As The General regenerated in Hell Bent so too did the debate on whether there could be a female Doctor.
Regardless of your opinion on The Generals change from male to female in a Doctor induced bout of face changing (That’s a whole other debate in itself) – personally, it worked right up to the point where Moffat threw in a couple of jokey lines: surely this must have happened in at least once in the whole of the Time Lords existence? Why would they still be shocked about it? Surely a simple ‘Sir…Madam’ line to cover the initial shock (and let’s face it, the Time Lords are both masters of time and decorum – they wouldn’t get flustered on principle) would have sufficed – but, anyway, it’s another sign that the issue isn’t going to go away.
One person who isn’t keen on changing the gender of the Doctor is Alex Kingston.
“It’s difficult – I would imagine that, if anything, the [next] Doctor might be of a different race than gender,” she told Digital Spy. “I can’t imagine, myself personally, the Doctor being a different gender. I just think that too many men have played that role.”
Elaborating, she added that: “if one goes back historically, Doctor Who has been a little boys’ show.”
“Women are going to hate me for this!” she laughed. “But I do think the Doctor has to be a guy – I do. Though it might be very interesting for River if it was a woman!”
As much as one can gender as show, Doctor Who has skewered more towards male audience members but gender is a lot more fluid than demographics suggest – as much as you may tailor a show towards a specific gender, it doesn’t follow that they’ll be the sole viewer, so it doesn’t really hold any water to site historical precedent of a ‘boy only’ club – and in fact, I’m not even sure this is true any more – to keep a male lead.
It’s a little beyond our and Alex’s remit to decide whether young boys can identify more or less with a female lead – if we are sticking with the idea that the show is mostly for young boys – but it’s an interesting idea to explore.
It’s just going to take someone with a hell of a lot of chutzpah to start experimenting with gender in hero worship on a prime time, historically viable Saturday night show – that’s not to say it won’t happen, but you can understand the trepidation.
That said, Doctor Who is nothing if not fearless…
One idea perhaps not up for exploration is the race of the Doctor – if she was worried about the ire of female Doctor Who fans, it’s probably not best to start throwing canon destroying words around for a lark – although, it’s probably not fair to ask a prominent guest star to wade into such a delicate debate and to make her contribution as entertaining as possible at the same time, but such is the nature of the beast.
River will return this Christmas in The Husbands of River Song – pairing her and Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor together for the first time – on Christmas Day at 5.15pm on BBC One.