Radical Inclusiveness 2: or, Dear Mister Moffat

Now, the point to all this blustering about qualifications is to get at something the Grand Moff said a while ago:

“It’s just a question of who credibly is going to agree to go in the TARDIS? Who’s going to do it? Is it going to be a mother of 15 children? No. Is it going to be someone in their 60s? No. Is there going to be a particular age range? I mean… who’s going to have a crush on the Doctor? You know, come on! It’s more than a format. It’s evolved from good, dramatic reasons.”

With respect to Moffat, and with pains to point out that he is an award-winning screenwriter and I am not: bullshit. For one, the Sixth Doctor’s run with sixtyish history professor Evelyn Smythe is one of Big Finish’s real triumphs, a perfectly tuned relationship that works precisely because of Dr Smythe’s age and rich life experience.

And why not a mother of 15 children? Because she has responsibilities towards them? The Doctor has a time machine! She can kiss them goodnight, be off adventuring for as long as she likes, and be back before any of them so much as turn over in bed! Martha Jones’ arc explored this! For heaven’s sake, Moffat himself spent large swaths of series 5 doing the same!

I’m not really sure how to parse Moffat’s comment about companions having crushes on the Doctor, but I do want to stipulate that this trend of everybody falling in love with the Doctor is one of my least favorite aspects of the new series.

In short, I think that the very best thing Moffat could do for the show would be to write down all the requirements he thinks a companion should have, and then deliberately scribble them out and write a companion that violates as many of his requirements as possible. Because fuck “the rules”. Because adventures are for everybody, or they should be, and it breaks my heart to see the Doctor, of all people–a trickster figure uniquely qualified to break rules–endlessly select from the tiny subset of society that is young, well-off, abled, cisgender, pretty white British women.

27 comments

  1. Emily says:

    WORD! Fuck the rules. It’s what DW should do. Like every screenwriter with any claim to clever, subversive writing.

  2. Llin says:

    I think the last six seasons have proved that TV writers in their forties are just as likely to have crushes on the Doctor as attractive young women.

    Plus there’s the fact that some of the most beloved companions don’t fit this mould – Ian and Barbara, the Brigadier, Jamie, Evelyn, K9 – you could probably also include Donna (I absolutely think Catherine Tate is attractive, incredibly so, but I’d say her relationship with the Doctor doesn’t quite fit the above model.)

    I’d like to believe that this model has evolved for purely dramatic reasons, but I think there are shades of ‘something for the dads’ in the insistence on young, pretty companions.

    • Nightsky says:

      Indeed, I think that most memorable companions are those that transgress the stereotypical companion (which, as I’ll write about in an upcoming post, never existed–but it makes a handy benchmark for now) traits in one or more significant ways. Sarah Jane’s moxie, now pretty standard for companions, was fresh and original in the context of the early 70s, and I think was intended as a reaction against the somewhat more passive Jo Grant.

  3. tvandcomplaints says:

    I wish the writers had the courage to write a Doctor they didn’t want to be: all powerful man-man with women and teenage girls clinging and swooning.

    • Nightsky says:

      I think that was ultimately the idea behind the Sixth Doctor. It was EXECUTED shittily, as I think everyone including Colin Baker agrees–no disrespect towards Mr B, who as Big Finish fans especially know is a gifted actor–but the core idea, of an unstable and not especially likable Doctor who is still the universe’s trickster-savior, was and is interesting.

  4. Sheena says:

    “young, well-off, abled, pretty white British women”

    I’d say New Who’s more diverse in its companion selection that this.

    Donna wasn’t young. Rose wasn’t well off. Martha and Mickey weren’t white. Amy isn’t British. And neither Rory, Mickey nor Capt. Jack are women.

    But they’re definitely all abled and pretty.

  5. [...] Bookmarked Doctor Her » Radical Inclusiveness 2: Or, Dear Mister Moffat [...]

  6. Sinfathisar says:

    I always thought that Wilf would have made an excellent companion

  7. Elusis says:

    Oh yes… a pre-teen wouldn’t want to go on adventures when they’re thick in the throes of “MOM AND DAD I HATE YOU.” A trans person or a fat person wouldn’t want to get away from a cissexist/sizeist world to alien world and future times where gender or body size is defined in totally different ways. A person who’s quadriplegic wouldn’t want to go places where technology might allow them to interact with the world in entirely new ways. A vet with PTSD wouldn’t want to get away from everything that reminds him or her of their trauma (only to find that, aha, trauma often follows you, now there’s dramatic interest for you!) And of course we all know that old people don’t want to go do interesting things and learn about the universe; they mostly want to watch Fox News and their soaps and lie down and die.

    Worst. Imagination. Ever.

    • Ally says:

      ^THIS. Dunno about anyone else, but when I write, 90% of the process is playing the “what if?” game. You don’t say “a mother wouldn’t travel with the Doctor”, you think “what if a mother DID travel with the Doctor?”

      And yeah, could we please have a companion who doesn’t lust after/constantly flirt with the Doctor? I miss Donna so much.

  8. says:

    Yeah, The Doctor has a time machine but remember that he rarely lands where or when he actually wants ;)
    Take Rose. She went to visit her mother thinking she was gone for few hour when in fact it was an entire year. The Doctor could not have changed that back so they just explained everything to Jackie. Could you explain something like that to children?
    Doctor’s adventures are also quite dangerous. Each companion could have been killed several times. Not exactly a good way of spending your free time when you are a mother, is it?

    But I don’t really see why Doctor’s companion could not be in 60s, either. Wilfred was quite old but he would make a good companion, I think.
    I would like to see a male companion. Not male and female, like Amy and Rory (I think that Rory was there only to prevent Amy falling in love with The Doctor). Male. I want a good bromance. A friend like Donna.

    Unfortunately next Doctor’s companion is also young female…

    • Mossy says:

      What if the mother took her children with her? I’m not sure it would work with Moffat’s (deliberately silly) mother of fifteen children but perhaps one or two – after all, The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe touched on this a little…

      • says:

        That seems like a good solution. But it would change whole format of the show. What mother would decide to continue traveling with The Doctor if it would endanger her child? A family trip would be good for two or three episodes, I think.

  9. Elusis says:

    Not all mothers live in nice little houses or flats with a bedroom for everyone and working utilities and a good school down the block. A lot of mothers live in places that are very dangerous for their children, not necessarily by their own choice – East Oakland, the West Bank, Syria… Relatively speaking, a TARDIS that provides enough food and shelter and some certainty that their child won’t get killed in a drive-by or at a security checkpoint or initiated into a gang might seem pretty good in comparison.

    • Nightsky says:

      Now THAT would be an interesting background for a character. Imagine a desperate mother trying to talk the Doctor into taking her child:
      “But… but… I do DANGEROUS things! Some of my companions die!”
      “Y’know, if I have to watch my kid die like all the other mothers around here, I think I’ll take a meaningful death saving the universe over catching a stray bullet, thanks ever so.”

      • Elusis says:

        Indeed. I’m thinking of a family I observed recently – an African-American mother and her bright, over-responsible, winsome middle school son. She’s educated but unemployed, he’s struggling in school and trying to take care of mom emotionally, and her biggest fear is that he’ll start running the streets or get killed as a bystander (a not-small risk where they live). I bet she’d love a TARDIS and a purpose (and a father figure for her son).

        • Ally says:

          Or a family of asylum seekers who had just had their claim to settle in Britain turned down – along comes the Doctor, and suddenly there’s a whole universe open to them, and while there’s still danger, they’re in a position to fight back against it. Hell, there are loads of reasons why a mother, a family, an elderly person would want to run away with the Doctor. Basically, Moffat’s chosen to limit himself, and I think that’s really sad.

    • says:

      Now, that is a really good point. Moffat should read this site…

  10. [...] 8th: Radical Inclusiveness 2: or, Dear Mister Moffat [Doctor Her] Basically, Moffat's assertion that only certain types of people can be companions is complete [...]

  11. [...] Shared Radical Inclusiveness 2: or, Dear Mister Moffat [Doctor Her]. [...]

  12. AmandaonMaui says:

    I don’t have much to add to this but another “hear, hear!” However, I do want to say how much I love all of these comments, and how nice it is to find my people. LOL

  13. [...] (Continued at Radical Inclusiveness 2: or, Dear Mr Moffatt. [...]

  14. Victor says:

    “And why not a mother of 15 children? Because she has responsibilities towards them? The Doctor has a time machine! She can kiss them goodnight, be off adventuring for as long as she likes, and be back before any of them so much as turn over in bed!”

    She would then be putting herself, willingly, into terrible danger, risking leaving all 15 (Fifteen?! golly) kids without their Mother. I can see a problem with that!

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