Doctor Who will have “a number” of female writers for new Jodie Whittaker era

From 2009 to 2015, there were no episodes written by women for the BBC sci-fi series, but series 11 is set to have a greater female influence both in front of and behind the camera

(BBC/Instagram, JG)

While we still don’t know exactly who’ll be writing for the new series of Doctor Who later this year (except for showrunner Chris Chibnall), we are starting to get a few clues, with longtime series writers like Mark Gatiss, Sarah Dollard and Jamie Mathieson ruling themselves out and rumours suggesting we’re getting some new blood for Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor.

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BBC Drama boss Piers Wenger has dropped an even more tantalising hint about the make-up of the new writing staff, telling Broadcast in a statement that “a number” of the scripts from Chibnall’s first Who series are written by female writers.

“Having a diverse team on that show feels appropriate, important and essential,” he said.

Doctor Who has previously been criticised for its lack of female writers, with the series not featuring a single episode written by a woman from 2009-2015 (the last was Helen Raynor’s 2008 two-parter The Sontaran Strategem/The Poison Sky)

“Stop assuming that I’m a demon who’s trying to prevent it, as opposed to the man who’s done more to make it happen than anybody else,” 2010-2015 showrunner Steven Moffat said in 2015.

“Given that the human race works out at about 50% male / female, it should be 50% male / female on the show. Why isn’t it? Part of the reason for that is historical – Doctor Who for a very long time was a boy’s show. It’s not anymore.

“Most of the writers who have turned Doctor Who down have been female – that’s the truth.”

Since 2015, Sarah Dollard, Catherine Tregenna and Rona Munro have written episodes for the sci-fi series.

Wenger’s comments came as a response to an open letter released by 76 female writers yesterday, in which they said British drama was “overwhelmingly written by men” with an “untapped resource” of female writers who’d worked on soap operas locked out of primetime dramas.

The letter was released after it was discovered that out of ten new ITV dramas coming in 2018, only one was written by a woman – Gwyneth Hughes, who is adapting Vanity Fair.

Signatories included The Coroner creator Sally Abbott, Him & Her star Sarah Solemani (who also screenwrites) and Debbie Moon, who devised CBBC’s Wolfblood.

Responding to the letter, Wenger said that women have written more than 40% of the drama he’s ordered since getting his current BBC role last year, and highlighted writers like Anna Symon, who has her first original series (The Wilson) greenlit.

“It used to be that continuing drama was the only place to get a BBC1 gig as a new writer, but it’s not as binary as that now,” he said.

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Doctor Who returns to BBC1 this autumn