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Celebrating the brilliant women who brought Doctor Who to life

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Natasha Preskey
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After almost 55 years of Doctor Who, we’ve finally seen a woman take control of Tardis. Here, we celebrate the other women who have made the show what it is today.

Delia Derbyshire

Doctor Who’s iconic theme tune was the work of electronic music composer Delia Derbyshire, a working class woman who broke into the industry at a time when there were few women working in composing. 

Derbyshire was born in Coventry in 1937. As soon as she graduated from Cambridge University in the late Fifties, she applied to work at a record label – but was told they did not employ women.

Despite this, she persevered, and went on to work at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, a former sound effects unit, where she produced music for nearly 200 TV shows.

She died in 2001, and her life was the subject of both a 2011 documentary and a play in this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Last year, Derbyshire was awarded an honorary PhD by the University of Coventry.

Verity Lambert

Lambert shaped Doctor Who from the very beginning

Verity Lambert was the show’s first-ever producer and, at the time, the only female drama producer at the BBC. According to the Beeb, she selected Doctor Who’s original cast and was key to the show becoming the national institution it is today. 

Lambert, who died in 2007, was awarded an OBE for services to film and television in 2002. In 2007, David Tennant’s doctor refers to his mother as ‘Verity’ in a tribute to the producer. 

Malorie Blackman

Alongside Vinay Patel, children’s author Malorie Blackman is the first writer of colour to write for Doctor Who, and one of a small number of female writers to have worked on the programme.  

Earlier this year, an open letter by 76 female TV writers criticised the lack of women writers in British drama, and singled out Doctor Who as a particular offender. Months later, it was announced that Blackman and another female writer, Joy Wilkinson, would be joining the show.  

Blackman, who wrote Noughts and Crosses, penned this weekend’s episode of Doctor Who, which features the story of Rosa Parks.

Hettie Macdonald

Hettie Macdonald was the first female director to work on Doctor Who after its relaunch in 2005. 

She directed hugely popular 2007 episode Blink (remember those terrifying weeping angels?) which starred Carey Mulligan and won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

Macdonald went on to work on Wallander, Law and Order: UK and Howards End, and later directed two more episodes of Doctor Who in 2015. The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar  saw Peter Capaldi’s Doctor battle the Daleks. 

Catherine Tregenna

Somewhat disgracefully, there wasn’t a single Doctor Who episode written by a woman between 2008 and 2015. This stint was broken by Catherine Tregenna, who wrote The Woman Who Lived, a popular episode which was set in 1600s England and starred Maisie Williams. 

Tregenna didn’t become a permanent fixture on Doctor Who, but she also worked on the first series of Torchwood, scooping a Hugo nomination for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, for the episode Captain Jack Harkness.

Now the show has Jodie Whittaker at the helm and Malorie Blackman, Vinay Patel and Joy Wilkinson have joined the writing team, it looks like Doctor Who is making genuine progress in terms of diversity. 

Last month, the programme’s showrunner Chris Chibnall told Broadcast: “Diversity is important because of the character mix that we have, the stories I wanted to tell and clearly the different perspectives that a diverse writing team brings”.

Images: Getty

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