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By Murray Jackson

Gender Bender?

It seems fitting in this, the centennial year of womens' suffrage, to re-visit the 'Lady Doctor' saga.

Ever since Tom Baker's departure - at which time producer John Nathan-Turner broadly hinted that the title role might go to a woman - the occasion of each successive Doctor's departure has brought fresh speculation on this possibility to the surface amongst fans, and particularly in the press.

This seemingly harmless remark, implying that the Doctor is apparently able to regenerate into a member of the opposite gender, has created a bonfire of debate.

On one hand, you had a group arguing that the Doctor was and always should be a male merely because much of the action in Doctor Who required a macho interpretation; that the action-orientated nature of the programme worked against the inclusion of a female in the role.

On the other hand, there were others who felt a feminine Doctor would bring freshness to the role and a new dimension to the character, as well as a further quirk to what was already a very alien character. A female Doctor could help attract a horde of young female fans to the programme that would be more able to identify with a Doctor of a maternal rather than paternal nature.

It was not to be. A new male Doctor was cast and the debate was forgotten.

It is interesting to re-visit the matter today. Would the programme have survived such a drastic change in tack? How could the producers have justified such a change in what the fans perceived was known about the Gallifreyans? After all, we had never seen a Gallifreyan change their sex as a result of regeneration, had we?

Would a female Doctor have resulted in a lessening of the programme's dramatic impact? After all, even today society frowns somewhat upon women portrayed in violent situations, whether mock or realistic. Remember that the Doctor has been strangled, half-drowned, tortured, beaten up and bopped on the back of the head with various objects over the years. Now picture the same scenes but substituting a female Doctor. If you're comfortable with that, don't bother applying for the job of TV censor.

I'll reserve judgement on this one, but invite comment on what readers think, especially female fans, which are unlikely to be influenced by the social values impressed on society by what is a male-dominated moral majority.

Clippings:

[Women Want Lady Doctor] [Lady Doctor?]

The last time the subject was raised was when Colin Baker 'departed' - Women Want Lady Doctor appeared in the NZ Herald, 30 December 1986.

A few years earlier, the topic was hot when Peter Davison quit - Lady Doctor? also believed to be from the NZ Herald, 4 August 1983.

This item appeared in TSV 36 (November 1993).

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