Tag Archive for lucy saxon

Chicks Unravel Time comes out today!

(Note: Thanks Nightsky for that announcement yesterday!)


I’m really excited about today’s publication of Chicks Unravel Time: Women Journey through Every Season of Doctor Who. Chicks Dig Time Lords felt a bit all over the place, for me, with some thoughtful and provoking pieces paired with more shallow commentary. However, from its table of contents, I gather that the sequel is more comprehensive and meaningful, consistently tackling issues of gender, race, sexuality, and power dynamics throughout the volume. And I can’t wait to read it.

Both Tansy and I have essays in this book! Mine is titled “Maids and Masters: The Distribution of Power in Doctor Who Series Three,” and is an exploration of the power dynamics between the Doctor and his companions (focused, of course, on Martha) and the Master and Lucy.

What’s so compelling about the Doctor? Why do so many different kinds of people jump in the TARDIS to travel with him? Is it his boyish charm, his goodness, his sense of humor?

I would argue that for most of the companions in the new series, the most attractive part of the Time Lord is his power. To convince Rose to leave her life for adventure, the ninth Doctor expands on the power he has: “Did I mention that it travels in time?” Later, Martha says to the crowd in the tenement in Last of the Time Lords, “I know what he can do.” That’s her vote of confidence for the Doctor, how she convinces the people of the Doctor’s importance: what he can do, not how good or brave he is. The adventure the Doctor offers his companion is inseparable from his power, from his ability to manipulate space and time, from his ability to threaten and fight enemies unimaginably evil and powerful. Power impacts every relationship the Doctor has, but it’s not something Who fans talk about often. We like to pretend, I think, that the Doctor’s extraordinary power isn’t important. We like to think that it doesn’t affect him or his relationships with others. We like to think that if companions are “strong” enough, sassy enough, smart enough, they are his equals. But no matter how many times a companion saves the Doctor, or how many times a companion stands up to him, they don’t have his power. The Doctor can manipulate space and time, travel through them in a manner even the humans of the future could only imagine. He can fix practically anything with his magic sonic screwdriver. He can hold the knowledge of infinite lifetimes in his head. He can read minds. He can (and does) force his will on others: he takes away Donna’s memory; he disables Jack’s ability to time travel; he traps a girl in a mirror. His power outstrips any possible capabilities of his companions.

The disproportionate power dynamic in the Doctor/companion relationships is something each companion in the new series struggles with at some point or another. When Rose protests in School Reunion, “I’m not his assistant,” she voices the frustration that many of the companions have felt with the Doctor. The truth is, they know that they are small next to the Doctor, who is practically a demigod. But they, along with most of the audience, resist that reality, insisting that they are as good as, as clever as, as important as the Doctor. And perhaps they are all those things. But they are not as powerful as him. And this crucial fact is never more evident than it is in Series Three, where it seems that unequal power distribution in close relationships becomes a near-constant theme.

I argue that Martha as John Smith’s maid is a visual exaggeration of, but not a departure from, Martha’s position as companion. Because I like to be provocative, apparently!


I am ridiculously excited to be in this book! I’ve enjoyed all of the ‘Geek Girls’ books from Chicks Dig Time Lords to Whedonistas and Chicks Dig Comics, but it’s great to see them coming back to the original idea of many female voices talking critically and squeefully about Doctor Who, with such a dynamite concept.

Personally I’m desperate to get my hands on a copy to see what Diana Gabaldon has to say about the Second Doctor and Jamie McCrimmon!

My own essay is “The Ultimate Sixth,” dealing with the problematic and erratic final Colin Baker season, Trial of a Time Lord (Season 23, 1986). Which I happen to love like the blazes, even though it’s broken in a million places.

There’s plenty of crunchy feminist discussion in my essay, of course – after all, there are some brilliant, strong female supporting characters in the story, most of them played by middle aged women such as Joan Sims, Honor Blackman and Lynda Bellingham. But perhaps of most relevant to Doctor Her readers is my discussion of the fate of Peri (Nicola Bryant), one of the more controversial production decisions of this era. Peri actually has two potential endings to her story, both problematic in different ways, and it’s one of those issues that has kept fans arguing for decades:


But that’s the problem, isn’t it? The marriage. Peri has two fates – to die twice at the hands of Crozier and Yrcanos, and to marry Yrcanos and live as a warrior queen. Neither of these are good options. The Doctor’s behavior to Peri takes on huge repercussions (never dealt with) upon her death, but the alternative is that she gets to live on an alien planet with a crazy warlord king whom she never displays any attraction to whatsoever. The closest thing to affection we see from her is exactly what you might reluctantly offer a large, vicious dog who almost bit your arm off, but was distracted at the last minute by a packet of sausages and now thinks it is your friend.

“There’s a good warlord” is not a basis for a lasting marriage. Neither is the moment when Yrcanos stops being funny for thirty seconds and strokes Peri’s cheek. She flinches, and you see how afraid of him she is. It’s chilling and creepy and I know it was the eighties but really, really? That’s her happy ending? That’s the best she can expect? I would so much rather hear that she went back to Yrcanos’ home planet, introduced his culture to democracy and kicked his arse in the polls. Peri for President!


We hope you’ll go and buy the book, and read the rest. We’re both proud of what we’ve contributed to this anthology, and I hope that this is just the start of Doctor Who fan books that contain numerous essays meaningfully analyzing Doctor Who with a feminist lens.

And if you’re interested in a book giveaway (let’s be honest, who isn’t), there’s one at Love & Monsters! Go enter before the 16th to be eligible!

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”

The Doctor: a God Among Women?

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

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

John Owen


“It’s always the women.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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