blog, doctor who

Dear Young People (of a Doctor Who Persuasion, and not)

Dear young people,

You might hear a lot of ugly things today, and in the next few days. From adults, mainly. The people we expect you to listen to at home, at school, when you need advice. The people who are meant to guide you towards a better understanding of the world.


Here are some of things I’ve heard people saying:

Time travel is only for men.

Adventures are only for men.

I won’t watch a show with a girl lead.

If you’ve always been a boy, you can’t suddenly discover you’re a girl after all.

You’re spoiling it, being here. You’re taking something from us, by being here. This is ours, not yours.

And I think – I hope – for some of you this might be the very first time you hear anything like those. I think – I hope – that you all know that girls and women are quite as able to be extraordinary, in fiction and in life, and their stories are for everyone.

So I think it might be pretty upsetting, to suddenly learn that the adult world thinks like that; perhaps even the people you love most.

I’m upset too.


If you’re excited about the news and don’t know how to talk to people who think, for some reason, they get to tell you not to be…

Here are some things about the show:

  • Time Lords used to have only 12 regenerations, but that’s now been reset, so all the old rules about it from the history of the show don’t apply any more.
  • The Master became Missy, and was every bit as brilliant and scary and strange.
  • Those are from the more recent years of the series. Fans of the TV show from the start might remind you that the Doctor has never been able to choose how he looks when he regenerates; it’s usually a bit of a shock. But Romana, a Time Lady who travelled with the Fourth Doctor for a while, was able to try out some regenerations before picking one she liked. I like to think he phoned her up and asked how she did it.
  • About that ‘Time Lady’ thing: I’ve always imagined Romana called herself that for the lols.* Gallifrey’s gone. I think Thirteen can call herself whatever she likes. (*Thank you to the commenter below who pointed out that Romana never called herself anything but a Time Lord. :D)

Here are some things about real life:

If you’re excited and other people aren’t, talking about it might help them see a different point of view. It might also help them realise that casual chat about a TV show doesn’t always feel casual; that saying ‘girls don’t belong here’ says something much bigger and darker about how they view the world than just a TV show. But remember, you’re not obliged to argue with people who disagree.

0debc85a0a6033bc2f534a1a37f6bc5b--no-regrets-first-doctorAbove all, please remember this:

Those things people are saying, that I quoted above? The adult world doesn’t think like that. Not all of it. Those are loud voices. They get attention. But they don’t rule. I promise you that there is a chorus of other voices (of all genders and all ages) rising up with a song of joy at this news, to herald the thing at the core of our beloved show: we’re going on a new adventure. Hold her hand, and run.


* People like to argue about what ‘science fiction’ means, so they might disagree with this. There are a lot of earlier texts that touch on scientific issues, but Frankenstein is generally recognised as the first in the genre we know today. It was completely groundbreaking at the time, and she started writing it when she was only 18.

32 thoughts on “Dear Young People (of a Doctor Who Persuasion, and not)”

  1. Fantastic post, Susie. I’m one of the voices applauding. I think Jodie Whittaker will do an amazing job as #13 — was absolutely mesmerised by her as Beth in Broadchurch. I stopped watching Dr Who for a bit, but I’ll definitely be watching on Christmas Day. This is the coolest news ever, and well overdue. #yesgirlscan

    1. She’s got such a great track record, can’t wait to see what she does. And this year’s been so much fun – Capaldi finally getting to play a more familiar iteration of the Doctor, strong writing, big gettable ideas, Bill’s been a joy, etc. Is it Christmas yet?

  2. Thank you for this. I’ve been a sci fi fan all my life, even though I’ve got a womb. I know – incredible. Now I write science fiction books – okay , I write them my own way, but I don’t write them with any part of my anatomy that defines me as female. I am so thrilled to have a woman doctor. So so thrilled. (Can I also just say this: Ada Lovelace. Marie Curie. Florence Nightingale ( the real actual one, not the one we’re supposed to imagine cooing over poorly men in the lamp light, but the one who made the connections between hygiene and health)

  3. Your article has more holes in it than a sieve. And your misleading hardcore feminist, and very patronising post aimed at young people, is something you should really be ashamed of.

    River Song.. remember her… strong, independant female… was she not a female time traveller in Doctor who??? Was she not a very well loved, well respected character??? Or is she not relevant because it goes against everything you have written in your article

    Now we also have the companion… you know, the really strong female who leads and guides the doctors.. who is his strength.. his moral compass… someone he completely depends on… did she not time travel with the doctor.. I mean, I am fairly sure he didn’t drug her each week and every episode was nothing more than her acid trip!

    I am female, and I am really disappointed at the casting of the 13th Doctor. The new writer wanted a female doctor from the minute he took on the role.. and all he did was bring an actress from his previous job with him. That in my book is lazy… we have had river song, we have had missy… this is lazy, sloppy writing, as it has already been done…

    Then we come to the companion.. are we now going to have a male companion, you know, the strength that will now be behind the woman, or her lap dog. It depends on how the writer goes with it… he will either be someone she completely depends on, or someone who has sexual intentions.. neither one really sound good.

    We will get a lot of boob and arse touching, and glee at having them in the xmas episode… how many references to peeing sitting down will there be?

    But yeah, it has to be about us not wanting a female Doctor who because we believe a woman couldn’t possibly be a time traveller…. I hope to god any young person reading your article as the sense to make up their own mind, and is not left feeling bad if they would rather Doctor who be a man!

    1. Wow – so you think having a female Dr Who will mean there is sexual harassment and groping? Who the hell do you think writes this stuff – and why you are you still watching it if you think there is only no harassment, no stupid sexist jokes, because Dr Who is played by a male actor?

    2. Whereas Russell T. Davies wanted a male Doctor from the minute he took on the role, and brought two actors from his previous jobs with him. Or is that completely different for some unspecified reason?

    3. I can’t quite follow your argument – why is it lazy to have a female Doctor? Why is it suddenly going to be laced with sexual harassment story lines? Also, since when has there been a cap on the number of strong, intelligent women you can have per series? Baffled.

  4. To be honest, I don’t care whether the Doctor is male or female (though, if I’m being completely honest, having a female ‘The Doctor’ is weird, but I think it’s just a matter of getting used to – nothing to do with sex, though – if she had been female this whole time, and suddenly changed into male, I would’ve been feeling just as confused), but my main issue (and this is just a personal opinion here) is I don’t like this actress – simple as that. And I won’t watch the series with this actress because if I watch it, and I end up hating her acting skills as much as I have for everything else I’ve seen her in, I’m afraid it’ll make me hate The Doctor, and I don’t want his/her character ruined for me like that.

    So for now, I bid the series goodbye, and cross my fingers for a better actor/actress for the 14th Doctor!

    1. Fair enough, I’ve disliked some of the previous doctors. Although the whole premise of the programme is weird, you can’t just pick out this one aspect.

  5. A Time Lord’s gender is irrelevant. What I’ll be looking for is decent plot & storyline. I mean, those stories from the Colin Baker era? Utter tripe & much more worthy in getting all antsy about things.

  6. Young people should be advised to set their sonic screwdrivers to the Ignore Idiot Adults setting. This will effectively drown out the howls of derisive derision that are filling up the Internet at present. Obviously, though, it will all end up in tears. I mean, Michelle Gomez as Missy was a total catastrophe wasn’t she?

  7. The spouse and I are both madly clapping in approval — of the casting, and of this piece. Well done, all around! (Can’t wait for Christmas!!!)

  8. The doctor is a time-travelling, shape-shifting alien with a spaceship that transcends dimensions. He has re-booted the universe at least once, travelled to parallel dimensions and when his hand was cut off, it grew into a clone of him. Of course he is able to change into a woman.

    (Yes, I am a true fan, and have been since I was eight years old, in the early nineties when they were celebrating thirty years of the show.)

    This is a great post which talks about the dark undertones of SOME of the criticism that will no doubt ensue over the next few months. It has already started with the reaction of UK rags, The Daily Mail and The Sun, who thought the most interesting thing to say about her was that she got naked for previous roles.

  9. What a wonderful post!
    I was born in 1961, and spent my whole youth watching Doctor Who, loving it, and always cheering for the female assistants, while secretly hoping that, one day, the Doctor would be a girl – and I shouted with joy when I heard the news!
    It might have been a long wait, but it was so worth it 🙂

  10. Just for the record, Romana never called herself a Time Lady. She may have been called that by others, but she always referred to *herself* as a Time *Lord* (except once in Shada, when she referred to herself in her youth as a Time Tot!). If you don’t believe me, just go back and watch the episodes from Ribos to Warrior’s Gate.

  11. My partner suggested this years ago and I wasn’t really onboard at the time – gender isn’t a decoration, something you pop on when you feel like it.

    But they’ve engaged some thematic ideas first instead of just plonking it in – Missy and the fact his extra regenerations came from a woman (Riversong).

    To me it’s a bit like the old show Herman’s Head, where one of the characters in his head was a woman – it’s his female aspect. People seem to be saying the Doctor is becoming a woman – I don’t buy that, it’s more like showing a feminine side, I think. Sorry, it’s still not really a female time lord, IMO. If we had a female time lord like Romana and one of her regenerations was male, would we say she’s turning into a he? Or just showing a masculine side for one of her regenerations? We wouldn’t treat it that the main part of the female character will somehow vanished if a male regeneration occurred.

    Sadly the whole special snowflake thing means we can’t just swing in a proper female timelady. How about less special snowflakeness, let some time ladies slip into play here? Not to mention the Doctor was cloned during Tenant’s reign and the female clone went off in a ship…there’s a lose end that was never followed up.

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