Confession #118: I'm Anxious About S11

Hope is a strange thing. It is simultaneously uplifting and crushing. Especially during this turbulent time in the world, I need something positive in my life, and yet even the possibility of my anticipation ending in disappointment looms like a specter over every potential bright spot. Perhaps that's why I'm feeling particularly apprehensive about the upcoming Series 11.

While I am among those who have been on board for a female-presenting incarnation of the Doctor for years, the pending (no—current!) reality fills me with Hope—that wonderful, terrible mix of potential for brilliance and anathema. It is encouraging that her first words reflected a delight at her new face, but it is not enough to assuage my fears completely. That will only come with consistently good writing.

The problem now is that we have ages to wait until we see her in action for real. (Yes, I know the break between Christmas and the following autumn is pretty standard. That doesn't change the fact that it's the better part of a year until the next new episode.) That's months for my brain to devise ideas about how it thinks she could/should be portrayed, building up all sorts of potential for disaster when things don't go as I've projected.

I try not to project too much, but it's a difficult task for someone who dabbles in fiction writing. One can't help but devise one's own scenarios for a character who has both a well-known history and a completely unknown personality. It's that latter bit that alarms me most, though. As a woman who has loved science fiction and fantasy for effectively her whole life, I have come to recognize that women protagonists written by cisgender men don't always act (and react) in a way that I, or the other women I see around me in my real life, would.

That's not to say I believe cis men can't or don't write realistic women characters; it's merely to point out a potential pitfall. Having seen some of the work new showrunner Chibnall has done before (most notably Broadchurch), I think there's a very good chance that he can do the Thirteenth Doctor justice. He won't be writing every episode, though, and the only news I've personally seen so far about writers is that Chibnall's been considering using the American "writers' room" model. We have no idea how many women would sit around that table. So the question remains: will she be written in a way that feels (to me and others socialized as female) authentic? Perhaps even more importantly, will she ring at all true to those who share a trans-feminine experience?

I'm not worried so much about plotting. Because I know that Chibnall is every bit as big a fanboy as Moffat, I trust that he will treat the show with the utmost respect, guiding it in a direction he believes is true to its core. I may or may not like what he does (as with Moffat), but I believe in his love for the show and his good intentions toward it (though the road to hell, as they say, is paved with good intentions...). Despite the prospect of reliving my not-infrequent Moffat-era "his vision is very much not my vision" feelings, I trust Chibnall to bring us good stories.

But characterization is a different issue. One of the key lessons a writer learns is that a reader will follow a character—no matter how hateful or lovable—to the ends of the earth and back, so long as they care about that character. You can bring the most fascinating, intricate, and rewarding plots with twists and payoffs to inspire gods, but if you don't have characters your audience is invested in, particularly your protagonist, then you have nothing.

I love the Doctor—all of them; that's why I'm so anxious about her latest Regeneration. I want to continue to love her, to feel "seen" by her, to be invested in her journey. Because if the Doctor betrayed me in that way, I might never find hope again.

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Comments

I wouldn't worry too much hon. Chibnall, as you said, is as big a fanboy as Moffat and will do his best to stay true to the legend of the Doctor. As to whether will she ring true to those who share a trans-feminine experience, that's up to the person in question. Whether they are trans, straight, bi or any of the zillions of variations individuals are calling themselves these days, anyone and everyone can find something in the Doctor's experiences to relate to if they try hard enough.

By Kristine (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

You're right about the Doctor being relatable in some way to anyone who wants to look. Those of us who identify as female have had to do so with a male-presenting Doctor for fifty-plus years, so obviously it works. But it would be really nice if a change this "momentous" didn't screw things up totally for viewers who could most use the representation. That's all I meant.

By mrfranklin
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