The Female Doctor and a message about gender

So, what do you make about the choice of a female to play the role of Doctor Who?

  1. Couldn’t care less
  2. Delighted -this is the change the show has been crying out for to bring it fully into the 21st Century
  3. Disgusted – this is ruining a great show.

All three of those viewpoints have been expressed since the announcement. Indeed, given that a female regeneration has been the worst kept secret for a while, the delight and outrage in equal measure has been going on for much longer.

Here are a couple of thoughts from my perspective. First of all, I am a complementarian. That means I believe men and women were created equal but different.  We should not lose sight of either of those points. The challenge is that as with most issues where we need to hold more than one vital truth together we are likely to stray towards one or the other. This means that some of us will be so keen to emphasise “equal” that we will completely lose sight of “different” and merge the two into one.  On the other hand some will so emphasise “different” that they will forget about equality leading to a form of hierarchy that suppresses, devalues and abuses.

You can find out how I believe “equal but different” should be reflected in the family and church in two articles on our publications page, Marriage at Work and Male and Female Leadership and Teaching roles. It follows from what I say about marriage and work that I think it is a good thing to see women portrayed as heroes in films and TV series. The Bible has its fair share of heroic women from Deborah through to Esther in the Old Testament and the women who stayed with Jesus at the Cross and were the first at the Grave when the loud talking men were the first to run.  Then there’s the woman at the end of Proverbs who as well as looking after her household is successful in business too.  So, it’s great to see characters like Agent Carter, Tris (Divergent) and  Katniss (Hunger Games) and we could probably do with more.

So in that sense, I am inclined to say “A female Time Lord” – brilliant.  In fact, there was a point where I think the Doctor Who series missed a trick.  You see, the Doctor’s regenerations were meant to be finite. Even he was meant to be mortal. So there should have been a last Generation. What better way to go out then by passing the mantle and the Tardis on to his daughter?

However, as with much of the recent Doctor Who stuff, this is not simply about equality.  In  the last series, the way was prepared for a female doctor both by the presence of Missy as a female regeneration of The Master and by The Doctor’s comments that Gallifreyans were much more evolved and therefore well beyond petty human obsessions with gender.

In other words, the female regeneration is part of the same underlying philosophy that has pushed boundaries in terms of sexuality.  The Doctor Who worldview treats gender and sexuality as fluid. You can chose your gender like a new pair of clothes. In that sense, it fits with the dominant zeitgeist. So, Christians who take the Bible seriously when it says:

“So God created human beings  in his own image.
    In the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)”

will have a real issue with the underlying subtext of the new doctor.

However, I think there’s something else going on here. It comes back to previous comments I’ve made about Doctor Who namely that he is not the Lord of Space and Time, He is just an ordinary alien. This links to our previous article about the Doctor and life and death.

It’s one thing to have a heroic alien  exploring the Universe in his Tardis having great adventures and acting to rescue people in trouble. However, what at times we have seen, is the desire to invest full Saviour qualities into The Doctor. He is not just a different creature, he is one that is over and transcends us. It’s no surprise then, that he is expected to reflect in his identity both male and female qualities. This is someone who calls us to invest all our hope in him. This is the one who takes on the responsibility for guarding and protecting our whole planet and the whole of humanity throughout all of time.

You see where I am going with this? What Doctor Who does both brilliantly and tragically is reflect our desperate longing for a Saviour who will rescue us, a saviour who will protect us. We long for one who will never let us down and never let us go.  The writers of Doctor Who invest that hope in a fictional character from Gallifrey.

The Bible points us to the true Lord of Space and Time. The Bible points us to the one who will never let us down and never let us go. His name is Jesus. He is a far better saviour.