Doctor Who is Still White, Male, and Straight

All you Doctor Who fans might have cheered when BBC announced Oscar-winning actor Peter Capaldi as the newest regeneration of the Doctor, but does this casting decision also merit concern? The popular show has elicited questions from fans, celebrities, and intellectuals alike as to why the Doctor can break the barriers of time and space, but not gender, race, or sexuality. 

Now in its 33rd year of production, Doctor Who has seen a total of 12 actors as incarnations of the Doctor, the time-traveling protagonist of the series. All of them—as Diane Reese of The Washington Post pointed out—have been male, white, and straight.

See, this wouldn’t be as troubling if the Doctor had always been played by one actor, or at least portrayed as the same unchanging character played by multiple actor. But the premise of the show, Reese and others argue, is that the Doctor regenerates not only in a different body, but also with a completely different personality, different quirks, and different motivations. There is little reason that this high-profile character couldn’t regenerate as someone of a different gender or race as well.

“I do think it’s well over-time to have a female Doctor Who,” Actress Helen Mirren said on Daybreak, “I think a gay, black female Doctor Who would be the best of all.”

Mirren’s suggestion was quickly dismissed, however, by the show’s producer Steven Moffat. “I like that Helen Mirren has been saying the next doctor should be a woman. I would like to go on record and say that the queen should be played by a man.”

The controversy over the new Doctor’s gender has gained considerable attention in the UK. In light of the underrepresentation of women in science, a group of over 150 scientists have lobbied for the next Doctor Who to be female.

"There is a distinct lack of role models of female scientists in the media and recent research shows that this contributes to the under-representation of women in the field,” a spokeswoman from the UK Resource Center for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (UKRC) told The Telegraph. "The UKRC believes that making a high profile sci-fi character with a following like Doctor Who female would help to raise the profile of women in science and bring the issue of the important contribution women can and should make to science in the public domain."