But Remember, You Are a Woman: Doctor Who’s Rachel Talalay on Female Directors


Rachel Talalay has directed episodes of Doctor Who, Sherlock, Arrow, Supernatural and more. Women In Film + Television Vancouver recently named her 2016 Woman of the Year and she gave a phenomenal speech on female directors.

Back in 2014 Talalay spoke about campaigning specifically to get a directing job on Doctor Who, a show she’d been a fan of for a while.

“As a woman, you have to remind people you do the things that you do,” she said. “I said to Steven Moffat, ‘If I was to read the Internet I would believe you only hired me because you were pressured to hire a woman.’ He said, ‘I think they need to know I hired you because of your reel and your material and what we believed you would bring to it.’ I know that I brought effects experience, but I don’t know what makes anybody hire any director, really.”

While it’s great some creators may not consider gender a factor when it comes to hiring, it’s actually important to remember women and POC exist and may not be getting the same opportunities as everyone else. Otherwise, you may wind up creating something less diverse than you’d like. As Moffat has recently explained, you actually have to make a conscious effort in this regard.


Last month Talalay, who also directed 1995’s Tank Girl, wrote a tumblr post about the speech she gave at Women In Film + Television Vancouver (WIFTV) and just how easily it is to be forgotten. “I’ve never considered myself a Woman-of-the Year type,” she said, “I’m more the Tank-Girl post-punk feminist Warrior.” As if that wasn’t cool enough, what she said next blew me away:

As a woman director, I’ve had my own battleground. In the big picture, I may look like I’ve held my own, but I haven’t. The scars are deep. And the problems aren’t over, as everyone here knows. The Film Industry is a disaster on gender and diversity and First Nations issues.

I have spent many years being told NEVER to mention it — threatened that it was ’a sure fire way never to get hired’.

Recently I was talking to my agents about my ambitions after finishing directing Sherlock. And they said ‘Yes, you have done Sherlock. yeah, the other Sherlock directors have all been offered pilots and features off the back of it. But remember, you are a woman”. It kind of took my breath away, to hear it stated so plainly. It wasn’t aggressive. It was so painfully casual, they probably wouldn’t even remember saying it. That’s what shocked me.

They simply meant, “We’re just going to have to work that much harder, but also be realistic about your expectations.’

I felt sick …. so I called the Doctor.

[Which requires a Knock Knock Joke and audience participation:]

Knock Knock …

[who’s there?]


[Doctor Who?]

Doctor Who — exactly.

Ok so I called that doctor. I wanted his two hearts and his sonic screwdriver to fix it.

But you can’t sonic this away.

So instead he gave me some advice. He said “Just remember, one thing does not lead to another.”

And what the Doctor meant, in his 4 billion years of time travel and experience and wisdom, was not just that Time is nonLInear. But that you can’t expect it to come your way. You can’t be complacent or believe you will be rewarded. You have to go out, earn it, make it happen. Stand FOR something, not just AGAINST it. [are you listening, Mr. Trump?]

Loving, fixing, changing, that’s the hard part.

We all stand for women/diversity/First Nation’s voices.

All these underrepresented groups have stories to tell. The industry has to stop silencing us. If we can’t find support from the government, and to quote our PM “it’s 2016”. future generations will be missing out on more than half of the world’s stories and even more opportunities.

So let me stand with you —

Let me unchain your beasts and allow you to speak and write and create. Let me open the mouths of the oppressed women…of the missing women from the trailer [to the film On The Farm about Vancouver missing women from 1995-2001 – watch here: ] you saw for the film we made, so these women are not lost.

Let us all be invited to speak…

and …

if, as the doctor said, one thing doesn’t lead to another, then we won’t look only at the barriers, we can run around them, knock them down, vault over them and the next hurdle and the next and the next and the next — until we find we’ve passed all the hurdles and we are only faced with opportunities.

Never give up.

Our creativity is our freedom. It’s a super-power. It won’t be silenced.

I’d like to reiterate that last bit for effect: “Our creativity is our freedom. It’s a super-power. It won’t be silenced.”

Talalay also relates a story about the Katharine Hepburn film Woman of the Year in that speech post so definitely check out the whole thing.

(images via BBC and WIFTV on Facebook)

One Response to “But Remember, You Are a Woman: Doctor Who’s Rachel Talalay on Female Directors”

  1. Breathtaking speech. Amen!