A Brief History Of Steven Moffat Saying Why He Never Picked A Female Doctor Who

It looks like the new Doctor has been cast. After accepting an award at the British LGBT Awards, former Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies told Guys Like U that the next season already has its next Doctor. Davies was responding to a question about whether the new lead should be a woman, a question posed to current showrunner Steven Moffat multiple times over the years. And he's been very consistent.

Moffat's been answering this question since at least 2013. Exactly one day after it was announced that Peter Capaldi would take over as the new Doctor, Moffat explained his decision to DigitalSpy, saying that it "didn't feel right" to cast a woman at the time since he didn't think enough fans would want one. He even went so far as to say female fans were the ones most adamantly against it.

It's absolutely narratively possible [that the Doctor could be a woman]... And when it's the right decision, maybe we'll do it. It didn't feel right to me, right now. I didn't feel enough people wanted it... Oddly enough most people who said they were dead against it -- and I know I'll get into trouble for saying this -- were women. [They were] saying, "No, no, don't make him a woman!"

Moffat would later shy away from the "women don't want a female Doctor" defence and double down on suggesting it could happen one day, but not that day.

Speaking at the Hay Festival in May 2014, he said he'd consider casting a woman in the role, but only when the time was right, adding that it shouldn't be a forced "political decision."

A person will pop into the showrunner's head and they will think. "Oh, my God, what if it was that person?" And when that person is a woman, that's the day it will happen... It will not happen that somebody sits down and say we must turn the Doctor into a woman. That is not how you cast the Doctor.

Beyond the fact that "political decision" is a loaded term that justifies continuing the status quo, Moffat is kind of a hypocrite.

For example, during the same Q&A session, Moffat revealed that Capaldi was the only person he brought in to audition for the Doctor. The "person that popped into his head":

Peter Capaldi just kept popping into my head. I got him round to my house to audition. And he didn't know he was the only person auditioning.

This mirrors his selection of Matt Smith, who had previously auditioned for Sherlock (another role Moffat defended as quintessentially male back in March). This means only those in Moffat's immediate line of sight stood a chance, and no one else was given an opportunity to show what they could bring to the role.

He says a woman "could" be the Doctor, if she's the first person to pop into his head. But after over 50 years of white men, it's absolutely always going to be a white man that pops in there first -- especially if the person who is the showrunner is himself a white man who surrounds himself with roles that are traditionally played by white men.

However, it's not just about women not getting the opportunity to try out for the role, though that's a big factor. Moffat never really thought about having a woman be the Doctor because he thinks they're better suited as the Doctor's companions, saying as much during a BAFTA talk in 2015.

There's an aspect to it where you could say that if you made the Doctor female you'd lose a fairly unique rare role model, I'm not sure if I'm completely persuaded by that argument purely because I don't think the Doctor is the role model of Doctor Who. He isn't. Because you can't really base yourself on the Doctor. He's off the spectrum, barking mad, from space and has lots of mysterious abilities that we do not. How do you base yourself on that? The role model is actually the other character, his best friend, the person who deals with this out of control, overgrown schoolboy racing around the universe being rather too imperious and too interfering for his own good.

This isn't the only time that Moffat has said he doesn't see the Doctor as a role model, but his track record doesn't support the companion being the true hero (and not just because he's called the Doctor the "hero figure").

While companions are given more character development, coming into the Doctor's life to learn something about themselves and teach the Doctor something in the meantime, Moffat's defence is pretty insulting. It assumes that only men can be emotionally stunted, hyper-intelligent weirdos who roam the galaxy causing and solving mischief.

We've had male companions in the past, albeit typically alongside female ones. And in his argument, Moffat never says the companion has to be female here, but he is saying that the Doctor is male, so the only female lead in the show could be the companion. And as he describes companions, they're put in the uncomfortable position of being the Doctor's emotional core. This reinforces the stereotype that it's a woman's role to bring emotional balance to a man, but men can't or shouldn't do the same for a woman.

It gets even more muddled when you consider Moffat's actual track record. A 2014 study showed that Moffat's female companions had, on average, fewer speaking lines than Davies', and Amy failed the Bechdel Test far more times than her predecessors. Clara did improve the scales, and Bill has been pretty solid so far, but the numbers still tend to fall below what existed before.

Moffat himself was asked about the accusations of sexism later in 2015, replying that he understood the concerns, in theory, but also didn't think they applied to his show specifically. He also added that his wife is a "powerful woman," which is always a helpful defence.

It's a big and complicated issue and I never quite know how to respond to it. The general point being made by these people is correct. We need better female role models and representation on screen. We need all of that. Maybe this is my dim-wittery but I do not understand why Doctor Who of all shows is singled out as a misogynist show. And I'm really not like that. I'm sure I'm to the left of a lot of my detractors, but I don't want to argue with them because I think generally they're right. We do need to do better.

Moffat's years-long pattern has been to evade the question with a "maybe at some point," or defending his decision to cast male Doctors for... insert his latest reason here. I honestly don't believe Moffat ever seriously considered a woman for the job during his tenure as Doctor Who's showrunner, and probably still wouldn't be if he were sticking around next season.

He's continually said he'd think about it, pointing to his choice to turn The Master into a woman, but his hiring practices have continually put himself in situations where a male Doctor was a given. And his reluctance to alter his (male) Doctor and (female) companion dynamic is apparent.

There's also his attitude that selecting a woman would be a forced political choice, instead of something that could serve and grow the narrative. It's even echoed in his advice to new showrunner Chris Chibnall, published in March of this year, saying his next Doctor should be a "friend" instead of someone who serves an "agenda."

Just choose the best person for the job and any other agenda, however worthy, should be ignored. It has to be the best person for the Doctor that Chris is writing for... Chris is going to be working with the actor for quite a few years and it is a pressure cooker. It can be tough, so you need to choose your friend wisely. So long as it works for the good of the show, that's fine.

Moffat's most recent answer to this question came just a few days ago in an interview with BBC Radio 4 (via We Got This Covered), Moffat went into how he chose Smith and Capaldi as his Doctors, saying it wasn't a matter of purposefully choosing white men for the job, it just so happened that the perfect actors for the job were both white men. What are the odds, right?

"I didn't not cast a woman… I cast a man. I didn't [cast a woman] because I wanted to cast Matt Smith and I wanted to cast Peter Capaldi. I didn't think it was a terrible idea, I just thought, 'I want to cast those people' -- that was it."

Of course, we know that he didn't see anyone else and he didn't want to let any one else's thoughts intrude onto his mystical process of waiting for someone to pop into his head. This is why Moffat's reasons are so elliptical and confusing: he didn't affirmatively rule out women, he just never gave anyone but his preferred choices any thought whatsoever. So when asked to defend it, he can't, really.

Image: BBC

Despite Moffat's insistence to continue playing the same tune, there are hopes the new showrunner will change things up, giving audiences a female Doctor or having the iconic character regenerate as a person of colour. The actor's been picked, so it's too late to petition, but it's never too late to hope. Casting a more diverse Doctor would revitalize the show, encouraging a new audience while challenging current fans. So, what does Chibnall himself have to say about it?

Nothing is ruled out, but I don't want the casting to be a gimmick and that's all I can say.


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    'Shit" that a 50 plus year show doesn't follow your narrative is not a reason to be critical- unless you feel everyone needs to think exactly like you do.

      Sure. It's not worth writing or publishing an opinion piece on a website full of opinion pieces unless you personally already happen to agree that opinion to begin with. Heaven forbid that an opinion piece might give you a different opinion to consider, or perhaps challenge a few perceptions, eh?

      Although to correct one misapprehension in your comment, the last Dr Who wasn't made 50 years ago, it's still being made today. And there isn't any "narrative" reason for Dr Who not to be a woman whatsoever, in fact as Moffat himself states (and quoted above) "It's absolutely narratively possible [that the Doctor could be a woman]... "

      But you didn't get that far into the article, did you, you just jumped straight down into the comments to defend the right of all white males to exclusively select other white males for roles, exclusively. And in any case, there's no chance whatsoever that unconscious bias may have been partially responsible for a run of 12 exclusively white men over 50 years, in a show where the conceit is that the doctor morphs into someone completely new every few seasons.

    They still dont get that the doctor and the the timelords are chameleonic aliens and their true form is that dog-pharaoh from pyramids of mars.

    If you are unhappy about the number of heroines in modern media shouldn't you be encouraging more stories with heroines rather than trying to neuter existing heroes?

    i will say though that missy is an awesome master though

    Here we go again.
    "He has to do it how I want, because the way I want it is morally correct and allows me to sit on my high horse and feel good about myself".
    He is the creator of the show, he doesn't have to do what he doesn't like or doesn't feel that it's right. I'm still surprised that SJW feel good about forcing people to do things the way they want it, without taking into account what the other person feels just because it's "morally right".

    It could certainly do with a female Doctor. As long as it's a great actor, I think people will get over the initial impulse of rejecting change (both in terms of actors with different ethnicities than people are used to and female actors).

    Last edited 12/06/17 7:50 pm

    Why? What is wrong with these people? Dr Who has always been a man, why is that a crime? The creators have a vision they can choose whoever they want. Missy was an inspired choice, so so good. How would Missy feel if she knew she was given the role because she was female, rather than due to her prodigious talent? Idiot PC rubbish.

    Last edited 12/06/17 7:55 pm

    Most people I have talked to have had no problem with The Master turning up as female so gender fluidity should also not be a fan problem for The Doctor. As a female I have no problem with it - how about a female Asian looking doctor?

      Taking over existing strong male roles instead of creating new strong female roles is saying "we can't create a strong female roles until we first establish the role as a strong male one." That is, the author is unintentionally implying that the female should always be subservient to the male.

    You want the casting to be a gimmick?

      No, we just want the casting to be less sexist.

        If he just picks someone he thinks he can work with (the article calls them a "friend"), then it's not sexism, it's nepotism.

    and they've never cast a male Lara Croft either. What's the point apart from dividing the community rather than bring people together. Seriously whens the left going to wake up and realise that THEY are the sexists....

      Not that I agree 100% with the article, but I think you're missing the point in that The Doctor can potentially regenerate as whatever gender the show-runners want, it's their choice. The Doctor is an alien that doesn't necessarily have to abide by a specific gender, so why not give a woman a chance if the right actor came along? It's not about dividing the community.

      The Lara Croft argument doesn't really apply, she's a human without the same regeneration capabilities. If they were to cast a male Lara Croft, it wouldn't be 'Lara Croft', a female Doctor would still be The Doctor.

    I haven't read an argument yet where I agree with making the doctor a female.

    Let's get some female show runners up in there first.

      There's no real argument to be made for making the Doctor female apart from "equality" or "diversity".
      That being said, I fully support the idea of a female Doctor should the time come when it makes sense for the show. It most certainly should not be a "gimmick" or forced by opinions like this article.

        If there's no real argument for making the Doctor female, there's even less one for always making the Doctor male. If nothing else, it's kind of surprising that a coin-flip on gender would come up 'male' 13 times out of 13.

    So flawed in so many ways. When people actually stoop to counting the lines and using it help prove a point you have to wonder if there isnt a point to make.

    Moffat and RTD have two very different writing styles. The first of his Doctors loved the sound of his own voice, often gave grand speeches. The second doesnt say as much but the volume of the words he says are even more powerful. Moffat was more intent of physicality and body language and silence to tell as much story, not just words. The companions not just the Doctor did this. RTD use to over write things. Rose was madly in <3 with her Doctow so much she got her own. Then when Martha came in all she did until the end was completely smitten with him all the time. That was her character.

    Moffat only cast two Doctors, the second which was already on a short list and was talked about before. If he cast ten Doctors and they were all white males, then you might have a point. He should get points for casting Peter, because he was the oldest person to play Doctor Who now. Moving away from handsome, young men to get the tween girls in. Casting an 'old' man was a huge financial risk in some sense. (yes not the same type of risk a minorty or woman would be). He then tried to meet us half way by giving us a female Master and absolutely nailed it. THAT casting choice I think you will find in the future will make this whole conversation moot. It showed that changing the sex of the main character was possible.

    People also forget that some of Moffat's other shows had some of best females on tv for ages. All the females leads in Coupling, were light years ahead of what Friends were doing. Then the brilliant Linda Day from Press Gang. To say nothing of his great female characters in Doctor Who like Sally Sparrow, Pompadour from Fireplace. the whole of the River Song. The female characters in Jekyll completely owned the show.

    Do creative endeavours require justification? The primary purpose of the show is surely entertainment, and the realisation of the show-runner's vision.

    The Doctor traditionally has always been a man...ditto Sherlock Holmes and James Bond...is there a compelling reason this should change? The people who make Doctor Who aren't awful human beings because they have failed to make the character everything to everyone.

    Having said that, I'm all for a female Doctor; but that decision must be made as part of the creative process...not perceived obligation.

    Last edited 13/06/17 4:39 am

      Totally agree with everything you said,
      funnily enough i saw an article the other day complaining about Gal Gadot because she was a former IDF solider and her support of Israel.. I mean come on..
      No matter what happens these crazy lefties will have something to rage about

        Maybe it's me but I don't see PC as being left. I find it to be quite the opposite as its mostly aggressive, fueled by hate.

          The ones that drive this kind of thought call themselves progressives, or more accurately the regressive left.

    I'm looking forward to the next "wonder woman" being male and "he-man" being recast as female... should be awesome. SJW navel gazing nonsense.

    Beyond the fact that "political decision" is a loaded term that justifies continuing the status quo
    Is this article one of those fake ones spread around on Facebook? Because it's been written like one.
    Looking forward to a male Wonder Woman.

    How about a crossdresser?

      Oooh, the Doctor regenerates as transgender, and everyone is just as confused as to why they don't have a proper gender/proper pronouns as they are about why he doesn't have a name. Could work. The character could play on it and play it straight as either a man or a woman when the situation called for it.

    For the record, i think a female Doctor could be great.... but there is one simple fact - he was the show runner. His job was to shape the show to his vision as he saw fit. That doesn't require pleasing fans, and that doesn't make him a misogynist villain. He was no more beholden to innovate than he was to write plot arcs that pleased fans. He doesn't actually need to justify his casting decisions at all.

    Holy SJW panties batcat! This entire article harkens to the loss of sales and customer base Marvel experienced, trying to get people like you to accept they were being politically correct (see: https://icv2.com/articles/news/view/37152/marvels-david-gabriel-2016-market-shift).

    While, I believe it would be cool to see the doctor gender swap, I want to see it happen because of the story, NOT because it's politically correct. Missy worked, because the Master is chaotic and wouldn't care an iota about their own gender, also, Michelle works brilliantly with Peter. Their on-screen chemistry is perfect. A gender role I do complain about personally is that the doctor's primary companion each season is a woman, as this person could just as easily be a male. However, I understand the reasoning behind it.

    Taking a step back from SJW rally cries, lets look at the characters as though they were actually real people. The doctor probably doesn't want to BE a woman, the Master probably didn't care one way or the other. The doctor wants a companion he can help and that reminds him of his niece. When the doctor gets to a point in his life where he no longer needs to feel like he has to be male, probably around the same time he gets a male (primary) companion (just sayin), then he will likely regenerate into a woman.

    Stop beating on your drums of war, when there is still so much story to look forward to. Let the story lead the character where it will, as the fan base (which Marvel has shown) like the character/s for who they are, not what "political correctness" says they should be.

    Pop culture sells due to Status Quo Bias, people want things to stay relatively the same, slow changes over long periods are fine. Maybe make the next few doctors more feminine in their mannerisms until it's just logical that they would be a woman?

    Finally, when any SJW starts trying to make another person seem evil for the decisions they have made (OMG Moffet is bad, and wrong for not making the doctor a woman), ensure you are not suffering from a Fundamental Attribution Error. This is a tendency for people to focus on a "personality" based explanation for observed behaviours (making the Doctor a man because Moffet is a man, and men are bad, apparently), rather than the situational influences that are affecting the behaviour (people follow the Status Quo Bias as a whole, and so the Doctor becoming a woman needs to happen gradually, so we will start with Missy first).

      You make some good points but I'd recommend you stop using SJW if you want your argument to be taken seriously. It sounds like an insult, and ad hominem arguments rarely work out well.

        I wasn't using Ad hominem, I was being internally sarcastic, hence my last point about Fundamental Attribution Error. I am completely aware that Beth isn't an "SJW" in the sense of being an all encompassing "thing". However, the article itself reads in the sense of her attacking another person as though they were just a thing, rather than a human being. That being said, I agree, it did come across like that, so I do apologise.

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