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Doctor Who: this was the casting the industry badly needed

By Niki Winterson, Lead Agent, Winterson’s

When I was five I thought that girls could be nuns, secretaries or teachers. I wanted to be the communications expert on the Starship Enterprise. I liked the short skirt better than the wimple and I liked the earpiece so I reckoned that’s what I’d do. Uhura rocked.

The secretaries that I met were probably largely doing the jobs that I do today – running companies. Amongst the female teachers by whom I was taught were some of the greatest minds of their generation- fifty percent of the the most intelligent people born in the forties and fifties had few other choices for employment.

I am a lucky woman. As a fiftyyear old I am amongst the first to have had real choice. I became a talent agent – a communications expert of sorts.

Day after day over a twenty year period casting breakdowns have arrived on my desk – many more jobs for actors than for actresses, and the roles far more developed for the men too. When I switch on my television I am frequently faced with the phenomena of ‘five white men talking’. The Bechdel test – ‘are there two women in the scene? Are they talking to each other? About something other than a man?’

Continues to be failed time and again.

Little girls (and little boys) will be watching a new Doctor Who. An actress playing not an assistant but the leader, the mover, the shaker. Kirk. The social significance of this cannot possibly be underestimated. While women are not equally represented on screen (and I can assure you from a position of some authority that woman are not equally represented on screen) – we are not being heard. While our narratives are not being told we are unable to find directions for ourselves and our lives.

Excellent work which has been done in the recent past to bring minorities to our screens – breakdowns now frequently request ‘BAME’ – Black, Asian and minority ethnic suggestions. The gay community have also made huge headway with Gay, Bi, and Transgender suggestions frequently requested. This should inform us in our casting of women. Women are not a minority. They are fifty percent.

The fact that there has been any negative response to a female Doctor Who shows how greatly this casting was needed. From my position at the helm I can report that times are changing. Very, very slowly.