On missing Dr. Who at Christmas

by Diane Duane

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Suddenly, a big deal tonight: Not being able to watch a Dr. Who Christmas Special on Christmas. (It’s recording on the Sky box at home, but we won’t be back for days yet and it’s not the same.)m

Even though one is both a novelist and screenwriter who has been a fan of the Doctor’s since the 1970s. And a fan who sneaked Four into a Star Trek novel.. And a fan who sneaked Five into one of her own novels. And who finally had the pleasure of writing for the Doctor under the Beeb’s auspices, though in print. And is yet, somehow… strangely… a woman.

Dammit, Christmas has not been perfect after all. But perhaps less because of the lack of Dr. Who (today) than the underlying context.

“I think in 10 years when ‘Doctor Who’ is still triumphantly successful, a lot of those [women] will grow up to be writers and directors who are desperate to do ‘Doctor Who.'”

Wait. What? “Wait ten years until the present generation of female Who fans grows up enough to have enough credential and also desperately wants to write for Dr. Who“?

Seriously? What about the last ten or twenty years’ worth of woman writers who have loved the Doctor for who he is, and are also writing for TV, on this side of the water or the other?  You can’t have dug that deeply into that stratum. Otherwise all of them wouldn’t have said “no” except one.

Stephen, for God’s sake, wake up! Women have been holding up half of Who fandom’s sky for decades. Most of the people managing the pledge drives that supported the Doctor on US public television when he was as new there as Monty Python? Women. Most of the people talking up the available Who books (I had them all while I was doing my earliest Trek work) in the eighties? Women. Other women got me into Who, and not because of how he looked. The Doctor does not need to be comely. It’s nice when he is, but dear God, hardly a requisite. The main issue is his courage, and his heart, and how the two engage one another: with the occasional nod to personal style. The character who adventures, who dares in the face of terrible odds to do the right thing, who succeeds (and sometimes fails at least as spectacularly) — that’s the character we want to see more of; to work with.

…And (over here, at least) to see something like as many woman writers working with him as men. Leaving aside the sheer statistical unlikeliness of at least a statistically significant percentage of the woman writers working in US and UK TV right now not being Who fans — this isn’t about demographics, or political correctness. It’s about point of view, and (again) about personal engagement. The Doctor’s male associates and companions have arguably been kind of a mixed bunch in terms of their effectiveness — excepting of course Captain Jack Harkness, always a law unto himself, the one being that every sentient creature in the universe knows would love the one lovable thing about them that no one else can see. But it would hardly take a six-sigma analysis of Who episodes to suggest that on the averages, it’s the female (or female-ish) companions and associates who routinely teach the Doctor most about being human: that being what he seems to most want to learn. And it wouldn’t seem like reaching to suggest that — at the very least — the female Who writers could have things to say to, and through, the Doctor that the male writers have so far missed.

Haven’t found the right women writers? Look more. Look harder.* Christmas is a time to consider the resolutions that will follow in the new time to come. The necessary resonances are all here, and the time is right. Because the more people of all available genders who bring their expertise to writing for our old friend, the stronger, smarter, deeper, better he’ll become. And isn’t that what this is all about?

Colleague: look harder.

(…And dammit, I missed Cabin Pressure last night, too. Plainly perfection is a nuanced thing…)

*And much as it pains me, to prevent confusion, I recuse myself from any such consideration right now. There are lots of woman writers who could do this work as well as I could, or better: with delight, with passion, desperately — as you seem to prefer. While I have universes to tend to that need my attention and no one else’s. It’s the burden we bear.

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