After six years of employing an all-male writing staff, Doctor Who has finally hired a female writer.
Welsh playwright and TV scriptwriter Catherine Tregenna will pen one episode for the show’s ninth season, having previously worked on Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood. Hers will be the first episode written by a woman since Helen Raynor’s two-parter in 2008, back when Russell T. Davies was still running the show.
Showrunner Steven Moffat has long been accused of sexism in his writing and hiring practices, despite his protestations that he’s been trying for years to find a woman willing to write for Doctor Who. It took him four years as showrunner before he found a female director, Rachel Talalay.
The hiring of Catherine Tregenna is a cause for celebration, more or less. After more than 50 full-length episodes and a handful of minisodes, Moffat and the BBC are finally trying to redress the gender imbalance on the show. The question now is whether this will trigger further progress. Will hiring one female writer be treated as some kind of victory for gender equality, or as the baby step that it actually is? Every episode of the show relies on the humanizing perspective of the Doctor’s female companions, but catering to that perspective has not felt like a serious priority for several seasons now.
Last year Doctor Who producer Marcus Wilson told the Guardian, “Due to schedules and other projects, both male and female writers whom we have wanted to join the team simply haven’t been able to. For us it’s about who can write good Doctor Who stories, regardless of gender.” Several other people linked with the show have spoken about Moffat reaching out to female writers who then turned down the offer, which leaves us wondering what is going on behind the scenes.
While Doctor Who seems to have few problems hiring male writers and retaining ones who worked on previous seasons, these quasi-mythical female writers must have had a good reason to reject the job. And it definitely wasn’t the wealth of similar opportunities in British television, since Doctor Who is the BBC’s flagship show and the most highly regarded sci-fi franchise in the country. “Scheduling conflicts” only go so far.
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