Writer Catherine Tregenna, whose credits include three episodes of Torchwood, will be writing one of the episodes of Doctor Who Season 9. Assumedly, she won’t have much say in the general arc of the season or in character development, since it’s just one episode, but after six years of no female writers whatsoever, it’s an improvement.
But it feels perverse to celebrate the fact that, after about 60 episodes written by men, there will finally be one episode written by a woman. It’s a single episode, and a single writer, among 13. And she’ll only be the fifth female writer to ever work on the show, compared to the 87 male writers over the series history. She’s boosting the percentage up to 5.4% female! And forgive my skepticism, but I feel like her appearance as a female writer will be considered enough for the Doctor Who team to give themselves a pat on the back for “including women” and not hire anyone else — just like Steven Moffat’s Who hired one female director for the show in season 5 and hasn’t had a female director since.
The thing that irks me the most is that the Doctor Who team say it isn’t their fault. Neil Gaiman says that the team has reached out to a lot of women writers, but they’ve always had scheduling conflicts, or people saying no. I find it pretty hard to believe. They manage to find six or seven male writers to write each season, but all the massive number of women they approach are busy or uninterested? There’ve really been no talented female writers available over the last six years? No sci-fi/fantasy fans who would love to write for Who and make it their priority? No up-and-coming script writers, no writing veterans? Not the several women who wrote for Being Human, or Merlin, or Robin Hood or other BBC sci-fi/fantasy? Not the other female writers who’ve written for Doctor Who before, or the women who’ve written companion novels? No-one?
And if the show really was approaching as many female writers as male writers, and every female writer was saying no, why were they saying no? Female writer after female writer wouldn’t reject the opportunity to write for one of Britain’s most iconic scripted shows unless they had a good reason to avoid it.
Honestly, this news just has me feeling rather depressed about the whole thing. Not because they’ve hired a female writer — that’s great — but because the appearance of one female writer in a six year period is so surprising that it’s worthy of note and even celebration.