Archive for 1 July 2012

Time Ladies: The Fanart

With our remit, what are the odds we wouldn’t feature Gladys’ excellent manga-flavored renditions of all eleven Doctors as women?

The first six Doctors, as women, drawn by Gladys.

Doctors seven through eleven, as drawn by Gladys

Doctors-as-women art isn’t new (in researching a post on femme Doctors, I found examples from 1985) or uncommon (anymore), but IMHO Gladys excels here at giving suggestions of personality to the Doctors that are similar to, but distinct from, their male counterparts. One has a suggestion of great warmth behind all her poise. Six, with her blonde curls coming undone from her bun, looks like she’s just paused to gather her thoughts before unleashing her tremendous intelligence on your ass. Ten I imagine as a mad librarian.

RIP Mary Tamm

Another iconic companion from the classic years of Doctor Who has passed away. Mary Tamm, who created the role of the Time Lady (or indeed, Time Lord) Romana, died this morning at the horribly young age of 62, after a long battle with cancer.

My childhood has taken a battering over the last couple of years! Romana I was one of my all time favourites. She was created very much as an equal to the Doctor, indeed as an intellectual and academic superior, though he tended to win out when it came to street or “planet” smarts.

Mary was a graceful and accomplished actress who was still working in the industry, and indeed recently recorded a season of audio plays as Romana, along with Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. Many condolences to her family and friends.

The Russell T. Davies Parent Trap

“When you wake up, you’ll have a Mum and Dad.”
-The Doctor, Big Bang Two

One of the elements that Russell T. David bought to the show in the reboot was the companions’ family, which are used to ground the character in reality and show us more about the character by showing us the nature and nurture elements that made the companions who they are.

Rose was raised by a single mother.  They were poor, but Jackie did her best for her daughter, standing up to the strange man who abducted her, putting herself in danger to protect her and most impressive, letting her do the right thing even though it goes against what Jackie wants and her instinct to protect her baby girl.

Rose’s father died when she was very young, but through the magic of the TARDIS, we get to meet Pete Tyler.  Pete is likable and gave his life up to save his wife, child and world despite failing as a husband, father and man in other areas.

To be honest, I never warmed to Pete Tyler from the alternate world (hereby known as Pete 2.)  He was not a father and did not seem willing to take on that role until Doomsday when he saved her but considering he didn’t return with Jackie and Mickey in Journey’s End, I feel that really had more to do with Jackie giving him an ear full.

Martha’s mother is shown as a villain for most of the series, working with some shady seeming people poisoning her against The Doctor.  She is not doing this to get the Doctor, but her love for her daughter is being used against her.  She is a pawn in the Master’s game, trying to protect her daughter but ultimately working against that.  Francine gets her redemption by not killing the Master.  (For my opinions on killing the Master, see He Was So Good To My Father.)

Martha’s father had far less screen time than her mother.  We first see Clive siding with his young gold digging girlfriend over his aggressive ex-wife in the fight that ruined his only son’s 21st birthday.  It’s a quick flash of the family but it shows a lot about Clive.  He is a man in a mid-life crisis trying to have fun now that he’s free from Francine’s iron fist and being taken for a fool by this other woman.  I had very little sympathy with him but when it comes time for him to play his part in the Master’s plan, he warns Martha, even though he is very clearly putting himself at risk.  He, like Pete before him, is willing to give his life to protect his family.

Donna’s mother is a very dominating woman.  She loves her daughter and wants what’s best for her but instead of encouraging her, the way The Doctor does, Sylvia is constantly nagging at her in order for Donna to improve her life.  Sylvia was never really given a chance to shine like the other mothers but we saw her potential in how quick and resourceful she was to save her father from ATMOS.

Donna’s father, Geoff, died between The Runaway Bride at Christmas 2006 and season 4 in 2008.  Geoff was meant to be in season 4 as Donna’s ally under Sylvia’s iron first, however the actor Howard Attfield passed away in early production so Wilfred Mott was re-modelled from the extremely minor character in The Voyage of The Damned to Geoff’s role as Donna’s grandfather and the other side of the generation gap.

Geoff and Sylvia Noble were meant to be together and that would have made them the first only parents-of-a-companion to be together during Russell T. Davis’ era.

…Unless you count Jackie and Pete 2 getting together in Doomsday.

What?

That would never work.  There are the cultural and social differences that make them different people.  Unlike the metacrisis, they do not share a past, even if it’s just memories for one.  Oh, it’s implied they are still together in Journey’s End but Pete 2 didn’t join Jackie and Mickey: well clearly that’s not a happy marriage.  Maybe they got a divorce like the Jones.

What?

Is it heavily implied Clive and Francine got back together by how Clive talks about protecting his family in The Last of the Timelords?  Stockolm syndrome!  Yes, it may be the Master who has them prisoner but they are prisoners together and there is that strong traumatic bond.  They are not working over the issues that went wrong in their marriage that led to the divorce.  They will still be there.  Clive and Francine along with daughter Tish were left traumatised by the year that never was with Martha, implying lasting affects when she returned in season 4.  If those two have rekindled their relationship, it’s probably not all that healthy or won’t stand the test of time.

For Martha, the divorce is the driving factor why she went with the Doctor but it is not because she wants her parents to get back together and everything to be as it was before, but because of the stress it caused: everyone got upset, it ruined her brother’s 21st birthday and Martha was the stone that everyone leaned on.  It was the stress of these two forces bashing their heads together and the shockwaves it let off that drove Martha away.  If this had to be fixed, it would be by these two getting over each other, not back together or scarred for life.

For Rose, her parents are so perfectly crafted in being the nature and nurture that this girl comes from.  When Pete was alive, Jackie needed to be constantly yanking on his lead to keep him from wasting money on crazy schemes, to keep him from cheating with every other woman who even glances at him and knock sense in to him.  Because of that, Jackie’s view of men was that they were on good-for-nothing animals that have to be controlled, something that without a strong male role model to counterbalance this, she imprinted on to her daughter.  That is part of the reason the Doctor amazed her so much.  “He’s not a boyfriend, he’s better than that.” (The Christmas Invasion.)

But Pete wasn’t completely useless.  Although he wasn’t always moral when it came to getting his leg over, he had a strong sense of right and wrong, a sense of adventure and an open mind when it came to things that are possible in the Whoniverse.  These are three qualities that Rose did not get from her mother.

Yes it was sad when Pete died because if (i) “OMG! Pete!  But are so awesome” and (ii) “Rose’s dad is dying.  I have so much feels for her.  Come here so I can hug you” but not because of “NOOO!  My Pete/Jackie ship is sinking.  DAVIES!!!”  Whether or not Pete 2 and Jackie makes sense and/or works, this was not a ‘ship people was rallying for, well maybe when they were put in the same room together and sparks just flew with two great actors giving an incredible romantic, sad and funny performance, but that’s not the point.

The point is, this was another quick-fix relationship that didn’t need fixing and only works because the plot requires sticking the Rose’s supporting cast behind the wall with her so they don’t leak out over the rest of the series which didn’t really work out.  Again, if Jackie needed an happy ending, why with the copy of the husband that died almost two decades ago.  It would be more interesting to see Jackie hook up with someone – say Howard, the fruit guy she was seeing during The Christmas Invasion – and how that relationship plays out over season 2 with Howard meeting Rose, The Doctor and less friendly aliens.

I am not against happiness or romance but I don’t like these quick-fix romances that Russell T. Davies kept doing.  I don’t see it as a happy ending to magic away or ignore problems.  I see it as a happy ending to work through problems or move on.  I also think that the quick-fix of reuniting parents is a really bad message: Being raised by a single parent, be it through the couple splitting up or a parent dying is more normal than the traditional nuclear family now-a-days.  There is nothing wrong with that but still Russell T. Davies is trying to fix it.

The really annoying thing is that I know he can do better.  In the Sarah Jane Adventures, he had Maria’s parent’s divorce and the fourteen year old girl taking it badly but the parents didn’t get back together.  They moved on be it to someone else or somewhere else.  Maria learnt to accept that her parents weren’t getting back together and this was the spin-off for children.

EXTERMINATE: Are the Daleks Scary? (Part 2)

Wow! It’s been a long time since part one! Sorry about that! I’ve been getting new jobs, moving, finding homes for my now-stray kitties. But enough excuses, let’s get to the Daleks.

In part one, I talked about fan art seems to indicate that many fans find the Daleks cute, silly, and ridiculous as often as they find them scary. In part two, I talk about why I think the Daleks are supposed to be scary: namely, that they are modeled after the terrifying Martians from H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds.

Cross-posted at From Austin to A&M.

While science fiction is often posited as a kind of “what if” genre—What if aliens landed? What if we had interplanetary spaceships? What if we could genetically engineer people?—I don’t think that’s a great definition for the genre. After all, not all “what if” questions have anything to do with science, technology, or ray guns. My own definition of science fiction, based on my time as a fan and scholar of it, is pretty broad. I consider something science fiction if it has all or most of the following characteristics:

1. It is about sci­ence or the prac­tice of science.

2. It stays within the bounds of mate­r­ial reality/natural laws orit is con­cerned with appear­ing within the bounds of mate­r­ial reality/natural laws. This means that if it tries to explain its real­ity within the con­fines of our own nat­ural world, even if this is tech­nob­a­b­ble or lamp­shad­ing (á la Doc­tor Who’s “magic door” in The Girl in the Fire­place), then it could be sci­ence fic­tion. I don’t agree with def­i­n­i­tions that say sci­ence fic­tion must be strictly pos­si­ble in the real world or accord­ing to con­tem­po­rary sci­ence, because that is a ridicu­lously lim­it­ing def­i­n­i­tion, and would exclude sci­ence fic­tion like Star Trek, H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine, Doc­tor Who (actu­ally, pretty much any sci­ence fic­tion that uses time travel), Armaged­don, Char­lotte Perkins Gilman’s Her­land, and Red Dwarf. What these nar­ra­tives have in com­mon is not that they are sci­en­tif­i­cally fea­si­ble, but that they are con­cerned with mate­r­ial real­ity, and explain their real­i­ties as the same as ours. Of course, the extent to which they are concerned with this explanation will vary.

3. It forces the reader to leave the famil­iar world of here-and-now. This is the char­ac­ter­is­tic that is most often absent, but I think, when it appears, it is extra­or­di­nar­ily impor­tant. When this char­ac­ter­is­tic is present, it becomes imper­a­tive that the nar­ra­tive adhere to the second characteristic listed above, because this means the narrative can make the famil­iar unfa­mil­iar, which can func­tion in a num­ber of ways. By mak­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of our cul­ture, for exam­ple, dis­ap­pear (like gen­der or racism), sci­ence fic­tion can denat­u­ral­ize those con­cepts within our real­ity. By paint­ing a utopia (like Star Trek), it can make that utopia seem not so out of our reach. It can take a neg­a­tive human behav­ior, and com­pletely exag­ger­ate or trans­form it; Dis­trict 9 por­trays how racism dehu­man­izes peo­ple, in a really stark and lit­eral (and thus unfa­mil­iar) way. With­out exist­ing within our own real­ity, how­ever, that lit­eral dehu­man­iza­tion loses some of its power.

If a narrative has this characteristic, but does not adhere to the second, it is very likely fantasy.

4. It is con­cerned with the mate­r­ial nature of human­ity or human society.*

Because science fiction is a literature about science, about the material condition of humanity, it is a well-suited space for authors to explore the anxieties and concerns we feel about our relationship with science and technology. To say science fiction is a “what if” genre ignores this relationship it has with the cultural identity of science; it suggests that science fiction is about prediction, caution, prescription. (“Don’t create a society based on genetic manipulation and bodily fitness!” warns Gattica, while 1984 cautions us on the dangers of the police state. Star Trekshows us a utopian future, which somehow came about with a government run by the military.) This is a shallow way to look at science fiction, which is very rarely any good at predicting the future. What science fiction does do well is give us a glimpse into our cultures’ view of science: what scares us about it, what makes us anxious about it, what excites us about it, what role we think it should play in our society.

***

H. G. Wells’s War of the Worldswas published in 1898, the tail-end of the Victorian era. The 19th century saw a transformation in the culture of science in Britain. Science went from being a gentleman’s hobby, with the “dirty work” done by underappreciated and uncredited middle- and lower-class laborers, to an institutionalized profession, with researchers who got their hands dirty for money, funded by universities and the government. Science fiction of the era was often concerned with the corporeality and dirtiness of science, distrusting the body and the material, as opposed to the cleaner and more rational mind and spirit. The fact that the material of science is detritus (flesh, organs, blood, brains, plant matter, insect corpses, dirt, rock) made science a problematic institution, made more acceptable by removing the gentleman scholar from the material practice of science and limiting him to theoretical work. The fact that observational science relied on the imperfect instruments of the human body (eyes, fingers, skin, eardrums) was also of concern, made more acceptable by supplementing them with machines like microscopes, telescopes, chronometers, daguerreotypes, and scales.

This distrust of the material and the body carried over into anxieties about evolution, which was something much of Wells’s fiction is concerned with, including War, The Time Machine, and The Island of Doctor Moreau. In War of the Worlds and a related piece he published in 1893, “The Man of the Year Million,” Wells suggests that our suspicion of the physical and glorification of the mental could actually lead to the end of humanity as we know it. In “The Man of the Year Million,” a tongue-in-cheek prediction, he argues that

man is the creature of the brain; he will live by intelligence, and not by physical strength, if he live at all. So that much that is purely animal about him is being, and must be, beyond all question, suppressed in his ultimate development.

In the article, he outlines a course of eventual evolution, in which humans will lose much of their bodies, and will end up mere brains, in helpless, useless bodies that consist only of heads and hands.

We notice this decay of the animal part around us now, in the loss of teeth and hair, in the dwindling hands and feet of men, in their smaller jaws, and slighter mouth and ears. Man now does by wit and machinery and verbal agreement what he once did by bodily toil; for once he had to catch his dinner, capture his wife, run away from his enemies, and continually exercise himself, for love of himself, to perform these duties well. But now all this is changed. Cabs, trains, trams, render speed unnecessary, the pursuit of food becomes easier; his wife is no longer hunted, but rather, in view of the crowded matrimonial market, seeks him out. One needs wits now to live, and physical activity is a drug, a snare even; it seeks artificial outlets and overflows in games.

He argues that technological innovation will guide our evolution, and that as we create more ingenious devices to take care of our bodily functions, those functions will cease to be possible in our bodies.

[Man] has a new organ, a mandible not of irreparable tissue, but of bone and steel—a knife and fork. There is no reason why things should stop at partial artificial division thus afforded; there is every reason, on the contrary, to believe my statement that some cunning exterior mechanism will presently masticate and insalivate his dinner, relieve his diminishing salivary glands and teeth, and at last altogether abolish them.

All that will be left of the future human is his brain and his hands, since Wells believed the hands to be “the teacher and interpreter of the brain.” Because Victorians believed that emotions were seated in the body, not the mind, since they were far too messy and not intellectual, Wells also pictured these future humans as emotionless and cruelly self-serving.

And so at last comes a vision of earthly cherubim, hopping heads, great unemotional intelligences, and little hearts, fighting together perforce and fiercely against the cold that grips them tighter and tighter.

It’s a horrifying vision, in which technology and intellect have, through the processes of evolution, done entirely away with the body, empathy, and emotion. It reminds me a bit of the way modern science fiction will romanticize about people becoming pure consciousness in computers or online; we haven’t lost our desire to be rid of the bodies that tie us to the material world, that cry and shit and piss and digest and orgasm and bleed. Our bodies make us uncomfortable, make us feel dirty and vulnerable. But Wells didn’t think that transcending our bodies through evolution was a good thing at all; the vision in “The Man of the Year Million” is purposefully horrifying. And if it wasn’t obvious enough, that vision came back to haunt us in his The War of the Worlds.

All the things that were scary about the future man are what is scary about the Martians in War. They are also great brains, with only eyes and hand-like tentacles. They are vastly intelligent and emotionless. But what is far more terrifying than their inability to feel is their technological prowess. Like the future human, they have replaced their bodies with machines. While Wells only explicitly imagined eating machines in “The Man of the Year Million,” he imagined the Martians as a people with machines instead of bodies, which they can change for the purpose like so many changes of clothes. The machine body we actually see is the spider-like tripod:

A monstrous tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young pine trees, and smashing them aside in its career; a walking engine of glittering metal, striding now across the heather; articulate ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of the thunder.

In these machines, the Martians literally eat human bodies; they drain them of their blood for sustenance, like vampires. And Wells draws a direct connection between the lack of a material body and the lack of emotions. Their reliance on technological bodies makes them capable of escaping emotions altogether. By pairing War with “The Man of the Year Million,” we can see that Wells is trying to flesh out a fear that the end-point of human evolution is the destruction of the human body and thus of emotion, compassion, and morality. By valuing intellect, science, and technology, we could lose our humanity. Corporeality, Wells suggests, is a constitutive part of humanity, and the use of the machine to overcome the limits of the body could lead to a loss of our compassionate natures. Wells values the human body and its material nature, the way that our bodies cause us to depend on one another, the way that our bodies tie us to the world we live in.

***

Okay! So why am I talking so much about Wells’s Martians? Because I think the Daleks were modeled after the Martians.** After all, they’re bodiless brains who lack all emotion and compassion, and they have replaced organic bodies with machine ones. They even look like the Martians: gray, gross, and full of tentacles.

Kaled_mutant

The machine body comes apart to reveal the organic body of a Dalek, from the “Dalek” episode of Doctor Who. The Dalek is a mucous-covered, gray mass, with a brain at the top and multiple tentacles at the bottom. He has one eye. Source.

Unlike the Martians, the Daleks are genocidal, but their inability to feel compassion, coupled with their cyborg nature, makes them dead ringers. (The Martians were actually kind of scary in part because they didn’t hate humans. We were merely in their way as they colonized a new planet. Cold fuckers, those Martians.)

But, I still don’t think the Daleks are scary, because I think they are poorly executed versions of the Martians. A lot of the things that made the Martians frightening are missing from the Daleks, in particular their machine bodies. Like the Dalekanium body of the Daleks, the Martians are hard to kill or disable. But that’s where the comparison seems to end. The small Dalek machines are slow and clunky, whereas the Martian machines are terrifyingly huge, fast, and efficient.

  Woking_tripod

A shiny 23-foot statue of the Martian tripod machine from Wells’s War of the Worlds. This sculpture was designed by Michael Condron and is located in Woking, Surrey in England. The design is true to the source, with a small body, two metal tentacles, and three long, flexible, mobile jointed legs. This thing would own the Daleks. Source.

The Martians were also quite alien and removed; for all the hate the Daleks seem to spend on the Doctor and the rest of the universe, they sure do talk to them a lot. The Martians never bothered to communicate with the humans, because the humans were food. It’d be like if we started having conversations with cows. The Daleks spend so much wasted time and energy on talking to the Doctor and his companions. The Daleks obviously don’t think they’re thatsuperior to us, or they wouldn’t bother communicating. Communication necessitates seeing another being as something on (about) the same level as you; it creates a connection between the communicators. And the excessive amount of communication between the Doctor/humans and the Daleks makes the Daleks feel less threatening.

And as a viewer of only NuWho, I’m starting to wonder how the Daleks got powerful in the first place. The advantages of being a brain in a machine is supposed to be that you’re smart. But the Daleks seem pretty stupid a lot of the time. They waste time talking and scheming. They get fooled by jammie dodgers. They get captured by rich morons. They spend more time yelling EXTERMINATE than they do actually killing people.

The Daleks just don’t do it for me the way the Martians do. They don’t have the cruel, heartless grace, the efficient killing and maneuvering power. They don’t feel alien and utterly unintelligible.

The Martian model makes it clear that the Daleks could have been frightening. But they simply weren’t well-executed, and lack the terror of Wells’s Martians.

______________

* (This definition, altered slightly, originally appeared in my post on Eli.) You’ll notice I don’t have any­thing about tech­nol­ogy in this def­i­n­i­tion, and that is for a rea­son. While most people’s con­cep­tions of sci­ence fic­tion have a big focus on tech­nol­ogy, I find that focus prob­lem­atic. This kind of def­i­n­i­tion is invested in the idea that old tech­nolo­gies are not tech­nolo­gies that mat­ter (in the sense that we no longer think of them as tech­nolo­gies) or count in sci­ence fic­tion. But it is wrong to sug­gest that books, pens, print­ing presses, chairs, cars, scis­sors, cameras, alarm clocks, DVD play­ers, elec­tric lights, laun­dry deter­gent, air­planes, ad nau­seum are not tech­nolo­gies that sig­nif­i­cantly shape the human con­di­tion in many parts of the world.

** Thanks to Amy Montz for originating this idea!

______________

Works Cited

Wells, H. G. “The Man of the Year Million.” Pall Mall Gazette6 November 1893: 3.

Wells, H. G. The War of the Worlds. 1898. Ed. Martin A. Danahay. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2003.

Nu Who Bechdel List

The Bechdel Test applied to the 2005-2012 Doctor Who
I saw another list of Bechdel tested Nu Who recently, but it seemed pretty inaccurate to me.  So I went through every single episode individually and tried it myself.  These are my results, which kind of vague “citations” of how it passes the test.  I used the “named” version of the test, just to be hardcore!
I usually just list one example of test-passingness, because I didn’t look for every example.  If you know more examples, let me know, I’ll check them and put them on!
If you see any flaws, please point them out and I’ll check, then edit the list!
The rules:
1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man

 

Rose
Rose and Jackie talk about things like work and the cat-flap. – 3

End of the World
Rose talks to Cassandra about Earth and Raffalo about plumbing! – 3

The Unquiet Dead
Rose and Gwyneth talk about the Big Bad Wolf and the Gelth – 3

Aliens of London
Rose and Jackie talk about Rose disappearing – 3

World War 3
Rose and Harriet Jones talk – 3

Dalek
Rose just talks to the boys, I think – 1

The Long Game
This one only just scrapes by when Cathica and Suki chat about floor 500 – 3

Father’s Day
Little Rose and Jackie “talk” about Pete.  Barely makes a – 2

The Empty Child 
Rose and Nancy don’t get a chance to talk here – 1

The Doctor Dances
Rose and Nancy chat about the war and the future – 3

Boom Town
Blon and Cathy talk about the reactor blowing up, and irritable bowels – 3

Bad Wolf
Um…Rose talks to the Ann-Droid about peroxide – 3

Parting of the Ways
Rose and Jackie talk about Pete and the Doctor and…life travelling with the Doctor…could that make this a 3?  I’m hesitant.  Lets go with a – 2

 

Season Average: 2.5/3

 

The Christmas Invasion
Rose and Jackie talk about Harriet Jones – 3

New Earth
Cassandra and Rose talk about the human race and body image – 3

Tooth and Claw
I don’t think any two women talk about anything other than the dudes in this one – 2

School Reunion
Rose talks to Sarah about the Doctor – 2

Girl in the Fireplace
Rose and Reinette talk mainly about the Doctor, so – 2

Rise of the Cybermen
Rose and Jackie talk about Pete – 2

Age of Steel
Jackie and Rose have a couple of brief exchanges about Jackie being alive – 3

The Idiot’s Lantern
Rose talks to the Wire about the weather.  Barely counts!  - 3

The Impossible Planet 
There are 3 main female characters, but I don’t think any of them have a conversation – 1

The Satan Pit
Ida and Rose talk about the Doctor – 2

Love & Monsters
I believe the ladies of LINDA only talk about the Doctor in group discussions – 2

Fear Her
Trish and Rose talk about Chloe – 3

Army of Ghosts
Rose and Jackie talk about how Rose is changing; Adeola and Yvonne talk about work; Jackie and Yvonne talk about groceries – 3

Doomsday
Rose and Jackie talk about the Doctor; Jackie and Yvonne talk about Torchwood and Cybermen – 3


Season Average: 2.4/3

 

The Runaway Bride
Donna and her mum talk about her disappearing act – 3

Smith and Jones
Martha talks to Tish about the rain going upwards – 3

The Shakespeare Code 
The witches talk to each other, basically just about the Doctor and Will – 2

Gridlock
Martha talks to Cheen about life in the gridlock – 3

Daleks in Manhattan
Martha and Tallulah talk about their men – 2

Evolution of the Daleks
Tallulah and Martha talk about the psychic paper and dalekanium – 3

The Lazarus Experiment
Tish and Martha talk about the event, and to her mum about missing her – 3

42
Martha phones her mum to ask her questions for the thingy – 3

Human Nature
Martha talks to Jenny about flying away – 3

Family of Blood
Martha talks to Joan about passing medical exams – 3

Blink
the adventures of Sparrow and Nightingale! – 3

Utopia
Martha talks to Chan-Tho about swearing – 3

Sound of Drums
Vivian Rook talks to Tish about having alone time with Lucy Saxon – 3

Last of the Time Lords
Martha talks to Docherty about Toclafane and flowers – 3

 

Season Average: 2.8/3

 

Voyage of the Damned
Foon and Astrid don’t talk, I think – 1

Partners in Crime
Donna and Sylvia talk about the 1980s, Penny and Foster talk about fat – 3

Fires of Pompeii
Evelina and Donna talk about the future – 3

Planet of the Ood
Mercurio and Donna have a brief exchange about the “Noble Corporation” – 3

Sontaran Stratagem 
Donna and Martha talk about their families (I don’t think that counts as “about a man”) – 3

Poison Sky
Martha and Clone Martha talk about poison gas and life – 3

The Doctor’s Daughter
Donna and Jenny talk about travelling, which, to be fair, isn’t talking about the Doctor – 3

Unicorn and the Wasp
Donna and Agetha Christie talk about her books – 3

Silence in the Library
Donna and Evangelista talk about how thick E is – 3

Forest of the Dead
Donna and Evangelista talk about being in the matrix thingy – 3

Midnight 
Pretty much all the women in this story at least talk to each other, but in a group discussion – 3

Turn Left
Donna talks to Sylvia about many things like getting a job; Rose talks to Donna about being the most important person ever – 3

The Stolen Earth
Martha, Harriet, and Sarah talk about the subwave network.  Its being used to contact the Doctor, but I think its more to the point that they’re all being mechanical whizzes and awesome – 3

Journey’s End
Martha talks to Francine about daleks and the key and stuff, if nothing else – 3


Season Average: 2.8/3

 

The Next Doctor
Hartigan and Rosita talk about Rosita being a prostitute – 3

Planet of the Dead
They women talk to each other but its so vague and brief I’d feel bad putting it on here.  But this story is at least half women, and they’re pretty diverse and interesting characters too.  Oh well  - 1

Waters of Mars
Brook talks to multiple crew members about various things that aren’t a dude – 3

End of Time Part 1
Sylvia and Donna talk about presents – 3

End of Time Part 2
Donna talks to Nerys about being a peach – 3


Specials Average: 2.6/3

 

Eleventh Hour
Amy and Jeff’s Grandma talk about something other than a man, but Jeff’s nan isn’t named!  Dr. Ramsden is named, but she doesn’t talk to Amy.  And Amy talks to Prisoner Zero, who spends most of its time as a woman.  So this one is really hard to rate.  It gets at least a 1.   – 1

The Beast Below
Amy talks to Mandy about keep out signs and the like – 3

Victory of the Daleks
Amy and Breen are named, though they don’t really talk to each other.  Breen talks to an unamed woman a couple of times, but that doesn’t count, i suppose – 1

Time of Angels
River and Amy talk about the catacombs and the injection, and the “well done” for beating the angel thing – 3

Flesh and Stone
River and Amy talk a bit about Amy’s counting down illness or whatever – 3

Vampires of Venice 
Isabella and Amy talk about being in the vampirey place, and Amy and Rosanna talk too  - 3

Amy’s Choice
Amy and Mrs. Poggit don’t talk – 1

The Hungry Earth 
Alaya talks to Ambrose about her son and Amy – 2

Cold Blood
Nasreen and Amy talk about how to bring the Silurians to the surface – 3

Vincent and the Doctor
yeah – 0

The Lodger
Amy and Sophie are named, but they don’t chat – 1

The Pandorica Opens
River and Liz talk about the Doctor; Amy and River talk about the crash of the byzantium and stonehenge – 3

The Big Bang
Amelia, Aunt Sharon, and the therapist chat about stars – 3


Season Average: 2/3

 

A Christmas Carol
Isabella and Abigail talk about christmas dinner – 3

Impossible Astronaut
Amy and River talk about the Doctor; Joy and Amy talk about the Silent.  If the Silent counts as a man, that makes this – 2

Day of the Moon 
Amy talked to Melody about shooting her, but Melody wasn’t named in this episode.  Ugh, so I dunno.  I mean, River’s named, and the little girl IS River.  And the whole point of the “not named” thing is that not being named makes the character less relevant.  However, Melody Pond is probably the most relevant character to the whole story.  So I’m gonna go with – 2

Curse of Black Spot
I guess the Siren doesn’t count as a “named character”.  Madame Kovarian is in the episode, but unnamed.  - 0

The Doctor’s Wife
Auntie and Idris talk about Idris “dying” – 3

The Rebel Flesh 
Jenny talks to Miranda, and Miranda and Ganger Miranda chat – 3

The Almost People
Miranda and Miranda chat again – 3

A Good Man Goes to War
Amy talks to Lorna Bucket about the baby and stuffs.  Oh and Vastra and Jenny talk their kinky lesbian interspecies talk – 3

Let’s Kill Hitler
Amelia tells Mels off for stealing a bus and otherwise being generally naughty – 3

Night Terrors
Amy, Claire, and Mrs. Rossiter are all named, and Amy has a conversation with an unnamed woman, but I guess that only gives it a – 1

The Girl Who Waited
Ok, so the thing about this episode is that Amy is only one person.  However, not only are there two Amys who talk to each other, its vital to the whole concept of the story that their lives are as valid as one another’s.  So I have to argue that this gets a – 2

God Complex
Amy and Rita chat briefly about a clown and things  - 2

Closing Time
Kelly and Shona at the start talking about closing the shop and the electricity, though that’s interspersed between talking about Kelly’s wanting to go on her date or whatever. There are at least two other named women in this story. – 2

Wedding of River Song
Amy talks to Madame Kovarian about stealing Melody before she murders her – 3


Season Average: 2.2/3

 

The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe
Madge talks to Lily.  Madge talks to that Androzani lady a bunch, but I guess she’s only named in the credits.  So I think this only gets a – 2

 

Davies era average: 2.7/3

Moffat era average: 2.1/3

 

 

Love After The Doctor: The Classic Years

Jo: “In a funny way, he reminds me of a younger you.”
The Doctor: “I don’t know whether to be flattered or insulted.”
–Jo Grant and the Doctor discuss her new love interest, Cliff Jones

Rose: “He’s a lot like you, Doctor, only with dating and dancing.”
–Rose Tyler, on Jack Harkness

Does traveling with the Doctor ruin companions for romance after they leave him? What mere man could ever compare to a charismatic Time Lord with all of time and space at his fingertips? Inspired by Bumble Toes‘ post on the Doctor as a romantic rival in the new series, here’s my take on the same dynamic in the classic series.

As the above quotes show, companions do seem to appreciate some Doctor-like characteristics in their romantic partners. It seems equally clear to me that the idea of companions perpetually pining over the Doctor, incapable of moving on, is native to the new series. I think it was born of RTD’s penchant for deconstructing the series, and an excellent example of how this deconstruction can backfire.

To me, the most genius decisions that RTD made were the most straightforward:

  1. He realized that the companion has the hero’s arc, not the Doctor, and
  2. He took the questions that the series had spent forty years studiously avoiding, and placed them front and center: How does the Doctor pick companions–what does he look for? What kind of person would leave everything she knew behind to go adventuring in time and space with an alien? She’s usually young–do her parents know what she’s doing? Do they approve? Do they know about the Doctor’s history of absconding with young women, not all of whom make it home? Might the companion ever look upon the Doctor with romantic intent? Might the Doctor ever return that glance? What would happen? Finally, and maybe most devastatingly, what happens to her after the end? Is the TARDIS door perpetually closed to her, or could the Doctor return for more adventures?

The classic series seems to have given companions exactly two possible exits: a) status quo ante, dumping you back into your old life, or b) permanently stranded in the alien society of your choice. (Hope that marriage works out!)

There’s an orthodoxy in some corners of fandom that the classic series never went anywhere near Doctor/companion UST, that the new series focuses too much on Doctor/companion UST, and that the new series is inferior for that reason. Mostly you hear this from men, and mostly this charge is levied along gendered lines–”attracting female viewers” being given as a reason for the new series’ willingness to have Doctor/companion ships.

But for all that everyone insists that the classic series never ever went anywhere near Doctor/companion romantic tension, they did go there a little bit. The best example is Jo Grant, companion to Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor.

The Doctor and Jo seem to relate primarily as father/daughter: when he realizes, in episode 1 of “The Green Death”, that she is outgrowing him, his response is to compare her to a fledgling leaving the nest. Yet there are also hints that the Doctor has deliberately interfered in Jo’s love life: she’s about to leave on a date with Mike Yates, at the very beginning of “The Curse of Peladon”, when the Doctor drags her along with him. In fact, “The Green Death” keeps the Doctor physically elsewhere as Jo and Cliff bond, perhaps aware that they can’t do so if the Doctor’s disruptive presence is about. And, famously, the Doctor looks deeply hurt at Jo’s decision to leave. He even slinks out of the engagement party and drives off alone. It’s all subtext, but taken all together it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Doctor may just have been a little bit into Jo. Certainly he behaved possessively towards her in a way he hadn’t for other companions, and that we would rarely see again.

But Jo married, and the marriage seems to have been stable and long-lasting, per the Sarah Jane Adventures episode “Death of the Doctor”, so it’s hard to argue that her adventures with the Doctor ruined her for an ordinary life with a human partner.

So, even though the Doctor may have been a little bit into Jo Grant, it’s not true that she was necessarily into him, and certainly not true that the Doctor as a romantic rival outshines human suitors.

Goodbye Dr Liz Shaw

[Crossposted from my blog at tansyrr.com]

We’ve lost many actors and creators from Classic Who over the last couple of years. When Elisabeth Sladen died, I was gutted, and simply couldn’t talk about it. Her character had been so important to me as a child, and had continued to be relevant and important through my adult life. The fact that she was still working, still playing the character on screen, made it more immediate. I never blogged about the loss of Elisabeth Sladen, or talked about it much, and even turned down the request to give a toast in her honour, because I couldn’t find the words.

Only when I heard in the last week that Caroline John had died did I start thinking about how important her character had been to me, too. I’m a lot less emotionally invested in Liz Shaw as a character, but she was a huge influence and role model for me – specifically the Liz Shaw of Spearhead from Space, the story which rebooted Doctor Who from the black and white 1960′s to the colour 1970′s.

Everyone remembers the Jon Pertwee era of Classic Who as being about the Doctor, representing the hippies and the scientists, in regular conflict with the Brigadier and UNIT, representing the military solution, despite taking resources from them without any apparent qualms. In fact, the Brigadier is quite accommodating to the Doctor, who rarely does more than roll his eyes at the use of guns in dealing with aliens, and the two of them riff good-naturedly against each other while saving the world.

Liz Shaw, who is our point of view story for a large part of Spearhead from Space, criticises the military and their way of doing things more in that first story than I think the Third Doctor does for his entire five year run. She is cynical and amused by UNIT and its military solutions, but also very much a skeptic about aliens, who has to learn fast that she is wrong (about the aliens thing) and adapt. Which she does – she may start out as something of a Dana Scully, but once she sees what is happening, her scientific mind proves to be more than up to the challenge. She is an assistant to the Doctor, yes, but she is very much portrayed as his intellectual equal, and while she never wanted to be part of UNIT, the scientific challenge is enough to keep her around (for a while).

And oh, it burns me every time one of them calls her Miss Shaw. I know it’s the 70′s, but she’s a freaking DOCTOR, she earned that title, and the script still occasionally treats her like she’s a dolly bird brought in to make the tea (though that, of course, is Benton). Still, Caroline John rose above it, and despite the mini-skirts and big hair, proved to be a capable and inspiring female scientist.

More importantly, she left. Now, Caroline John left for two reasons – because the production staff felt that having a companion who was the intellectual equal of the Doctor wasn’t the direction they wanted to go in, and also because the actress was pregnant and needed to quit in any case. Because this was decided after the filming of Season 7, there was no ‘final’ story, no leaving scene for Liz Shaw. Fans have often complained about this, because that is what fans do. But I kind of love the way she’s written out – the beginning of Terror of the Autons, the first story of the next season, makes it clear that Liz has gone back to Cambridge to continue her work, and that the Doctor isn’t happy about it.

She has, in short, better things to do. “It was fun, Doctor but… I’m busy.” (The Brigadier even says at this point that she was overqualified for the role as the Doctor’s assistant as he only needs someone to pass him test tubes and tell him how brilliant he is – which feels like a bit of a dig at the behind the scenes decision!) Liz’s independence is part of what makes her such an original and awesome companion character, and the critical regard so many viewers have for season 7 has a lot to do with the role that she played.

i09 article on How Caroline John Helped Save Doctor Who.

Calapine posts about Caroline John and Liz Shaw and provides time stamps for the following long YouTube interview:

A lovely tribute to an unforgettable character, and an important woman in the history of Doctor Who, by Babelcolour: