Written by Irina Mugford
There's nothing in the canon itself that makes this a historic occasion. The Time Lords are, for lack of a better word, gender fluid, which seems about right for an alien species so far evolved beyond our comprehension, that they exist quite successfully across time and space (except that time they all died -ed). This was most recently further driven home by Missy - a new female regeneration of the Master. So a female Doctor is completely natural and some might say slightly overdue.
Even ex-Doctors Peter Davison and Colin Baker clashed over this at ComicCon, as the craze took over the world.
As a woman, my first reaction to this entire debate was hell yeah, female empowerement, Wonder Woman for the win etc etc etc. Taking a deep breath and looking at this as a sci-fi fan and a long-time Whovian, I’m now absolutely confident that it doesn’t matter. Not a little bit. Not even a tiny bit. You know why? Because the Doctor isn’t human.
Historically, most of the differences between sexes among humans came from social and environmental factors, as well as physical. Yes, women were more fit to care for children as they had the necessary physiology to produce milk. So they had to stay behind and care for the offspring, while men went to hunt and gather in one of the earliest forms of society. This made them develop different mental and moral qualities, most of which are in fact now outdated in the modern society.
The point is that female humans owe most of their distinguishing qualities as a subset of humanity to the way mammals procreate and nurture their offspring. Historically, we’ve been fighting against this prejudice, but it would be impossible (and very hypocritical) to claim that centuries, nay, millennia of living a certain kind of life hasn’t influenced female thinking. High five to all the women in the world who fight this and consciously change the society every day - but it will take time.
Guess what? Time Lords don’t procreate as humans do. The division of labour between male and female sexes - if there’s any - isn’t necessarily the same. So why would we assume that female Time Lords would have lived the same lives, developed the same sets of qualities and ended up at the same point as human women?
If you suppress disbelief long enough to believe that Peter Capaldi is not an actor, but the Doctor himself, then you should be able to do it with any other actor - male or female. You might not like Jodie Whittaker’s portrayal - I know Capaldi, for example, took a long time to grow on me personally - but her set of genitalia really doesn’t make a difference.
Yes, this won’t be the same Doctor as before. But was Capaldi’s 12 really the same as Smith’s 11? Or was any of them the same person as Tennant’s 10? As far as the Doctor Who universe goes, this is not the first time the Doctor has become somebody completely different and it won’t be the last. This Doctor will probably have a new identity, be a new character and have their own dynamic with her companions. But hasn’t each and every Doctor that came before done the same thing?
Instead of speculating about what kind of woman the Doctor will be, shouldn’t we be more curious as to what kind of a person she will become?