Why DOCTOR WHO Should Alter its DNA Again… in the Writer’s Room
By Alicia Lutes on August 21, 2014
It was very exciting, Monday’s announcement that the final three episodes of Doctor Who have been directed by two women. New Who has long been a show, for all its good bits, where the people in control of its creation have been middle-aged white men. This, naturally, got us thinking: wouldn’t now be the perfect time to hire a few female writers, too? Mayhaps even a few people of color to boot? We’re breaking new ground in time and space, anyway!
Lest we forget, Who was a series brought into the world largely by producer Verity Lambert and director Waris Hussein — a woman and Indian man, respectively. The creator of its iconic music? The one who brought Ron Grainer’s idea to actual life? Also a woman, named Delia Derbyshire. So Doctor Who as a whole is not lacking in its revolutionary, boundary-breaking ways. But for all the good their groundwork laying has done, very few people have followed in their footsteps on the creative side of things. In fact, the first female writer on the series wasn’t until 1983, and New Who has only had ONE woman bear a writing credit: Helen Raynor, Russell T. Davies’ script editor back during seasons three and four.
Both Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi have spoken about the new, darker and more dramatically mature Doctor we are going to see in season eight. And though that business is in the can and done, season nine is no doubt on everyone’s mind. If Moffat is so ready for a change in the worldwide-beloved series, why not one at the heart of it? One that will really, truly have a dynamic change on its DNA? One that will make the series more dynamic, inclusive, and potentially that-much better?
With all the, admittedly well-deserved criticism for the series’ general whiteness and inability to change its Doctor’s gender and race, a bit of adjustment at its foundation could see the wheels properly set in motion — and give the show a better chance at accomplishing well-rounded points of views for all of its characters. Because as creative and talented as all those men at the helm are, some things, experiences, and nuances are lost on those that live in the more privileged majority.
It doesn’t have to be random. To create stories that reflect a larger audience (and in turn bring in more of an audience!), one must have experience outside of the norm and status quo. Life experience that speaks to the different aspects of life that not everyone faces — stuff that is relatable to those outside of the standard purview of television’s current go-to point of view. Seeing the world in a different way has always been an asset to the Doctor, both in himself and his companions — why shouldn’t that be A-Number-One on the priority list for its writers, too?
And as evidenced by the gargantuan success of Guardians of the Galaxy, whose co-writer, Nicole Perlman, is a lady, women can write science fiction successfully, and well! She was the first person to give the Guardians a chance when many others balked at her choice, thinking she was nuts to try and revitalize the rag-tag motley crew of a property, and look what happened. Hiring a woman writer would open up the series to new characters and scenarios that may have previously been pooh-poohed by those in charge, but are rife with compelling, interesting storytelling potential. The idea is perhaps doubly appropriate for women of color, whose experience is often outside the understanding of their white compatriots.
Plus there’s the radical notion that adding a woman to the writing staff might even make for better drama and a more compelling companion. Not to brag, but women writers are sort of killing it in dramatic television right now. The brilliant Masters of Sex was created by Michelle Ashford who employs five women writers in addition to her lions’ share of the written work, and Mad Men‘s staff is almost all women (13 women have writing credits on that show. THIRTEEN!). So, y’know, women are just as capable as the dudes when it comes to creating captivating, engaging drama that really rivets the soul.
Besides, let’s just get down to brass tacks here: wouldn’t it be nice to have a companion who was shaped by a woman? Who felt a bit less tethered to the series’ occasional problem of writing more damsel-y women than ass-kicking, confident ones? Or better yet, a female staffer who helps set the stage for the first female Doctor? It would also be great to tell stories that aren’t so wrapped up in white, male history, but rather expand upon lesser-known moments throughout the world (and heck, universe, too). This is all of time and space we’re dealing with after all: shouldn’t anything and everything be possible?