Doctor Who as a Woman
by Kevin Rigdon (@pralix1138)
The recent announcement of Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor set the interwebs on fire, not simply because people liked, or disliked, Capaldi. There was another question asked, which has been gathering steam for some time now, and that is this: when will we see a woman Doctor?
Now, I am in no way qualified to answer questions involving Gallifreyan physiology, means of reproduction, or even if the Time Lords are mono-gendered like the Asari from the Mass Effect universe. I don’t know the intricacies of the Whoniverse like many of you. So, my purpose for the article isn’t so much to offer an opinion on whether or not the Doctor should have been, will be, will never be, etc. be a woman. I simply want to ask a couple questions, and hope that you all will constructively and politely, add to the discussion in the comments section.
Is there any precedent, or hint, in the mythology of Doctor Who, which suggests that regenerations can be cross-gendered? Even a newcomer to the Whoniverse like myself understands that each regeneration brings new possibilities: height, weight, hair color, eye color, and so on. It even brings on new personality traits, so that each Doctor is, in many ways, a completely new character, yet the underlying person is the same. But, as a newcomer, I don’t know if the groundwork has been laid for a Doctor who is a woman.
In fact, in “The Christmas Invasion,” the 10th Doctor tells Harriett Jones, “I’m him. I’m literally him. Same man, new face. Well, new everything.” This brings up a whole host of other questions. How do Time Lords reproduce? Does it look like human reproduction? Is their reproduction sexual or asexual? Do they clone? Are they hatched? Does how they reproduce affect how they regenerate?
Is what makes the hypostasis simply a collection of memories and experiences? Theoretically, aside from bots and programs, if you’re reading this, you’re a person. But what makes up you? I’m not a big believer in the singularity idea. I, personally, don’t think that our consciousness can be uploaded to a machine. I prefer my ontology a bit more mystical than that. But the question still remains: is the hypostasis (underlying concrete principle, or “personhood”) simply a collection of memories, which can be transmitted across genders? Is the Time Lord who has chosen to be called “Doctor,” ontologically Male? Female? Intersex?
When we say “regeneration,” do we actually mean “reincarnation”? Stick with me on this one. I wonder if we sometimes confuse the two terms when it comes to the Doctor. With “reincarnation,” a person can be reincarnated into any form, any species, and any gender. But with a regeneration, the basic underlying principle of the being does not change. The one who regenerates does not become another person or another species. For example, the Doctor never regenerates into a human. But does that mean one cannot be regenerated into another gender? If regeneration includes the formation of new tissue, what is the extent of it? Does the new tissue simply replace lost tissue? Is there a biological framework, or boundaries if you will, that limit what form the regenerated tissue takes? Does the Time Lord physiology allow for not only the regeneration of new tissue, but the reforming of the basic framework that the newly regenerated tissue conforms to.
We’ve all learned that many types of lizards can regrow their tails, and starfish can regenerate when they’ve lost tentacles. But these regenerations stick to the basic patterns of lizards and starfish. The newly regenerated body part may have different coloring and so forth, but that’s about it. A lizard regenerating its tail isn’t suddenly going to sprout an alligator. So, their regenerations stick to the basic framework, but how does this process work for Time Lords? Do they have a personal framework? Are there a set of templates somewhere? What governs the pattern for the regenerations?
So, there are my questions. I didn’t even get into the ideas of character, and storytelling, or mythology. Certainly there are a myriad more questions that will spur on the conversation. What do you guys think about a woman Doctor? Is it time? What would that look like? Add your comments below, and please keep it civil.