With rumours of Jodie Whittaker departing Doctor Who after the next series, speculation is rife about who should play the next Doctor. In the UK, this is a very big deal. Bookmakers actually take bets that could be worth thousands of pounds. It's a boom time for clickbaity articles about who should play the next Doctor and running spurious rumours about who has been cast as the next Doctor. It's fun to talk about who we'd like to see as the next Doctor, but that's just the Science Fiction TV version of Fantasy Football. It's not real until the BBC officially announces it. Till then, it doesn't matter who you say it should be or if sites and tabloids go around running rumours. We're not throwing a name in the hat. We only want to say the next Doctor should be played by a woman. And the next ones for the foreseeable future should be played by a woman.
Doctor Who has always done its best to be a socially and politically progressive show, but it always had its blind spots. There were moments of casual and unintentional racist throughout its 57-year history, and subsequent seasons and writers often did their best to correct those attitudes as time went on and people became more aware. The other big problem the show always had was sexism. The female companions were frequently there to scream at the monsters and be rescued. Even when they were distinctive and could fight, they were still the sidekick and many of the male writers at the time didn't know how to write them as more than damsels-in-distress in the old days. And at the centre of the show was always The Doctor, a representation of benevolent patriarchy. And why does the Doctor always need to be male?
Let's face it, the men have had their turn. We've had 12 male Doctors – 14 if you count John Hurt and Peter Cushing from the non-canonical movies. And each actor played the character as a different archetype: William Hartnell played him as the last of the Edwardian patriarchs; Patrick Troughton played him as a Chaplin-esque hobo; Jon Pertwee played him as a dandyish playboy; Tom Baker played a wandering bohemian and so on. The 21st Century Doctors were even more modern archetypes: Christopher Eccleston was the Doctor as a no-nonsense Northerner; David Tennant was the sexy geek smart-aleck; Matt Smith as the geek with an old man's soul; Peter Capaldi as cranky woke granddad. Think of the different archetypes and personality types there are out there for a female Doctor.
We've barely scratched the surface because female heroines are still underrepresented in the genre. Jodie Whittaker plays the Doctor as the chirpy babysitter who puts a brave face on for the kids no matter how dire things get. Jo Martin, as the first person of colour to play the character, was angrier and more dangerously violent than any of previous incarnations, so you can't argue that women can't play action or dark as the men have. That's only two female Doctors so far, three if you count Steven Moffat's spoof version that had Joanna Lumley as a horny, wisecracking posh Englishwoman. The possibilities are as endless as casting men- and less familiar, and Doctor Who has always been a show that gives us something new on top of all the old familiar comforting tropes. Of course, the real change will come when the show gets more female writers and a female showrunner.