“Change, my dear… and it seems not a moment too soon.”

JW Who 2

Master: Is the future going to be all girl?

Doctor: We can only hope.

With hindsight it was obvious this regeneration was going to be the one.  The one that brought us a woman Doctor.

We’d seen it established that Time Lord regenerations can involve a change of gender as well as of height, hair colour, apparent age and so on. We’d engaged with the Master/Missy conundrum.

missy

DOCTOR: She was my first friend, always so brilliant, from the first day at the Academy. So fast, so funny. She was my man crush.
BILL: I’m sorry?
DOCTOR: Yeah, I think she was a man back then. I’m fairly sure that I was, too. It was a long time ago, though.
BILL: So, the Time Lords, bit flexible on the whole man-woman thing, then, yeah?
DOCTOR: We’re the most civilised civilisation in the universe. We’re billions of years beyond your petty human obsession with gender and its associated stereotypes.
BILL: But you still call yourselves Time Lords?
DOCTOR: Yeah. Shut up.
BILL: Okay.

With lines like the above, we were being set up to welcome (or not) a woman to the role.  Still, at some level, at least until a couple of days before the announcement, I really thought they might row back from that and say no, not yet, not this time.  I really wasn’t sure they had the bottle to do this.

There’s been a lot of rather predictable frothing at the mouth, harrumphing and incipient apoplexy, with claims that this is the BBC surrendering to some mysterious all-powerful Political Correctness lobby (‘Murdered a part of our culture for feminazi political correctness ideology!’  ‘Doctor Who … didn’t die nobly as you might expect.  He was murdered by Political Correctness’).  That’s best ignored, by and large.  I fear that Jodie Whitaker will have to contend with worse than that, and with personalised unpleasantness, but I’m sure she’s well aware and will be ready for the haters.

Not everyone who dislikes the change is of this breed, of course.  There has to be a core of Doctorness with each regeneration, and some feel that maleness is a part of that.  I disagree, but I suspect that many of those people, if they genuinely love the programme, will continue to watch and will be won over.  Another response was that whilst of course boys have far more heroic role models in popular culture to emulate and be inspired by than girls do, the Doctor is different, and valuable because of the ways in which he is different.  I do see the need for boys to have role models who aren’t all about action and fighting (even fighting for Good against Evil), but part of what makes the Doctor different, for me, is that gender roles and stereotypes simply aren’t (or shouldn’t be) relevant.

A plethora of girls and women have regarded the Doctor as a role model, and identified with him, over Doctor Who’s 50 year span, whilst he’s regenerated, repeatedly, as a man. The Doctor is still, no doubt, going to be the Doctor as portrayed by Jodie Whittaker – alien, two hearts, both of gold, funny, witty, snarky, capricious, kind, adventurous. (Juniper Fish, Doctor Who Forum)

The Doctor can and should be a role model for both boys and girls,  in a way that Captain America or Batman can’t quite be – and probably Wonder Woman and Buffy can’t quite be role models for boys either.  So, the Doctor can continue to inspire boys whilst giving girls and women a whole new image of how to be wise, and brave, how to save the world, to do what’s right, to be kind.  Girls need to develop the confidence to take the lead roles,  not to assume that a hero/a protector is by default male.

Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand, is where I fall. Stand with me. These people are terrified. Maybe we can help, a little. Why not, just at the end, just be kind?

Funnily enough, whilst the Outraged/Betrayed/Will Never Watch Again lobby were as loud and silly as one might have expected, overall what I found on Twitter was a mix of sheer delight, excited anticipation – and a different kind of silliness.  See the #TardisFullOfBras hashtag, for example – someone took a hostile Daily Mail comment and turned it around, so that it’s full of fan art and daft jokes (and bras).  That’s the way to go, I think.

There’s little point in trying to engage with someone who throws ‘feminazi’ into the conversation simply because someone gives a job to a woman that has been previously held by a man.  There’s little point in trying to unpack the hotchpotch of false analogies and fake news and mythology that is evoked whenever the term ‘political correctness’ is used.  And if someone believes that ‘social justice warrior’ is an insult, we don’t really have a lot to talk about.

What matters here, to me, is the delight that this news has brought to so many of us.  It’s only a story, but stories are the most powerful things in the world.

Stories can make us fly.

We need stories, and we need heroes.  And if we can’t immediately see around us the heroes we need, we build them.  It seems that we are having a real moment here.

gal gadot 2

When I wrote about Wonder Woman, only a week or so ago, I did not know – though I hoped – that the 13th Doctor would be a woman.   They’re quite different of course, but what is so glorious is that now, right now, there are two more in the pantheon of women who can, women who can stand up, will stand up.  We have a woman (OK,  a demi-god) who uses superhuman physical strength,  courage and a fierce sense of what is right, in the service of humanity, and another (OK, a Gallifreyan Time Lord) who uses the wisdom of centuries and galaxies,  wit and invention and intellect, courage and a fierce sense of what is right, in the service of humanity.

without hope, without reward, without witness

I felt when I was watching Wonder Woman like punching the air and having a bit of a cry at the same time, and when I think about the Doctor’s next regeneration, I feel much the same. Of course it is vital that the stories are well written, that the wit and humour is there, as well as the thrills and chills.  Of course it is vital that the gender thing is dealt with intelligently, that stereotypes are undermined or dismissed with humour and that the Doctor is and remains Doctorly, demonstrating both difference and continuity as each new incumbent has done over the last 50 years.

It is perhaps even more vital that the stories are strong because there are those who (even though they may have vowed never to watch it again) will be waiting for it to fail, wanting to say that they told us so, that it could never work, that the Doctor can’t be a woman.  If Jodie kicks it out of the park, as we hope and believe she will, then each regen that follows can be whoever seems right at the time and whoever takes it on will be critiqued for their ability and not for their gender.

Meantime, we’re loving this moment.  Loving it for ourselves  and for our daughters, nieces, granddaughters, all the young women who can now enjoy Doctor Who in a different way, who can take on the lead role in playground games. Not just companions or assistants but The Doctor.

My love for Doctor Who is, I realise, a bit ridiculous but I don’t bloody care because we all need escapism sometimes and, as my often tested loyalty to lost causes show, my love is nothing if not tenacious. At primary school I distinctly remember the humiliation of a school assembly where some of us were asked to share our pictures of what we wanted to be when we grew up. A Timelord was not an appropriate aspiration for a girl apparently and the piss was duly ripped. Not the first, worst or only time youngling (or indeed “grown-up” me) encountered sexism and ridiculous gender stereotypes but, because as a troubled kid my fantasy life was a refuge and a solace, one of the hardest stings. Anyway, fuck that nonsense because anything can happen with a Tardis and hooray for progress and little girls being allowed imaginations. And no, that does not come at the expense of little boys at all, and yes, I am really sorry Capaldi and Bill are gone because when they got the scripts they were brilliant and that, actually, is the heart of what I want. Good writing, please, please, please (and obviously for me to get a ride in there somewhere with them, because what is the Doctor if not an intergalactic anarcho-flaneuse who needs a bit more glitter?)  (Morag Rose)

Doctor Who is a different sort of hero. The Doctor solves problems not by being the strongest, the fastest or the one with the biggest army, but by outthinking everyone else in the room. Far too many female characters are two-dimensional. I’m ready for one that can travel in four. I’m ready to watch a woman save the world again and again by being very, very clever and very, very moral, without having to have a man sort anything out or come and save her. I’m ready for a woman hero who’s older than recorded history and weirder than a three-day bender in the BBC props cupboard. I’m ready for a female super nerd. And so is the rest of the world.  (Laurie Penny, The New Statesman)

JW Who 1

http://www.thepoke.co.uk/2017/07/16/doctor-jodie-whittaker-13th-doctor-favourite-20-responses-online/

http://doctorwhogeneral.wikia.com/wiki/Times_Doctor_Who_Was_Ruined_Forever

@cathannabel


18 comments

  1. Cathannabel

    Thanks for posting your blog. It was a great read. I have a few questions or observations though.

    There has to be a core of Doctorness with each regeneration, and some feel that maleness is a part of that.  I disagree, but I suspect that many of those people, if they genuinely love the programme, will continue to watch and will be won over.

    I agree with you that maleness need not be a core part of the characterisation of the Doctor any more. However, doesnt any conclusion on that depend on how the Doctor is played by Jodie and written for by Chibnall and his writing team. There is a difference (I think) in characterisation terms between a female Doctor and a Doctor who happens to have a female face and some other female characteristics.

    To what extent do you believe the relationship between Doctor and Companions is changed by this and to what extent will gender now play a more significant part in the stories ?

    In my mind, I can substitute Jodie for Matt in the Amy/Rory or Jodie for Peter in the Bill companion relationships  without Moff having to make any significant changes. Other have suggested this wouldnt be the case.

    The Doctor can and should be a role model for both boys and girls,  in a way that Captain America or Batman can’t quite be – and probably Wonder Woman and Buffy can’t quite be role models for boys either.  So, the Doctor can continue to inspire boys whilst giving girls and women a whole new image of how to be wise, and brave, how to save the world, to do what’s right, to be kind.  Girls need to develop the confidence to take the lead roles,  not to assume that a hero/a protector is by default male.

    I suppose this depends on exactly what sort of role model you think Captain America or Wonder Women are. I watched and really enjoyed the Wonder Woman TV series back in the late 1970s (as a 10/12 year old). I was reading and enjoying Captain America and Thor in Marvel Comics and the Fantastic 4 around the same time. I didn’t go out and play being Wonder Woman, but neither did I play at being Captain America or Thor.

    All these years later its impossible for me to say what I gained or lost from watching/reading these alongside Doctor Who, but I would like to think it was positive in terms of gender equality. Perhaps the real problem today is that there isnt such a similar range of adventure themed material available to both genders on TV and the media today ?

    However, I think the interesting question is, what happens if it turns out young male children just aren’t interested in watching the adventures of a female Doctor ? That wanting to be protect your family/community is a deep genetically inherited element of being male alongside aggression and other hormone driven aspects of maleness ?

    Of course it is vital that the stories are well written, that the wit and humour is there, as well as the thrills and chills.  Of course it is vital that the gender thing is dealt with intelligently, that stereotypes are undermined or dismissed with humour and that the Doctor is and remains Doctorly, demonstrating both difference and continuity as each new incumbent has done over the last 50 years.

    In AG Who, we have seen a range of female hero companions, starting with Rose, Donna, River, Clara whose character and character arc have been written in a way that they have saved the Doctor and world in a way that the emotionally scared anf flawed Doctor havent been able to do let alone see through their non-humanity and personality flaws.

    Should we now expect to see the younger single male companions to come play exactly the same sort of role opposite the Doctor ? Or will we know see the Doctor to fully occupy the classic BG role as the more unambiguous hero now she is female ?

    I read Laurie Penny’s quote and agree with it, but to be honest I think it applies more to BG Who’s characterisation of the Doctor and Companion relationship than, to any of the Doctor’s RTD and Moff has presented us with since 2005. Are you ready for a emotionally flawed, damaged Doctor repeatedly being saved by his all too human male companion in the way that for example, Donna and Clara saved the Doctor ?

  2. @cathannabel

    Great blog, very well put and I wholeheartedly agree with all of it.

    @nick raises an interesting question in that will we see the same kind of emotionally nuanced Doctor of the AG series or something more like the superhuman of the BG years. I’m inclined to think the former as I don’t think those sort of characters are interesting to audiences these days, regardless of gender. What will be interesting is the dynamic between Doctor and companion and that is undoubtedly going to change. It’s going to be fascinating to learn how.

    (btw @Nick, on the subject of companions and to refer your point on the other thread, I’m not saying that I think there should be solely male companion. I think most likely we’ll see something in the Amy/Rory, Bill/Nardole mode which to my mind is the dynamic that seems to work best in the AG format. I just think that with a first female Doctor bedding in that the trope of the goofy, bumbling bloke might not be a good idea, but then neither would the square-jawed hero either. Male companions are very hard to get right, I think. Perhaps what’s needed is something like a slightly less heroic Ian Chesterton type.)

  3. Thanks @nick.  I think my answer to several of these points would be, yes, let’s see how they approach it.  I’ve seen JW in a few things but have no idea really how she will play the Doctor, and how it will be written for her.  We don’t know what will happen with companions – certainly the dynamics of key relationships are likely to be different, and in particular the implications of a female Doctor needing to be saved by male companions are tricky. But we don’t want a female Doctor to be all knowing and all wise.  It’s going to be, to say the least, interesting!

    As far as role models are concerned, most of mine as a child came from books and not TV or film.  I know how much it has meant to me whenever I have encountered women in popular culture who have not been idiotic, weak, dependent on men – Buffy is certainly in that category for me, and whilst I also identify strongly whenever I watch the series particularly with Giles and from time to time with other characters, Buffy as she does what ‘s right because it’s right inspires me especially because she is a woman (and subverts what our culture tends to lead us to expect from petite teenage blondes!)

    As for whether young boys will respond positively to JW’s Doctor as a role model, we will have to wait and see.  I hope that however the writers write it and JW plays it, the essential Doctorness will be something that young (and not young) people can relate to and be inspired by regardless of their and the Doctor’s gender…

  4. @jimthefish @cathannabel

    IJim.  agree with you; AG Who is not the pre-news adventure serial that BG Who (mostly) was, shown before the 6 pm news. The Companion role is different, more complicated than it was. I agree I think multiple companions work best, although the 45 minute duration and the difficulty that modern writers seem have when writing and pacing two or more part stories does make it difficult to get the screen time balance right (though less so than for 25 minute episodes of the past).

    Even when Douglas Adams was in charge, Who was never a comedy, although it had comedic moments. To include a standard comedy character such as a goofy bumbling bloke could never work for me. It would be as sexist as having a female companion portraying a standard petite teenage blond.

    You both think the dynamics of the Doctor/Companion role will change. I’m interested in what way you think that might or should be. I dont just see why that is necessary or required. To my mind, a multi-thousand year old alien from a culture where gender changes are a natural part of life’s cycle, then I don’t see why or how the nature of relationship between male and female companions/friends would change at all.

    I hope that however the writers write it and JW plays it, the essential Doctorness will be something that young (and not young) people can relate to and be inspired by regardless of their and the Doctor’s gender…

    This is exactly what I think and what I would (broadly speaking) expect to see happen in Season 11 and beyond. But this does mean that the impact of the Doctor’s gender on character and story writing style ought to be rather minimal. Personally whilst I’ve found watching the emotionally flawed and damaged AG Doctor’s interesting to watch after 12 years I’d like to see something different. I hope that Chibnall’s intention is to do exactly that and it may be that casting a female Doctor can become a way of enabling that to happen.

    I agree with you @cathannabel that the implications of a female Doctor needing to be saved by male companions are tricky (which is why I asked the question), but I’m afraid that it is necessary and right that this is exactly what happens. Female companions saved the Doctor in BG Who occasionally and much more often in AG Who. If it doesn’t happen in reverse from Series 11 onwards, then surely Chibnall and his writing room, will open the door and prove a retrospective comment that RTD and Moff were writing female companions as subtle misandry in retrospect ? It would also prove much of the claims currently being made about the gender change as well. Equality must mean equality surely ?

  5. @Nick

     To include a standard comedy character such as a goofy bumbling bloke could never work for me. It would be as sexist as having a female companion portraying a standard petite teenage blond

    I agree and yet we have had that in the past, notably with Harry Sullivan but also to an extent as Rory, although he did play against it with a nice inner strength and steel too. But can’t help but feel if we had got Kris Marshall as a companion, it would have tended towards this type — his feckless BT guy in space sort of thing. I’m actually still hoping that we get Pearl back but I guess that’s looking less likely by the day now.

    You both think the dynamics of the Doctor/Companion role will change. I’m interested in what way you think that might or should be. I dont just see why that is necessary or required

    I think it will but it will be subtle. The dynamic has already changed — you almost never see the sort of mansplaining that most of the BG Doctors indulged in. The Doctor’s new gender certainly shouldn’t define her and she should still ‘just be the Doctor’ as much as possible but I think some differences are going to be inevitable. I think I said before I wondered if the new Doctor will be able to walk into situations and take charge in quite the same way and I’m hoping that she does, that there is no discernible difference in Doctoral authority.

    But I agree with both of you that the question of ‘can and should this new Doctor be rescued by her companions’ is a tricky one and it’ll be very interesting to see the approaches taken to tackle it.

  6. @jimthefish

    I rather hope we see Bill continuing as she is a great character, who needs to develop further. However, I cant think of a better statement of intent regarding the principles of equality and liberalism in Doctor Who than for Chibnall to do exactly that for season 11 anyway. Of course, he’ll want to have his own creations and agenda on screen; we wll understand that.

    I wondered if the new Doctor will be able to walk into situations and take charge in quite the same way

    I, like you, see no reason why Jodie’s Doctor shouldn’t be able to do just that. The problem is, whilst change is required, at what point does the female characterisation mean that the Doctor ceases to be the Doctor. Whilst I loved Michelle Gomez’s interpretation of the Master, there is a point where you have to ask whether the essence of the character developed by Delgado, Ainsley and Simm was no longer being portrayed and whether the change (Missy) really did fall within the Master’s character parameter or not.

    I also can’t help thinking having now seen the end, that portrayal a a female Missy/Doctor love story wasn’t rather gender normative rather than as creative as it seems at first. How much more interesting it might have been if played between Simm and Capaldi (of course I can also here the outrage that that would have happened). @Thane15, given your comments on the Jodie W thread, what do you think ?

  7. There’s a lot of outrage about the Positive Discrimination of Chibnall ‘always going to recast as a woman’.

    Let’s not forget that he wanted Capaldi to stay, so presumably he’s not ‘Anti-Men’!

  8. @wolfweed

    I’m not sure anyone ought to pay attention to whatever Chibnall (or anyone else in his position) says about the casting. Whoever, it turned out to be, he can only ever say great things about them, even if the actual selection was his third choice pick.

  9. @nick and @wolfweed

    Chibnall saying that he wanted his period as Head Writer to include a female Doctor is no less reasonable than Moffat wanting to play with the philosophical implications of time travel. Personally, I think that one area where Chris Chibnall is a better writer than Steven Moffat is that he writes more rounded women characters; so why not play to his own strengths?

    It says nothing about whether, if Chibnall follows RTD and Moffat in being a two-Doctor Head Writer, his second Doctor will be male or female.

  10. @cathannabel

    The most important thing about casting Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor is that it displays, in a way beyond words, that strength, courage, compassion, intelligence (and the attention span of a five year old on a sugar high) are not gender-specific characteristics. :)

    The Doctor has always been a role model for everyone. Time to be that.

  11. @cathannabel

    Thanks for writing this. I agree that often it is not worth engaging with the “PC gone mad” and “SJWs have ruined culture” brigade, because these phrases are lazy covers for what such arguers don’t actually want to come out and bluntly admit, which is usually that they feel threatened because the white, heterosexual, male default hero smorgasbord they have been able to enjoy for decades is slowly diversifying to better reflect the actual reality of a diverse world.

    Like you, I do sympathise most with the argument that there are few role models for boys where the hero uses brain not brawn in sci-fi and fantasy genre film and television. However, when you think about it, there are even fewer role models for girls where the heroine uses brain not brawn in those genres. The detective fiction genre is doing rather better than the sci-fi and fantasy genre in this regard, with roles such as Temperance Brennan in Bones or Saga Noren in The Bridge.

    @Nick …”what happens if it turns out young male children just aren’t interested in watching the adventures of a female Doctor ?”

    To my mind, that is up to the adults around them (and in online spaces). Boys continue to be told, very frequently, that to be “girly” or to like “girls'” things is to be diminished/ lesser – aka, “Don’t be such a girl!”. When children are not given this message, in my experience, their imaginations fly free and they identify happily with whichever fictional characters they admire, regardless of gender. But, because culture in many spaces and places, continue to give this negative message about the degradation involved in liking “girly” things to boys, it needs to be actively counteracted.  Girls and women are far more used to taking male heroes as role models than the other way round.  So, the casting of Jodie Whittaker represents an interesting challenge for the Who community.

    I am hoping that now we know the Doctor can and does regenerate in either a male–presenting or a female-presenting body, his/her alien-ness will be additionally emphasised. If this aspect of the Doctor is explored, occasionally, alongside the usual adventures, henceforth in Who (whether the Doctor is, at the time, being played by a male or female actor) it has the potential to add something wondrous, I think.

    For instance, landing with a human companion on a planet where the inhabitants are hermaphrodite, the companion keeps asking whether entities they meet are male or female, to which the Doctor replies, “Both, neither, use whichever pronoun they prefer! Lots of species are hermaphrodite, you know. Most plants on earth, for a start.”

    I’m not sure whether you’d say Time Lords are hermaphrodite. They clearly have male and female presenting incarnations, but, as far as we know, don’t own both sets of sex organs at the same time.

    Who knows, perhaps further into the future, we’ll get an incarnation who identifies as non-binary and prefers to present as androgynous.

    The question of how this affects the companion role is an interesting one. I think a piss-take of BG Who, i.e. casting a doe-eyed good looking young man in skimpy outfits who screams a lot in alien situations and patiently listens to long explanations from the Doctor, would be funny initially, but unwise. We don’t want the 1970s-in-reverse version of Who, but the 21st century version.

    Nu Who has introduced a Doctor who experiences love and desire for humans on-screen, although right from the start of the programme we knew the First Doctor was a grand-father, therefore, logically, there must have been some form of reproduction in his past. Like it or not, Doctors Nine and Ten had a crush on Rose. Eleven married River Song and Twelve spent a night of twenty-seven years in length with her.  Nine seemed pretty open to a flirtation with Captain Jack too (certainly blase about it) and Twelve has told us the Master was his “man-crush”.  We don’t, in truth, know how Gallifreyan sexuality works.  Perhaps the Doctor is seen as a maverick and a deviant by most Gallifreyans simply because he is attracted to humans, quite irrespective of which gender he prefers in which body (and variations thereof).

    Who remains a programme aimed at a young as well as old audience, so the Doctor’s admirations and flirtations will likely remain peripheral to his/her adventures in space, whatever body he/she inhabits.

    I must say I would love Thirteen to meet River.

  12. @juniperfish

    Since I am being adevil’s advocate to a certain extent, I have one or two thoughts in response.

    I didnt watch any of the 60’s Who fisrst hand, but I have no doubt that the 70’s and 80’s Doctors/Companions relationship were warm and loving. Best friends or perhaps more than that. AG Who with Rose, Martha, River (and Amy/Clara to an extent) has broadened the relationship to include sexuality as describe. I think you can argue whether this change was necessary or not, I think that it does rather eflect modern day preoccupation with sex and sexuality.  Given our working and living world is increasingly mixed and roles are gender free, would a message to Children and young adults that men and women can have close working relationships and friendships, where sexual attraction isnt a required sub-theme and people like each other for who they are.

    The Human species may well eventually meet aliens for real. The chances of our biology being compatible in any way are probably vanishingly small. Just because the Doctor looks Human doesnt make his biology Human. Why play down the alieness to bring in soap opera level romance ? I’d have to rewatch Series 1, but I think RTD broadly got it right. Rose seeing the Human in the Doctor and having a crush, seems quite reasonable. The Doctor responding in kind doesnt. He knows better, or ought to. If you want to write a narrative where he reciprocates, then it makes sense within the context of his/her alieness, to highlight something of the underlying problems. In this respect I have always felt RTD got it wrong with both Rose and Martha.

    I take and agree with your point here:

    because these phrases are lazy covers for what such arguers don’t actually want to come out and bluntly admit, which is usually that they feel threatened because the white, heterosexual, male default hero smorgasbord they have been able to enjoy for decades is slowly diversifying to better reflect the actual reality of a diverse world.

    but actually just how much Sci-fi and Fantasy is actually on (or ever has been on) British TV ? Not very much really. Right now, I’d say Doctor Who and Game of Thrones. Neither is exactly short of strong female roles. But, looking back, there have been rather a lot of shows you can highlight Blakes 7, Star Trek, the Star Gate series’, Sanctuary, Buffy, Xena, Orphan Black, Farscape, Westworld, Babylon 5. All of which have been popular successes in recent and current times as well as being very diversified in terms of gender and ethnicity. I would suggest the TV environment has been diversified since at least the 1970s. That’s before we get onto sci-fi/fantasy novels.

    In this context, can your argument actually fly ? I would suggest the sci-fi/fantasy genre audience is more diverse than main stream TV.

     

  13. @Nick

    AG Who with Rose, Martha, River (and Amy/Clara to an extent) has broadened the relationship to include sexuality as describe. I think you can argue whether this change was necessary or not, I think that it does rather eflect modern day preoccupation with sex and sexuality

    I think it’s more complicated than that. I’d say that Hartnell-era Who actually had a more sophisticated grasp of companion sexuality than later eras of the BG show. Ian and Barbara are clearly positioned as ‘a couple’ and there’s suggestions of sexual entanglement and attraction variously with the Doctor and his various companions, with the Doctor having to avoid a paramour, Vicki avoiding marriage in Troy and Susan’s growing sexuality clearly being the signal for her to leave in Dalek Invasion of Earth. Then there’s Sara Kingdom — clearly a sex symbol, a proto River Song, I’d argue. And Ben and Polly also gave off the vibe of being sexual partners to my mind.

    That level of sophistication was stripped away in the Troughton era, I think, with Jamie and Victoria clearly being referred to as ‘children’ on many occasions (and Troughton essentially playing the Doctor as a kind of ‘manchild’). Much as I hate to say it, as his Target novelisations were a massive, massive part of my childhood, I think it’s largely Terrance Dicks’ fault. Because while he made a massive contribution to the show’s lore and development, I always got the feeling that his take on human sexuality was, um, perhaps stunted is the most polite word. I never fail to be creeped out that Dicks’ idea of a more adult take on Who for the BBC/Virgin books was always to have a character attempt to rape (usually) Jo. It never failed to make me feel icky.

    Same goes for Robert Holmes I fear. While never wishing to downgrade his contribution to Who — which was always thrilling, funny and intelligent — I always got the impression that both Dicks and Holmes were far more comfortable with a boys’ own conception of the show and didn’t really want to have to deal with the female of the species in any way, shape or form. The problem is that it’s the Dicks/Holmes template that has since become the default conception of the show ever since (or at least until 2005).

    Given our working and living world is increasingly mixed and roles are gender free, would a message to Children and young adults that men and women can have close working relationships and friendships, where sexual attraction isnt a required sub-theme and people like each other for who they are

    Isn’t sexual attraction a sub-theme of pretty much any adult interaction once you hit puberty though? At the risk of going all ‘When Harry Met Sally’, is there such a thing as a working relationship or even friendship where sex isn’t a factor, whether it is acknowledged or not, acted upon or not? This is what made BG Who increasingly unrealistic with regards to the relationships between the Doctor and companion. It became more and more the elephant in the room. By the time you get to Davison and Colin Baker it just felt that the principals were appearing increasingly awkward in not acknowledging any sexual frisson that might be there. And it’s no coincidence, I think, that the show only really managed to pull itself out of its doldrums when it bit the bullet and started to acknowledge Ace’s sexuality.

    I do want to stress that I’m not trying to be argumentative or pick a fight. I just find these issues very interesting to talk about and something that as fans we should be engaging with in the light of some of the extreme negativity we’ve seen in the last week or so….

  14. @jimthefish

    Naturally, I agree with a lot that you wrote :). I think Barbera and Ian were a pre-couple when they entered the Tardis, and I agree it was only 60’s children’s TV requirements that stopped that being portryaed any deeper; they were certainly a couple when they left the Tardis. I can easily see Ben & Polly as an opposites attract sort of couple as well (although it might not have lasted long after leaving the Tardis). Jamie/Victoria and Jamie/Zoe relationships all seem plausible to me (giving due respect to the necessary requirements of their cultural background). AG Who would certainly have presented these relationships in a positive light and probably have made much interesting drama as a result. I would certainly would have enjoyed watching that on screen. Likewise I dont really have any problem with Doctor/River relationship. They are both long lived individuals who regenerate, are highly intelligent and have much in common from the outset.

    Where I have a more fundamental problem is with Doctor/young companion relationships. What did Missy call them, mayflies ? I think, broadly Moff did a better job than RTD did; even the Clara relationship never really went too far down the infatuation line, before Moff diverted it with the Danny Pink relationship (which was well done, although Danny needed a longer run and better characterisation at the end of the day).

    At the risk of going all ‘When Harry Met Sally’, is there such a thing as a working relationship or even friendship where sex isn’t a factor, whether it is acknowledged or not, acted upon or not?

    Yes. Maybe that’s just me though. I have spent most of my career in a professional services, working for, alongside and managing both men and women, both older and mostly younger, where the work force was pretty much 50:50.  Most relationships that happened, happened between individuals at pretty much the same career level. Whilst manager/subordinate relationships weren’t outlawed (unlike the USA), it certainly would be detrimental to a manager’s career if it became common knowledge. Things happen, but it smacks of poor judgement as well. It’s hard enough to act as mentor, career counsellor, individual performance reviewer and collectively alongside other managers discussing and ranking relative performance for annual appraisals as it is, without adding in the extra strain of relationship as well.

    I second this as well: I do want to stress that I’m not trying to be argumentative or pick a fight. I just find these issues very interesting to talk about and something that as fans we should be engaging with in the light of some of the extreme negativity we’ve seen in the last week or so…. 

  15. Very interesting Blog @cathannabel thank you, followed by an interesting discussion

    Now for my two pence worth after having read all the above. If anyone is in any doubt I am in favour of the Doctor becoming a woman. I think it worked superbly with Missy.

    We have a Doctor who (no pun intended) is now outwardly  female to the human perspective. Previous incarnations  by declining violence (mainly bar certain exceptions) showed an outwardly male using non male stereotype methods to solve issues. Having a Time-Lord that is female removes that “He’s not using a  gun but intellect instead” (yes I know that is potentially sexist but on the whole violence thing is a male dominated vice…. or is it I await to be corrected).

    Realtionships with companions will also need to be carefully written but I feel the success or failure will be showing that the Doctor is still the Doctor no matter what guise she/he/they are in. By that I mean we need to see that the change of sex is just the same as the change of appearance in a regeneration, we get a different personality but it is still the Doctor underneath the changes wrought by regeneration.

    If any of this makes sense you can blame the lack of coffee

  16. @cathannabel  @bluesqueakpip (loved your Blog yesterday too & your comments above)

    This is great. I remember Mum commenting when you wrote this originally, @Cathannabel?

    @nick @rob

    Sex happens.  😀

    Whether ‘outlawed’ or not among many colleagues of different levels which were often called ‘superior’ officers – I find that funny. I think there are modern terms -but perhaps they mean the same thing. I think Nu Who handled the attraction issue pretty well & I had no problem with Rose and DrTennant. Both Moffat and RTD said: “has no-one noticed he’s a good looking man?” It worked itself into an untidy corner with Martha, though.

    @jimthefish

    Isn’t sexual attraction a sub-theme of pretty much any adult interaction once you hit puberty though?

    Oh yep it is. I speak from experience which usually involves watching the tentative steps of 14 or 15 year boys trying to even speak to girls. It’s like Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind with all the terror, bright lights & obsession. From what my elders have said a lot of this doesn’t change -it gets more awkward!

    @nick, on the question you asked, I’m sorry, but I had trouble understanding the paragraph. Apologies for that.

    But:

    Female companions saved the Doctor in BG Who occasionally and much more often in AG Who. If it doesn’t happen in reverse from Series 11 onward[s], then surely Chibnall and his writing room [,] will open the door and prove a retrospective comment that RTD and Moff were writing female companions as subtle misandry in retrospect ? ….. Equality must mean equality ….

    I think it’s a question of what ‘saving’ means?  BG & Nu Who involved the Doctor saving the companion in a physical battle without armies but with quick thinking. In the latter it was a female companion talking thru the distressing ambiguities & confusion experienced by the Doctor when soul searching. So with Clara the theme was “yes, [believe] you’re a good man but be clever and be a Doctor [and remember me (the latter initially)]” This sets the next series up for the Doctor to have philosophically accepted what a Time Lord-Doctor is & living up to this standard.

    I think that writers will provide a safe space for a companion -perhaps a non-earth one who ‘saves’ the Doctor but it’s easily dealt with by a meeting of minds where they put their heads together and work. Heroism isn’t hierarchical.

    Also we’ve had the re-boot we ‘needed to have’ with Pearl’s “this is like a kitchen (the Tardis) & her first nervous steps onto Thin Ice. So we’ve had the Doctor snogging, forgetting & forgiving, “Victorious,” soul searching, scared to regenerate, in self-denial & stoically reiterating the imperative of “where I stand is where I fall”. Whether human, alien, female or male, the organic qualities of a 2000 year- old being are infinite, perhaps elevated above gender with personal autonomy a mainstay.

    @wolfweed I admit to paying attention too -having seen CC speak many years ago (now on ytube) & reading about his approach he’s a very different individual to Moffat.

    Thank! And laters,

    Thane.

  17. @Thane15

    Morning 😀

    I dont think I wrote clearly enough my thoughts as you answered something I didn’t mean to comment on.

    The tricky writing comment was supposed to allude to The Doctor still being a facet of the character we all know and love through previous regenerations. Different but still The Doctor.

     

    The sex thing, hmmm, I found the solution to Rose and 10 will they won’t they a sound sideways move. The implication I got was that 10 loved her but hadn’t ever done anything about it ( for the obvious reason he is not Hugh Heffner, shagging someone 600 years younger than you, the good taste rule is half your age plus seven ) so by having a human 10 who will age at the same rate as Rose sort of worked.

    Personally I never get why ancient supernatural beings fall in love with youths, I mean for FFS it’s hard enough dealing with teens when you are also a teen let alone wanting to constantly revisit that hormonal maelstrom.

    Platonic love and hugs 😊 to all who want them

    Coffee to all

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