Okay, so before I get into my explanation for why we should see Maggie Smith as the Doctor, let me say that I know that Peter Capaldi is going to be a fantastic 12th Doctor. I fully support the choice of the BBC, and I think that a Doctor cut from the same cloth as Tom Baker, Sylvester McCoy, and Christopher Eccleston is a step in the right direction.
But let’s think back to a short time when things were up in the air and there was talk about a new Doctor whose appearance could potentially drastically deviate from what people were used to. I thought this was exciting and totally in the spirit of what Doctor Who represents. Part of the appeal of the Doctor is his ability to change his face and his soul. Each regeneration is an implicit response to the past incarnation. He changes because he has to. Much of what he becomes compensates for some previous character flaw while at the same time recalls old traits from lives even farther back. I believe that he even takes on some traits that are inspired in part by his companions. Let’s all think about David Tennant for a moment. The Tenth Doctor’s accent (and possibly persona) is said to be the result of him imprinting on Rose, like a chick hatching from an egg. In his previous life as Nine, he was dealing with some major PTSD and guilt as a result of what he thought he recalled from the Time War. As Nine he was this dark and guilty ex-soldier who struggled with his power and feelings of messianic yearning. It only made sense that his persona as the Tenth Doctor would be lighter and more fun. I always got the sense that Nine was a paternal figure to Rose, and becoming Ten was a way that he could become her equal (at least on the surface). Where Nine was this open wound, Ten was the colorful Spider-Man band-aid that covered it up.
So fast forward to the moments before Capaldi was chosen as the Twelfth Doctor. There was a constantly lingering idea for the Doctor to become someone other than the usual tallish, lankyish, Caucasian male manic pixie dream boy. Most people when trying to speak against the casting of a female, black, Indian, or other Doctor usually cited the problems he or she would have with time-travel as a “social minority.” And to that I ask:
Isn’t conflict what makes a story worth experiencing?
No, it would not be “stunt casting” or “pandering to politically correct fans.” The Doctor has never been defined by one face, so why should race or gender matter all of a sudden? (And yes, it would be “all of a sudden” –so don’t start.) As far as I’m concerned, it could be the same old Doctor and the TARDIS — just a little different this time, like it always is. But whatever, Capaldi was cast, and there was no need for me to have this argument in comic book stores anymore. Like I said, I really, really like Capaldi, and I think because he’s following Matt, he’s the perfect back to basics Doctor that we need.
But one day I was watching an episode of Downton Abbey, like I always am, and a crazy idea popped into my head:
What if Peter Capaldi’s Doctor regenerated into Maggie Smith? What if that was the Doctor’s right time to shake up the status quo? As the Dowager, she is the biggest boss since Denzel a la Training Day — maybe she could have some of that residual Capaldi snarl. And I think since the Doctor has spent THOUSANDS of years imprinting on usually female companions, maybe it makes complete sense that a future appearance is inspired by the HUNDREDS of strong and clever companions that he/she has traveled with. I love New Who, but the TARDIS has become a bit of an intergalactic snogbox. I thought it was good for a while, but subtext of a thousands-year old man snatching up young women is starting to get a little shady for me. I’d like to see just a little more social redemption in that department, and I think River Song was the first step — now let’s take the commentary forward.