This morning the BBC in a flurry of excitement and anticipation, pomp and circumstance announced the identity of the actor who would take on the mantel of playing the 12th Doctor: Peter Capaldi.
I suppose they can be forgiven (slightly) for making a huge fuss out of this. It is the 50th anniversary of the show. But the build up meant that diversity bashers went into overdrive calling for a female doctor, a black doctor, what about an anime robot doctor?
It was never going to happen.
It’s all in the title. Who plays the Doctor is not important. That’s why the show has continued on brilliantly despite numerous regenerations. The story arcs are bigger than the actor. This does mean that the Doctor could be played by any actor. But the trick is that the WHO can never upstage the what. This is evident in previous castings of the Doctor – the actors chosen being unknown or at most respected but not ‘famous’.
Unfortunately in striving for diversity people have illustrated exactly why the writers are unlikely to divert from the established type. The actor or actress playing the Doctor cannot be an eyesore. At this point in time a female, black, yellow, green Doctor would be. You could argue that a female doctor could help change this. But realistically Stephen Moffatt and co’s job is not to engage in social politics, it’s to tell the story. These are not writers who dabble in tokenism.
But don’t be alarmed. A male Doctor is not necessarily a bad thing.
Reason 1: The Doctor is essentially a broken and needy character constantly searching for love and forgiveness. He is boring on his own, dynamic when surrounded by sidekicks. The sidekicks make the show and are just as important if not more important than the Doctor. The Doctor may be male but the kick ass characters are female. River Song? Lady Vastra and Jenny, Amy Pond, Rose Tyler, Martha Jones and Donna Noble to name a few have their moments but at numerous points in the show have proven that the Doctor is hopeless without them. It’s these relationships which make the show great.
Unconvinced? Read this.
Reason 2: Why can’t boys have a male role model in TV who is actually a good guy? Halfway through this article, Annemarie Jonson discusses the ‘boy crisis’ the fact that in this generation boys are encouraged through film to be drop kick losers (Pineapple Express, Bart Simpson, every Adam Sandler movie ever) or unrealistically saving the world and ‘getting the girl’ (do I even need to provide examples). The Doctor on the other hand is different. He is constantly striving for the best of humanity, sex is not the be all and end all. 99% of the time he’s a nice guy. Shouldn’t we be encouraging characters like that?
As Claire Budd puts it –
As feminists we are always asking men to change, to become less aggressive, and to value equality. The idea of feminists arguing that we should take away the only male role model that appears to use his brain rather than weapons or fists seems rather alien to me.
Personally I’m of the opinion that we need to revert to the ‘good ol’ days’ when a Doctors regeneration would be a potential threat in every episode and unexpected when it comes. But for now, I’m not phased. Capaldi will be a great Doctor. But any good actor could be. What’s more exciting? Jenny, Lady Vastra and Strax are coming to Armageddon!