The regeneration game

Yes, it’d be good to have a female lead in Doctor Who, says Debra-Jane Appelby. But wouldn’t it also be good to have a woman in charge of the show?

“Regenerate! Regenerate!” New Doctor Who companion Bill (Pearl Mackie) and outgoing Doctor Peter Capaldi taunt a helpless Dalek. Photo: BBC.

It’s always a wrench when a Doctor announces he’s leaving the series. As a fan, you feel it right in your hearts. Just as you are settled in and comfortable with the latest incarnation you get that familiar old “It’s not you, it’s me” chat.

I’ve been a Doctor Who fan since Patrick Troughton’s final shows, and have had to suffer through all the regenerations but one. Heck, I even regenerated myself! As such, it’s always both a sad time and an exciting time, wondering what is going to come next. And not just who the next Who will be but also, especially these days, what Who will be this time, as once again we speculate as to whether or not we might get a Time Lady instead of a Time Lord.

This time, however, we have a precedent in that we have seen the Master regenerate into the awesome Missy and given we have had one Time Lord trans-regenerate into a Time Lady, there’s no reason the Doctor can’t.

In a world where there is an ever-growing backlash against feminism and women’s rights – and rights in general – it would also seem a good time for the oncoming storm and protector of Earth to fly back in the shape of a hard hitting, strong female lead, in order to slap one or two new world leaders around the face, as the Doctor has done in the past.

Peter Capaldi has been a great Doctor, especially for a fan like me who grew up with the Doctor being an older and wiser grandfather figure, into which role Capaldi injected a certain element of punk rock. As a grandparent myself who hasn’t let go of any of those teenage rebellious feelings from the 70s, it seemed appropriate that, for the current generation of kids who watch Doctor Who, if they’re going to get a grandfather Doctor he should be like a grandfather from 2017.

So, given that we have had young Doctors, old Doctors and even finally a Scottish doctor allowed to be Scottish, perhaps it is time we push the boat out and have either a female Doctor or an ethnic minority doctor. The NHS do, why not Gallifrey?

Just so long as Steven Moffat’s replacement Chris Chibnall (of Broadchurch fame) decides that it’s not going to be a Romantic Doctor. I’m sorry, but I’m still in the old-school camp that the Doctor does not fall in love with his companions even if the opposite is true.

For heaven’s sake, Tom Baker spent two years flying around the universe with Louise Jameson in a leather bathing suit and never even gave her a second glance. Although to be fair, he did end up marrying his one of his companions, but that was in real life.

“Peter Capaldi has been a great Doctor, especially for a fan like me who grew up with the Doctor being an older and wiser grandfather figure, into which role Capaldi injected a certain element of punk rock.”

One of the things that is interesting to me in this period of transition – with the departure of Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat and the calls for a female Doctor – was there were no calls for a female showrunner.

One thing I would like to see from Chibnall is a little bit of a ‘back to basics’ for the show. Steven Moffat has a very distinct style, with a notable love of complexity and of cleverness and of being self-referential. This is always exciting at first in his canon and it’s always interesting to see Doctor Who be treated like an adult show with something for the kids, as opposed to a kids’ show with something for adults, similar to the Disney Pixar movies way of doing things.

However, they seem to keep a much broader balance, whereas in the last few seasons of Doctor Who it seems to seems to have become far more Sherlock than Scooby Doo. A showrunner who can find a nice balance between the two and, perhaps, have a little bit more action and less wordiness would go down great, certainly with my grandsons and I.

Another thing I’ve noticed about the modern Doctor Who is that, as a fan, I can’t wait to see them as soon as they hit the screens. However, once I have seen them, I have very little pull to see them again and again and again. Unlike those classic serials which I have on DVD where I just cannot resist watching ‘Terror of the Zygons’ for the umpteenth time.

Granted there may be some elements of nostalgia; however I cannot help wondering why I, as the kind of person who watches movies and TV they love the same way that a music fan listens to a favourite album again and again, don’t feel the obsessive urge to watch these new Doctor Who shows and certainly with the later seasons, especially, as they are all readily available on Netflix

So, now we enter that period of speculation. One thing I am torn on is the choice of yet another lifelong Doctor Who fan to be the showrunner. To part of me, this sounds like a great idea, having someone who knows the series front-to-back, top-to-bottom and inside-out and so can give it the love and the attention it needs. On the other hand, perhaps having someone who isn’t so passionately connected to some of the show’s DNA could mean the introduction of fresher ideas.

It’s difficult to come down on either side of the debate. But when we look at the new Star Wars movies and how much fan service is placed in those – just enough to stop them being bad movies in their own right – perhaps having a lifelong fan in charge, one who also can keep a steady hand on the tiller and bring fresh ideas and new writers, might be just the ticket for Doctor Who going forward.

In the meantime, this year we get season 10, we get Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi’s last bow and we get a stonking new companion. As Doctor Who fans, let’s just sit and enjoy the ride and speculate wildly over who the new Doctor is going to be and how she’s going to shake up the universe

By the way Chris, I’d just like to say I’m available next year. I’ll send you my Spotlight details.


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Written by Debra-Jane Appelby

Loud, Yorkshire, opinionated, techno-geek, trans-woman comedian with a fondness for excessive culinary pleasures and too little exercise.