Though the Doctor can survive fatal blows and regenerate bodies, the alien species of the Time Lord cannot seem to regenerate into a human form that is neither white nor male.
As Matt Smith prepares to bid farewell to his role as the iconic eleventh doctor, he leaves behind him a legacy of male caucasian heroes that spans half a century. Steven Moffatt and co. face the challenging task of casting such a dynamic and multifaceted character, and I hope they find the courage to elevate Doctor Who to the 21st century.
Doctor Who’s very structure is male-dominated. Each doctor has at least one female companion who he sweeps away from present-day planet earth on an adventure. Sexual tension mounts–perhaps the Doctor and his companion share a kiss or two– and then the Doctor abandons his companions. Each time the Doctor flies off to other planets with a newer, usually younger and prettier companion. Doctor Who celebrates unequal relationships between men and women. With the Doctor as a male, Doctor Who fits the trope of the man who uses and then loses a woman.
A female Doctor would change the dynamics of Doctor Who irrevocably. Little girls would observe that they don’t have to wait years and years for a mysterious man to return, as did Amy Pond. Girls can lead adventures too. A female doctor would add a new element to the romance of the show. What if the male companion had to wait on earth for his female doctor? What if the companion stayed female and there were *gasp* a non-heterosexual pairing for once?
Another aspect of Doctor Who’s structure is its utter lack of diversity. I can remember no important Asian Doctor Who characters. Mickey, Rose’s boyfriend who is black, has his girlfriend snatched away by the Doctor. Mickey’s love for Rose is clearly, from the first episode, much greater than Rose’s love for him. Rose’s life with Mickey is too boring, so she begins her adventure with the Doctor. Mickey is a working class black man who loses out to a white man. There is nothing particularly groundbreaking or new about Mickey’s portrayal, only that the creators of Doctor Who squandered an opportunity to create an interesting a exciting character. Martha Jones, a black female professional, is the closest Doctor Who has come to breaking its formulaic and conservative structure. Martha’s character is only weakened by her limited time in the story arc. Lasting just one series, Martha was not afforded the time to develop that was granted to Amy or Rose. Martha remains memorable–but only just.
Were the creators of Doctor Who to cast a non-white doctor, Doctor Who would illustrate for young viewers that anyone can be a hero, no matter the color of their skin. The conspicuous lack of diversity in Doctor Who presents a universe that should no longer be accepted by the modern viewer. As the world grows more integrated and as Doctor Who continues to expand its international audience, a non-white Doctor is no longer a daring risk by the television studio, but a casting decision that should have already been made.
Star Trek broke boundaries with the character of Uhura in 1966. In creating a female African American character, Star Trek highlighted Sci-fi’s role as a vehicle for social commentary. Almost 50 years later, Doctor Who is far from breaking boundaries and opening eyes. Instead, with its patriarchal constructs, Doctor Who lags behind the present day. When Matt Smith leaves Doctor Who, the next Doctor must not be a male Caucasian.