Doctor Who Nearly Became a Time Mistress

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Doctor Who Nearly Became a Time Mistress

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In the 1980s, Doctor Who had so many problems that the BBC apparently considered changing the character's gender.

The various regenerations of The Doctor on Doctor Who have each been fairly different from one another, but they've always been men. However, it turns out that The Doctor's original creator wanted to replace the Colin Baker incarnation of the 1980s with a woman.

Baker's tenure as The Doctor is particularly infamous, thanks to the various problems that plagued both the show and the actor, including the death of Baker's son. In the midst of all these problems, the BBC's Michael Grade decided to consult Doctor Who creator Sydney Newman about how to revitalize the show.

According to a newly-discovered letter from Newman to Grade, improving the show required a two-step plan:

1) Bring back Patrick Troughton, the former Doctor from the 1960s, temporarily, to help steady the TARDIS for a bit, and prepare the way for a more radical transformation. (The letter is dated Oct. 6, 1986, just about six months before Troughton's death.)

2) Have the Doctor later regenerate into a woman. Possible candidates included Frances de la Tour, Joanna Lumley and Dawn French. (Actually, I'm not sure if Newman suggested these actors, or this was just fan speculation.) And this new female Doctor should travel around accompanied by a trumpet-playing schoolgirl in John Lennon glasses, and her elder brother, a "yobbo" who sprays graffiti everywhere.

Newman also explained that this female Doctor shouldn't bee too perfect, though, stating, "I want to avoid a flashy, Hollywood Wonder Women because this kind of heroine with no flaws is a bore. Given more time than I have now, I can create such a character." In return for his services, Newman wanted to be brought onto the show as an "Executive Director" and receive a permanent listing in the show's credits.

Honestly, the sidekicks sound terrible, but the premise certainly seems to be better than the episodes that aired during the Baker era. Funnily enough, Joanna Lumley wound up playing the character in the BBC parody Doctor Who and the Curse of the Fatal Death in 1999, along with Hugh Grant and Rowan Atkinson. Of course, Grade didn't actually use any of Newman's advice; instead, Baker's version of The Doctor evolved into Sylvester McCoy, for better or worse.

Source: The Telegraph via io9

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Oddly enough, the BBC would be completely throwing out their own backstory if they'd gone through with the plan. It had already been established in the series long before, and as a common sense matter, that Time Lords were split into two distinct genders, male and female, like most other species (including humans, obviously). Thus a Time Lord would only ever regenerate into another man, and a Time Lady would only ever regenerate into another woman. Physical constants, such as gender (or indeed, the number of hearts and whatnot) would always stay constant.

So if the BBC had followed this plan, they'd have shot themselves in the foot completely. Besides, since the Doctor stayed male, we ended up with David Tennant and Matt Smith, which more than make up for a slight lull in quality back in the Eighties, right?

I'm slightly embarrassed that my first thought when I saw the title was "a female Time Lord is a Time Lady not a Time Mistress"

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Trivun:
So if the BBC had followed this plan, they'd have shot themselves in the foot completely.

With Michael Grade and Jonathan "science fiction isn't popular" Powell on the top of things, I'm surprised they didn't shoot themselves in the foot with more frequency.

Trivun:
Besides, since the Doctor stayed male, we ended up with David Tennant and Matt Smith, which more than make up for a slight lull in quality back in the Eighties, right?

(Glances right.) Dunno, I think Tennant could've pulled it off either way!

Edit: Good choice for the Romana II picture for the article. Lalla's smile just makes me melt.

This really isn't news, as the idea had been kicked around the back lots at the BBC for a long time (it was raised almost every time they were looking for new publicity, actually). They made a bigger deal at the time about possibly ditching the TARDIS because no one knew what a police box was any more.

And sure, they'd established in canon before that it wasn't possible, but anyone who's watched the new series can vouch for knowing that "it's canon" wouldn't stop them.

This is probably all sorts of wrong but I think that Ann Widdecombe would make a great next Doctor Who. Not a fan of pretty boy Doctors.

Vault Citizen:
I'm slightly embarrassed that my first thought when I saw the title was "a female Time Lord is a Time Lady not a Time Mistress"

Yeah. My first thought was "Time is cheating with Doctor Who? WTFzorz?"

Trivun:
Oddly enough, the BBC would be completely throwing out their own backstory if they'd gone through with the plan. It had already been established in the series long before, and as a common sense matter, that Time Lords were split into two distinct genders, male and female, like most other species (including humans, obviously). Thus a Time Lord would only ever regenerate into another man, and a Time Lady would only ever regenerate into another woman. Physical constants, such as gender (or indeed, the number of hearts and whatnot) would always stay constant.

So if the BBC had followed this plan, they'd have shot themselves in the foot completely. Besides, since the Doctor stayed male, we ended up with David Tennant and Matt Smith, which more than make up for a slight lull in quality back in the Eighties, right?

Exactly what I was going to say. Kudos.

And agreed. Tennant and Smith are phenomenal. I'm glad Matt Smith is set to be around for about as long as Tennant too, because after one season, I'm in love with his work. Another four? Sounds like Heaven.

cairocat:

Vault Citizen:
I'm slightly embarrassed that my first thought when I saw the title was "a female Time Lord is a Time Lady not a Time Mistress"

Yeah. My first thought was "Time is cheating with Doctor Who? WTFzorz?"

Same thought crossed my mind. Though some of the novels were odd enough that it could've happened.

Huh. I wonder if this was in any way an inspiration for the joke at the end of the 4th season of the new series.

When Matt Smith first shows up as the doctor, he feels his hair, which is slightly longer than it was before and exclaims: "I'm a woman!".

Trivun:
Oddly enough, the BBC would be completely throwing out their own backstory if they'd gone through with the plan. It had already been established in the series long before, and as a common sense matter, that Time Lords were split into two distinct genders, male and female, like most other species (including humans, obviously). Thus a Time Lord would only ever regenerate into another man, and a Time Lady would only ever regenerate into another woman. Physical constants, such as gender (or indeed, the number of hearts and whatnot) would always stay constant.

I don't know the old series well enough to comment on what continuity establishes exactly, but I don't see how the existence of male and female 'Time lords' in a species which can undergo such vast physical transformations on a fairly regular basis implies that regeneration can never result in a sex change.

As for physical constants... Since eye colour, bone structure, hair colour, physical size, apparent physical age, and so on can all change...
How is a timelord's sex a constant in that sense?

The human genome of ANY person, regardless of their actual physical sex contains the complete instructions required for them to be either.

The changes resulting from regeneration go well beyond what would make sense from the perspective of human genetics, but either way, I fail to see how it's 'common sense' that a person's sex is more fundamental than things like their overall physical size, or the colour of their eyes, or the shape of their face...

Then again, when it comes to issues of sex and gender, I've never found that people have much in the way of common sense about the biological realities associated with it.

Trivun:
Oddly enough, the BBC would be completely throwing out their own backstory if they'd gone through with the plan. It had already been established in the series long before, and as a common sense matter, that Time Lords were split into two distinct genders, male and female, like most other species (including humans, obviously). Thus a Time Lord would only ever regenerate into another man, and a Time Lady would only ever regenerate into another woman. Physical constants, such as gender (or indeed, the number of hearts and whatnot) would always stay constant.

First off, a continuity error in Doctor Who? Perish the thought!

Secondly, you're flat wrong. Nothing has ever set in stone that a Time Lord/Lady couldn't regenerate into the other. Your example of the number of hearts being a constant as well is even more wrong since the First Doctor had only one heart as a Time Lord from one of the Oldblood Houses and gained his second heart upon regeneration.

Trivun:
Oddly enough, the BBC would be completely throwing out their own backstory if they'd gone through with the plan. It had already been established in the series long before, and as a common sense matter, that Time Lords were split into two distinct genders, male and female, like most other species (including humans, obviously). Thus a Time Lord would only ever regenerate into another man, and a Time Lady would only ever regenerate into another woman. Physical constants, such as gender (or indeed, the number of hearts and whatnot) would always stay constant.

So if the BBC had followed this plan, they'd have shot themselves in the foot completely. Besides, since the Doctor stayed male, we ended up with David Tennant and Matt Smith, which more than make up for a slight lull in quality back in the Eighties, right?

I hate to say it, but Doctor Who hasn't always been consistent in its backstory. I think the BBC would be prepared to overwrite some 'history' if they wanted to make a significant change like this.

Formica Archonis:


Dunno, I think Tennant could've pulled it off either way!

Is that from Rab C. Nesbit? I know that's the only place I've seen Tennant dressed like that, at least :D

Tharwen:
Is that from Rab C. Nesbit? I know that's the only place I've seen Tennant dressed like that, at least :D

Yup.:)

I personally would not like it if the Doctor became female, the genders of the Timelords have always been fairly distinct. Even with a giant physical upset like regeneration it has never been implied that the Doctor could become female until this last season when Matt Smith felt his hair.

I am all for gender equality but changing the gender of a well established character like the Doctor would not work for me, while I am not sure he has been pretty obviously hetero all this time and if he became a woman it would screw with his mind and canon.

Wonder if he would still dig Rose? :P

DalekJaas:
I personally would not like it if the Doctor became female, the genders of the Timelords have always been fairly distinct. Even with a giant physical upset like regeneration it has never been implied that the Doctor could become female until this last season when Matt Smith felt his hair.

I am all for gender equality but changing the gender of a well established character like the Doctor would not work for me, while I am not sure he has been pretty obviously hetero all this time and if he became a woman it would screw with his mind and canon.
Wonder if he would still dig Rose? :P

Tenth is rather flirty with Captain Jack from time to time.
I think it's a rather interesting idea acctually...
...I wonder if Kate Mulgrew would make a good Time Lady?

How did this become the McCoy era?
Just... wha?

Trumpet = 'Ghetto blaster', John Lennon glasses = high powered explosives. It makes perfect sense!

To be fair, Joanna Lumley has Sapphire, which is basically a more confusing equivalent to the Doctor, so it would be fan service.

Other things to mention: Hey, Lalla Ward! I went les for her!

Oh god, this one again. And I've had to Time-Shift my post.

If anyone wants me, I'll be in N-Space waiting for the Time War.

(BTW, I'm assuming people know that Romanadvoratrelundar (above) is married IRL to Richard Dawkins...)

AFAIK, Arabella Weir ("Does my bum look big in this?") also played the Doctor at one point in an alternate universe.

As for Grade, the [EXPLETIVE] - given that he was going out with Liza Godard : Colin Baker's ex-wife (Hmmm...Awkward) and that he said

"I thought [Doctor Who] was rubbish, I thought it was pathetic, I'd seen Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T., and then I had to watch these cardboard things clonking across the floor trying to scare kids!"

but then refused to give it any more money and cancelled it while it was still one of the Beeb's top ten programmes.

Yeah...

sunburst313:

First off, a continuity error in Doctor Who? Perish the thought!

Gratz for making me LOL. :)

DalekJaas:
Wonder if he would still dig Rose? :P

They said The Doctor would be a woman, not braindead :P

Formica Archonis:

Tharwen:
Is that from Rab C. Nesbit? I know that's the only place I've seen Tennant dressed like that, at least :D

Yup.:)

Well that's hardly telling. As a British comedian, he's spent untold hours dressed like a woman.

I thought of Sakuya when I first read the title...Why can't the doc change his gender with each reincarnation any ways? It's not like he's human...

I'd love to see it. Wouldn't be popular, oh no, but it'd be damn interesting. Eleven's squeaky fear when he thought he might have gone the other way would be a fun thing to play on. :D

sunburst313:

Trivun:
Oddly enough, the BBC would be completely throwing out their own backstory if they'd gone through with the plan. It had already been established in the series long before, and as a common sense matter, that Time Lords were split into two distinct genders, male and female, like most other species (including humans, obviously). Thus a Time Lord would only ever regenerate into another man, and a Time Lady would only ever regenerate into another woman. Physical constants, such as gender (or indeed, the number of hearts and whatnot) would always stay constant.

First off, a continuity error in Doctor Who? Perish the thought!

What is this continuity you speak of?

sunburst313:
Secondly, you're flat wrong. Nothing has ever set in stone that a Time Lord/Lady couldn't regenerate into the other. Your example of the number of hearts being a constant as well is even more wrong since the First Doctor had only one heart as a Time Lord from one of the Oldblood Houses and gained his second heart upon regeneration.

What's more, this would constitute as HILARIOUS, which, pretty consistently, trumps canon. I mean one of the regenerations was described as being half-human for fuck sake.

I really, really hope there will be a female Doctor Who sometime. It would really make the series for me. I never really like male characters in fiction.

For a long time I thought River Song was actually a future Doctor hiding her identity while stuck without a TARDIS, much as one of the previous Doctors was pretty much stuck on Earth and was forced to be a UNIT lackey for a long time..

Her eventual out-of-order presented fate doesn't really conflict with this idea. Considering she knows more about the TARDIS than The Doctor sometimes, it still makes me wonder.

VincentMm:

DalekJaas:
Wonder if he would still dig Rose? :P

They said The Doctor would be a woman, not braindead :P

Grats, you added one more digit of happiness to my day with that quip.

Traigus:
For a long time I thought River Song was actually a future Doctor hiding her identity while stuck without a TARDIS, much as one of the previous Doctors was pretty much stuck on Earth and was forced to be a UNIT lackey for a long time..

Her eventual out-of-order presented fate doesn't really conflict with this idea. Considering she knows more about the TARDIS than The Doctor sometimes, it still makes me wonder.

You know, more than once I've wondered the same thing.
She repeatedly claims she's the doctor's wife...

But also seems to have a thing about not revealing the future...
Somehow she's just... Too smart for a human.

There's just something about her that makes you think she very well could be the doctor herself isn't there?

I heard they were considering making the 11th doctor a women also, but that was probably only a rumor. Back then I argued that it would be incredibly awkward for the doctor to jump between genders, and equality be damned I still feel that way. Not that I wouldn't still watch it that is.

I am not sure how that would have flown. I am thinking it really would have flopped the series. You would have had a damn good reason for the gender switch. Also, sidekicks sound terrible.

Trivun:
Oddly enough, the BBC would be completely throwing out their own backstory if they'd gone through with the plan.

O yeah, that has never happened in Doctor Who.

Vault Citizen:
I'm slightly embarrassed that my first thought when I saw the title was "a female Time Lord is a Time Lady not a Time Mistress"

Ditto. I was thinking about how "Lady" is the female equivalent of "Lord" and how rather than being a "controller" (of a sort) of time (Time Lord/Lady) instead that Doctor would be totally dominated by time (mistress).

It would certainly be interesting. So long as they could still keep "the Doctor feel" to the show and not have it change just because the Doctor is now female.

i wouldn't be against a female doctor so long as the potential actress could give a "doctor" performance while adding subtle femininity.

the real question is what would/should change about the companion?

do you swap the primary companion's gender too?
do you change the relationship to a more BBF or sisterhood type relationship?
would the doctor's sexuality flip as well as his/her gender?
hows the doctors relationship(kind of) with the TARDIS?

not poking holes in it i am genuinely interested in what would happen to the above if they decided to go with a women.

A female Doctor Who would certainly be interesting. I don't know if I would want to see one play it like Tennant, as his was a very male personality.

Chances are they'll never change it, but I would still watch if they did!

Perhaps a spin-off would be a little better for this kind of idea.

What got to me was that line at the end about Sylvester McCoy, "for better or worse." McCoy's episodes were some of my favourites, and I'm disappointed he didn't last all that long. Certainly washed out the taste of Colin Baker's episodes... ew.

Well, He does sort of have a Daughter.

Actually saw an Interview with David Tennant this weekend on the Andrew Marr show, according to him, this was just a joke tossed out by Tom Baker wonce it was revealed he was leaving the show to get the media tantalised by an idea that would never happen. Looks like it worked as we are Still talking about it.

This letter may have just been a quick discusasion of the comment as a possibility before it was thrown out completely.

funny that it comes up now after me JUST seeing this on TV!

CrystalShadow:

She repeatedly claims she's the doctor's wife...

On a nerd note: she never actually claimed that. ;)

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