Doctor Who, Middle England and a Hackney Boy in Spain

Not all of my good friends are in prison, or working in PR (which is conceivably worse). Some of them have legged it overseas, like my beloved Sanya, a young actor with the voice of Patrick Stewart and the face of a CocoDorm model. He ought to have been sectioned years ago, both for his own good and that of the general population, but instead he's decamped to the continent - specifically, Spain, for which he has some strange fetish, and from which he writes a tronco de web muy bueno. No, I don't know either. His latest blog isn't about Spain at all, which is something we can take up with consumer affairs at a later date, but about the possibility of the delicious, I-wish-he-was-my-best-friend's-naughty-uncle Paterson Joseph, taking on the role of the Doctor, in Doctor Who. I actually beat Sanya to it by writing about this on November 1st, but Sanya's written a much better article than me, so we'll leave it at that.

He raises some very interesting points on the subject of a black Doctor, the first of which is that the Doctor is quintessentially English - and does quintessentially English include Middle England? Well, no, I don't think it does. Middle England, like Middle America, is banal and narrow, a dreary world of Heat magazine, Hollyoaks, Argos, Asda, Jeremy Clarkson, The Sun, lager, fags, moral outrage, the Daily Mail, Strictly Come Dancing... everything that's mediocre and grim. 'Quintessentially English' is much, much, more than that. It's cool, sophisticated, a bit silly, intriguing, weird, wonderful, big and bold. It's eccentric and exciting, full of strange lunatics and old school camp. It's the juxtaposition of the very, very old and the new. It's a NO to convention and the Establishment. And it's also tradition, convention and the Establishment.

It most certainly isn't Middle England. I think Sanya underestimates the audience Doctor Who currently enjoys. "Could the Couch Potatoes in need of Vegetable Food handle seeing a darkie's head pop out of the TARDIS?" he asks. That's an interesting question. There would certainly be a strong resistance from a minority of hardcore fans; but they will cry foul at any change: the casting of comedy actress Catherine Tate caused consternation, but few fans would criticise her now after a sterling performance throughout season four.

Doctor Who is no longer cult viewing. Since it's relaunch in 2005 it has become one of the BBC's powerhouses - for better or for worse. The series four finale this year was the most watched programme of the week, attracting 11 million viewers. Drama rarely attracts those sort of figures, and science fiction never does. That's important because a mainstream audience - which is what Doctor Who has - won't care about the Doctor's skin colour. Only the diehard, set-in-his-ways fan will care, and he is very much in the minority. The BBC don't care about the diehard fan, they care about the mainstream audience. They proved this with the inclusion of John Barrowman's Captain Jack, and his numerous gay kisses in what is, essentially, a family show. If the BBC were at all worried about diehard fans, then we wouldn't have seen Captain Jack kiss the Doctor in series one. Is a gay kiss with the series lead less controversial than casting a non-white actor in the lead role? Like Sanya, I want Paterson Joseph to be the next Doctor. More than that, I have my heart set on it. There's absolutely no reason why the Doctor cannot be black - within the series' own fiction, a Timelord can 'regenerate' (take on the appearance of) into anyone. He doesn't even have to be English - the seventh actor to play the role, Sylvester McCoy, was Scottish. Nor is it a question of positive discrimination - a black Doctor just for the sake of it. Paterson Joseph is the right man for the job, and, for the sake of its soul, Doctor Who needs him - as Sanya says, much more than he needs Doctor Who.


Ant said...

As a Hardcore fan I would love to see an American re-envisioning done with Mos Def as the Doctor.

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