5th Doctor, Peter Davison: "The Doctor must never be a woman"

I know a number of people for whom this particular bit of news is a betrayal, because Davison is “their Doctor”. According to Peter Davison, fifth Doctor on the venerable British sci-fi series Doctor Who, the character of The Doctor should never be a woman.

Doctor Who legend Peter Davison risks being exterminated by fuming female fans after declaring: “Doctor Who must always be a man” reports the Sunday People.

Speaking on the eve of the cult show’s 50th anniversary, Peter, 62 – Doc No.5 from 1981 to 1984 – insisted: “If you suddenly make the Doctor a woman you’ve effectively just said, ‘Well let’s give you a sex change’, and I don’t think that works.

“To me it would be a rather odd thing. To have a female Time Lord would be like having a female James Bond.”


The sub-headline at The Mirror states, “A female Doctor Who wouldn’t know how to drive a Tardis, says legendary fifth doctor Peter Davison”. On that I call absolute bullshit. Even for a fictional universe, you have to be internally consistent, and there’s plenty of evidence that the canon, even at the point where Davison was at the helm, was already established in this respect.

Time Lords, when they regenerate, can apparently change sexes. A Time Lord that the Doctor references, “The Corsair”, apparently did so. At one point, The Doctor wonders if he’s changed genders while touching his hair immediately after a regeneration. The idea doesn’t seem novel to any Time Lords, only to Davison.

Nyssa, one of the companions of the Doctor during Davison’s run, was well capable of piloting the Tardis despite neither being a Time Lord nor having a penis. Beyond that, she was actually a competent and self-reliant companion, not needing the Doctor for most scrapes and managing to survive and in some cases even deal with the baddies without special intervention. Romana, a female Time Lord (at the time, actually called Time Lady… though that’s simply dumb IMHO), was inexperienced in the field, but was vastly superior to the Doctor academically, and actually went through the Tardis training school and so knew a hell of a lot more about piloting the rust-bucket of a time machine than The Doctor did.

There’s nothing in the canon that says the Doctor has to be male. There’s, in fact, counterexamples to Davison’s personal biases. His coming out against this, so close to the 50th Anniversary, at a time when producers have lined up three different possible female Doctor candidates for the next regeneration, is irritating. It’s needless, it’s contrafactual, and it’s just plain sexist.

Hat tip to NateHevens.

5th Doctor, Peter Davison: "The Doctor must never be a woman"

57 thoughts on “5th Doctor, Peter Davison: "The Doctor must never be a woman"

  1. 51

    I confess, my Bond is limited to the movies, and my Doctor is limited to the newer series (sorry, tried to watch the old ones, but they did not age well). So, yes, it would mean a break from book’s continuity. Inherent limitations of the medium, I suppose. The protagonist of a book series can be the same age forever, but that doesn’t work so well for a movie franchise.

    Pierce Brosnan was meant to be an older Bond, on the cusp of retirement. Craig was meant to swing it back around to the beginning. I think his movies are meant to be between Casino Royale (the first book) and Live and Let Die (the second book), but I’m not sure. Here’s the wiki article on it. Of course Craig’s first movie was Casino Royale.

    But anyways… going by the books, that’s why James Bond is actually a pretty poor analogy to the Doctor. The Doctor could very easily be a woman through regeneration. Although the Bond world really needs women agents, and I’d be elated to see a woman as 007, James Bond specifically doesn’t really have that mechanism because he’s meant to be one human man.

  2. 55

    …preferably Helen Mirren.

    She made a pretty good Queen, so why not?

    There’s also India Arie, if the Doctor decides to become more multicultural in order to deal better with humans. Or Michelle Yeoh…

    Man Elementary sure is drivel because they made Watson a woman right?

    An integral part of the original Sherlock Holmes storyline was the close relationship between those two men. Change that part of the premise, and you still have the potential for a good storyline — but it’s not the “Sherlock Holmes” storyline anymore; it’s something else (good or bad) and you really shouldn’t call it something it isn’t. Sort of like calling “Battleship” “The Iliad.”

  3. 56

    An integral part of the original Sherlock Holmes storyline was the close relationship between those two men.

    Was it? Was the important part really the close relationship between the two men, or was it the close relationship between the two characters?

    I’ll grant that making one of them a woman will change something in the social dynamic, but so would changing their relative age or any number of other factors. Does that really alter the fundamental story or does it simply bring out new facets of the relationship?

    Sort of like calling “Battleship” “The Iliad.”

    If you keep saying things like that, I hope you don’t expect to be taken seriously. That’s just a ridiculous comparison.

  4. 57

    Was the important part really the close relationship between the two men, or was it the close relationship between the two characters?

    It was about two particular characters, who happened to be men. If you want to have a different storyline where both characters aren’t men, that’s fine — just don’t call it something it isn’t.

    As for my “Battleship” comparison, yes, that’s ridiculous. A better comparison would be to the recent “Star Trek” “reboot:” just another noisy, empty big-budget action movie, with only the “Star Trek” label to pretend to distinguish it from all the other noisy, empty big-budget action movies. That’s pretty much all the new “Holmes” series is: just another detective show (not bad but not great IMHO) trying to stand out by tacking on a prestigious name.

    I’ll grant that making one of them a woman will change something in the social dynamic, but so would changing their relative age or any number of other factors. Does that really alter the fundamental story or does it simply bring out new facets of the relationship?

    In the case of “Sherlock Holmes,” it makes it a totally different story, with a totally different relationship at its center, and a totally different distinctive “look and feel.” (Remember, Holmes and Watson weren’t just men, they were old-school men in an old-school patriarchal society, and their close relationship was an old-school close male friendship/professional collaboration. Today we call that a “bromance,” but back then, that word would have sounded like an ignorant juvenile insult.) There’s nothing at all wrong with making a new story, of course, but it’s kind of dishonest (not to mention lame) to pretend it’s not as new as it clearly is. The new detective series may be good or bad on its own merits (I find it mildly amusing at times), but equating it with Sherlock Holmes only invites us to keep on saying “No, the original Holmes would NOT act like that!”

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