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A Woman Doctor (Who)... Assorted Thoughts

Yesterday, unsurprisingly in my view, the new Dr Who was revealed... a woman.  This seemed to send social media into a frenzy, some of which was downright nasty, stirring up some old sexist comments.  I was a tad bemused - it's only a character in a television drama, people, it's not real life (OK perhaps it is for some),  get over it!  Various thoughts found their way into my head, so I thought I'd share them.  It's essentially a mind dump and not very considered.

Dr Who is science fiction.  The Dr, despite appearances isn't human, but a Gallifreyan, having two hearts, and an ability to regenerate into bodies that are apparently older or younger physically, at least when viewed by human eyes.  No-one seems to get excited about the two hearts or the regeneration, or even the age-fluidity, but to appear as the opposite human gender is, for some, a step too far.  I know nothing of Galifreyan physiology or biology, so maybe the binary X-Y or X-X chromosomal thing doesn't apply...

If - and it's a big if - Galifreyans are binary male/female in a similar way to humans, then presumably the same mechanism that leads to X-Y women (genetically male but outwardly female) may also apply - which immediately over-rules any objections.  And frankly, if Galifreyan's can switch their genetic make-up during regeneration, so what?  I'm not a great SciFi fan, but it does seem to me that the creators of alternative races/species are at liberty to devise their own biology.

Some of the fuss seems to be that this is a woman in a man's role.  And here it does manage to ruffle my feather a bit.  Having spent my entire working life in 'men's roles' it really annoys me that such language is still used.  We no longer have WPCs, WRNS or WRAF, yet there are still 'lady doctors', 'women engineers' (obviously not quite so gentile!) and 'lady ministers.'  No, I'm not a 'lady minister' and I wasn't a 'woman engineer'.  Being a time-traveller and general saviour of the universe, it seems, is for some people still very much a 'man's role'... Let female superheroes stick to the skimpy leotards and Barbie doll figures ... Sorry, but no.  Let girls and young women be inspired by a character that affirms their inherent worth.

All that is before we get to any theological or spiritual considerations... From page one of the Bible, where women and men together bear the image and likeness of God, via the apostle Paul who boldy declares that in Christ gender distinctions disappear, and via a whole series of stories where both women and men are essential, this tension is played out.  We say that God is beyond gender, and then use predominantly male language, even when some of it, especially in reference to the Holy Spirit, is blatantly feminine. There are theologians (and I agree with them) who distinguish between the 'Jesus of History' and the 'Christ of Faith'.  The former is inevitably particular, living in a precise place and time, and equally self evidently male.  The Christ of faith transcends all such boundaries, time, space and, yes, gender.  God's Christ could have appeared as a woman; I guess if there is a literal second coming, Christ could return as a woman (OK start building your heretic fire!) if God felt that was the better option.  Christian artists portray Christ as every ethnicity, and sometimes as female as well as male... all of which is a flawed human endeavour to express a profound mystery.

So here's the irony... we believe in a God who is beyond gender, yet some people get very exercised by the possibility of a fictional, humanoid race, in which this finds some form of expression in the 13th incarnation of the Dr.



  • Loved your scientific analysis of Gallifreyan biology and its relation to Christian theology. It struck me that if we are made in God's image and,since it may be that He created other sentient beings in far off parts of the universe, His/Her image may be more diverse than we can imagine. In which case, thank God, literally, for science fiction writers who dare to speculate on such thoughts. Lately we see SF speculation coming to pass in the increasing development of androids. If this continues, think of the speed with which computers and the internet have developed,, we may be faced with the spiritual dilemma....are androids part of God's plan? Will they be thought to have human rights and eventually evolve into having souls?
    Finally, my only real surprise at the new Doctor Who (not being a fan you may not know the makers already had a success in making the latest version of the evil Gallifreyan opponent - the Master - into a woman, was that the newbie Doctor is not of African or Asian descent.

  • Go Cat....

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