As the world prepares to settle in for the annual television event that is the Doctor Who Christmas Special, current showrunner Steven Moffat has been addressing the issue of female representation on the show – specifically in the writer’s room. The production recently welcomed Catherine Tregenna (Torchwood) onto the writing staff, with industry observers quickly noting that the writer represented the first female addition to the Doctor Who writing team in six years.
While this has been highlighted by many as evidence of discrimination in television in general, Steven Moffat has discussed the point with Zap2It – explaining the factors that have led to the current situation, specifically with regards to Doctor Who.
“Female directors and writers have a tendency to turn us down. There are fewer female directors and female writers – it’s a statistical fact – it’s shameful, but it’s true. Most people who are desperate to do Doctor Who are men.
“There’s a slight tendency to think Doctor Who is not for them [women]. Catherine [Tregenna] was happy to write Torchwood – she had a very good Torchwood run – but wasn’t keen to write Doctor Who.
“She’s turned us down in the past, but I talked her into it with an idea she really liked.”
Moffat took the opportunity to set the record straight about his own role in the level of female representation on the show – indicating that he is constantly striving to achieve more balance.
“It’s not that I care particularly what brand of reproductive organs you wear to work. There’s very little reproduction that goes on on the Doctor Who set. The reason we want women is because some of the best people for the job are women.
“I’m doing my best, despite what people say about me. There’s very much a culture of thinking about Doctor Who as a boys’ show. But I’m always going to conventions and looking at fans and thinking, there’s practically more girls than boys.
“I think in 10 years, when Doctor Who is still triumphantly successful, a lot of those [women] will grow up to be writers and directors who are desperate to do Doctor Who.”
Originally created by Canadian film and television producer Sydney Newman, British writer and playwright C.E. Webber, and British television producer and screenwriter Donald Wilson, Doctor Who originally ran from 1963 to 1989. The show was successfully re-launched in 2005 by Russell T. Davies – with a television movie appearing in between, in 1996. Doctor Who quickly became an important part of British culture, and has been broadcast internationally since 1964.
Centering around the Doctor – a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey – Doctor Who chronicles his adventures, travelling through the universe in a mysterious, sentient space ship that looks like a British police box. The TARDIS – which has long been an iconic, internationally recognizable part of the show – is famously vast inside, despite its earthly external dimensions. Having a lead character with the ability to “regenerate,” change his looks and personality, has led to the unprecedented long run of the show, which has seen 13 actors take on the role to this date.
Academy Award winning filmmaker Peter Capaldi is the current incarnation of the Doctor. With 12 broadcast episodes under his belt, Capaldi and preparing for his first Christmas Special to hit the airwaves. Though he has no plans to move on from the role yet, the Metro reports that he recently described to the press the way in which he would like his time as the Doctor to be remembered.
“I would like it to be mysterious and magical and fun. That’s just what Doctor Who is – a mysterious piece of magic in the world.”
Many have noted that the most recent season of Doctor Who has seen the Doctor’s current companion, Clara (Jenna Coleman), take more of a lead role than the Time Lord himself – adding fuel to discussion of the Doctor being female in the future. While the modern version of the show has certainly opened itself to a vast number of female supporting characters, it has remained squarely within its own tradition of a white male Doctor traversing the vastness of space and time with a female companion in tow. There have, occasionally, been male companions, but these are few and far between. This repeated use of a male lead contributes to the perception of Doctor Who as being “a boys’ show.”
Moffat is working to change that perception, however. Moving forward, the Doctor Who showrunner has not ruled out the possibility of a female Doctor taking the controls of the TARDIS at some point, and has reassured Zap2It that there is “already a female director on the books for next year.” It was notable that the finale episodes of the most recent season were helmed by director Rachel Talalay (Bomb Girls) – which brought the number of female directors of Doctor Who up to five, of a total of 39 since its 2005 re-launch.
The Doctor Who Christmas Special – Last Christmas – will guest star actor Nick Frost, and airs in the UK on December 25th at 6.15pm, on BBC One.
[Image via peter-capaldi-news.com]