Lucy Saxon: But He Was So Good To My Father

“There was a time when we first met, I wondered… 
But he was so good to my father.”

Lucy Saxon
“Sound of the Drums”

 

For me, this short and rather simple statement doesn’t just sum up Lucy Saxon in a nutshell but is possibly the scariest line in all of nuWho.  This was the line where it was revealed that this seemingly normal woman was The Master’s wife, not Harold Saxon’s wife, but The Master’s loving and faithful wife.  She knows what he is doing and is supportive of his evil deeds.  In the following episode, The Last of the Timelords set one year later, we see Lucy disillusioned by The Master, abused and driven to murder him but during most of that episode Lucy plays the role of wife, not out of love or loyally but fear.

Knowing The Master is a baddie, even the children of the audience can tell that Lucy has been fooled.  The line “but he was so good to my father,” shows us the ‘in’ The Master used to get Lucy’s loyalty, but what really scared me, was the ‘was’: past tense.  “He was so good to my father.”  Instantly I assume The Master killed his father-in-law and Lucy is oblivious.  It is logical.  By putting Lucy in the weakened state such grieving for her father, he can comfort her, stepping in to hole her father left in heart and the power vacuum he held over her.

This different approach to how a timelord can treat a human companion is hit upon in the show, going as far as The Master calling that more than once.  This, however, isn’t to compare Lucy with a companion but make Lucy just a tool in comparing The Doctor and The Master.  I can see the point story wise: this is the first time that The Master has been in nuWho and a large amount of the audience will need this and for a tool, she was given plenty of personality.  Even if scenes where Lucy is just in the background, and they are plenty of those, Alexandra Moen is acting her heart out and with Lucy being the one to shoot The Master, it’s important to the plot.

Saying that, there isn’t much of a comparison between Lucy and the companion, while there was plenty of material for it.  Even though this two-parter is meant to be another step in the epic battle between hero and arch nemesis, The Last of the Timelords feels more Martha Jones versus The Master.  She is solo, becoming a legend by standing against The Master.  She shows intelligence, kindness, resourcefulness and a moral compass in the battle to save her family, her world from The Master and the toclafane.  This is her story, The Doctor saving the day is like playing Super Mario and then Princess Peach takes down Bowser in the final boss battle, but one article at a time.

The only direct comparison between Martha and Lucy is the shooting of The Master.  Martha laughs at the notion and The Doctor says “As if I would ask her to kill,” while Lucy does it.  While he is hardly innocent, The Master has been caught and The Doctor decided he would take responsibility for him when Lucy shoots him: hardly self defence.

A better comparison for Lucy would be Rose Tyler, the previous companion and the one The Doctor is still pining over.  The Master and his companion’s dysfunctional relationship, the prevertation of timelord/human relations is really the best argument Russell T Davis made against getting The Doctor and Rose together and he never used it.

 

Looking at Lucy as a companion: her love for her father, her loyalty, trying to save Vivien Rook by asking her to leave, doing what she needed to survive on the Valiant, acceptance of aliens, desire to travel through time and space and a sense of fun, it strikes me that if she met The Doctor first, she could be a great companion as he nurtures these qualities like he nurtured Rose and Donna’s good qualities.

 

This is where I become conflicted about the image Lucy Saxon gives off.  She is the embodiment of a weak woman but she is written this way.  Although we are allowed to understand and sympathise with Lucy, never allowed to be on her side.  Even when she kills villain of the two-parter, she’s shown to be wrong.  Lucy is not a role model but a cautionary tale.  If people make certain choices, they could end up like Lucy or if they make the right choices they could end up like the companion – however debatable a role model they may be in reality, they are a role model the writers are expecting us to look up to.  I think it’s good that not every character is a role model.  If they are then they become less of role models and a grantee that will disappoint.  Children should know that they can be brilliant but they need know they will have to work at it.

 

And that’s where the conflict comes in.  Martha is putting in the effort to be worthy of a role model status and Lucy, the manipulated in to the embodiment of a weak woman but that’s not what align them to their sides in the episode’s conflict.  It’s the men they fall in love with.  I like to believe Martha is ‘fighting’ more for her family, her race, her planet in the year that never was, but the fact remains that she fell in love with The Doctor when she first met him.

 

If the Master had met a companion first, could he corrupt them like Lucy could be nurtured by The Doctor?  Certainly in nuWho.  He could use Rose’s unresolved daddy issues. He did use Martha’s family against her.  All he had to do was make Donna a cup of poison and she’ll nag him in to marrying her.  Amy has her abandonment issues, even at seven. The Master was ‘always hypnotic’ and with the Arc-Angel Network tap-tap-tap-tapping away in their heads, would our companions stand any more of a chance than Lucy?  So the two timelords become more than the moral symbols for the companions to rally behind, they are chess masters and the companions are their pieces:  two men who basically claim (usually) women to be instruments of good or weapons of evil.

 

However this two-parter was not the end for Lucy Saxon.  She was bought back in End of Time as a plot device in The Master’s return.  So no improvement there.  Since The Last of the Timelords she been in prison although no one knows she killed ‘Harold Saxon’ but considering the rest of the plot I’m willing to forgive this plothole.  The Doctor did nothing to help her after what The Master done to her, and if he didn’t seem so surprise I wouldn’t put him past him putting her there.  Although Lucy seems a stronger character, fighting back against The Master, all her used to the plot was ‘The Widow’s Kiss’ which shows another level of abuse The Master used her for (and possibly made him blond) and the ‘magic potion’ to kill The Master again which (i) she admits is through family connections so it’s not really her being resourceful, (ii) not just doesn’t kill him but gives him super powers and (iii) gets herself killed failing.  That covers up that loose end before the hand over.

 

As much as I love Wilf, I would love to see Lucy Saxon as a companion for The End of Time.  Both Doctor and companion will have a personal vendetta against the main villain with enough differences to conflict over while working together.  With Lucy’s drive for revenge it gives The Doctor a real reason to take on a companion after rejecting Lady Catherine in Planet of the Dead, looking after her and trying to control her, just like The Master, leading to interesting character development for both and actually dealing with his Timelord Vicious issues that seemed to be dropped because he cried over a cuppa.  The subject of them being married could lead to The Doctor really opening up about his feelings over Rose.

 

It gives us a different kind of companion: someone who isn’t out to see the stars but someone on a mission, someone The Doctor doesn’t trust, someone he has didn’t save.  This could have been a far stronger emotionally driven episode to give Tennant’s Doctor a chance to get over his angst with Lucy bringing out both his worse and his best and giving Lucy Saxon a chance to redeem herself as something other than a victim and a tool to the plot.  An equal.

 

And give Lucy a chance to say those words with understanding in her voice:

 

“There was a time when we first met, I wondered… 
But he was so good to my father”

26 comments

  1. Jennie says:

    Picking two holes: one content, and one stylistic: firstly, having the whole thing in italics is just eye-hurty.

    Secondly, and much more importantly, Lucy Saxon is not weak, and to say that she is is disempowering to abused women everywhere. She’s a very well-written woman who is in the midst of her abuse, and the signs of her growing and coming out of it are all there. I’ve been there, I’ve lived it, and the one word I would not have chosen is “weak”. Not even for ironic purposes.

    Otherwise the post is very interesting and thought-provoking, and you’re right about the paralells with the Doctor/Rose relationship.

  2. Bumble Toes says:

    The italics was a mistake, now fixed.

    I agree that Lucy isn’t a weak woman. As I said, if she met The Doctor first, she would be a great companion. “Weak” may have been the wrong word, but I feel, with The Doctor’s “you’re better than that” speech and that The Master’s death shown as a sad event that the audience was meant to take that Lucy was (still) on the wrong side and therefore weaker than Martha who laughed at the notion and even Francine who was also tricked and abused by The Master.

    I apology for any offence that my choice of wording may have caused you or anyone else.

  3. I agree with Jennie that it’s problematic to describe Lucy as ‘weak’ because of her abuse – these episodes depict very powerfully one of the classic examples of an abused wife, and I think also addressing some of the questions that are often raised about the wives of men who do terrible things. It’s a surprisingly nuanced (and disturbing) approach to the character, where it is clear that she’s not flat out evil like the Master, but was sucked into his world and is now proceeding with the awful knowledge of what he is.

    It’s an aspect to the Master’s sinister charisma we haven’t quite seen addressed before, all the way up to his death at her hands (so many domestic murder/manslaughter cases occur when an abused spouse finally fights back).

    I also am not convinced that Lucy is shown to be wrong by shooting the Master – personally I’m COMPLETELY on her side at that point. Sure, the Doctor thinks she’s wrong, but the Doctor was going to keep the Master as a house pet forever in the TARDIS, no way that could go horribly wrong at all. Imprisoning the Master is not the way to prevent further deaths! I’m pretty sure that everyone else in that room, Martha, her family, Jack, etc. were all ‘onya, Lucy’.

    Which does raise the fascinating question, doesn’t it, of who put her in prison. Bet you a dollar it wasn’t Francine.

    I agree that Lucy is under-used in The End of Time, but her very brief role did (silly kiss and potions aside) show at least that she has been working and planning towards stopping her husband from returning – in a twist, as it’s implied at first she went the other way. I’m so glad that she wasn’t motivated by bringing him back, but by stopping him.

    It ties in as well with something I’ve been spotting as a bit of a theme across several posts, where the companions seem to level up, hero-wise, and become far more active and powerful, when the Doctor isn’t around. Does he inspire them, or hold them back?

    Lucy has been AWESOME off screen, plotting and planning and preparing for what is, basically, a horror situation for her. An abused wife who finally kills her husband and still isn’t safe from him…

    Which makes it all the more awful that the Doctor basically abandoned her once the Master was dead, and has not helped her or supported her through this.

    I agree very much, Bumble Toes, that having a greater Lucy Saxon presence in End of Time would have been fascinating, giving her a chance to fight her husband with some decent ammunition (ie having the Doctor at her side) and making the Doctor face the consequences instead of shaming her and moving on.

    Her resolution could have been a lot more epic than it was.

  4. Bumble Toes says:

    I purposefully tried to keep the abuse side of it to a minimum. Not because it’s not important or not done well, I think it was magnificent in it’s execution. It’s a subject I rather keep at arms length both for personal reasons and that I simply don’t know enough to make any intelligent or insightful points.

    Clearly I shouldn’t have went for a character analysis of an abused wife.

    I do agree with Tansy that I was supportive of Lucy killing him. I choose to believe that unlike Francine this wasn’t about revenge but putting down a rapid dog. However the stance of the show that “there has to be a better way” than killing someone and this was no different. This could have been a chance to look at that stance and whether sometimes there isn’t a better way but no.

    Obey your god The Doctor, who you were just preying to, or be wrong. He won’t even save you if the devil been messing in your head and you have to turn to black magic and good luck with that because that stuff can kill you.

  5. Jennie says:

    Oh Bumble, no! I disagree that this was a bad choice for you to make, because you have discussed this in a way that simply would not have occurred to me and I’ve found it very thought-provoking. I just had an issue with that one word; that said, I don’t think it’s a word that you would be alone in using to describe Lucy Saxon. But you’ve given me some very interesting food for thought about why Lucy made the choices she made, and actually made me appreciate her storyline more for it – my instinctive response to this being “Oh Cthulhu not ANOTHER abused woman…”. I have many issues with the Ten era that it would be derailing to go into here, but suffice it to say that I probably wasn’t best disposed to viewing this story arc with the most dispassionate eyes – in the total opposite way to my instinctive love for and defensiveness about all things Six, for example ;)

    Tansy, yes, I too was cheering Lucy on, and find it an interesting thing that the modern show has (more often in the Smith era than the Tennant, but still) regularly invited us to consider that the Doctor is Not Always Right. I believe it’s a very good thing to have a protagonist that we are invited to sympathise with /even when he’s wrong/, and would like to see more shows doing it (maybe even some ones with female leads! We can live in hope (Oh Bones, how I love you!)).

    Your point about companion growth is fascinating too: illustrated most clearly, I think, by Sarah-Jane Smith. She was obviously strong and independent when she met the Doctor, and while he clearly gave her the tools to be stronger still, she couldn’t actually /use/ those tools as much while she was with him as she could once left to her own devices. I think this is a factor of the thing that someone mentioned in a post on here the other day: the narrative necessity of most of the stories revolving around the title character, thus companions necessarily get a rawer deal than they might under what you might call natural circumstances. So I think you’re right about both things: the Doctor both inspires his companions AND holds them back.

    • I agree very much that New Who has a strong theme of interrogating the Doctor’s moral stance, and his own view of himself as the person who should make the hard decisions.

      They don’t quite pull it off sometimes – I think there should have been a lot more in the way of consequences of the Doctor ridding the Earth of Harriet Jones’ “golden age” for instance, because her point that he wasn’t always there to make the clever, no-one-gets-shot moves was incredibly valid. But I think it’s important – and in the Matt Smith years has probably gone as far as it ever needs to.

      I think the offscreen character growth/becoming more of a bad ass happens to every modern companion who returns after a break from the Doctor – you see it in Jack, Mickey and Rory (lone centurion period) especially, where they have obviously been heroes of their own story and taken on leadership roles in the Doctor’s absence, regardless of whether that was shown on screen like with Jack (though again most of his character defining/changing stuff happened off screen before TV Torchwood). Rose comes back with a big gun, the knowledge to fix the universe and a gang of dimension-jumping rebels at her back. Martha comes back as a UNIT doctor, fully qualified and licensed to kill. Amy, left to her own devices, becomes a sonic-screwdriver-building robot-slayer. Wilf builds an army of octogenarians and does something no one else has done – tracking down the Doctor when he doesn’t want to be found.

      Really the only one for whom this isn’t entirely true is Donna, when she is robbed of her memories of the Doctor the second time around – and yet, in Turn Left, we see another scenario in which she doesn’t remember the Doctor and yet is a total bad-ass when she needs to be. Possibly this suggests that the only reason she seems so passive and unadventurous in The End of Time is because her life is happy, and should anything bad intrude upon that, we would see a return of the Turn Left Donna who can BRING IT.

      Turn Left is also a fascinating look at exactly what we’re talking about – the companion removed from the Doctor, doing awesome things, only we actually get to watch it happen for once.

      It would be interesting to look at a bunch of returning supporting characters, like Lucy or Harriet, who are not companions as such but demonstrate the effect meeting the Doctor (or, to be fair, the dread drama that the Doctor trails in his wake) has had on their lives. Whose lives are better because of him? Whose lives are worse but more interesting?

      Would we call it Lorna Bucket Syndrome?

  6. Bumble Toes says:

    Thank you. :) I’m glad I was able to improve the episode for you. Usually I take episodes people like and rip them to shreads with analysing ever single little detail… Like the “who locked up Lucy anyway?” question – Sorry Tansy.

    “So I think you’re right about both things: the Doctor both inspires his companions AND holds them back.” YES!

  7. Brass Cupcake says:

    I think that Lucy kind of got away from the (male) writers at the end there. They forgot that her shooting of The Master had to be taken in the additional context that she was in a dangerous and abusive relationship. In order to deliver their requiste “killing is bad,” This Is One To Grow On morality they had The Doctor condemn Lucy for the killing. The Doctor — who is a man, in a position of literally cosmic-sized power, who apparently has never been the victim of domestic abuse. For the writers to have him shame Lucy for the shooting just becomes both careless and nauseating when in the full context.

    It’s particularly distasteful after we’ve seen ALL of Martha’s family determidly state THEY would kill The Master if given the chance. The Master is a mass murderer on a literally global scale. He’s proven to be an unhinged psychopath, who cannot be reasoned with. It’s completely understandable for any of the characters to try to kill The Master. It’s not just a human reaction to the degradation and abuse, it’s arguably the responsible action when dealing with a genocidal madman. So why Lucy gets used as the bad-guy scapegoat is baffling to me. I really felt like the writers (again, male) got lazy and sloppy, to detrimental effect.

    I also noticed that in this regard the way Lucy was handled is very similar to the way Ambrose was handled in “The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood” (which I think has been discussed here before). In both cases there was this very pointed “shame on you, you lesser human” judgment against women who committed a single act of violence in defense of their child or themselves — while male characters literally gunned down dozens of opponents at a time without little to no reproach. And in both cases the context of the character’s relationship was ignored in judgment of her actions.

    I won’t claim this is intentional sexism on the part of the show. I think they’ve just been careless with writing and failed to view the larger implications of gender and gender roles.

    • Brass Cupcake says:

      *”determidly,” or you know, for those that want all the letters, “determinedly”

    • Though to be fair, if it had been any of Martha’s family who shot the Master, the Doctor would have reacted in exactly the same way – and it would have been just as problematic, for different reasons. (seeing him shame Francine, or Tish, or MARTHA, would have been just as uncomfortable)

      I agree it was a sloppy moment in the episode for there not to be some mitigating response to Lucy – some sympathy from someone, if not the Doctor, to balance him out.

      Can we just pretend Lucy was put undercover in the women’s prison to smoke out the people who wanted to bring the Master back? Maybe Jack secretly headhunted her for Torchwood.

      Ambrose is a very similar case, and even more than Lucy, I think she was written to be despised. I don’t like her as a character or her actions, and find little empathy with her (despite being a mother myself) but mostly I am furious with the writer (the ever problematic Chris Chibnall) for setting her up so badly to represent all that is Wrong and Stupid about humanity while the men (human and Silurian) all get to be bumbling sweethearts, even the one who performs hideous experiments on live subjects. Ambrose never stood a chance.

      • Brass Cupcake says:

        – “Can we just pretend Lucy was put undercover in the women’s prison to smoke out the people who wanted to bring the Master back? Maybe Jack secretly headhunted her for Torchwood.”

        I’m game! Now all Lucy episodes will be viewed in that context. ;) Does that qualify as “head-canon”?

        And I agree with your comments about Ambrose.

  8. Brass Cupcake says:

    Argh. To clarify poor wording RE: “They forgot that her shooting of The Master had to be taken in the additional context that she was in a dangerous and abusive relationship.”

    What I meant there was that the writers were happy to use the domestic abuse as a device for eliminating The Master, it was a handy motivation that freed all the main characters from becoming unlikeable. But at the same time the writers failed to acknowledge the larger implications that using the abuse-as-motivation presents.

  9. Jennie says:

    Oh don’t get me started on Hungry Earth/Cold Blood! What a waste of Meera Syal! But yes, it’s possible it was a misjudgment, rather than cleverly making us question the Doctor’s fallibility.

    In general, I think you’re right that there isn’t intentional sexism, I just think the (overwhelmingly male) writers are imbued with the background sexism of society and they have enough privilege not to need to question it.

    * shrug *

    Although it’s possible I might make an exception to that for Chibnall.

    When they /do/ start to question it, as with this year’s “Look, we’re not sexist at all! Women are awesome! Especially when they have babies and rescue their husbands!” Christmas special, it arguably gets worse…

    • James says:

      With Chibnall it does become a bit of a pattern, doesn’t it? I really don’t know why he still gets employed.

    • Brass Cupcake says:

      –”I just think the (overwhelmingly male) writers are imbued with the background sexism of society and they have enough privilege not to need to question it.

      * shrug *

      Although it’s possible I might make an exception to that for Chibnall.”

      …That’s often my take on it as well. I think we can like Chibnall (and RTD) while still acknowledging sketchy areas, and that doesn’t have to be a total condemnation of them.

      Very recently I’ve come to realize more and more that some of the writers/directors that give me the best gender representations sometimes also give me the worst. And trying to maneuver through that mine zone, between feminist and fan, can be challenging.

      “Warehouse 13″ has presented some truly wonderful and varied female characters, as well as positive relationships between women (which had nothing to do with shopping or dating). Yet the pilot episode had a very poor handling of partner abuse, in addition to presenting some offensive gender stereotypes (the gold digger, the cougar).

      “The X Files” has a strong, developed female lead who is equal in power to her male partner. Yet one of their early episodes handled sexual assault and sexual harassment in some truly terrible ways.

      “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” has provided powerful, well-developed and diverse female characters with positive female relationships (not solely devoted to shopping and boys). Yet there are many instances where I do not like Whedon’s handling of sexual behavior, particularly the good girl/bad girl polarization.

      I think I’m often so hungry for good female characters that I set myself up in a squee-admiration bubble when I come across a show that features any decent or 3-dimensional portrayal of women. Then when the bubble bursts — because pervasive sexism and a lack of female voices in entertainment means few things are likely to meet my feminist expectations — I feel particularly bruised and confused. ;)

      • Jennie says:

        “I think I’m often so hungry for good female characters that I set myself up in a squee-admiration bubble when I come across a show that features any decent or 3-dimensional portrayal of women. Then when the bubble bursts — because pervasive sexism and a lack of female voices in entertainment means few things are likely to meet my feminist expectations — I feel particularly bruised and confused.”

        Oh yes I recognise THAT. The season 4 opener of Castle just aired over here, and what they did with Beckett…

      • “Very recently I’ve come to realize more and more that some of the writers/directors that give me the best gender representations sometimes also give me the worst.”

        This, absolutely this! Often the writers who fail badly are those who were at least TRYING, and often the reason they, for example, do problematic things with female characters is because they put female characters there in the first place.

        Even Chibnall.

        I would hate to discourage male writers in particular for trying to write amazing, interesting female characters, simply because sometimes they do dreadful things to them.

        The same thing of course goes for putting in characters of colour or gay characters – they have to BE there in order for the writers to do appalling things to them, and sometimes we need to appreciate that they are there as well as sighing about the ways in which they fall short of what we would like to see.

        Very little TV (in particular as a storytelling form) is going to be perfect, though of course we hope for it, don’t we, every time?

        • Brass Cupcake says:

          I agree. I wouldn’t want critique of the mistakes to then turn into discouraging writers to attempt those characters.

          On the other hand I hope that mistakes illustrate the need for more diversity in the writing staff. Instead of “hey, as hetero white guys we kinda sucked at that attempt to write someone else, so no more women/gays/Blacks” I’d like to see them say “we clearly don’t have the understanding to represent this experience well, let’s bring on some women/LGBT/not-White writers to give a more authentic voice.”

  10. [...] 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.) [...]

  11. James says:

    Excellent! I very much enjoyed all the contributors’ comments regarding Lucy. I see Lucy not as a weak character but as someone whose brain hadn’t had the same education as either the Master or the Doctor.

    If she had had the same access to the Time Lords’ training then I think she could have matched them both. Think of Romana or the Rani?

    PS I’ve read chicks dig Time Lords and Chicks Unravel Time and want more!

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