Now that the 50th anniversary has rekindled my interest in Doctor Who, I’ve been thinking about what would happen if the Doctor regenerated as a woman. What would the stories be like? What sorts of quirks would she have?
If you’re the type that doesn’t think the Doctor could ever be a woman, I suggest you stop reading. I’m not here to defend the legitimacy of this idea. Plenty of other bloggers and article writers have already done that.
So, if I had my way and could write or at least plan an arc or two of a female!Doctor, here’s how I would approach it.
In my ideal world, the 13th Doctor would be female!Doctor. Thirteen is a brilliant number that carries a lot of connotations, the biggest one being unluckiness. 13th Doctor. 13 episodes. 13 different monsters that are under the control of a greater villain who is weaving together something huge. The circumstances of each episode could be the result of “something unlucky.” Whether it’s the Doctor not ending up in the place she needed to be or the monster of the week getting thrown into whatever world/time period they’re attacking by accident or something else, it would be clear that someone or something very powerful is manipulating things in a way that hasn’t been seen before. But it would initially come across as an accident or bad luck. Lack of control would be a second big theme since both the monsters and the Doctor would be thrown into situations without a choice. The story arc would ultimately end in the Doctor regaining that power/control, but not subsequently regenerating as a male because the Doctor shouldn’t have to be male to have power/control.
I’d write this character as someone who expresses a wide range of femininity. If there are several arcs involved, she’d change her outfit and hairstyle at the start of each new arc. If not, then maybe every episode or two. The changes would be seemingly random, not a strict progression of masculine to feminine or vice versa. For consistency, I’d give her at least one thing about her appearance that stays the same–maybe a certain color of clothing or a piece of jewelry (perhaps the pocket watch would appear in different places depending on the outfit).
Personality-wise, the Doctor really wouldn’t change much at all. I can imagine her going through a wardrobe in the TARDIS and just throwing around all the things she doesn’t like. She’d still try to impress people with the TARDIS being bigger on the inside, talk really fast when she figures out a plan, etc.
But of course, there would still be some differences. For one thing, she’d have a different rapport with any famous women from history that she meets (even if she flirts with them). More significantly, since this would be the Doctor’s first time being female, misogyny would be a brand new experience that she would really struggle with, and perhaps a female companion could help her cope with that. I can imagine some scene where the Doctor is really torn up about it and she says something like, “I’m the Doctor. I’ve fought Daleks and Cybermen and been to the end of time itself. I’ve been feared. I’ve been hated. I’ve seen the best and worst of humanity and I’ve lived through things that no one else in the universe could even begin to understand. But I have never been disrespected. I have never been silenced. I have never had anyone even attempt to speak over me. But now I have.”
It could really be a chance to explore some themes that haven’t been explored in depth before. What happens when even the Doctor’s allies disrespect and speak over her as if she’s less valuable or less capable?
I’d write at least a couple episodes involving some famous women from the past including Susan B. Anthony, Virginia Woolf, and maybe Jane Austen. The Silence would be an interesting and metaphorical monster to use (but then what would be controlling them? They’re already powerful). Each one would reveal more and more of the greater mystery around this huge villain who’s creating all of these “unlucky” circumstances.
The companions are usually people who help make the Doctor better in some way, so as I mentioned before, a female companion could really help the Doctor get used to experiencing/dealing with life as a woman. She could either be a love interest or just a friend. Either way, there would be a different sort of bond than what’s been seen before between the Doctor and a companion. A male companion could be a love interest or a chauvinistic dude who eventually comes around after traveling with the Doctor.
Regardless of the companion’s gender, I’d have them pair up with the Doctor in one of those unlucky/accidental situations that are part of the larger story. Maybe then, the companion decides on their own to stay with the Doctor before they even let the Doctor ask them if they want to travel with her. That would play into the larger theme of the Doctor just not having the amount of control over everything that she’s had in the past.
So, that’s how I’d handle writing a series of Doctor Who with a female Doctor. In real life, a female Doctor is still a long way off because progress is slower than molasses, but maybe a spin-off book contract will magically fall from the time vortex and I can at least make this somewhat real.