Doctor Who is once again in search of a new Doctor, and the plans have left fans with a bland taste in their mouths. After Capaldi confirmed plans to leave the show, fan theorists ran wild with ideas about who could or would be cast. Soon enough, rumors began circulating that Kris Marshall would be stepping into the Time Lord’s shoes. The redheaded actor fits the bill, but many think he fits the bill a bit too well. A familiar series of raging threads have appeared on fanpages across the web, and every new comment just throws gasoline on the flames.
Fans were pushing for a more diverse casting of Doctor Who’s lead role before Capaldi came on the scene. Now that he’s leaving, a lot of fans are starting to feel tired of repeating the same mantra. Despite being one of the longest-running televisions series in history and featuring a leading character capable of “regenerating” into a new gender or ethnicity, every Doctor to date has been a white, presumably straight, male. Although the show has compromised by introducing a diverse companion for the new season, many fans are displeased with the idea of Marshall replacing Capaldi. Dez Hobin voices the fans’ feels pretty simply.
For a series that pushes a theme of diversity, acceptance, and liberal views, the fact that showrunners are so hesitant to cast anyone but a white male as the lead leaves their plots ringing a little hollow. Of course, there are plenty of fans who are perfectly happy with the status quo. For every Dez Hobin, there’s a chorus of arguments from other fans.
Some argue changing the core principles of the doctor’s appearance would harm the show’s feel, which would hurt ratings. Critics argue that’s a cowardly excuse from a trailblazing show. After all, Doctor Who was one of the first science fiction series to light up the small screen. It should be noted as well that despite fears over very young or somewhat older actors ruining the show, those casting choices failed to – well – ruin it. The range actually enhanced the diversity of plotlines and widened the show’s audience. Imagine what a more daring casting choice could mean for the program.
It’s getting to the point where we have to wonder if the showrunners are isolating key parts of their fanbase in order to maintain a particular stereotype. While the Doctor’s companions are usually women, they are rarely anything but white, and they always play a more or less subservient role. They are critical to the story, but the Doctor has always been the heart of the show.
Many fans tie this lack of development to Steven Moffat, the show’s primary writer and showrunner. He has a history of publicly mocking the idea of a diverse casting for the Doctor, and he’s said some less than savory things about actresses who’ve worked for him. Ultimately, the debate comes down to this: is the Doctor’s static casting thanks to fans entrenched in the past, or is it due to a showrunner living vicariously through the character he writes?