The thirteenth incarnation of Dr Who was revealed on Sunday by the BBC, and the internet exploded in delight and dismay at the news that the Doctor will, this time, be played by a woman.
Interesting to church Whovians was the reflection of familiar arguments over whether priests could sensibly or canonically be women. The Revd Richard Peers, a priest in the Diocese of Liverpool, tweeted,
There seems to be a correlation between those who cannot receive the ministry of women as priests or as Dr Who.
Is this correct?
— Father Richard (@educationpriest) July 16, 2017
The Rt Revd Philip North, Bishop of Burnley known for his opposition to the ordination of women, immediately disputed the suggestion:
It’s incorrect. I’m thrilled about the new Doctor.
— Bishop Philip (@BpBurnley) July 16, 2017
The Rt Revd Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool, saw a connection, though.
“I want to tell (people) not to be scared by my gender” – true for Doctor Who, true for ministers of the Gospel. https://t.co/b0tFPZW4lX
— Paul Bayes (@paulbayes) July 16, 2017
The Twishop Index, which follows Church of England twittering bishops, noted that this time, at least, the church was ahead of the game:
— Twishop Index (@twishop) July 16, 2017
while in a response to Fr Richard (above), Christ Church, Fulwood, expanded its imagination beyond the priesthood to wonder about implications for the divine in the reimagining of Dr Who’s gender.
Also correlation between views on female Dr & not talking of God as ‘he’? Including ‘I know God/the Dr isn’t a man but it just feels wrong’.
— Christ ChurchFulwood (@CCFulwood) July 17, 2017
The Revd Bosco Peters picks up that theme in a blogpost:
Yesterday, I started the day by joining a discussion that interlocked The Doctor being regenerated as a woman, women priests, and the possibility that if the incarnation happened today this could be a female. …
If women cannot represent Christ, then Christ cannot represent women. For those who have any representative dimension to priesthood at all, ordaining females is a logical consequence of baptising females. It may have taken a couple of millennia wake up to the logic (just as it did for slavery; just as it seems to currently in other areas of church life).
In the 1980s, the creator of Dr Who urged that a woman take the role in one of the regenerations. As one committed to equality, I am delighted that, three decades later, this is becoming a reality. The Master has been played by a woman. Now The Doctor will be too. That the decision is controversial is fascinating. That there is crossover into theological discussions is wonderful.
Read more theological reflection at liturgy.co.nz .
The Doctor is a humanoid alien, a Time Lord whose sacrificial love for the human race and the planet earth has been demonstrated repeatedly over the course of the show’s more than fifty years. S/he preaches kindness, celebrates love, and regenerates into a new incarnation each time s/he apparently dies.
So might the casting of a female Doctor Who really have implications for how the next generation of viewers understand the genders of their religion?
Featured image: baby Weeping Angels at the Dr Who Experience, Cardiff Bay, UK. “Don’t blink.”