So. A 12th Doctor. Exciting, eh. Already, bloggers and professional print media journalists alike are touting their predictions for who’s in line to succeed Matt Smith. Hardly surprising – Twitter’s absolutely rammed with speculation. In fact, Ladbrokes are already taking odds, with James Bond’s Bill Tanner and RSC stalwart Rory Kinnear odds-on favourite at 3/1 at the time of writing. For some reason.
We also have a pretty lively thread full of suggestions here at Kasterborous.
However, let’s back up a moment.
Chipping in with her tuppence, the wonderful Laurie Penny (columnist for New Statesman and The Independent) tweeted: “Guys: this isn’t a vote. The only way that New #doctorwho time is like a national election is you just know it’ll be another white guy.”
That has always been a bone of contention, hasn’t it? And you know what? I’m with Laurie.
Well… Personally, I’m not a fan of Steven Moffat’s characterisation of women. So I wouldn’t want to see a female Doctor right now. In fact, I’d rather see some diversity on the writing staff, all of whom are middle aged white men, all of whom have executive produced another television show previously. But I digress, what I’m arguing for here is the imagination.
Remember the cover of the last Doctor Who Magazine – the one with the ‘Who Is the Doctor?’ header and Matt Smith stood in front of all the past actors in the background. That prompted the response: an enigma, obviously. But also – wouldn’t it be boring if the answer was just ‘some white guy’? More than that – isn’t the enigma being watered down by frequent repetition of the Doctor being a white, able-bodied, usually middle-class male?
Forget any past ‘rules’ that have been established – only through repetition and fan fixation on them. Those are what makes a show stagnate, not risk-taking. Quite the reverse – Attack of the Cybermen/Colin Baker years – massive riffs on what had gone before and nothing else. Creative vacuum. Tom Baker era – hell, the concept of regeneration in the first place – nothing like that had been done before. And the result was much more exciting and unpredictable.
Instead, take a broader look at the tradition of storytelling the show belongs to. The closest equivlaent to the Doctor is Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius – an ambiguous and polymorphous trickster, who challenges repressive authorities. Makes recurrent appearances in different forms – including more than once as a woman.
All of which is by the by. The 12th Doctor is almost definitely going to be some young white male British actor. But that doesn’t mean we should close our minds to the idea of something different just because what some wealthy media professionals will be doing. That – and the misconception that the consistent casting of a white man somehow maintains the ‘integrity of the character’ comes from the fact that the BBC are making a cautious gamble with millions of pounds’ worth of license fee money.
But we’re not saddled with the same burden. We’re not television executives, we’re not bookies and there sure as hell isn’t a seer among us who can tell us exactly what’s going to happen.
No. We’re better than that. We’re fans. We’re fantasists. Let’s remember that fantasy casting is just that: a fantasy. So there’s no need to shy away from a bit of imagination. Open-mindedness is a wonderful thing.
Which brings us round to this.
Shirley Henderson for the Doctor.
The rest of you are wrong.