Last year I posted a heartfelt, purely besotted fan post about why Doctor Who could never be a woman.
The debate still rages on in the comment section of that post. There are reactionary comments and accusatory comments, but there are also a few gems that completely blew my mind. Possibly the best argument I have ever heard against my rigid fan mind was from commenter TXVoodoo, “The physiological changes would be no more taxing to a regeneration than changing from advanced age, disparate heights, completely different skull structures, and so on. Heck, the Doctor’s regrown a hand. You’re trying to say the Doctor couldn’t grow a uterus? (If, in fact, Gallifreyans have them. For all we know, they could be marsupials.)”
“You’re trying to say the Doctor couldn’t grow a uterus?” Touché. Why couldn’t a being who regenerates when dying, grows new body parts if injured during said regeneration, and has eleven different faces grow a uterus? Mind. Blown.
So, while this fan can’t imagine a world in which the Doctor of her childhood could be a woman, I have to admit that canon more realistically supports the statement, “Why the Doctor would never be a woman.” (Now, given, I’m using *in canon* evidence, rather than outside reasons this may be the case. For instance, the Doctor is usually an erstwhile resident of the British Isles because the series is a UK series.)
If we try and largely leave behind evidence presented in particular episodes of the pre-Eccleston years, whilst keeping in mind the aesthetics of the eleven Doctors, we are given several key pieces of information to ponder regarding the Doctor’s gender. Much of my own speculation on the subject comes from three key scenes during the Matt Smith years.
The first comes within “The Eleventh Hour,” Smith’s debut episode. Whilst in the process of regenerating he touches his hair and wonders if he is a woman this time. At the time, my gut informed me that this was just the Doctor’s state of utter confusion, caused by the regeneration process. Now, however, I am prone to think of this statement as the words of a devil-may-care Time Lord. One more interested in the exciting situation at hand than his own appearance. One who makes no effort to control his regeneration because, well, where’s the fun in that? One who would much rather see what gets thrown at him.
The second is in the episode “The Doctor’s Wife” in which the Doctor receives a distress signal from a fellow Time Lord. This prompts the Doctor to wax poetic about the life of fellow Galifreyan, the Corsair. He refers to a tattoo that the Corsair added to his body upon each regeneration. At this point he refers to the Corsair having been a woman on occasion, “herself a couple of times, oh she was a bad girl.” Oh, how I hated that line in such a wonderful episode.
But both of these things can only be considered in light of the third, consecutively speaking, scenario in “Let’s Kill Hitler.” Two things actually happen during this episode to give pause. The first occurs during Melody Pond’s transformation into the River Song we know and love, when she comments, “I’m focusing on a dress size.”
The second occurs at the end of the episode where she transfers all her remaining regenerations to the Doctor in order to save his life. In that moment, she exhibits a great deal of control over the regenerative process.
Taking these things into account, there are several other moments in the post-Eccleston canon that we can look at when considering the sex of the Doctor, especially where the control of regeneration is concerned.
- Eccleston’s Doctor flirts with Captain Jack Harkness and is clearly as unlimited by sexual preference as the captain himself. For this to be such a non-issue, it would seem to indicate that for a Time Lord it is the mindset and not the physiology that is key. Thus, the Doctor continually regenerates as a man though his sexual preferences could go either way.
- “Am I ginger?” One of the first thing Eccleston’s Doctor asks Rose is if he is ginger. He would like to have a different hair color, but obviously lacks the ability or desire to control that aspect of his regeneration. If he cannot be ginger, I find it hard to believe that he personally would have enough regenerative control to remove anatomy, though I bow to the comments and say that maybe not all Time Lords show such lack of control.
Series 2-4: David Tennant
- David Tennant’s Doctor falls in love with Rose Tyler, or so they like to tell me. (Can you tell I’m not big on the love scenes?) If this is the case, then being the bringer of hope that he is, I doubt that he would regenerate into a form that Rose would have a hard time relating to because he hopes that he will see her again. Considering her initial reaction to the first regeneration she witnesses, this worry would seem to have credibility, whether or not it should.
- In “Journey’s End” the Doctor forces himself into a partial regeneration showing that he does have some control over the regenerative process. This would seem to greatly substantiate the idea that he just doesn’t ordinarily care to control his regeneration.
So what can we learn for the next regeneration based on the past ten? The Doctor shows preferences for several characteristics over his 900 year life span, and so it would seem unlikely that he would choose an eleventh regeneration that was vastly different.
- The Doctor has been in humanoid form for ten regenerations.
- The Doctor has been British over ten regenerations, even when regenerating in another country or on another planet.
- The Doctor has been a man over ten regenerations.
- The Doctor has been white over ten regenerations.
I have seen the argument postulated that he displays himself as a white male so that no matter which point in history the TARDIS takes him, he is able to blend in with authority. Given that he has been to the end of the universe I find it hard to believe that the white male would be dominant for the entirety of human history. For this, we might consider a real-world reason, the history of prejudice against non-whites in Western culture.
The arguments put forth here take us in two different directions. Either a Time Lord can control the regenerative process to a certain degree and the Doctor does not have the skill set to do so, or a Time Lord can control the regenerative process and the Doctor does not care to do so.
So, while I concur that a Time Lord might possibly be able to switch both sex and species, will this particular Time Lord choose to do so at this point in his regenerative cycle?
This GeekMom thinks it unlikely.