Doctor Who Creator Sydney Newman Wanted a Female Doctor

In the mid-1980’s, Doctor Who was in a bit of a slump. The rating weren’t what they once were, viewers weren’t connecting with Colin Baker’s abrasive Sixth Doctor, and BBC executives were keen to cancel the show altogether (which they finally did in 1989).

Doctor Who creator Sydney Newman agreed that something had to change, calling Colin Baker’s second season “largely socially valueless, escapist schlock” in a 1986 letter to BBC One controller Michael Grade with his thoughts on how to restore Doctor Who to its former glory.

Newman developed Doctor Who in 1963 with producer Verity Lambert (with input from a bevy of other individuals); the Doctor Who origin story was chronicled in the 50th anniversary television film, An Adventure in Space and Time, which featured actor Brian Cox as Newman.

Among Newman’s comments was the recommendation that the Doctor should regenerate into a woman:

“At a later stage, Dr Who would be metamorphosed into a woman.

“This requires some considerable thought – mainly because I want to avoid a flashy Hollywood ‘Wonder Woman’ because this kind of hero(ine) has no flaws – and a character with no flaws is a bore.”

Calls for a female Doctor have grown stronger and louder in recent years, with many citing the improbability that the Doctor would regenerate 12 times and *not* have been a woman yet, and others agreeing with Sydney Newman’s consensus that such a change would reinvigorate the show in a new and exciting way.

Doctor Who‘s current showrunner Steven Moffat seems to have evolved his position on the matter. In 2013, he told Digital Spy that he didn’t cast a woman as the Twelfth Doctor because “It didn’t feel right to me, right now. I didn’t feel enough people wanted it.” But in 2014, Moffat reintroduced the Master as a female, now calling herself Missy. In December, Moffat said:

“We’ve been laying the possibility for an awfully long time, but you don’t cast that way. I know I’m going to get in trouble for saying that – you cast a person, you don’t cast the gender.

“We did just make the female Master, she turns up and the Doctor doesn’t say anything about it, he doesn’t react at all, he thinks that’s perfectly normal.

“It’s not impossible, no, it is entirely down to who the best person is.”

And, in the same month, Moffat told SFX, “There easily could be a female Doctor. I think the next time might be a female Doctor. I don’t see why not. I think it’s good to do that.”

Joanna Lumley as the Thirteenth Doctor in ‘The Curse of Fatal Death.’
(Credit: WhatCulture)

Funnily enough, the Doctor DID regenerate into a woman in Steven Moffat’s 1999 Doctor Who Red Nose Day skit, ‘The Curse of Fatal Death.’ After a series of quick regenerations, the Thirteenth Doctor emerged as Absolutely Fabulous‘ Joanna Lumley. Sure, it was just a comedy skit written for charity, but there is some measure of precedent there.

Personally, I think it’s time for the Doctor to become female, but I also agree with Moffat’s statement that you should cast a person, not a gender. I wouldn’t want just any actress to take on the role, simply because she’s a woman. At any rate, Peter Capaldi is still fresh in the role and I’m enjoying his performance, so there’s no sense putting the cart before the horse.

What do you think? Would you want to see a female Doctor? Why or why not? Sound off in the comments below!

[Via CultBox]