Tag Archive for The Doctor The Widow and The Wardrobe

Are you my mummy? The power of motherhood in new Who

Parental love and its redemptive power has been a big Moffatt theme, no doubt about it.  In the last season alone, we had Stormageddon’s daddy making Cybermen explode (‘Closing Time’):

Craig: The Cybermen — they blew up! I blew them up with love!

The Doctor: No, that’s impossible — and also grossly sentimental and overly simplistic. You destroyed them because of the deeply engrained hereditary trait to protect one’s own genes — which in turn triggered a… a… uh… [sighs] Yeah. Love. You blew them up with love.

and George’s daddy taking on board that his son is an alien and being his daddy anyway (‘Night Terrors’):

Alex: Whatever you are, whatever you do, you’re my son. And I will never ever send you away. Oh George. Oh my little boy.

So it’s not perhaps as over the top as all that to have the power of motherhood as the focus of the Christmas episode this year, in ‘The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe’.   It seems to have annoyed people though, some people anyway.

The portrayal of an ‘ordinary’ woman roused to scary fierceness to protect her children is not probematic in itself – we’ve seen already that Madge is far from conventional, responding to the sudden appearance of an alien-angel in a quiet English village with considerable aplomb, and dealing with the Harvest Rangers in similar fashion:

Harvest-Ranger Droxil : There’s nothing you can say that would convince me you’re going to use that gun.

Madge: Oh, really? Well – I’m looking for my children.

[Droxil's expression changes to one of fear]

In her first encounter with the Doctor, Madge assumes a motherly role – ‘Oh no, love. No. I think you’ve just got your helmet on backwards. How did you manage that?’.  With her own children, though, she’s struggling to cope with the burden of her own grief and the tension of hiding from them the loss of their father, and she’s cross with herself for being cross with them.   She’s not some idealised image of motherhood, she’s real.

Some viewers had a problem though.  The Wooden King and Queen reject Cyril and the Doctor as not being strong, and Lily as not strong enough – what they need is someone  who not only potentially could bear children but actually has done.  Now, I don’t read that as a global statement, it’s a plot device.  But many [on the Guardian's Who blog ] did:

“hey, you called me sexist, so I’m going to write an ep that keeps saying women are awesome…because they can have babies!! ‘

‘the idea that all men are “weak” compared to women – even a male time lord is nothing in comparison – and that the maternal lurve of a human female for her cubs can overcome all obstacles, while the Doctor was reduced to a bystander, was kind of rubbish.’

‘Yes, girls, you’re all super-strong. But only if you lay back, think of England, and squirt out some babies’.

The hostility, it seems to me, arises from an extrapolation from the specific premises of this episode to global principles.  The weak-strong dichotomy has, surely, to be understood in the context of the world of the story.  In ‘The God Complex’, what saves them is scepticism, because faith is the specific emotional energy the creature feeds on.  Here, maternal programming happens to be something that the tree species can use to get themselves off the planet.  Whether that’s maternal instinct, mummy love, or chromosomes.   It’s not about awesomeness or fabulousness or the respective worth of the genders.

Having said that, Madge is rather marvellous:

Madge:  I’m perfectly fine, thank you.

The Doctor: Fine? You’ve got a whole world inside your head!

Madge: I know! It’s funny, isn’t it? One can’t imagine being a forest, then suddenly one can! How remarkable.

 

And despite the problematic nature of the Amy as mother storyline (which I’ve struggled with myself, along the way), there is something ultimately rather Madge-like about her take on motherhood.  ‘She’s a good girl’, she says of the child who was stolen from her, who she grew up alongside, unknowing, and who she now knows as  a woman seemingly old enough to be her own mother.

How remarkable, indeed.

The Doctor and Peter Pan

Screen Cap from The Beast Below Where Amy Floats Outside the TARDIS with the Doctor Holding Her Ankle

My name is Amy Pond. When I was seven I had an imaginary friend. Last night was the night before my wedding. My imaginary friend came back.

Before I begin, I must make the disclaimer that I never watched Disney’s Peter Pan as a child. It was always on the fringes of my knowledge (it’s hard to fully escape anything Disney when you watch the Disney channel), but I didn’t grow up with it in the background of my childhood. Perhaps that’s why I have a slightly askance view on the story. Peter Pan is kind of a horrifying character and the Peter Pan syndrome even more so. The idea that one should never have responsibilities, kidnap young girls to be ‘mother’ for life, and torment poor pirates (okay, that last one is a stretch, but I really like pirates) just feels wrong. I understand the need for fantasy and that (for kids) the idea of never growing up can be appealing, but there’s so many better stories for kids about this idea. After thinking about my objection to Peter Pan I found it fascinating to realize that I adore the idea of an immortal figure whisking me away on an adventure. Why do I not have a similar problem with Doctor Who as I do with Peter Pan?

Of all of the companions, the Peter Pan-ness of the show was never so readily apparent as in Amy Pond’s story. The similarties between Amy Pond and Wendy Darling are remarkable and wonderfully laid out by wednesdaydream in this post (though, her Wendy is the 2003 film version). Amy is a child when we first meet her and the Doctor promises to take her away (which, should give us all pause to begin with, how is he going to explain kidnapping a child). Perhaps that’s the Doctor’s first real Peter Pan moment (he escapes the responsibility of taking care of a kid). When he fails to return in time he leaves her with her fantasies (and a lot of arts and crafts apparently). When he returns it’s on the edge of Amy’s adulthood where she’s trying to find herself (her reaction towards being a kissogram is extremely telling), but he disappears again only to return on the ultimate point of her adulthood (the night before her wedding). Like Wendy, she’s whisked away in her nightgown and taken to the fantastical world of the Doctor (her first trip being the future and a civilization on a ship on the back of a whale that travels through space).

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