Every Whovian knows it by now, a major change is happening in Doctor Who. Our beloved Time Lord is turning into a Time Lady in the next series. One interesting fact about this would be that it raises an equally interesting question: how are we going to call the Doctor from now on?
For decades, the Doctor was referred to as “he”. Logic dictates that 13 should be referred to as “she”, because this is the obvious choice (and because it would only be fair!). But what happens if we want to talk (or write) about the Doctor in a more general way? Is the Doctor still a “he” if we consider that all “his” previous incarnations were men? Does the Doctor become a “she” because “her” latest incarnation takes precedence over the previous ones? Or should we now refer to the Doctor as “it” because let’s not forget that “it” is an alien life-form and therefore its gender distinction doesn’t work the same way as the Earthlings’?
Tricky question that might be answered when Season 11 starts. I’m quite curious to see how Chris Chibnall and his team are going to deal with this issue.
But this question raises another one that has been in each and every Whovian’s mind since the show was aired for the first time. What is the Doctor’s name? And why does everyone consider it normal for him to be simply called “the Doctor”? Even Barbara and Ian seem to drop the topic very quickly in An Unearthly Child.
IAN: Just open the doors, Doctor Foreman.
DOCTOR: Eh? Doctor who? What’s he talking about?
To their defence, they have quite a lot to think about as they just got abducted and brought into an impossible place, a.k.a. the Tardis.
The mystery of the Doctor’s name comes up once in a while but strangely enough, people tend to easily accept the fact that the Time Lord only gets by the name “The Doctor”. Funnily enough, the same applies to the Master but this can be explained because he is a Time Lord too. For those who are familiar with the Doctor, it’s obvious that the Master wouldn’t have your average Alfred, Bruce or Jim name and that – being the bad guy – he would choose something a bit more catchy.
The Doctor’s name becomes a proper issue during Steven Moffat’s era and one can feel the showrunner’s desire to reveal the greatest secret of all on multiple occasions, before giving up and keeping the mystery (almost) intact. Speaking of the Doctor’s name, I’d advise you to read this excellent article from RadioTimes.
The argument about the Doctor’s name is quite interesting as it points to another issue: the fact that the show is named Doctor Who, which should refer to the main character’s name, while in fact it doesn’t; and yet the creative team uses it to name said character in the scripts! It seems that the Doctor’s name leads to a certain amount of confusion while being a mystery at the same time!
If you ask me, I don’t want to know the Doctor’s name. I like it to be an excuse for a regular joke just like the whole “it’s bigger on the inside” reaction whenever a new character discovers the TARDIS for the first time. It is part of the show, it’s a bit of a recurrent cliché, but it makes me smile all the same each time. Imagine if you knew the Doctor’s name. What good would it do you? It would simply ruin a 54 years old mystery, bringing it down to one name and then what? Nothing. The excitement would last for one episode, maybe two and then it would be history. Worse, from this point on, everyone will forget what a great mystery the Doctor’s name was… and that would just be a shame.
I’d rather keep calling him (or her) Doctor…who?