“Doctor Who”, while not the most radical socially political program on television, does break a few gender and age norms every so often. Consider the age of the Doctor himself – he is over 1200 years old and, next to being an immortal he's probably the oldest character in television history. Also consider the age of the actors who have played him. Ranging from William Hartnell, who was 55 at the time he played the First Doctor, to the current Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi, who is currently 57. Statistically, according to this handy site, the average age for a Doctor is 51. All that to say, “Doctor Who” is a unique show in that it doesn't just prize youth, but also age.
Sadly, this is not the norm on most television shows, where youth is generally prized above all else. This doesn't exclude “Doctor Who” from ever having to deal with ageism and sexism. The show's current Doctor, Peter Capaldi recently addressed some of these issues in an interview with Evening Standard where he called out the “creepy” potential of putting The Doctor and Clara in awkward positions, especially in photo shoots. Capaldi said that he tried to level the playing field between Doctor and Companion:
“It”s ridiculous that we get these old guys with young women draped round them. When I started 'Doctor Who' and we were doing photoshoots we”d be asked if Jenna could just lie down there while I, you know…. I had to say, ‘Look, that”s just not what we”re about. The relationship between my Doctor and his companion is one of deep love. But it”s a strange sort of platonic bond. It becomes clearer and more moving as this particular series goes on.”
Capaldi also addressed sexism in the television industry as a whole:
“Of course it”s sexist. Most of my peers have partners their age, so if we have a dinner party with a bunch of actors, the wives or partners are largely the same age. Then you see your friends on screen and they are suddenly with some extraordinary young lady who wouldn”t be at the dinner party. It”s ridiculous. It is true that women reach a certain age when people decide that they”re not useful anymore as actors. There are a few significant theatrical roles that they might be viable for. That”s not fair, it”s not right, it”s not a proper reflection of what goes on in life.”
While it's encouraging that the current Doctor is willing to speak out on issues of gender and age, it's equally important that the issues are being dealt with on the show itself. With the addition of Missy, played by Michelle Gomez (49), it's clear there has been a good balance lead characters being both young (in the case of Jenna Coleman) and older (in the case of Capaldi and Gomez.)
Capaldi also said that he would be open to seeing a female Doctor on the show with a male companion, but that would have to wait since he has no plans of leaving the show just yet.
What do you think? Do you think Capaldi's presence on the show and the addition of two lead women who are both very different in style and age, sets “Doctor Who” apart from these stereotypes? Weigh in your thoughts in the comments below.
“Doctor Who” currently airs on BBC America Satuday at 9/8C.