Doctorin’ the Class War

This time next year there will be a new Doctor Who, and there is (rightly) a lot of support for the new Doctor being something other than:

  • Male
  • White
  • Both

Proper intersectional diversity goes a lot further than this, though, and the thing I’d like to talk about right now is class.

British people fucking love class because it’s intangible, and also fucking hate it because it’s intangible. Your class can change without you realising or intending, and like any form of social grouping, if you benefit from it, you can become absolutely convinced it doesn’t exist, and that the world is a meritocracy or some shit.

With all this in mind, you might perhaps expect a white, male, British cultural icon whose species has the word ‘Lord’ in its name to embody class quite strongly, but I did some research and it got interesting.

Out of 13 Doctors thus far:

9 seem to have had no post-school higher education at all before drama school, if at all.

2 went to further ed/uni before drama school (Ecclestone at Salford Tech, Smith at UEA).

2 (Hurt and Capaldi) went to art school.

Now this isn’t that unusual considering that uni attendance wasn’t a given before, say, the 90s, and of course it’s a blunt instrument. It’s probably also worth noting that Jon Pertwee got kicked out of RADA for exactly the sort of hilarious jerk activity you’d want someone to get kicked of RADA for.

However, the Doctors’ secondary education makes it doubly interesting:

Comprehensive – 4

Grammar – 4

Independent – 2 (Pertwee, notching several pre-RADA expulsions, and Colin Baker, who then trained as a solicitor, which I find weirdly unsurprising)

Boarding school – 2 (Troughton and Tom Baker, whose boarding school experience as a working-class Scouse kid was so amazing he went off to be a monk)

None – 1 (Hartnell, who by the standards of any era, had it tough)

Now, I’m not impartial, but this kinda says to me that the average Doctor actor is a middle or working class people operating in a world of greater wealth/privilege/etc than they are accustomed to. Even when definitively upper-class, or in receipt of these sorts of advantages, they tend to reject them. They carry around the idea that they need to be accessible, which you only truly appreciate if you’ve experienced the sort of arbitrary inaccessibility that class throws up.

And of course this makes total sense, because Time Lords are a powerful, deeply-class-entrenched group, who eschew intervention to preserve an idea of ‘balance’ that only exists for those who fear their privilege might come under threat – all of which the Doctor defines themself by openly defying. It’s an act of class war, one that culturally defines the character more profoundly than any outward appearance.

The end of the white dude is, of course, sorely overdue. But whatever happens, it mustn’t affect the Doctor’s status as Time’s greatest Class Warrior.


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