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April 5th, 2010


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10:43 pm - Doctor Who Musings + Thoughts on Female Characters on TV
I watched the new Doctor Who The Eleventh Hour, and was quite pleased. Steven Moffat remains as good as ever, and Matt Smith does indeed make an excellent doctor. I also like one particular change, the transformation from Russell Davies' vision of the Doctor as the "Space Jesus" atheist savior of humanity, to Moffat's erratic, fae creature who both brings and solves problems, takes people away on magical adventure, and always remains a "madman in a box". I've been increasingly unfond of the Doctor as Space Jesus, especially when coupled with David Tennant's (to me at least) manic and inhumane Doctor. So, I'm very hopeful about the show. Of course, the fact that Moffat wrote most of my favorite episodes definitely doesn't hurt.

However, there's another side to Doctor Who that I'm less fond of, and seems endemic to its current form, and that's the companions. I'm assuming we won't see any more of companions acting like Martha in "Last of the Time Lords" acting as the Doctor's Mary Magdalene and announcing him to the world. However, while I quite like the new companion Amy Pond, she departs the day before her wedding day – a last adventure before settling down and getting married. With the exception of Martha, who seems to have made an exciting and interesting life for herself after being the Doctor's companion, what we have is a series of mostly young women who head off on a grand fling and then settle down utterly mundane lives. I'm generally not a fan of stories where the end-point of a magical and wondrous journey is a return to not just the mundane world, but a fairly normative existence, but that's sufficiently embedded in Doctor Who that it's hardly a fair complaint for either Moffat or Davies.

However, it is particularly annoying because Doctor Who is now one of the few geeky shows with any important female characters. I've previously described the time-period from '93 to 2002 as "the golden age of geek TV", and part of this was the fact that there were so many active female characters. Recently, teaotter & I watched the 2002 TV series Birds of Prey . We didn't watch it back then because it was so much worse that the several other geeky TV shows with numerous female characters that we were watching at the time. We watched it, and it ranged from on the upper side of mediocre to terrible [[1]], but given that it has multiple actiony and positive female characters & several minor queer characters, which is rare on modern TV, and it was considerably more watchable than it was 7 or 8 years ago, simply because we were comparing it to fluff like Leverage or Stargate: Universe, rather than to shows are are actually good.

[[1]] In general the quality of Birds of Prey was similar to that of the first (generally dreadful) season of Angel, with many of the same faults, except that the plotting was even worse.
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

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From:aekiy
Date:April 6th, 2010 08:20 am (UTC)
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I would guess and hope that the prewedding departure is mostly being used for dramatic effect and emotional impact, and not as some cheap "time to go back to the same-old boring life" denouement. Given what we've seen from Moffat already, I'd be really surprised if it ends that way. Hopefully it ends with Amy actualizing her potential and realizing the things she wants from life, and that will merely impact her return to Earth for the better.
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From:kadath
Date:April 6th, 2010 11:20 am (UTC)
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David Tennant's (to me at least) manic and inhumane Doctor.

I'm glad I'm not the only one. Ten was a bad person and smug about it. It was awful.

Unfortunately, RTD burned out my interest in New Who with the shit he pulled in S4. I just don't care what happens to the universe or the characters anymore.
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From:kiplet
Date:April 6th, 2010 12:40 pm (UTC)
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Spoilar? —Given the Doctor's inability to show up on time thus far, you'd have to question how firmly Amy really believes he'll be able to return her to the same pre-wedding night.
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From:heron61
Date:April 6th, 2010 08:32 pm (UTC)
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Very true - Moffat definitely foregrounded the fact that Amy undoubtedly knew that she had no reasonable hope of getting back in time for her wedding. I'm cautiously optimistic on how Moffat will ultimately deal with this.
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From:lyceum_arabica
Date:April 6th, 2010 06:20 pm (UTC)

linked by mindstalk

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I agree with you heartily about the problems with women in sci-fi in general, but I think the doctor who issue is more about growing up generally than specifically girls getting married (and giving up their freedom).

Remember Rose went off adventuring just like Martha, in the alternate dimension, they made a big deal about the tragedy of Donna giving up her memories, and Sara Jane is having spin-off adventures as a middle aged woman. Some older doctor-who companions kept adventuring too...the girl for 'Trial of a Time Lord' ended the storyline by running off on adventures with one of the side characters, becoming a barbarian queen or something.

And when they do the "doctors gone, I must now sadly resign myself to long, boring life without him", they do it to the male companions the same as the female. Recent examples include Micky (whenever he wasn't on board), or Donna's grandfather, or even Jack... and with previous series male companions too. I think it's more likely to be a metaphor for creative kids of both genders having to grow up and come to terms with the dull reality of life than it is specifically girls giving up their freedom as good married women.


[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:April 6th, 2010 08:39 pm (UTC)

Re: linked by mindstalk

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We never see Rose doing anything other than waiting for the Doctor, but I do agree about older Who - including Sarah Jane.

And when they do the "doctors gone, I must now sadly resign myself to long, boring life without him", they do it to the male companions the same as the female.

I never got that sense with Micky pining for the Doctor after he stopped being the Doctor's companion (and in fact, he seemed to go from traveling with the Doctor to for the first time having an active and exciting life), but you are definitely correct about Jack.

I think it's more likely to be a metaphor for creative kids of both genders having to grow up and come to terms with the dull reality of life than it is specifically girls giving up their freedom as good married women.

That's an interesting point that makes a fair amount of sense.
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From:bodlon
Date:April 6th, 2010 07:02 pm (UTC)
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I'm interested in seeing how Amy's arc plays out. The big thing about their initial relationship is that the Doctor promises to take her out of her mundane life and then abandons her by accident. Twice.

Each time, she's stuck in a world that dictates a set of choices that she ends up conforming to. My sense is that he's being presented as an alternative to that, but to what end we'll have to see.
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From:heron61
Date:April 6th, 2010 08:42 pm (UTC)
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*nods* Given that one of RTD's biggest problems was writing generally terrible endings, it makes sense that the fate of many of the companions in his run of the series would be fairly unsatisfying. I don't know what Moffat's weaknesses are, but if that's not one of them, then we may indeed see better. As mentioned above, I do also like the fact that Amy could not help but know that there was pretty much no chance that she'd return before her wedding. We shall definitely see.

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