By BICKY LEE.
** Spoilers ahead…. you’ve been warned **
I still love Doctor Who. I am thoroughly enjoying Peter Capaldi as the Doctor and I still have a Doctor Who poster on my wall. But, after the fourth episode of season nine, I saw Doctor Who for what it really is.
Season nine was tolerable (despite Missy feeling like a consolation prize for the Doctor not becoming a woman) until the end of episode four, Before The Flood. In this episode we saw the first deaf actor on Doctor Who, Sophia Stone, and she played this awesome deaf character.
Stone’s wonderful character was clearly only there because she could lip read (the monsters were silent). This is a shame because this character then became defined by her disability and her lip reading skill. Having said that, she got to do things like take action, be a leader and argue back at the Doctor.
However, in the final scene with her and her crew, it is revealed that her co-worker has been in love with her the whole time and that she loves him. This scene was UNNECESSARY. Why did she have to be a love interest? Why did we have to be shown that a man could desire her?
By the time I watched the fifth episode of season nine, I was unhappy. The Girl Who Died tells the story of a viking village ONLY using male soldiers (the women can be seen running around hysterically when a fire breaks out). The almost androgynous character played by Maisie Williams dies (the typical damsel in distress) and the Doctor saves her and brings her back to life. There is also a mother (and child) but we never see her (although there is a nice line where the Doctor acknowledges that the baby’s father is also a blacksmith. Evidently writer/producer Steven Moffat finds it easier to demonstrate the multi-faceted nature of men but not of women).
The second episode with Maisie Williams directly follows the Viking disaster and is written by a woman, Catherine Tregenna. Tregenna was the first female writer to be hired on Doctor Who since 2008. This episode is a good example of the benefits of female involvement, because The Woman Who Lived is fantastic. Not only does it display a multi-faceted and hugely capable woman, but it also features a whole scene displaying the grief of outliving one’s children.
In all the years of Doctor Who – a show that is predominately fascinated by the Time Lord’s apparent immortality – there is not a commentary on the concept of outliving one’s children, nor of motherhood, until this woman, Tregenna, writes this concept into the Doctor Who universe. I enjoyed The Woman Who Lived, despite the old-fashioned symbolism of the character being “evil” when she wears pants and “good” when she wears a dress.
Then there is Clara, the companion who is meant to know as much as The Doctor after saving him in every regeneration, but demonstrates limited leadership action and is essentially the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope.
For me, the most eye-opening part of the feminism of Doctor Who is reading the statistics. The Bechdel test has been done on every Doctor Who episode (up until the Clara era). The Bechdel test follows the following criteria:
“[The episode] has to have at least two named women in it, who talk to each other, about something besides a man.”
While past writer Russel T. Davies’ era (companions Rose through to Donna) had an 89% pass rate, Moffat’s era had only a 57% pass rate. Moffat’s female characters are speaking less, too. The highest Bechdel test pass rate companion was Donna and she departed from the TARDIS non-consensually with her memory wiped. Out of all the main companions who have travelled with the Doctor, Martha may have been the “most feminist” because she was a (real) doctor and chose, when she learned that the Doctor did not have romantic feelings for her, to rebuild her life and not fall to pieces. However, her heroic pilgrimage around the globe went largely unpraised and unacknowledged and there was an alien Mystical Pregnancy trope used with her during her time on Torchwood (the Doctor Who spin-off show).
So, yeah, I’m out. I’m still a fan of the show and I am keen to continue watching (I want to see how they farewell Clara) but as far as that intense and complete love of the show goes, I am done. The gender roles have started to feel a bit like the broom that the Doctor described in Deep Breath:
“You take a broom and you replace the handle, and then later, you replace the brush, and you do that over and over again, is it still the same broom? Answer: no, of course it isn’t! But you can still use it!”
My request to Moffat and his team of writers and makers is that we see the ultimate regeneration of Doctor Who, one where women get to be as awesome and involved and diverse as they are in real life.
“Times must change, and so must I.” – The Doctor, (Matt Smith/Peter Capaldi Regeneration Scene)