Who is YOUR Doctor Her?

Something in common with many of the blog posts, comments and even behind the scenes chat of this new blog is the reference to, you know. Her. The idea that we might at some point get a female Doctor, and how much feminist Doctor Who fans are looking forward to that as an exciting development.

A year and a half ago, at the Australian Worldcon, my favourite panel that I was put on was the discussion about the possibility of a female Doctor, with Paul Cornell, Catherynne Valente and others. The really wonderful thing about that panel was that there was absolutely no debate about whether it was a good idea or not – we all took that as read, and got down to the fascinating nitty gritty of WHO it could be.

Would it be an older or a younger actress? What would the best gender combination be with companions? More importantly, who, who, who? Names that were raised included Helen Mirren (one of our panellists doubted that an “older” actress would be cast for commercial reasons but pointed out if she wanted the role, she would probably be handed it on a plate because, Helen Mirren), Emma Thompson, Keeley Hawes, Miranda Richardson… and that was just the Brits. British vs. American actress was even more controversial than the panel’s definition of what consituted an “older” actress! (as with the age of the Doctor, “older” is usually defined as “older than me”) And of course you can’t raise the topic without chatting about the wonderful Joanna Lumley, the first female Doctor, in the Moffat-penned Comic Relief story The Curse of Fatal Death, back in the late 90’s.

A marvellous conversation was had, in any case, long before Neil Gaiman’s The Doctor’s Wife sneakily made it “canon” that Time Lords can change gender.

More recently, I was chatting with my (then six-year-old) daughter in the car about how she likes to play the Doctor in the playground when playing Doctor Who games with her friends. At one point she had four little girls playing with her, as River Song, Melody Song, Amy Pond and little Amelia Pond, and was very scathing they couldn’t all keep the personal relationships straight…

I was delighted that she was choosing to play the Doctor, and started explaining to her about cosplay and crossplay, and how the Doctor could in fact be female one day, and Joanna Lumley had already been a female Doctor…

“Yes, Mummy, I know all that,” she said patiently. “I remember the thing where you talked with all the people about it, and there were lollies.” She had been sitting in the front row of the audience, a year earlier, and remembered the whole discussion!

“But *I* play Matt Smith’s Doctor,” she added firmly. “And I need a bow tie.”

So, let’s assume that the next Doctor WILL be female. Who would you cast? Let’s talk NAMES!


  1. I had this discussion many, many years ago with Tim and John. I remember at the time that we all loved the idea of Angela Lansbury as the Doctor. This was probably 15 years ago, and she’s in her 80s now, so she may be ‘too old’ (or in ill health).

    Nationality aside, some people (besides Helen Mirren and Joanna Lumley) I’d enjoy seeing as the Doctor are Lucy Lawless, Mary McDonnell, Sophie Okonedo (though she’s already been in the series as Liz 10) and Julie Sawalha (who was the companion in Curse of the Fatal Death).

  2. tansy says:

    Hey Narrelle

    Those are all great suggestions. I think Sophie Okonedo would be a fabulous choice – after all, it’s not like Time Lords don’t end up copying people they’ve actually met quite a LOT! Also Liz10, while fabulous, was a very caricature type character, so a change in personality type & costume would make her pretty distant from that prior role.

    Lucy Lawless would be fabulous.

    The awesome thing about this is that, unlike almost any other potential role, the Doctor is not a part that any actor can get too old for! I can see why they cast Matt Smith despite actively looking for an older Doctor, but he would also have been great in the part 20 years later. I think the same can definitely be said for female actresses, though it has been suggested that a younger actress would be more of a “draw card” unless they had the level of fame of someone like Mirren.

    The thing that most excites me about the idea of a female Doctor (apart from the obvious) is the way that it would change up the companion options and chemistry options. We could have two women in the TARDIS, a very rare thing outside the Hartnell & Davison eras, apart from short stints with Donna and Martha, or Amy and River. But also we could have a solo male companion, something that would be very hard to do with the current system, because it immediately turns the show into a male-only regular cast, something to be avoided!

    (having said all that I will happily sacrifice at least half a season of no women in the TARDIS if we get Canton Everett back as a companion – as long as they make up for it with lots of crunchy female roles outside the TARDIS)

  3. I wonder sometimes if they’d prefer an older female Doctor, for the first time at least, to give her gravitas. An older Doctor and a young female companion in the TARDIS would be brilliant!

  4. My wife, with no prompting said Helen Mirren. I was also thinking Meera Syal from the Kumars.

  5. tansy says:

    Meera would be great – again, has appeared in the show, but hey, that’s never stopped them before.

    Helen Mirren is kind of the one, isn’t she? If she did it, you can see the decision being less open to criticism than if it was anyone else.

  6. James says:

    Um, well there’s quite a few. Diana Rigg and Honor Blackman for a start (why yes, I did grow up watching The Avengers), Gemma Jones, Frances de la Tour, Judi Dench, Michelle Yeoh, Helena Bonham Carter, Julie Walters, Sian Phillips, .

    If I had to select one, then Frances de la Tour.

    Or Hermione Norris. Or Nicola Walker.

  7. Helen Mirren
    Lucy Lawless
    Lucy Lawless
    and it if ever had to be an America – Kate Mulgrew
    Lucy Lawless…

  8. Kate says:

    Has anyone else caught a comedy Dr Who made I think by Big Finish that featured Dawn French as a Doctor giving up the Doctoring business? If memory serves she worked at Sainsbury’s (British grocery store) and the Tardis was disguised as a shopping trolley. Or was that a really odd dream I had?

    • tansy says:

      Hi Kate – I haven’t listened to it yet but it was Arabella Weir, who also appeared in the recent Christmas special. But Dawn French would have been BRILLIANT.

  9. Grant says:

    My choice if I don’t have to be realistic (she’d never do it): Tilda Swinton. My choice if I’m allowed to make close-minded fans have an absolute fit: Angela Bassett. My choice if I’m going with a “sensible” choice that does British TV and is also British: Tamsin Grieg.

    • tansy says:

      Heh well there’s realistic and realistic. At least with Angela I think there would be such an upswell of protest about her being American, it would drown out any potential comment about her not being white (also established in theory in the current show). At least, I hope so. We’re also well overdue for a Doctor of colour.

  10. tansy says:

    By the way for those interested, I received lots of Twitter suggestions too about the possible casting of a female Doctor!

    @PrinceJvstin – Helen Mirren (and I know she would want to do it too). I’d be vastly amused by a Claudia Black Doctor, too.

    @jaymgates – Claudia Black? Oh, yes PLEASE. Best idea ever!

    @catsparx – JOANNA LUMLEY!

    @catsparx – MAGGIE SMITH!

    @daggyvamp – Oh, I didn’t think of Diana Rigg, but she’d be fabulous. Whoopie Goldberg would be a treat for a ‘clown’ style Doctor

    @daggyvamp – Since I appear to be fond of ‘clown’ Drs (Troughton and Smith) how about Magda Szubanski?

    @jamesbannan – Miranda Richardson

    @lynnemthomas – Kate Winslet. <3

    @msnaughty – I'd love to see Magda Szubanksi as a female Doctor Who. That would be brilliant

    @MagdaSzubanski – oooh I'd totes be up for that!! Always wanted to be a doctor ;))

    @michellemacewan – Cate Blanchett gets my vote!

    Thanks, Twitter peeps, for playing along! This is the best game EVER. I love that I haven't received a single negative tweet or comment about the idea of a female doctor. Keep it up, internet. You rock.

  11. Laurie says:

    I had several names leap to mind, but at the top of my list as she has been for some time, is Meera Syal. She would make a fabulous Doctor.

  12. Kate says:

    Cheers, tansy. I agree with Meera Syal. I want to see some non-white Doctorisations.

  13. Roxanne says:

    I think Tilda Swinton. Each doctor brings a completely different take to the role and I can see her doing that. I also see her emobodying the maleness and femaleness of her role at the same time.

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