A Female Doctor Who
For the past few seasons of Doctor Who the fans and even the current showrunner have voiced a certain idea: what if the next Doctor was female? In terms of the character it is completely within the realms of possibility so why not? Personally I have no problem with this idea. It would be interesting the shake things up a little. I really enjoy Doctor Who as a series but sometimes it does get a bit repetitive. Having a female protagonist could generate an interesting perspective and take the character in a new direction.
However while some fans would like the next Doctor to just become a woman immediately, I'm afraid it's a little bit more complicated than that. There are certain things that need to happen and certain factors to consider. Although this is the 21st century a simple gender swap of a fictional character remains a tough issue.
What Needs to Happen?
First of all Doctor Who as a show features something very dated: blatant sexism. This isn't even up for debate this is simple fact. Doctor Who is the longest running sci - fi show in history, but apart from production design, cast members and tone it hasn't really changed much. The show still follows the formula of - Doctor comes to Earth, Doctor saves the day, Doctor takes on a female companion to go adventuring with. This usually results in a woman being helplessly in danger crying out for her manly Doctor friend to come and save her because she can't possibly do it herself. Hell, in the new series alone there has been a total of three companions hopelessly in love with the guy.
This needs to change. Most people accept this because that's how the series has always been and the companions themselves have been interesting characters for the most part. However if you simply do a role reversal and have a female Doctor and male companion the sexism would soon start to become more obvious. The writers need to find a way of shifting the dynamic between the Doctor and companion to something different than one always being the "damsel" in distress.It might even be interesting for the Doctor to one day have an actual romantic relationship with a companion instead of just teasing one. Or maybe make a companion the relation of the Doctor's close friend. Maybe make the the companion an alien themselves, like a soldier or something. Anything to shake up the formula and do away with the sexism is essential for the audience accepting a female Doctor.
The audience itself also poses an obstacle. Some female Whovians that I know are actually opposed to the idea of a female Doctor, mainly because they've fancied the pants off Tennant and Smith and even Capaldi now. They like to imagine themselves as companions being swept off their feet and taken on adventures with a strange, ruggedly handsome man. And hell who could compete with that? Shifting to a female Doctor would all of a sudden change the perspective of this part of the audience. But that being said what if this portion of Whovians suddenly got to imagine themselves as the wacky adventuring timelord? Could be interesting.
Who to cast?
With all of this in mind we now come down to the big question: who could make a great female Doctor? Like my previous article a few things come into consideration for the role of the Doctor regardless of gender. A sense of dramatic and comedic talent as well as the ability to convey intelligence and an other worldly presence. This means that going ahead and just casting some piece of eye candy for the Dads at home is out of the question.
Before I get to my suggestions I want to give a mention to Joanna Lumely. Not a suggestion for today or the future but just as a mention because she actually already played the Doctor. Not on the TV show officially but as the classic comic relief special "Curse of the Fatal Death" along with Rowan Atkinson, Richard E Grant, Jim Broadbent and Hugh Grant. This was a reference to rumours in the mid 80s that she was slated to take on the role for real. For that era of Doctor Who? I think it could have worked.
Finally onto my own recommendations.
London born actress Rebecca Hall has proven many times that she has the acting chops to command a scene and hold her own against big names such as Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale (see The Prestige). So it remains a mystery why Hall has never really had a chance to lead a movie of her own. Doctor Who would be a great opportunity for her to do so. She has been unanimously praised for her dramatic ability, but few "high brow" folk know very little of her comedic roles in films like A Bag of Hammers. If the Doctor were to regenerate into a woman then Rebecca Hall would be a safe bet.
You want to go adventuring? Well then who better than the voice of Lara Croft. Keeley Hawes has proven to be able to lead a show as she did in Ashes to Ashes. Hawes demonstrates the intelligence of the timelord and while not typically comedic can master deadpan when she needs to. With her roles as Alex Drake and Lara Croft, Hawes convinces us that she has the knowledge and detective skills that would be built up after a millennium of time travelling. I honestly don't see how an audience wouldn't accept this choice.
If you want a casting choice with geek cred up the wazoo then look no further. Hynes become a comedic legend from numerous sketch shows but made her biggest impact as Daisy Steiner on the show Spaced with Simon Pegg (who also guest started in a Doctor Who episode). Hynes would undoubtedly have the thumbs up from sci - fi fans and could bring a Tom Baker like odd-ballness (ballness?) to the role. While being naturally funny and card carrying geek is great Hynes also has an under appreciated dramatic talent. She's made many appearances in period dramas and other works that prove she has range. This choice may not be a no brainer but the more one thinks about it the more it works.
Emilia Fox is the personification of an uplifting presence (or maybe I have a thing for blondes). In every role she's every played Fox always comes off as being really nice and relatable. Having done some acting myself I know how hard it is to come off as truly natural. Emilia Fox does this to and almost perfect level. Bringing this approach to the Doctor would be an interesting take on the character. Making an immortal, dual hearted, time traveler relatable would be an achievement and I believe Fox to be capable of this.
While also pulling off a sense of realness Fox is no stranger to the fantastical. Her villainess performance as Morgause in Merlin for example. Pulling off spell casting and sorcery seriously could lend itself well to sci - fi. It's easy to apply such a skill to weilding a sonic screwdriver or operating a Tardis.
Also much like Keeley Hawes, Fox has the added benefit of having a part in a detective drama. This helps to showcase possible Doctor characteristics such as intelligence, dramatic skill and oddly enough coming across as laid back in the face of terrible events. I highly recommend her work on the show Silent Witness to illustrate my point further.
More than anyone else on this list Gina Bellman has an uncanny ability to floor an audience or immobilize fellow cast members. It could be down to her seductive voice of imposing stature but it's truly a skill that has almost become a trademark. It's easy to picture her as a timelord holding her own against some extra terrestrial being of immense power. Her acting ability is impressive and her comedic skills were also showcased in the show Coupling - which feature previous Doctor casting suggestion Jack Davenport.
With her tough look and cool head, Bellman could well invoke this generations Jon Pertwee, but as a female Doctor.