By now, most of you are probably aware of Steven Moffat’s categorial denial that he would consider a woman doctor: he considers it as unlikely and improbable as casting a man to play the Queen.

(Obligatory Kids In The Hall link.)

Regular readers may have noticed that I have cut Steven Moffat a lot of slack. I’ve met him. I like him–honestly, he’s smart and funny in person, with this wonderfully dry, self-deprecating charm–in the weird asymmetrical way that people who go to cons get to like guests of cons. But here I have no hesitation in saying that I think he’s catastrophically wrong.

Let’s review, shall we?

The Queen The Doctor
A real person An imaginary person
A human from the planet Earth A Gallifreyan/Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey
Member of a species whose gender identity is innate (though it may not match the gender assigned at birth) and stable Member of a species that can change apparent gender under some circumstances
Could certainly be played by a man; in fact, was always played by a man on the Elizabethan and Jacobean stages. Could certainly be played by a woman; in fact, was played by a woman in “The Curse of Fatal Death”, though admittedly Moffat may not have heard of that obscure–oh, he wrote it?

I think Moffat means well, and that he really does think he isn’t sexist. Unfortunately, this leads him into the classic privileged mistake: thinking that his good intentions (or, more accurately, lack of bad intentions) is a magic get-out-of-sexism free card. Even if his behavior and writing is sexist… well, sexists are those terrible people over there who hate women. Not him. He doesn’t hate women! He loves women! He just doesn’t want to cast one, or hire any to write for him, or write women who fall outside of a narrow range of stock types. And he really doesn’t want to examine his own reasons for his behavior, or to listen to people unless they agree with him:

“[A female Doctor] didn’t feel right to me, right now. I didn’t feel enough people wanted it […] Oddly enough most people who said they were dead against it – and I know I’ll get into trouble for saying this – were women […] [They were] saying, ‘No, no, don’t make him a woman!’”

(Here we see a glimmering of self-awareness–the hazy notion that he’ll “get in trouble” for voicing an opinion–struggling to make itself known. It gets shot down, but it’s there all the same.)

Ultimately, Steven Moffat’s major failing is that he doesn’t or won’t listen. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t believe that the voice of fandom is sacrosanct. Fandom doesn’t always know what it wants. But I do think that fandom should be listened to.

Not obeyed.

Listened to.

Not dismissed out of hand with condescension and an absolute refusal to consider the way that one’s actions belie one’s noble motives.


  1. liminalD says:

    I love this blog. Well said :)

  2. Kate C says:

    Okay, I’m just going to say it. I may well be in a minority here, and I fully expect to be shot down in flames, but I don’t want a female Doctor. Female Time Lords, yes; a variety of interesting, flawed, complex female characters, villains, companions, walk-ons — of course.

    But to me, narrow-minded human and ordinary fan that I am, the character of the Doctor is male. Has always been, always will be. To suddenly make him female strikes me as gimmicky and tokenistic. Sorry, I know this is probably indefensible, and I sound like Steven Moffat, but it just doesn’t feel that simple and arbitrary to me.

  3. I don’t think Moffat actually means believes or means 90% of the dumb shit he says. I think he just runs his mouth and says controversial things because he thinks it’ll make himself sound more interesting. For instance, take that interview in the 1990s where he claims that all 1960s Doctor Who was shit. Does he really believe that? Seeing has how his take on Doctor Who ended up taking a lot of inspiration from ’60s Doctor Who, it doesn’t seem like he does. I think this is the same–I don’t think Moffat’s ACTUALLY against a female Doctor, it’s just that he happened to cast a man again and is running his mouth and saying dumb stuff to defend his decision.

  4. Mik says:

    I think it was more honest when he said that he didn’t feel that he wrote female characters well (or well enough? something like that).

    And anyone who DOES want a female Doctor should be completely relieved to NOT get one on Moffat’s watch. Because he would screw it up. Badly. Let’s face it, Moffat’s got some serious issues with how he perceives women and relationships between men and women (if you don’t make a baby, you aren’t really married?! WTF?)

    So, yeah. No canonical reason why the Doctor cannot be female, every reason in the world for it not to happen with this showrunner.

  5. arya of house stark says:

    “he considers it as unlikely and improbable as casting a man to play the Queen.”

    Or, alternatively, he considers it as natural and inevitable as a man playing the Queen.

  6. Ariana Stephen says:

    Personally, I don’t want a female doctor, but I wouldn’t stop watching if he did turn into a girl. The main reason I’m against it now is because a female doctor would not be written well by an all-male writing team with Moffat in charge. But in the future, if Moffat steps down and more girls are introduced to the writing team, then I’ll be for it.

  7. chris cwej says:

    I think moffat screwed up on this one. I think he meant this as a joke – Helen Mirren is famous for playing the Queen, of course. But basically, this has damaged him considerably. It was a stupid thing to say. It’s forgivable if it was, say, said in an interview as a joke – but considering this was pre-filmed, and probably scripted, it isn’t. It was a bad joke and a stupid thing to say.

  8. Andrea says:

    I agree that SM doesn’t write female characters well (whether or not he personally said it as one person here believes he did) … I loved Coupling, but he had the female characters saying and doing things sometimes — and here, I’m talking about scenes that *were* meant to mimic or exaggerate reality, not the overall storylines in which TV writing demands that characters do things none of us would do in real life — that smacked of “this is what men think we talk about when they’re not there.” (The women’s dialogue in “The Woman With Two Breasts” comes to mind.)

    That said, it’s not as if he were the only writer on DW the way he was with Coupling. Apart from the option of hiring female writers, as the show has not done in FIVE YEARS, there’s also the option of hiring male writers with a talent for writing female characters.

  9. Trout Phosphor says:

    The problem with having a female Doc is that, if we take Robert Holmes at his word and limit ourselves to thirteen Doctors, when the show finally comes to an end, people will look back on it and see retrospective collages of twelve men and one woman, subconciously registering a ‘relative importance ratio’ of 1:12. No thank you.

    How much better to wait until a male No.13 has been and gone, revisit ‘The Deadly Assassin’ and embark on a run of thirteen Time Ladies (although we can surely come up with a better term than that).

    • Nightsky says:

      I take your point about the ratios, though I’d argue that we have to begin somewhere.

      Your idea of a string of Time Ladies has merit!

  10. Jani says:

    I’d love the Doctor to be a woman. That’d be awesome. It would improve the character 100%.

  11. SJ Kyle says:

    I used to all for The Doctor being a woman with a different show runner but I read something that conflicted me: the point is The Doctor should be a man because he’s a roll model for young boys that doesn’t glorify violence, sexist behaviour (debatable) and sleeping around (again debatable) etc as still comes off as cool and heroic. The companions and The Doctor can still be roll models for girls but with that gender change, young boys won’t have that. It’s sad but while young boys are still being taught that female is ‘other’ The Doctor should remain male. Being non-violent and kind doesn’t make a female roll model special.

Leave a Reply to arya of house stark Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *