Tag Archive for bechdel test

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

 

 

Female Power & The Curse of Fenric

One of the nice things about the Seventh Doctor era is the wealth of strong and interesting female supporting characters. Ace, like Mel before her, is a companion who tends to seek the company of other young women, making instant bonds of friendship and allowing for Bechdel-approved shenanigans. The Curse of Fenric, ostensibly a story about a (male) ancient evil returning for a final duel with his enemy the Doctor, surrounded by soldiers on a military base, turns out to be a story that explores several different aspects of female power.

I find it interesting how many descriptions of the story’s plot online talk about the Haemovores (kind of watery vampires, though act more like zombies in many instances) come out of the water, without acknowledging how they got there. Right at the start, we are introduced to two fun loving Cockney girls who have been evacuated from London (thus probably under 18) and who ignore their uptight landlady’s warning to go swimming at the local beach.

Now, if I know my British wartime social history, a pretty major reason not to go swimming at this time was because of mines and barbed wire set up to stop Germans landing on the shores, but in this case, there’s a far more paranormal reason for the warning, and either a fog, gas or otherworldly presence turns those girls into watery vampire creatures with long fingernails. There’s an odd vibe about the landlady’s fears for and attacks upon the girls, and you could read the whole turning-into-Haemovores thing as a punishment for wayward young women, but the upshot of the whole affair is that the two most ‘human’ and personalised monsters terrorising the village are women. There’s also a fabulously powerful and chilling scene in which we see a whole cabin full of Wrens (female naval clerks) transformed similarly into creeping, long-nailed monsters (who mock, threaten and overpower several male characters in the narrative of the story)

Ace doesn’t go into the water, and escapes the same fate of her friends, despite mocking peer pressure from them. Does that make her a good girl, not a bad girl, thus the only one who “deserves” to survive? Possibly. But this whole story is about how deeply she trusts the Doctor and listens to what he tells her (except when he tells her not to bring explosives on a day trip), and how that maybe isn’t something he entirely deserves.

There’s a raw, sensual vibe in this story which is lacking from most Classic Who. Not only is there a sense that the slightly wicked Cockney girls have become sinister, predatory femmes fatale, but we also see Ace herself getting in touch with her sexy side, flirting with a guard to clear a path for the Doctor (though I have to say her methods of flirtation are bizarrely esoteric – it’s fun to see her playing up the woman of mystery, though) and embarking on a deep romance-of-meaningful-gazes with the Soviet Captain Sorin.

The most important relationship in the story, though, apart from that of the Doctor and Ace, is the friendship Ace forms with Kathleen, the only Wren to escape the horrors of the Haemovore invasion. Kathleen represents the women who went out to work to serve their country during WWII while their menfolk were abroad, and the kind of problems they faced in juggling this with family responsibilities – in this case, lacking suitable daycare, she has to bring her baby on to the base and keep her in a basket under her desk.

There’s an adorable scene in which Ace is surprised to hear Kathleen is married, not having heard mention of the husband before, and is taken aback at Kathleen’s horrified reaction at the thought that Ace could POSSIBLY have thought she was an unmarried mother. It’s a nice snipped of social history and how values have changed, reminiscent of the sort of conversations-with-girls-from-other-times-and-places that Rose often has in New Who.

Kathleen’s baby Audrey shares a name with Ace’s mother, which brings up her dark, angry feelings about her Mum all over again (this is a running theme through Ace’s whole story and yet we never really get the details about why things are so bad between them, nor do we get any real closure to the relationship apart from what’s offered in this story). It’s important to see such a strong emotional arc for a companion, something we rarely got to watch in Classic Who.

Just look at the other 1980’s companions: Nyssa only got to show occasional flashes of emotion in response to the horrific killing of her father and the theft of his body by the Master, and Tegan likewise had to mourn her aunt very briefly but didn’t get a lot of follow through. Peri had very powerful emotional issues with her stepfather which were dropped after her first story, while Turlough got to save up his entire emotional/personal arc until his very last appearance – which suggests the writers hadn’t thought of giving him one until that moment.

Ace, however, is a bundle of angst, frustration and rage issues, and it’s lovely to see that depicted. Far more than the slang they dropped into her scripts, it’s the aspect of these scripts that makes her feel like an actual teenage girl.

There’s a scene I had entirely forgotten, possibly because it was a cliffhanger accidentally edited out of my old VHS, but there is a scene where the Doctor, Sorin and Ace are lined up to be shot by firing squad, and it’s a very compelling bit of characterisation: the Doctor is talking nineteen-to-the-dozen, trying to get them to relent in the case of the very young Ace, whereas she faces what she thinks is her death with a single screaming outburst “Mum, I’m sorry!”

The more I think about it, the crankier I get that we never saw Ace face her Mum when she went home, in the story after this one.

The other women in the story (and yes, it does pass the Bechdel Test several times over because Ace and Kathleen talk about issues as well as the Doctor & Kathleen’s gone-to-war husband) are Miss Hardaker, the aforementioned landlady who spends most of her time telling the Cockney girls how wicked they are (another Bechdel scene!), until they retaliate by eating her (honestly, it’s hard to fault them for that, given how determined she is to be proved right that they’re evil) and Nurse Crane, who spends most of the time hovering around her patient, the wheelchair-using Dr Judson, until he turns evil and kills her.

I found their final scene quite fascinating in an awful way, as he, possessed by the all-powerful Fenric, turns upon her and accuses her of patronising him and treating him as a child, basically harassing this poor woman for doing her job. I know that people can be incredibly patronising towards those with disabilities, and there were signs that she was that sort of person, but it wasn’t like he was not in a position of power over her as her employer, and he certainly treated her like an indentured slave throughout the story. Why did he have a nurse at all if he didn’t like it? (you can argue this is Fenric, not Judson, but he does seem to be conveying the real character’s inner thoughts) Her death is an ugly end to a disturbing relationship, though performed very well by both actors (and ironic that the actress Anne Reid, who played Nurse Crane, returned to Doctor Who to play the straw-sucking vampire alien in Smith and Jones).

So yes, lots of women in this story, and sure LOTS of them end up dead, but there’s also a whole lot of material exploring power relationships between women, which I found crunchy and compelling. This is such a strong story for Ace, whom we see not only being very physically capable (the scene where she climbs down her dinky metal rope ladder only to be surrounded by Haemovores and have to physically punch, kick and pound her way through them until help arrives is really quite extraordinary) and despite her general placement as someone from a poor, underprivileged and didn’t-respond-well-to-education background, we also see her using her smarts in this. Sure, she twice figures out important information and accidentally gives it to the wrong person, but the fact that she figures it out on her own is important.

I really enjoy the early scenes where we see Ace positioned as an intellectual equal to Dr Judson – he may be a learned professor and a genius of his time, but her basic comprehensive education from the future has made her a match for him, with ideas that are revolutionary in his time period now being take-it-for-granted facts and skills in hers.

Then there’s the other huge aspect of this story, which is that Fenric and the Doctor both hold a significant amount of information about Ace’s past which she is only now becoming privy to – and that much of this is revealed at a point where the Doctor has to be deliberately cruel to her in order to break her faith in him.

Faith, incidentally, is dealt with in a fascinating way in this story, with the origin of the ‘crucifixes scare vampires’ myth taken to a broader interpretation, where faith in ANYTHING keeps the haemovores at bay. The story of the vicar who has lost his faith because of British war atrocities is a minor but vital subplot, and we see indications of faith expressed in ways that tell us so much about their characters: Sorin believes in the Russian Revolution, and Communism. The Doctor believes in his companions, and mutters the names of early friends (Susan, Ian, Barbara, etc.) to keep the monsters at bay. (This is one of those things I only learned from fandom because it never occurred to me as a kid watching the show that his words were intelligible)

Ace, of course, believes in the Doctor, and at a crucial moment when he needs the Haemovore to be freed so it can turn upon Fenric’s current host and save the day, he has to break her. This scene was remembered by many when a similar plot twist was used in recent New Who story “The God Complex,” and rightly so. Ace learns all at once that the time storm she thought she herself had accidentally created in her school lab to send her into space was part of Fenric’s design; that she is one of his descendants through bloodline, and that Kathleen’s baby which Ace had adored is really the mother she hates. Worse, she discovers that the Doctor always knew this about her.

A softer, more sympathetic revelation comes later, and we see the Doctor churned up by having hurt Ace, but at the same time it is very clear that he has always been playing the role of protective patriarch to her, and she has been the child.

She forgives him rather quickly, at the behest of the narrative, but I do have a deep soft spot for the scene in which she takes off and leaps into the water (now safe from haemovores but rich with metaphorical significance) and literally swims out her angst. It’s a nice symbol for her having time to think about what has happened (how else do you convey this on screen – frowny face montage?), and decide whether or not she is going to allow all this new knowledge to destroy her friendship with the Doctor.

When she returns to him, cleansed and cheerful, they start again. It feels like an imperfect and overly simplistic end to her emotional arc – and indeed there’s one more story to come that addresses Ace’s past and her angst before Classic Who ends altogether with Ace’s story unfinished, but it does feel like a new beginning for these two beloved characters, and suggests that from now on it will be more of an adult partnership rather than a father-and-child relationship.

RAELI’S (Age 7) REVIEW:
I don’t like this Doctor much, but Ace is my favourite now.

====
PRODUCTION NOTES
“Curse of Fenric” (1989)
Season 26: Production Code 7M

Writer: Ian Briggs
Director: Nicholas Mallett
Script Editor: Andrew Cartmel

Starring:
THE DOCTOR:
Sylvester McCoy
ACE: Sophie Aldred

The Bechdel Examination: Rose & The End of the World

I’m pleased to announce that I have high hopes for the Bechdel Test scores. The first two (NuWho) episodes pass the test. I’d assign an extra few points to “The End of the World” for treatment of gender reassignment as completely incidental. Happily, 5 billion years in the future, we are a gender-enlightened people: When the Lady Cassandra O’Brien.Δ17 mentions her boyhood on Earth, Rose doesn’t register so much as a flicker of surprise or interest. (Sadly, Cassandra is a blatant racist. So I guess we’ll still have that.) I’ve always loved her character as a funny hyperbole showing the (il)logical extension of our obsession with beauty and thinness.

Also funny? Jackie. I fucking LOVE Jackie. Her attempt to seduce the Doctor is hilarious to me. I read this as some inherent feminism from the mind of Russel T. Davies as if he thought, See how ridiculous it is two have a one-dimensionally sexualized character for a minute there? This was my first Dr. Who episode, and the first time I saw it I read the Doctor’s reaction as an assurance that sexual tension wasn’t going to be a crutch to give the characters emotional depth. (I’m looking at you, every American television program ever.) The dynamic between Jackie and Rose rounds out the depth of their characters. Almost the entirety of the Bechdel-qualifying dialogue in Rose is Jackie and Rose arguing about money and Rose’s job. Their relationship feels very textured and authentic.

I wanted to present the introduction of the reboot with some care, but I’ll be condensing more episodes into each future “Bechdel” post.

Current score: 2/2

The Bechdel Examination

I’m not entirely convinced that Doctor Who is a feminist program- But I really want to be. I vaguely feel that it is, but I’ve never really poked at the idea. Then I found myself raising my hand on Twitter to write for Doctor Her and now it seems rather necessary to decide my stance on the franchise. Feminism being famously subjective, I floundered a moment. How do I assign a pass or fail grade to my beloved show?

Happily, Alison Bechdel exists with her elegant method of analyzing pop culture. Her criteria, most often called The Bechdel Test, are these:

(1) it has to have at least two women in it, who

(2) who talk to each other, about

(3) something besides a man.

See Bechdel’s comic episode The Rule from Dykes to Watch Out For,  The Bechdel Test site with a list of movies, and The Bechdel Test for Women in Movies on feministfrequency.com.

This is where I get a little crazy:

Imma test every freaking episode.

I’m limiting myself to the reboot (NuWho) for completion’s sake- I don’t have access to the entire run. I’ll start with “Rose” and after that, because I care about your sanity, compile several episodes into each entry.

Of course, this also functions as a ruse to  justify hours and hours of Netflix time away from my husband and daughter, but don’t tell anyone.  All they need to know is Mama’s doing RESEARCH. Also: I’m assuming Timelord = Man Person, because I’m anticipating every possible detail will be scrutinized by the smartest fandom in history.

Somebody bring me some coffee*- I have a spreadsheet to design!

Image credits: promo shot from the BBC, magnifying glass by Auntie P under a Creative Commons license. Mad Photoshop skillz my own.

*I know I’m required by law to at least pretend to prefer tea, but I’m an Appalachian America and the only tea I drink is comically sweet and iced.