The head of BBC drama, Piers Wenger, has confirmed that ‘a number’ of scripts for the upcoming eleventh series of Doctor Who have been written by women.
The news came in response to an open letter to TV drama executives from over 70 female TV writers critical of the lack of opportunities available for them on primetime shows across UK television.
As part of his statement in response Wenger, who has previously held the roles of head of drama at BBC Wales and executive producer on Doctor Who, said that several episodes of Series 11 have been written by female writers, adding:
“Having a diverse writing team on that show feels appropriate, important and essential.”
Although no writers – male or female – have yet been named for Series 11, it is thought that new showrunner Chris Chibnall is bringing an entirely new team of writers on board for his debut series, and as such female writers who have written for the show in recent years such as Rona Munro and Catherine Tregenna are unlikely to be making a reappearance for the new series.
One female writer who has already ruled herself out is Sarah Dollard, who previously penned Series 9’s Face The Raven and Series 10’s Thin Ice. Dollard said of her future Doctor Who plans:
“I won’t be on S11 due to workload/schedule clashes this past year, but I had a really great chat with Chris about his plans. So hopefully, I’ve left the door open for a possible return in the future. It would be an honour to work with him and write for Thirteen.”
Although the open letter in Broadcast picks out Doctor Who as a specific example of a show with few opportunities for female writers, an alternative explanation for the show’s lack of stories written by women was offered back in 2014 by the show’s then-showrunner Steven Moffat, who claimed that female writers were being approached to write for Doctor Who with little success:
“Female directors and writers have a tendency to turn us down. There are fewer female directors and female writers – it’s a statistical fact – it’s shameful but it’s true. Most of the people who are desperate to do Doctor Who are men.”
The writer, who was commenting on the news at the time that Treganna would be the first female writer to contribute a script to Doctor Who (Series 9’s The Woman Who Lived) since Helen Raynor (Series 4’s The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky), also predicted that in time the gender balance would shift as women became more eager to do the show:
“I’m doing my best, despite what people say about me. There’s very much a culture of thinking about Doctor Who as a boys’ show. But I’m always going to conventions and looking at fans and thinking there’s practically more girls than boys.
“I think in 10 years when Doctor Who is still triumphantly successful, a lot of those [women] will grow up to be writers and directors who are desperate to do Doctor Who.”
Doctor Who Series 11 is currently filming, and is expected to air in the autumn.