In the classic version of the television series, Dr. Who, the diversity of sex among the characters should hardly be considered diversity at all. Women typically only have a role or two for every season, and the roles they are given are typically “female roles”. Please note this is not meant to be a feminist piece of any kind. The roles females played in Classic Who episodes are something that stuck on to me in particular, so I only wish to announce some of the observations I made.
Now, when I say “female roles”, I mean roles that fit a stereotypical mold of how women are commonly portrayed in television and cinema. For example, in The Green Death, the female companion, Jo, starts the season off as a somewhat strong female presence; however, as the season continues, she becomes more and more dependent on the Doctor and others around for saving and emotional consolation. This type of role is fairly common is the series, and it makes sense in a way since the Doctor is typically going to be saving the people around him which would include his companions.
As a general trend, the female companions seemed to get gradually more useful towards the latter seasons of Classic Who, which makes me wonder if the producers were becoming more aware of their portrayal of women and thus started making a concerted effort to give the females a more prominent presence. An example of a stronger female companion comes from The Curse of Fenric season where the female, Ace, is a particularly clever woman who even goes as far as saving the Doctor’s life by uncovering a hidden bomb.
I believe the writers of the show made an effort to give women an equal chance to be a heroic figure in some of the Classic Who episodes. Perhaps someday, the writers will go as far as making the Doctor a female. Obviously, there are some logistics that would have to play into that scenario but that is a discussion for another day.
For my first free write, I have decided to compare and contrast Jek (the villain from “The Caves of Androzani”) with the Phantom from The Phantom of the Opera. For those of you who don’t know, The Phantom of the Opera was originally a book published in 1909 (goodreads.com), and was later turned into a musical.
There are many similarities between Jek and the Phantom. Let’s start with the obvious. They look very similar. Here is a photo for reference. Jek is on the left and the Phantom is on the right.
They both wear masks to cover their facial deformities. The Phantom’s face is scarred from a birth defect, and Jek was scarred while working with Morgus to harvest spectrox. Another big thing they have in common is their loneliness. They both hide away from the world because of their deformities. They also both long for love, even though they aren’t the best at interacting with women. Jek wants to be with Peri, but she doesn’t want to be with him. The Phantom takes a woman named Christine away from her fiancé so he can be with her. I guess no one told him that girls usually don’t fall in love with you if you kidnap them, unless they develop Stockholm syndrome.
One of the major differences between them is how they pick the girl they love. I’m pretty sure Peri was the only girl Jek had access to in the caves, so he decided to love her. The Phantom is choosier when it comes to women. He falls in love with Christine because they both share a passion for music, and because she is kind to him when no one else is.
All in all these two characters are very similar. Both make you feel sorry for them, even though each is supposed to be the bad guy. Both hurt people, but all they really want is someone to love them, even though they have scars.
This is the blog for the Wartburg College course, “Diversity and the Doctor,” which is a section of the sophomore-level class Living in a Diverse World. We will be using the British science fiction series Doctor Who to explore issues of diversity in Britain and the US.