finalist in it, but was disappointed that the winners were all already professional writers, which seemed to me to go against the idea behind it.

        TV in Britain is very stale now – and the paucity of openings for new writing suggests it will not improve any time soon.

        • castellanspandrel says:

          To add emphasis to what you’ve said, Simon, it’s often claimed by industry insiders, including those working on Doctor Who, that an idea as far out as Who would never have got commissioned if it had been thought up now.

        • Victor says:

          RE: Sending scripts to the BBC, not sure that’s completely true, perhaps if you’re not sending stuff via an agent?? Plus you can of course go through a production company.

    • Victor says:

      The only writers from last season to have written on the first season were Moffat and Gatiss. There is always a new writer somewhere in the mix, Neil Cross last season, Gaiman the season before. We already know Ford is back next season, after only writing one way back in the Tennant era. So they do juggle things a little bit, but yes, always up for more fresh faces. Especially a few female faces. Get Jane Espenson in, no one can say she doesn’t have the experience.

      • castellanspandrel says:

        True, but Toby Whithouse started in S2, Gareth Roberts and Chris Chibnall in S3, and they’re all still around.

  8. castellanspandrel says:

    … Of either the male or the female variety…

  9. DonnaM says:

    Should we have more writers involved? Definitely. Do they have to be female? Not necessarily. Equality isn’t real equality (in the view of a woman who believes she should work until the same age as her male colleagues to qualify for a state pension) until our gender doesn’t even merit a mention.

    Sadly, I don’t expect to see that happen in my lifetime (I’m 44, by the way :-) )

    I do think, however, the article makes a very good point about the strong female characters in recent years. They’re completely interchangeable: witness the internet debate over Tasha Lem/River Song after Christmas. They’re written by mostly middle aged men with a definite idea of what makes “a strong woman” and it shows!

  10. TimeChaser says:

    I think at the very least, they should have some of the more consistently talented writers from other media and the classic series come in and write for the new series, like John Dorney, Marc Platt, and Andrew Smith. They’ve done it in the past with Robert Shearman and Paul Cornell, so why not do it again?

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