Archive for Guest Blogger

TV needs diverse queer characters: John Barrowman

This guest post was written by Sheena Goodyear, a reporter, blogger and copy editor for Sun Media. When she grows up, she wants to be Special Agency Dana Scully. You can read her thoughts about TV at Rabbit Ears, her video game ramblings at Button Mashers and her news stories at the Toronto Sun.

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Capt. Jack Harkness, bisexual superhero.

John Barrowman — known for playing Captain Jack Harnkess, possibly the first and only queer sci-fi hero on a children’s TV show — says LBGT people deserve to be represented on television all their diversity.

Capt. Jack originated on BBC’s Doctor Who and later got his own spin-off, the more adult-oriented Torchwood. The roguish, bisexual con man-turned-hero with a flirtatious charm that rivals James Bond’s is one of the best things to come out of the Russell T. Davies’ run on Who. 

In response to  question about queer representation in science fiction at a Fan Expo panel in Toronto on Sunday, Barrowman admitted mainstream  TV has more gay characters. But those characters, unlike Jack, tend to be reduced to stereotypes.

My big this is — and this is where I’m so proud of Capt. Jack and proud of what Russell and Steven and July Gardner and the BBC allowed me to help create — was the fact that I’m a hero. I’m not a flouncing queen — and there’s nothing wrong with that, don’t get me wrong — but there’s a very diverse group of gay men and women out there. And we need to be represented on television in the proper way. We don’t need to all be stereotyped on television.

That’s what happened in the mainstream. And unfortunately, certain audiences around the world only identify with types. For writers and people that are creating new shows and doing things differently and not just writing stereotypes, those are the shows we should stand up for and watch and be proud of.

There’s no doubt that Capt. Jack has been a huge role model for many a young LBGT geek. Take this blogger who says watching Jack on Doctor Who as a teenager helped her feel OK with who she was. Or the fans at Barrowman’s panel, many of whom stood up to identify themselves as queer and thank him for his portrayal of Jack.

But Barrowman himself is also a role model, putting a bit of himself into Jack and never shying away from his own sexuality in the spotlight. He speaks often about his longtime partner Scott Gill, despite industry pressure to keep quiet.

In fact, someone said to me, and this producer was gay himself, and he said to me, “You can’t say ‘your partner’ and you shouldn’t talk about this you shouldn’t do that and you shouldn’t be who you are.” And I went back to Scott and I said, “Look what should I do?” And he said, “Well, what do you want to do?” And I said, “Well, I’m not gonna ask you to hide and pretend, and go to a function and then pretend to have a girl on my arm because some people aren’t comfortable with it. That’s not my problem. So I’m gonna be who I am.”

You can catch Barrowman this fall on Arrow, which premiers Oct. 12 on the CW.

This post is cross-posted from Rabbit Ears.

Some people build TARDISes

This guest post was written by Sheena Goodyear, a reporter, blogger and copy editor for Sun Media, who watches too much TV and drinks too much coffee. Her biggest dream — and her biggest fear — are to meet Joss Whedon. You can read her thoughts about TV at Rabbit Ears, her video game ramblings at Button Mashers and her news stories at the Toronto Sun


Not everyone is lucky enough to have a TARDIS steal them, transport them through time and space and always take them where they need to be. Some people have to build their own.

That’s what the talented, creative and meticulous folks who populate TARDIS Builders do. The site is dedicated to documenting and showcasing fan-made Doctor Who props. The blue police-box TARDIS seems to be  favourite among crafty Whovians, but the site also features of other props from the show, including TARDIS consoles, gadgets and more.

Aside from pictures of their incredibly impressive final products, many of the the hobbyists who make these props also keep detailed build-diaries. Click on the pictures below to find out more about how they were made.

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Life-sized TARDIS on display at an airport. Why would anyone take a plane when there's a TARDIS available?

» Read more..

Sherlock star says ‘fans aren’t keen’ on a woman Doctor

This guest post was written by Sheena Goodyear, a reporter, blogger and copy editor for Sun Media. She loves cats, coffee and comic books. She used to pretend to slay vampires with a wooden stake, which her father carved out of a chair leg. You can read her thoughts about TV at Rabbit Ears, her video game ramblings at Button Mashers and her Canadian news stories at the Toronto Sun

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British actress Lara Pulver from season two of Sherlock.

Actress Lara Pulver has deflated rumours she could play the next incarnation of The Doctor, the time-and-space travelling hero of BBC’s Doctor Who.

The rumours started swirling when Pulver had a meeting with Who showrunner Steven Moffat. Pulver starred in the second season of Moffat’s other BBC venture, Sherlock.

“Steven and I have both said we thoroughly enjoyed working together, and then there was me being in Wales so the media put two and two together,” she told Digital Spy of the rumours.

But she quickly took the wind out of the sails of those of us who are tired of women being relegated to the role of sidekick in the Whoniverse. When asked if she’d be excited to play The Doctor, she said: “Yes and no. Not if it meant the end of the Doctor Who franchise, because the fans aren’t keen on it.”

The Doctor is the last of an ancient race known as the Time Lords, who regenerate new bodies and new-ish personalities when they die. In the episode “The Doctor’s Wife,” guest writer Neil Gaiman snuck into Doctor Who cannon the idea that Time Lords can change genders when they regenerate. This tid-bid has sparked non-stop speculation that someday, the British icon, who’s spawned 11 incarnations since the ’60s, could be a woman.

It’s an idea that has some viewers — especially us so-called “fangirls” — pretty excited about the idea of a kick-ass space-trekking role model with a time machine and a sidekick to call her very own. The sheer number of women who crossplay as The Doctor rather than stick to companion costumes is evidence enough there’s an appetite for this change.

But it’s also sparked a lot of fan outrage from folks who say the Doctor can’t be a woman because, you know, he just can’t.

As much as I side with the pro-Time Lady contingent, I understand the show’s hesitancy to go ahead with the gender-bender. From a writing perspective, swapping the Doctor’s sex would be more complicated that it seems. There’s a lot to consider.

Foremost is continuity. Moffat himself touched on this when asked if he’d considered casting a woman as the 11th Doctor before hiring Matt Smith.

A woman can play the part. You have to remember the single most important thing about regeneration is you must convince the audience and the children that’s it’s not a new man, it’s not a different man, it’s the same one. It’s a bigger ask if you turn him into a woman.

Each incarnation of The Doctor a bit different than the last. But deep down, he’s always the same man. His previous experiences still inform his worldview. Certainly, a millennium of maleness has an effect on one’s identity.

Then there’s the complex smorgasbord that is gender identity. After 900 or so years of manhood, would a newly-female Doctor identify as a woman? If so, would the change affect her sexual orientation? Would she retain her attraction to women? Would she take on a young man as her companion? As Doctor Her writer Ritch Ludlow notes, we could end up with a transgender or genderqueer hero.

Can I count the ways in which my Doctor will be queer?
1)   A male who transitioned (very quickly and inexpensively) to female (transgender?)
2)  A woman who would be happy to call herself male again someday (genderqueer?)
3)  A woman who was once in love with other women but perhaps willing to fall in love with men (bisexual/lesbian/pansexual/fluid?)”

Then there’s the matter of how a woman Doctor would be perceived by others. Depending on when and where she’s adventuring, would people still rally behind her without question? Would she be able to exert authority as effortlessly as she did when she had that convenient male privilege? Would she find herself subject to sexism or harassment? The show would have to deal with these issues, especially in stories that take place on Earth, in the present day or in the past.

That’s not to say a queer or trans Doctor wouldn’t be fantastic, or a character navigating the waters of new womanhood wouldn’t be interesting. It would just be a delicate and complicated story to tell, even by Moffat’s timey-wimey standards.

What do you think?

This blog was cross-posted at Rabbit Ears

The Doctor: a God Among Women?

This guest post was written by Chris Emslie. Chris is a poet and editor living in Scotland. He blogs intermittently at Q.L.P. but spends most of his time yelling at his relatives for saying things they don’t realize are offensive. He co-edits the online poetry journal ILK and frequently gets angry at the TV. Who aside, Chris loves Buffy, True Blood and Dead Like Me. Also he tweets.

God and the doctor we alike adore
But only when in danger, not before;
The danger o’er, both are alike requited,
God is forgotten, and the Doctor slighted.

John Owen

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“It’s always the women.”

Some of the many ‘dying words’ of Doctor Who arch-villain The Master. These come in the 2007 episode ‘Last of the Time Lords’, immediately after he is shot by Lucy Saxon, the human woman he seduces, marries and—ostensibly—brutalises and drives insane.

This scene is dominated by a tearful farewell conducted exclusively between men, but there is more to note here. While the  Doctor in this scene is literally all forgiveness and light, the only dangers to the Master’s life come from wronged and vengeful women: Francine Jones and Lucy Saxon. The impulse to revenge immediately casts these women as morally inferior to the Doctor.

This unspoken assertion of the Doctor as the superior / rational man among hysterical / inferior women is symptomatic of a larger trend in the series’ history. What are unendingly termed ‘strong women’ are permitted space in the narrative to display their charm / wiles / independence, but only to a point—only so long as they do not present a sustained challenge to the Doctor’s supreme position at the centre of the Whoniverse.

The best examples, distressingly, can be found in the rebooted series, from 2005 onwards. The Doctor’s female cohorts might flirt with equality, but it cannot last. In ‘The Parting of the Ways’, Rose Tyler is granted superhuman abilities by her contact with the heart of the TARDIS, but at a cost: the power will kill her without heroic male intervention (“I think you need a Doctor”). Similarly in 2008’s finale ‘Journey’s End’, Donna Noble achieves the vaguely-defined ‘metacrisis’ that puts the Doctor’s Gallifreyan brainpower in her ickle human (read: female) head. But again, the sudden upsurge in agency is too much for Donna. Indeed, she gets so close to true equality with the Doctor that she has to be punished—“all those wonderful things she saw” have to be stripped from her, reducing her to the bridal archetype she represented at her inception.

More recently, River Song has been repeatedly been billed as ‘[more than] a match’ for the Doctor.  She almost succeeds in killing him, and her ‘human-plus-Time-Lord’ physiology removes the impassable disadvantage of species. But let’s stop and consider the fate of the Time Ladies (or variations thereof) who have given equalling or surpassing the Doctor a real shot:

  • Romana Mk. I is shown as stuffy and narrow-minded in comparison to the Doctor, and only outsmarts him very occasionally. She regenerates into the more submissive Romana Mk. II, who conveniently departs for E-Space and never comes back—at least not in the television series.
  • The Rani is arguably a cautionary tale against allowing Gallifreyan women access to education (they’ll only end up as evil geniuses, ultimately dropped without much ado from the programme).
  • 2008’s ‘The Doctor’s Daughter’ gives us Jenny, genetically a female offshoot of the Doctor. She is born a morally misguided killing machine, reformed by the reason of a Doctor at his most literally patriarchal, and then swiftly killed off, resurrected and sent on her merry way.
  • And then we have River Song herself. She has all the makings of a true equal, on the Doctor’s own turf: she is ingenious, heroic, brave and appealing. Her knowledge of the Doctor’s personal future puts her at an unprecedented advantage. This is balanced initially by her being homicidal—no one can be that badass and morally righteous but the Doctor—and latterly by her domestication. Okay, ‘domestication’ might be a strong word. But the bulk of River’s considerable ability is used to preserve the Doctor’s place on his pedestal, cohesion of reality be damned. The woman who almost defeats him gives up her regenerations to save him because (of course) she has fallen in love with him. Is anyone else noticing a trend in Steven Moffat’s writing here? And of course, River’s threat to the Doctor’s role as patriarch is neutralised by the fact that we know from her first appearance that she is doomed to die, while he can potentially live forever. Take that, woman!

Let’s end with a nice, light-hearted moment from 2006, when Rose Tyler meets Sarah Jane Smith, the celebrated damsel-in-distress from the days of the third and fourth Doctors, in ‘School Reunion’. Sarah-Jane ribs the Doctor:

“You can tell you’re getting older [...] your assistants are getting younger.”
“I’m not his assistant!” Rose rightly protests.
“No?” Sarah Jane shrugs and smiles to herself.

We cannot help but infer from this brief exchange that Rose thinks herself equal to the Doctor. Quite reasonable, really, to assume that about your best friend. Sarah Jane’s smile tells us that Rose, like countless other women to have travelled with the paragon Doctor, will inevitably learn otherwise.

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