In a recent AfterEllen huddle, we were asked what we would change about television if we could, and I answered that I would give a woman a shot at the titular role of Doctor Who. Well, clearly Matt Smith reads this website because barely a month later he announced his departure from the show, following the upcoming Christmas special. This is kind of sad news, given that the Internet has only just stopped referring to Smith as “the new Doctor,” but since the franchise will carry on, so must we. And now that a change in lineup is set to occur, it’s time to weigh in on who we’d like to wield the sonic screwdriver.
Since its inception, 11 actors have helmed the TARDIS. They have been young and old, serious and whimsical, but they have all had a couple of things in common. I’ll let you guess what those are.
If you guessed “white” and “male” congratulations, you are not afflicted with face blindness. But we know that this need not be the case. In “The Doctor’s Wife,” we learned that Time Lords can change sex during regeneration, and River Song’s multiple incarnations prove that they may also change race. And given the (relative) unpopularity of last season, this is the perfect time for such a change. Lest this be interpreted as entitled whining, consider the possibilities.
When you have an alien with the power to travel anywhere in time and space, your story options are pretty limitless, but recent Doctor Who seasons have shown the show’s commitment to exploring what near-immortality really does to a person and the people around them. But the endless journey into the Doctor’s psyche has grown slightly stale, as this past season proves. So imagine how much it could alter the show’s dynamic to make The Doctor a person to whom all society’s gates are not thrown open. Think of the questions the show could start asking itself in the wake of a change in sex or race or both. A trip back in time suddenly forces the show to confront prejudice, and holding a mirror up to society is what really great science fiction does.
Obviously a change like this would trigger a backlash, but if Matt Smith’s reception—“he’s too HANDSOME” howled the internet—has taught us anything, it’s that backlash is inevitable. But the shock of a big change in casting would be a healthy challenge to Doctor Who fans. It would challenge us to think of The Doctor as a hero first, a set of principles first, and all other trappings of exterior appearances second. It would actually force us to see The Doctor on The Doctor’s own terms. Every time The Doctor regenerates, it requires this leap of its fans; if we jump a little farther this time, we could land someplace truly remarkable.
With that in mind, here are a few possible answers to that immortal query: Doctor who?
Suggested by: Some genius on her Twitter feed
Suggested by: ME, OK?
Suggested by: Ali Davis
Suggested by: Heather Hogan
Remember that old riddle about the boy who gets in a car accident in which his father is killed? He arrives at the hospital and the surgeon operating on him exclaims “that’s my son!” Remember how nobody could ever figure out that the doctor was the boy’s mother? That’s why we need this.
So who do you think the next Doctor will be? (As long as they’re British, obviously, let’s be reasonable.)