Despite being one of the longest television shows in history (having aired since 1963), Doctor Who has been unable to shake off its core problems. For example, the show has for a very long time come under fire for its treatment of women, as many feel that it’s unfair that a woman hasn’t been given the chance to be the lead as the Doctor. Always the bridesmaid, never the white, male and cisgendered bride, so to speak.
The show also does little in terms of queer characters. John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness was decidedly queer, like the actor himself, and most recently Madame Vastra and her wife Jenny caused a small minority to file OFCOM complaints (yes, they were that disgruntled) when they two shared an incredibly chaste kiss in a Saturday DW episode.
Furthermore, the show has also hinted at the not so heterosexual identity of Clara Oswald (current companion, former Dalek in one episode) even appearing to make her flirt with another woman, but the show hasn’t really followed through.
It’s a contentious issue then; Doctor Who trying to keep up with the times but not alienating the tiny portion of its user base that it is (seemingly) ignorant and especially vocal. But, we took giant step forwards in queer representation last week when Doctor Who introduced a trans female character to the show.
For some time, a character called the Master has plagued the Doctor. The only other Time Lord in existence besides the titular character, the two have never got on. The Master has also always been male until last week when the Master showed up as female character, the ‘Mistress’, asking to be called ‘Missy’ for short.
But, as any rumbling in one of the biggest shows on the planet will do, we are now having to ask some important questions. Namely, does the Mistress count as ‘trans’ and does this mean that the titular Time Lord will be female at some point too?
Well to tackle the tricky topic of Time Lord labelling (try saying that ten times fast) the Mistress could be interpreted as a trans character because the literal meaning means to move from one gender to another. The Master was male, the Mistress is female and they are the same person albeit with a different gender identity, so naturally, trans is the label that everybody is prescribing.
However, Time Lords regenerate. They can change face, gender or race when they die – although we have only seen the main Time Lord as white and male – and this is how the BBC has kept the show running with new actors playing the Doctor for the past five decades.
Arguably, gender fluid would be a better label for the Mistress, assuming that she will transition back in a future regeneration or just acknowledging the fact that she can. And, even though she might not be trans (again, this is depending on your definition) the fact that the Beeb is demonstrating that changing your gender identity is perfectly normal is at least a good message to put out there.
As for the topic of a female Doctor, Doctor Who showrunner Stephen Moffat told Digital Spy that “It’s absolutely narratively possible [that the Doctor could be a woman] and when it’s the right decision, maybe we’ll do it. It didn’t feel right to me, right now. I didn’t feel enough people wanted it.”
Yes, after casting not one, or two but four white men as the role of the Doctor since 2005, Moffat says that not enough people are banging down his front door for a female Doctor. He probably sits in his living room with ear defenders on, then.
But still it does pave the way – or at least put an order in for the paving slabs – for a female Doctor to happen in the future. Whilst Moffat wasn’t listening, plenty of people were vocal enough when the new Doctor was announced that they wanted him to be of colour, a woman or maybe even both.
It’s a long shot then and if I was a betting woman I’d say that we’d see a more diverse protagonist in one more regen or two. Even that seems optimistic but without a TARDIS to hand, I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.