From the moment it was announced Matt Smith has left Doctor Who, people started to speculate about who the new Doctor should – and more importantly to them – shouldn’t be.
Two old chestnuts in particular were wheeled out: the Doctor physically cannot be a woman, and the Doctor physically cannot be black, and that if either were to happen, it would be violating the basis of the show in some way, and it would be unwatchable.
The basic idiocy in these assertions astounds me, and not only do I find it bigoted, it also wilfully ignores a vast number of past episodes.
Let’s take the first assertion; the Doctor cannot regenerate into a woman. Anyone stating this is throwing out of canon the story of The Corsair, a Timelord who did change gender between regenerations, and with it fan favourite story The Doctor’s Wife. Also disregarded is David Tennant’s swansong, The End of Time, in which a newly regenerated Doctor briefly wonders if he has turned female or not.
The Doctor can’t be female? From the evidence, it’s pretty obvious they CAN be!
Anyone claiming the Doctor cannot change race through regeneration has an exceptional case of wilful blindness, given we’ve seen pretty much that happen already. Melody Pond was born a white child to two white parents, but regenerated ONSCREEN into the black Mels, and then into the black River Song later on. To claim that regeneration can’t change race is to throw out all fourteen stories in which River Song appears, and The Impossible Astronaut and Let’s Kill Hitler specifically.
Again, pretty much as much evidence as you need to state the Doctor CAN change race.
The next line that is usually churned out in these arguments is that they would have never considered when the show first aired, and therefore it’s against the ethos of the show.
I agree - they probably wouldn’t have done it in 1963. But you know what? You aren’t living in 1963 anymore. Get bloody used to it. A large portion of purist Who fans are horrified that the Doctor is played by a 30-year-old, that two companions conceived a baby on the TARDIS, or that the Doctor has a wife who he kisses. These are all a part of modern day Doctor Who too, and aspects like that are likely not going anywhere either. Airbrushed 1960s niceties should not dictate the format of the entire show.
I’m just going to say it: if you believe only a white man can play the role of the Doctor, you probably should not consider yourself a bona fide fan of the current series, given you’re so willing to disregard so many episodes to make that assertion.
That said, do I think the Doctor should be ‘token-cast’ as a minority actor? Simply put, no. I think the people responsible for casting the Doctor should look at a broad and diverse range of actors from all backgrounds, and choose the person most able to bring something new to the role.
A new Doctor is always scary for fans, because they’re always so different to what came before. That’s part of the magic. Eccleston’s authoritativeness, to Tennant’s whimsy, to Matt Smith’s more childish nature – every modern Doctor has brought a new aspect to the role, and it’s taken fans a long time to warm to some of them.
So if – and it’s a big if – a black or female actor is cast? Don’t moan about how a black Doctor’s impossible (it isn’t), don’t moan about how it’s changing the show (it is, but the show is constantly changing), just give them time and warm to them as you would any other Doctor.
And try not to be a bigot while you’re doing it.