The lifelong Doctor Who fan on why it’s essential the next Time Lord is a Time Lady
Doctor Who’s been a passion of mine ever since I first saw Jon Pertwee battling the Daleks and the Sea Devils in the early 70s. Back then it wasn’t really in people’s thinking that there could be a female Doctor one day. But times change, and following the news that Peter Capaldi will leave as the Doctor at the end of the year the moment has now come.
We’ve had 12 superb male Doctors, but after more than 50 years, perhaps now is the time for a woman, as Harriet Harman observed after Peter’s announcement. We’ve had two female prime ministers in that time – Margaret Thatcher and now Theresa May – so why not a female Doctor? It’d be an intriguing turn for the show to take, especially now the Doctor’s enemy the Master is also a woman, Missy, played by Michelle Gomez.
There’s a lot of speculation that Broadchurch star Olivia Colman should succeed Peter, she’s been fantastic in everything she’s done. But there are many fine actresses who could play the part such as Tilda Swinton, as anyone who saw her in last year’s hit film Doctor Strange will know, or Gemma Bovery star Gemma Arterton.
But whoever is cast as the Doctor, be they male or female, needs to be very different from Peter Capaldi – a formidable Time Lord but also one with great warmth – if they’re to make the role their own. Contrast is the key to success with Doctor Who. For instance, the impish, clown-like Patrick Troughton was followed by Jon Pertwee’s elegant action hero, and he in turn by the wideeyed Tom Baker with his flowing scarf. Then we had thoughtful Peter Davison, with his air of vulnerability, and more recently Christopher Eccleston with his leather jacket and hard, unpredictable edge. Olivia or Tilda would need to play the Doctor very differently to these – I can imagine them floating around in elegant Tudor robes.
Part of me is always saddened when an actor quits the role, but we shouldn’t be surprised by Peter’s decision. Most of those who’ve played the part – be it the first Doctor William Hartnell in 1963 or Matt Smith, who made way for Peter Capaldi – have moved on after three or four years, long enough to make their mark but short enough not to be typecast. And it’s the changing personality of the Doctor that keeps the show fresh.
And to those traditionalists who believe the role must be played by a man for ever, I’d just quote the good Doctor himself: ‘The variations of sentient life forms in the universe are infinite.’ Having said that, if the powers that be really want to cast a male actor in the role, I’m available... Doctor Who will return on 15 April on BBC1. Follow Jon on Twitter @jonculshaw.