Ever since Peter Capaldi announced he would be leaving Doctor Who after the upcoming season, fans have been taking to the interwebs to list the actors they think would be best suited to take over the role. As usual, the biggest debate revolves around whether the newest Doctor should be an actor of color or a woman. But while actors like Idris Elba and Richard Ayoade have been pretty widely accepted as viable options, many fans still seem to be almost offended at the idea of a woman taking control of the TARDIS. This despite the fact that a female doctor would actually benefit fans of both sexes.
One fan recently voiced his reasons for wanting to keep the Doctor a he. In an editorial for Scotland's The Herald, Mark Smith claimed that to cast a female doctor would be misunderstanding the program. He also claimed that men are the only ones who can properly understand the show, and that it has already done its part for diversity. But I'm not actually here to disagree with Smith - not least because those arguments are laughable. I'm here to agree with a very specific part of his argument.
"Doctor Who was, and still is, for boys like me: nerdy boys who prefer indoors to outdoors and books to balls, boys who don't understand the male stereotypes they are supposed to aim for. Most heroes, Superman, Captain Kirk, kiss the girl and shoot to kill, but the Doctor doesn't. He shows that there's another way of being a man…"
Smith makes a very good point. Nerdy boys do need a hero who shows them a different way to be a man, and that's exactly why the Doctor should be a woman.
Up until this point (keep in mind I'm only talking about New Who here), Doctor Who has had a very particular formula when it comes to its line-up: male Doctor, female companion. There was a slight deviation during Matt Smith's era, when the Doctor took on a married couple, thus adding male companion Rory, but generally the Doctor tends to choose opposite gender companions.
This yin and yang is actually pretty important because -- in addition to being generally heteronormative -- they've also always stuck to pretty traditional gender roles. The Doctor is the alpha personality, the one who does the fighting and the solving and all the decision-making, all things that in a traditional society are seen as male traits. The Companion, meanwhile, takes on otherwise traditionally female traits like nurturing, compassion and peacemaking. While Smith may believe the Doctor is a "nerdy boy's" hero — somehow unlike Superman or Captain Kirk — he seems to miss that the Doctor is exactly like those traditional heroes. He swoops in, is all-knowing, bizarrely all-powerful, saves the day and sometimes even gets the girl.
But consider if those roles were flipped — if the male hero were the one exhibiting compassion for their enemies while the female hero swept in like a space cowboy. If the Doctor were to regenerate in a female form, I argue that is exactly what would happen.
Because of the show's tendency to cast opposite gender companions it is safe to assume that this female Doctor's companion would likely end up being male. The female Doctor would then take on the Doctor's traditionally male gender roles while the new male Companion took on those female gender roles usually reserved for said Companion. With this new dynamic not only would you live up to the promise of the Time Lord's regeneration rules (they can come back as literally anything, yet the Doctor has always been a white man?), you would also be giving kids some groundbreaking - and much-needed - new heroes: a smart, capable woman with a devil-may-care attitude and a bit of a god-complex and a strong-willed male character who changes the world through caring and kindness.
Now those are heroes nerdy boys (and girls) need.