Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A female Doctor

The thirteenth Doctor is going to be played by a woman - Jodie Whittaker.

My reaction to this? I'm not as appalled as some. I tend to work on the basis that if this was a matter of "inclusivism" it should have happened years ago. If the aim of the regeneration is to unlock new dramatic possibilities, then a female Doctor is just as right as a male one.

It's worth pointing out that given the Doctor prioritises compassion, collaboration and communication over conflict and competition, he is already prioritising what would conventionally be called "feminine" values.

However, there is one thing ... as a wise old man (over 900 years, regardless of the body he appeared in), the Doctor corresponds with one of the main Jungian archetypes. For a heavy but enjoyable romp through some of what this means from the point of view of fiction, read The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker. In effect, what it means is that there are certain "classic characters" who are recognisable throughout the world of narrative. One of these is the "wise old man" - which recurs most obviously in wizards like Gandalf, Dumbledore, Merlin and Cadellin. Our ideas about how the Doctor will behave are shaped by the fact that he incarnates this archetype. When people say, "But the Doctor has to be a man!" is it because they are prejudiced in some way, or is it because in their mind the Doctor occupies this archetypal space? From my point of view, it's "just a drama" - the writers can do what they like with it. But maybe that's because, not having a TV in my formative years, I never had a specific Doctor that I thought was "the definitive one".

What will happen when the Doctor is incarnated as a woman? Is it possible for a woman to be a "wise old man", in Jungian terms? Or will we end up seeing the Doctor conform to a different archetype? The "wise old woman", maybe? Will that be a noticeable change in focus? Does that matter? The whole gender thing - whether such a thing even exists as something more than a social construct - is being widely debated. It will be interesting to see whether fiddling around with archetypes casts any more light on the question. In fact, I'm more interested in answers to these sorts of meta-questions than I am shocked by him incarnating as a woman.

Incidentally, I don't know the extent to which the writers are aware of Jung and archetypes. They probably just want to write a good episode and not worry about the rest. That's the clever thing about the archetypes - for the most part, they sit there in people's unconscious ....