Doctor Who and the Elusive Female Writer

Yesterday, the Guardian published an op ed: Why Doctor Who Needs More Female Writers. It's refreshing to see any criticism of New Who in the mainstream British media, and even more pleasing and surprising to see a criticism of the sexism that's apparent in the show's writing room.

I'm sure no one in charge of Doctor Who sat down and thought "no, I don't think we'll have any female writers for this show." But in this case, the numbers don't lie. Doctor Who has only had one female writer since the show returned in 2005. Not a single episode during Moffat's era has been written by a woman. And no matter how much the producers argue that they don't consider gender when selecting scriptwriters, that they only consider who can write the best possible Doctor Who episodes, these numbers suggest that their approach just isn't good enough. They cannot claim that there is only one woman capable of writing a good Doctor Who episode, and that even this woman has been incapable since 2010. If they're not seeing any female scriptwriters, then why not? If they are only going back to their old favorites and friends again and again, then they should break that habit and expand the writers' circle. Because regardless of what they may believe, the refusal to do so is only harming the show.

At its heart, Doctor Who is a show about an alien and his human companion exploring other time periods and other worlds, fighting to protect the downtrodden, and insisting that everyone has a right to life and to freedom. It's a concept that relies on open mindedness,  equality and a variety of perspectives. But how can it achieve that if the only perspective allowed in its writers' room is that of white men?

The addition of more women (or any women) to the writing team doesn't guarantee an end to the show's problems with sexism, of course. But the current team clearly isn't working either. Perhaps if they put more diversity into that room, there would be more writers willing to flesh out the female companions, to give them lives and strengths and opinions outside of the Doctor, and more writers willing to say "this isn't OK" next time something problematic occurs in the script.