Can’t Ignore the Story Who

Galactic Starry Space

It’s no secret I am a Doctor Who fan. Additionally, I am also a writer and have worked on IPs like, most recently, Firefly. My job, when I’m working on these properties, is to tell stories and create games for fans and in the best interests of the publishers who hired me. It’s also part of my job to be analytical about settings and characters to find cohesion and understand how the pieces fit. So, naturally I do this for anything else I enjoy — like Doctor Who.

With that out of the way, it baffles me that conversations about Doctor Who as a female have boiled down to a dismissive: “Well, you must be one of them feminists.” So, wanting a new version of the Doctor we’ve never seen before is a political agenda? Another comment I heard was: “They don’t change the sex of superheroes — why the Doctor?”

Yes, they have changed the gender of superheroes, multiple times over in fact. Sometimes it’s a woman assuming the mantle, sometimes it’s an alternate universe, and other times it’s a commentary on gender-swapping as a whole. Link, link, link, link, link. Why? Because it serves as a vehicle for great storytelling that’s reflective of the modern age. Those tales come from writers and artists, true, but comics does not shy away from cultural commentary nor has it avoided experimenting with new and controversial ideas in this art form. You don’t have to look very long or hard to notice how comic books have evolved through the decades. Even iconic, decades-old heroes, like Superman, have changed over the years. Superman from the 50s is not the same hero we know today.

I’m shocked that the Doctor’s gender change is such a threat. Why? Because it’s in the canon and that was reinforced by Neil Gaiman. The definition of regeneration incorporates race, gender, and species shifts and that was presented on screen in “The Doctor’s Wife” (e.g. not just behind the scenes) by Mr. Gaiman when he wrote about the Corsair. (Also, remember a race shift was introduced when River Song regenerated.)

The Time Lords’ ability to change species during regeneration is referred to in the television movie by the Eighth Doctor in relation to the Master. This is supported by the implication by the Daleks that the First Doctor’s apparently human appearance was not his true form (The Daleks’ Master Plan, 1965) and the Fourth Doctor’s Time Lady companion Romana’s regeneration scene in Destiny of the Daleks (1979). In that scene Romana demonstrates an apparent ability to “try on” different bodies from a number of different species during her regeneration, before settling on a final, humanoid form which physically resembles Princess Astra of Atrios (see discussion below).

While explaining the process of regeneration to Rose at the end of “The Parting of the Ways”, the Ninth Doctor suggests that his new form could have “two heads”, or even “no head”, although it is unclear if he is merely joking. In the 2005 Children in Need special, which takes place immediately after, the newly regenerated Tenth Doctor, while examining his new body, makes a point of checking that he has two arms, two legs and two hands, implying that regenerations can sometimes result in physically deformed or non-humanoid forms; whether this is also a joke is not clear (or could be due to the psychological stress of regeneration). In the second part of The End of Time (2010), the Eleventh Doctor also enumerates eyes, ears, hands, fingers, and legs, and after feeling his hair, even wonders for a moment if he has changed sex. (In a later episode, “The Doctor’s Wife,” the Doctor refers to another Time Lord, the Corsair, having been both male and female in various incarnations.) — Regeneration, Wikipedia

This link from the Tardis Wiki has additional information with even more reference points.

Circling back to my earlier point… Have you seen “The Name of the Doctor”? Yeah, definitely not human. Now, the other criticism was that the Doctor wouldn’t be “The Doctor” anymore if “he” was a “she.” Really? In the canon, the Doctor’s personality doesn’t change but his form can and does. So, that means the Doctor’s core identity is iconic but the biological container the Time Lord is housed in shifts. My answer to that question is: “No, the canon states that the Doctor would still be the Doctor. It’s the writer’s responsibility to make it so.”

I, for one, would love to see a female Doctor because it’s a chance for more great storytelling. I get it. Change is hard. How many people didn’t like Amy Pond when she first appeared, but then warmed to her as her story was told? Having a new form is an opportunity to reinforce who (and what) the Doctor is. Why? Because changing what the Doctor looks like won’t alter who “he” is or what affects “his” character has on those around “him” — and that has the potential for amazing narration. For me, this isn’t politics. This is a way to tell new stories in the Who-verse that fit the canon.

And that’s fantastic.

    Mood: Who down in Who-ville
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Not buzzing yet!
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Laundry. Doesn’t that count?
    In My Ears: Nightmare in Silver re-watch
    Game Last Played: *coughs* Candy Crush. DAMMIT.
    Book Last Read: The Magician King Re-read
    Movie Last Viewed: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
    Latest Artistic Project: *Still* *still* *still* need to take pictures… It’s on the list! BUT? Edgar is coming back to life! Huzzah!
    Latest Fiction Release: “The Button” We Are Dust anthology
    Latest Game Release: Wedding Planners Classic Set
    What I’m Working On: July 2013’s Progress Report

One Response to Can’t Ignore the Story Who

Monica Valentinelli is an author, artist, and narrative designer who writes about magic, mystery, and mayhem. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.

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