It's the end of (another) era. Last Saturday's Doctor Who episode saw Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor struggle with his regeneration, and for the first time ever, he seems to be successfully holding off the golden fires of change — until the end of the Christmas episode, that is. Of course, we're all eager to learn who will pop out from those awkward CGI transformation graphics this time around, and fan hype has only been increased by multiple rumors that the Thirteenth Doctor will be female.
Every time the Doctor regenerates, the debate rages about who they should be: Old or young, white or a person of color, male or female, dark haired or ginger. And each time, calls for BBC to cast a woman in the role only get louder. With the Master transforming into the Mistress, and other Timelords like the General also switching gender and race after regenerating, the audience has never been more aware that the Doctor doesn't have to be a man — and at this point, it seems rather backward that he is always white, and male.
Capaldi's departure has given rise to countless rumors about who will be cast next, with actors like Richard Ayoade, Kris Marshall, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Michaela Coel all cited as being considered for the role. Right now, the situation is about as clear as it was before the rumors even started to circulate, with no official word from BBC on the matter. The latest report from The Radio Times claims that Luke Treadaway and Sacha Dhawan are in the lead for the role — and that after "careful consideration," BBC have decided not to cast a woman as the Thirteenth Doctor.
The Future Is Female: Doctor Who's "Bold & Risky" Season 11
However, Saturday's Doctor Who finale reinvigorated this debate by dropping what many fans are taking as a crafty hint that the Doctor's future is female.
At one point during the episode, Bill turned to face yet more assailants head on, and off to the side John Simm's Master wondered whether "the future is going to be all girl" — a comment on how his own next regeneration turned out to be female. The Doctor immediately responded "we can only hope," prompting fans to explode on Twitter in yet another fierce debate about the Thirteenth Doctor's gender.
It's very difficult to determine whether this exchange was an intentional hint that the Thirteenth Doctor will be female. Many fans suspect that with Timelords being shown as genderfluid and pansexual over the last few seasons of the show, that the BBC is building towards casting a woman as the Doctor.
However, this could equally be due to individual writers and showrunners weaving progressive social themes into their writing, rather than a careful plan on the part of the BBC to foreshadow a future female Doctor.
It's worth noting that Doctor Who Season 11 will be run by a completely new showrunner in Chris Chibnall, who has promised to make his version of the show "a radical revamp".
"What the BBC was after was risk and boldness... I had ideas about what I wanted to do with it. When I went to them and said, ‘This is what I would do’, I actually expected them to say, ‘Ooh, let’s talk about that’, but they said: ‘Great!’"
Speaking with the Royal Television Society, Chibnall alluded to a bold, risky new direction for Doctor Who in Season 11, which was something both he and the BBC wanted to do. This is intriguing, but whether he's referring to the Doctor being something different to white and male — which many fans would view as a risk — or whether he's just talking about the tone of the show, remains to be seen.
It seems we still have many months to wait until we discover who will play the next Doctor, and in the meantime there are enough rumors and hearsay to fill even the TARDIS. There is one thing that we can all agree on though, which is that whatever gender or race the Thirteenth Doctor is, they simply must have ginger hair.