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Published on August 22nd, 2014 | by Jonathan Appleton

Are BBC Exec’s Female Doctor Who Comments Just Trolling?

Just in time for the launch of the new series, the female Doctor question has been opened up again, this time in comments by BBC TV drama chief Danny Cohen.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival on Thursday, Cohen was asked whether there could ever be a woman in the role. “I hope so,” said the man who oversees the Beeb’s drama output.

What are we to make of this? It’s all about the context, of course, and it’s easy to over-state the significance of what may well have been a fairly throwaway moment in the course of a wide-ranging discussion. Against that, Cohen must have been well aware that, coming from someone in his position, a comment like this would be sure to be picked up and reported.

Is Cohen guilty of a bit of self-publicity here? It’s no secret that the BBC has had more than its share of troubles in recent years with accusations of sexism. Was he perhaps hoping to gain some brownie points for his gender equality credentials? Maybe I’m in a good mood cos it’s the weekend but I’m inclined to think not, to be honest. He was asked a straight question and he gave a straight answer, and if it’s his honest opinion that there should be a female Doctor then fair enough.

Was he looking to gain press attention for his appearance at the festival? It could be argued that, in the week when the show’s new star is about to make his debut, it’s less than helpful for the drama department head to get drawn into this. It would have been easy enough to bat the question away with something along the lines of “we’re very happy with the Doctor we have, thanks very much and, crises threatening the very existence of the universe aside, there can only be one Doctor at a time.” But it’s also worth mentioning that in the same discussion Cohen gave Peter Capaldi a ringing endorsement, saying he “is going to be an astonishingly good Doctor.”

Steven Moffat has had a lot of practice dealing with this question and his response, whatever your personal views on the woman Doctor issue, is surely the right one. Essentially it’s about casting the right person for the role and “when that person is a woman, that’s the day it will happen.”

“You don’t cast for any other reason than for passion and for aesthetics. It’s not a political decision, it’s an aesthetic decision and will always be,” said Moffat, speaking at this year’s Hay Festival.

What do you think? Should Cohen have kept his opinion to himself? Or was he right to give voice to his view?

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About the Author

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has watched Doctor Who since those great big spiders did for Jon Pertwee, and it's way too late to stop now. When he's not at his job working for a charity in Hull he spends his time following Hull City's fortunes, listening to Bruce Springsteen and wondering why it took thirty years too long for Doctor Who action figures to come along. Favourite stories include the one with the mummies, the one with Mr Sin and the one with the Mona Lisa. Currently listening to: The Fifth Doctor Box Set. By, it were a crowded old TARDIS in them days...




10 Responses to Are BBC Exec’s Female Doctor Who Comments Just Trolling?

  1. avatar Miken Ayers says:

    There’s no point if Gallifrey comes back. It would also undermine characters like River,
    Romana, and Susan

  2. avatar Rick says:

    I’m so bloody sick of this b.s,

  3. avatar FrancoPabloDiablo says:

    Christ. not this again!


  4. Chancellor flavia, people get over it there are time lords and time ladies they don’t interchange. The doctor is male, sorry feminists, now piss off and attempt to ruin some other show.

  5. avatar DonnaM says:

    If he was asked a straight question, he had to give a straight answer, and whatever his opinion a man in his position isn’t going to create the inevitable furore that a “Christ, I hope not!” would kick up

    I think he could have said something along the line of, we have an astoundingly good Doctor at the moment and whenever the time comes we will cast absolutely on merit, but it’s not always easy to give the political answer on the spur of the moment so, in honour of the bank holiday weekend and the new series starting tonight, I will give the benefit of the doubt this time.

    Please, let’s not have another regeneration for a few years yet!

    • avatar FrancoPabloDiablo says:

      Or he could have simply said ‘No, the Doctor is male’. It’s about time people stopped pandering to these PC and feminist terrorists.

      • avatar DonnaM says:

        I would have been cheering if he had, but he wouldn’t have reached such a high position in a major organisation by being blunt/controversial (delete as applicable). However, calling these shrill nuisances terrorists seems a bit strong to me. They’re far too unimportant for that :-)

  6. avatar Gareth Kavanagh says:

    I think it’s inevitable at some point, but not yet.

  7. avatar Penny says:

    I was in the audience and am also a massive Who fan. Danny Cohen gave an honest answer. He would like to think a woman could be Doctor, and in the context of the diversity discussion on stage it was politick of him to say so. But he also said it was completely up to the Showrunner and that Capaldi was absolutely the right choice.
    Personally, I think the Doctor is male but it was interesting to hear people talk about it as if it was a role like Prime Minister that needs to be representative of everyone!

  8. avatar quigonj2014 says:

    My thought on it is also that the Doctor is a male. After 2,000 years (give or take) he seems to be comfortable being a male who fancies women. There’s actually nothing wrong with being a straight male, and diversity should allow that if that’s how he is, then there should be no one trying to force him to be something he clearly doesn’t see himself as.

    If the Beeb wants a spinoff with Jenny, Flavia, Romana or some new Time Lady, cool.

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