I first watched Doctor Who as a kid. That time was a long time ago, and today, it actually got one year longer *. My first Doctor was Tom Baker (as the fourth Doctor), and as a consequence, is the Doctor who I’ve measured all other Doctors against.
I do remember other regenerations from the classic series, eventually caught the movie with the eighth, and of course, saw every episode of the new series starting with Eccleston’s run as the ninth. With the recently announced departure of the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith, the internet is ablaze (as it tends to often be) with speculation about who the next Doctor might be. Aside from the expected trend of actors of similar appearance to previous Doctors, two currents of opinion have been that the next Doctor should either be a person of colour, or a woman.
I’ll recall Tom Baker again, because of a quote attributed to him, that was intended for his immediate successor – of good luck, intended to “whoever he or she may be“.
I have no issue with the Doctor regenerating as a woman. I think that a setting that plays with chronology like it does, that can use ‘love’ as an out for a horrible ancient evil, or that has the character wave around a portable plot hole generator as a matter of convenience, or that can erase a character and then have them brought back via memory, can also have a character regenerate into a different gender. Neil Gaiman’s fantastic episode, The Doctor’s Wife, mentioned a gallifreyan called The Corsair, who The Doctor said had regenerated as both male and female. The idea was also put out there in the tongue-in-cheek “Curse of the Fatal Death“, a humourous for-charity take on Doctor Who, in which one of the Doctors many regenerations in the sketch had him become a her – and that particular sketch was penned by current DW show runner, Steven Moffat.
Everyone is bound to have their own personal favourites. Whether you believe it’s likely or not, whether you think it destroys the sanctity of Doctor Who (spoilers: it doesn’t, you’re just a dick), and whether you feel it doesn’t really matter because you don’t have a say — it’s interesting to think about who could work in the position. I’ve seen a few names being suggested, that vary from anyone that’s ever been in Harry Potter (Emma Watson), Game of Thrones (Lena Headey, Michelle Fairley) or Downton Abbey (Michelle Dockery), through to some other well-reknowned actress, such as Tilda Swinton, Dame Helen Mirren, and Dame Maggie Smith. Some of these are very big names, which for me, doesn’t feel quite right for Doctor Who. Yes, some are just those whose star is on the ascendant, but I think they would overshadow the role. On the other hand, having that sort of gravity in the lead role could ensue that a female Doctor was handled with tact, as one would expect them to be more able to influence the direction of the character.
I don’t think there’s anything necessarily male about The Doctor. The character is very eccentric, but that’s not a trait exclusively male. There’s no doubt he’s an alien, that he doesn’t conform to social customs, and sticks his chin into places that people tend not to, but none of that says he has to be male. A female Doctor could still marry River Song. A female Doctor could outsmart anyone her male regenerations had been able to, because she’d still be utterly brilliant. Okay, so she couldn’t make snide comments about Clara not being able to drive the TARDIS properly because she’s a girl, but nobody’s missing those lines. My only concern with having a female Doctor, is that the show wouldn’t be able to get over it. All the “i’m a girl now” bits need to be done and dusted in one episode, or you’re milking it for laughs – that is, treat it no differently to the wearing in period that every regeneration in the new series has done.
Now, on with the suggestion. I hadn’t personally thought much about the question until today, and came up with an idea rather quickly.
She left a very lasting impression on me during her run as DI Alex Drake in Ashes to Ashes. While some of it does come down to the fabulous chemistry between her and Philip Glenister’s DCI Gene Hunt, she had serious strength as a character.
In many ways, her experience there could be seen as a parallel to The Doctor. She’s a sort-of time traveller, put somewhere she doesn’t belong and absolutely doesn’t fit in, but follows what she believes and what she knows, to do what she believes is right.
If Steven Moffat and whoever else has a say in this are considering a female Doctor to replace the 11th, then I honestly hope they have Keeley on their list of potentials. It’s possible she’d already be locked into something else, or perhaps not interested, but I think she would be absolutely fantastic as The Doctor.
Even if you believe that the Doctor should never ever be played by a woman (or you have some arbitrary guidelines of special circumstances in which case it might approach being appropriate to you), or of course, have your own nominations – I would highly, HIGHLY recommend watching Ashes to Ashes – and hey, may as well watch the prequel, Life on Mars, which had John Simm, otherwise known as The Master.
* Yes, that was my way of saying today is my birthday…