11

Each time The Doctor regenerates, there is speculation as to who the actor will be. And each time the speculative lists include both women and non-white actors. However, The Doctor has so far always been played by white male actors.

We already have a question regarding The Doctor's gender. But is there any in-universe restriction on The Doctor's race?

  • 1
    I could have sworn there was already a question about whether the Doctor could be a woman or not. – Xantec Aug 3 '13 at 14:13
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    @Xantec Yep, there is – Izkata Aug 3 '13 at 14:26
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    Given that Romana, during her regeneration, chose from at least two different species ... I see no reason to assume that a minor difference in Melanin should be hard to deal with. – K-H-W Aug 5 '13 at 1:25
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    @K-H-W: There is more to ethnicity than melanin, contrary to what the PC brigade would have you believe. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jun 29 '15 at 20:05
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    FWIW I think Chris Eubank would have been the perfect Doctor. – Gaius Sep 21 '15 at 17:12
20

Unless there's something unstated particular to The Doctor, there are no known restrictions. The Corsair has canonically changed between male and female during regeneration. Let's Kill Hitler and The Death of the Doctor both canonically reference changing skin color.

It should also be noted that under common usage, "white" is a social construct, which has sometimes excluded e.g. Irish people. But many of the uncontroversially-proposed Doctors have been ethnically Irish, and one Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, had an Irish mum. So there's no plausible reason they can't have a non-white Doctor.

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    According to which definition is "Irish" not white? – Lightness Races in Orbit Jun 29 '15 at 20:05
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    @Lightness Races in Orbit The reference is to the beliefs of some bigotted WASPS before the late 20th century. See for example amazon.com/Irish-Became-White-Routledge-Classics/dp/0415963095 – Michael Stern Sep 21 '15 at 15:03
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    @MichaelStern: That looks like an Americanism to me, starting with the sentence "In the new country – a land of opportunity – they found a very different form of social hierarchy, one that was based on the color of a person’s skin" and ending with the implication that this problem of the "Irish" not being deemed "white" was one of Irish immigrants to the New World. As such, I'm not sure what bearing it has on Doctor Who... :) Though speaking broadly I take the point. – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 21 '15 at 16:09
  • @Lightness Races in Orbit you are correct that the book I linked to is about the U.S. The phenomenon may exist elsewhere, perhaps manifesting differently as the obsession with white/black itself may be stronger in the U.S. than elsewhere. – Michael Stern Sep 21 '15 at 18:00
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    Infamously, some London pubs used to have signs saying "No dogs, no Blacks, no Irish". @Lightness Races in Orbit Some of these signs might even have survived until the 1970s. – Euan M Dec 4 '15 at 4:03
8

No. Time Lords can change race.

We see River Song regenerate from light-skinned to dark-skinned to light-skinned again in series 6.

River Song

Additionally, in The Sarah Jane Adventures story Death of the Doctor, the Doctor states that his race was not limited to white; he "can be anything." However, he also says that he can regenerate 507 times, so he could be joking.

  • 2
    Plus we saw that Time Lord chap change both gender and skin colour in one regeneration in Hell Bent. – Paul D. Waite Dec 5 '15 at 21:24
-7

In-universe, I'd say no. Out-of-universe, DW is a British show, and playing the Doctor is a plum achievement for any British actor. And when we think of British acting, we think of the theatre, and when we think of British theatre, we think the Globe, in London, half a millennium ago. Britain is NOT America, where one can be "discovered" buying ice cream at the mall with zero stage experience, and be on the cover of Tiger Beat the following week. So, you have an iconic television show with an iconic character marketed to an audience, the ancestors of whom were the groundlings at the Globe Theatre.

The producers want an actor of a certain age, with the chops, who wants to take the show in the direction in which they want to go. This actor has to be free of other commitments, in order to dedicate his time to the character. Once you look at these requirements, in BRITAIN, you will find a very small pool of candidates who are any sort of minority, the majority of dwellers of the British Isles interested in participating in British culture being white. They aren't going to find some good-looking minority lad or lass at the local chippy and offer him/her the role of Doctor Who. There could have been minority actors in the running, but they may not have been able to make the commitment, or may be the wrong age.

  • There are many lead actors who are from minorities in the UK. (And of course, there are white minorities in the UK). Currently, just about every new police procedural has an lead actor of Afro-Caribbean descent. – Euan M Dec 4 '15 at 4:19
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    “The producers want an actor of a certain age” — in the modern run, that’s been between 28 and 55 — not exactly a small window. “When we think of British theatre, we think the Globe, in London, half a millennium ago” — people who actually go to the theatre probably don’t. – Paul D. Waite Dec 4 '15 at 10:17
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    Utter pile of racist rubbish. Plenty of minority actors have the skills and experience - they don't have to be 'discovered buying ice cream'. – DJClayworth Sep 1 '16 at 20:39

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