In the second season of Doctor Who there a two episodes in particular that are especially terrible when it comes to female representation. Those episodes are School Reunion and The Girl in the Fireplace. While these episodes feature strong female leads who are capable of defending themselves, they fall into the trap of pitting these women against each other.
The first of these episodes is S2E3 School Reunion in which Sarah Jane Smith, companion of the Third and Fourth Doctors, returns. The Tenth Doctor and Rose run into her when all three of them are investigating strange occurrences happening at a school. When the Doctor first introduces Sarah Janes and Rose they immediately dislike each other.
ROSE: Does anyone notice anything strange about this? Rats in school?
SARAH: Well, obviously they use them in Biology lessons. They dissect them. Or maybe you haven’t reached that bit yet. How old are you?
ROSE: Excuse me, no one dissects rats in school anymore. They haven’t done that for years. Where are you from, the dark ages?
Then there is this quick bit of dialogue.
MICKEY: Ho, ho, mate. The missus and the ex. Welcome to every man’s worst nightmare.
While it has been strongly implied that there are romantic feelings between the Doctor and Rose for the past two seasons, there was never a romantic implication between the Doctor and Sarah Jane, so why try to force one now? It should not be immediately assumed that a man and a woman who are friends must be in love with each other. Also, while I acknowledge that Mickey’s line was intended to be funny, it should also not be assumed that two women who are friends with the same man or even have dated the same man are automatically going to hate each other.
It is later on established that Rose is worried that she is not as special to the Doctor as she previously thought since she just found out that she is only one of many companions the Doctor has had. Sarah Jane on the other hand feels that Rose has replaced her and that the Doctor just brushed aside someone he once considered his best friend. After coming to these realizations and bonding over the Doctor, Rose and Sarah Jane have a good laugh and get along for the rest of the episode. While it is good that Rose and Sarah Jane learn to accept each other and get along, this episode would have been much better from a diversity standpoint if they had never fought in the first place.
I will address The Girl in the Fireplace in part two of this post next week