'Gender equality in shows like Doctor Who? It's a pointless and petty argument'

Broadside: Women don’t need to stand in men’s shoes, they can have their own characters

“Now that Peter Capaldi, the 12th doctor, has announced his departure for the next season, many people are calling for the 13th doctor to be female – a Time Lady, if you like.”

“Now that Peter Capaldi, the 12th doctor, has announced his departure for the next season, many people are calling for the 13th doctor to be female – a Time Lady, if you like.”

 

Since its inception in the 1960s, the lead character in Doctor Who has always been a man – from wild haired to imposing and foppish to rugged. For over five decades the Time Lord has always been just that, a lord.

From William Hartnell and John Pertwee to David Tennant and Matt Smith, the various doctors have all had a different approach to their Tardis time travelling and adventurous escapades. But now that Peter Capaldi, the 12th Doctor, has announced his departure for the next season, many people are calling for the 13th doctor to be female – a Time Lady, if you like.

Actor Tilda Swinton is being tipped for the role, and other female contenders in the running include Olivia Colman, Maxine Peake and Fleabag actor Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Campaigners believe that young girls need to see more females in adventurous leads as the dearth of exciting parts means that these impressionable youngsters will feel that only men can act as double agents or eccentric scientists who travel back in time.

It undermines the whole equality argument as there are far bigger issues to be addressed

I think it’s a lot of fuss about nothing. The Doctor Who character, who hails from a planet called Gallifrey, was created as a male and since the very first episode the lead role has always been played by a man, in keeping with the origins of the show.

Petty and pointless

I really don’t see why campaigners, including the talented Billie Piper, feel the need for “gender equality” in a situation like this. Surely it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility for someone to write an entirely different screenplay where the hero of the hour is female – it just strikes me as petty and pointless and to be quite honest, I think it undermines the whole equality argument as there are far bigger issues to be addressed - and to have petitions calling for the gender of a fictitious persona to be changed is just downright silly.

And it isn’t just Doctor Who that people are up in arms about; apparently there is also inequality at play in the James Bond creative headquarters. Despite the fact that Ian Fleming invented this extremely successful storyline, based on a fictional, but very much male, secret service spy, in the 1950s and both his books and subsequent films are still as popular now as they were 60 years ago, many people are calling for the next super sleuth to be a woman, called Jane Bond.

A poster for Dr No, starring Sean Connery as James Bond
A poster for Dr No, starring Sean Connery as James Bond

What is the need or even the purpose of trying to force these characters into something they are not? The whole point of James Bond is that, no matter how many actors have played the part, the essence of the man remains the same – undoubtedly great at his job, a master at extricating himself from sticky situations and in-keeping with the era in which he was created, a somewhat smarmy ladies’ man.

Over the years, there have been many strong, feisty and successful women either colluding with or plotting against Bond and both aiding and abetting and challenging the Doctor in Doctor Who, but both characters always have been male and in my opinion, there is no reason for this to change – they are fictional heroes, both central to the stories for which they were created.

It would be far better for campaigners and writers to put their efforts into creating new books or TV programmes where the strong central figure is female – surely an entirely new show would be preferable to a rehash of something which has been going for decades and would always feel second best?

Super heroine

A female super spy, a time-travelling mother or powerful super heroine (am I even allowed to use that word these days?) would be a far better option – and indeed sorely needed.

But in the great scheme of things, getting so hot under the collar about a made-up character is pretty pointless – unless of course you are the big wigs at the UN, who, late last year appointed Wonder Woman an honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls thanks to her many years of portraying the image of a strong female.

The UN was forced into a u-turn on its appointment of Wonder Woman as an honorary U.N. ambassador. Photograph: Getty Images
The UN was forced into a u-turn on its appointment of Wonder Woman as an honorary U.N. ambassador. Photograph: Getty Images

However, following outraged protests and more than 2,000 signatures in an online petition, the bosom-baring, hot-pant wearing one was sacked.

And proper order too – as although the current trend is for celebrities, from Z-list to the red carpet, to bare all their “assets” on social media under the guise of “empowerment”, the scantily dressed Wonder Woman is hardly a good role model for young girls.

Campaigners should stop trying to change the gender of established male characters and focus on creating exciting role models for the next generation

We are living in very uncertain times and with some of the worlds’ most powerful leaders possessing a questionable attitude towards women, it’s time we stopped focusing on fantasy figures and put more effort into promoting and supporting real live women.

The UN need to find a successful and powerful living woman as ambassador – God knows there are plenty to choose from – and campaigners should stop trying to change the gender of established male characters and instead focus on creating some new and exciting role models for the next generation.

Because let’s face it, we need to teach them to forge their own paths instead of simply following along someone else’s.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.