The last ten years have been rife with debate over whether Doctor Who should break with tradition and cast a woman in the lead role. Well now the debate’s over – because Hayley Atwell, Amazonian peak of humanity, is up for the job.
The Agent Carter star threw her name into the ring during an impromptu Twitter Q&A with fans, saying that she wouldn’t just want to be in Doctor Who, she wants to be Doctor Who.
Let’s be clear here: the question isn’t whether Atwell is good enough for Doctor Who, it’s whether Doctor Who is big enough for Atwell. She’s a huge name and an excellent actress with a lot of geek cred. Her lead role in Marvel’s Agent Carter – as the smart, tough, feminist super agent Peggy Carter – is a pretty great audition for the part too (if a bit violent). She would most certainly be the Jon Pertwee of female Doctors.
But is the show ready for such a change? Asked recently by Salon why he didn’t cast a woman as the Twelfth Doctor, showrunner Steven Moffat said:
“Because I wanted to cast Peter Capaldi. If there is any other player on the board other than the person who excited you the most in the role, Doctor Who would go off the air, so that’s what you have to do.
“Was the time right? I don’t know. I think it would have been a disaster if we’d cast a female Doctor when David [Tennant] left. I believe. Disaster. Possible, this time. I think I should get a little more credit for being the only person who’s made it possible. It wasn’t part of the fiction of the show until I wrote it [with gender-swapped Master, Missy]. And I keep establishing it. But I think when that day comes – whatever showrunner that is – then the BBC will say, ‘Tell me how this is definitely going to work.’ Because, I tell you, there are two venomous packs here. A lot of people in the middle, sensible enough to say, ‘If it’s good, I’ll like it; if it’s not good, I won’t like it.’
“And [the ‘two venomous packs’ are] both wrong! They’re both wrong. One saying, ‘It would never work'[…] the other one, ‘It’s absolutely necessary it happens now'[…] Don’t be silly. There are no absolutes…”
Doctor Who returns to BBC1 on Saturday 19th September