Diversity in Doctor Who

Since Doctor Who rebooted in 2005 it has made strides in representing diversity on television.  Strides that can’t be said for many other television shows.  We open with episode one, “Rose” set in England, 2005, on a rare scene for television.  Rose is a working class woman who really is working class, not a dramatized version of this.  She lives in a small apartment with her single mother and wakes early every day to clock-in at her job in a department store.  She’s casual, dressing in clothes that certainly aren’t the height of fashion for the time, she isn’t dolled up in makeup only a professional could do, and what’s more; she isn’t the tiny waisted, long-legged pretty girl we’re used to seeing on TV.  Rose sets the pace for the growing diversity we’re about to be treated to in “Doctor Who”.

Not long after we get Captain Jack Harkness, the first openly pansexual in the history of “Doctor Who” who equally and openly shows attraction to men, women, aliens, and the non-gender conforming.  This was a huge leap for sexual and romantic diversity in “Doctor Who”, and one of the very first times queer people could see themselves in a character on television that wasn’t harmful.  

Next comes Martha, the first black companion on “Doctor Who”.  She’s intelligent and able to keep up with the Doctor’s rambling better, perhaps, than most other companions.  For people of colour, Martha is a big deal.  She’s a strong, woman of colour, in a leading role on one of the most popular television shows of all time.  With Martha, the television series continues to push forward for more diversity in their cast.

The next three companions, Donna, Amy, and Clara continue to portray strong female leads with diverse histories and personalities.  Along the way we meet a couple more sexually diverse characters, and characters from all different walks of life.  

Now we come to the most recent companion, Bill, who is both a woman of colour and openly gay.  She is one of the very first leading characters like this on television, a huge influence for women, people of colour, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.  We finally have a leading character that many minorities can view themselves in in a positive way.

Soon we’ll be treated with something that came unexpected: a female Doctor.  Jodie Whittaker will soon take on the role of the Doctor and make history as the first female Doctor.  Many people are very excited about this.  We get a leading female, and also confirmation that Gallifreyans, or at least the Doctor, experience gender fluidity, which could be a nod toward the transgender community.

But when it comes to diversity, is it enough?  Though Doctor Who has done a great job positively representing different groups of people, we still are left itching for more.  Several groups who wish to see any kind of representation on television have been left out.  Doctor Who has come a long way, but I believe it can, and should, go much farther.  I hope that as the episodes continue to air we will continue to see a rise in representation in the cast.      

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Vincent and The Doctor

In S5E10, the 11th Doctor and his companion Amy travel back in time to figure out why strange creature is hiding in one of Van Gogh’s paintings. The episode does have some scenes that are more focused towards taking the creature out, but there also some scenes when the focus was on Van Gogh’s mental health. Specifically, Amy is very concerned for Van Gogh’s mental health while the Doctor is concerned but also knows that he cannot do too much to change history. The Doctor realize that Van Gogh is a troubled soul, but also the Doctor cannot say or do anything to Van Gogh to disrupt history. However, Amy does not see the situation through the Doctor’s perspective. This is where the problem comes in. Amy tries to figure out why Vincent van Gogh feels the way he does. Amy starts to build a friendship with Van Gogh, and he mistakes this friendship for love. Here is where I have a problem: even though, Amy is a good person and making sure someone is alright is fine. Despite this trait, the episode portrays Amy’s kindness as a cause of Vincent van Gogh’s downfall. It is evident that Amy is a caring person, but because she wanted to make sure that Van Gogh was okay, she ended up being a part of someone’s ultimate end. When the Doctor and Amy left Van Gogh without warning, Van Gogh felt abandoned by his friends. This might be me reaching for a reason to make Amy the villain, but she unwillingly made a mentally ill person attached to her all while knowing that she would have to return to her time period and leave Van Gogh behind.

 

 

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The Trouble with Mystical Pregnancy

If you’re a fan of science fiction, fantasy, or horror television, you are probably aware of the cliché trope of mystical pregnancy. Since many shows in these genres feature a lot of female characters and aim to scare viewers by making them uncomfortable, it seems obvious to writers have a mystical pregnancy of some sort. While mystical pregnancies are effective in scaring viewers because of how it violates the female character, it is a trope that needs to ends because it negatively exploits a woman’s reproductive abilities. I’m going to give some examples of (fairly) recent times mystical pregnancies were used in television and explain the issues surround each one.

Amy Pond – Doctor Who

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In the S6E7 episode A Good Man Goes to War, it is revealed to viewers that Amy has actually been pregnant the whole season and was kidnapped and held prisoner during her entire pregnancy.

My main issue with this scenario is that Amy’s trauma from this incident is never fully addressed. First of all, Amy is only 21 which is a pretty young age to get pregnant. She has also never shown any interest in having a child. This makes her consent to getting pregnant very questionable. Secondly, Amy finds out that she is pregnant, has actually been kidnapped and held prisoner for months, and starts going into labor within just minutes of each other. This would be a highly traumatic experience for anyone, but rather than addressing it, Amy and Rory are back on the TARDIS and traveling with the Doctor two episodes later. Also, considering River Song had been introduced to the show before Amy, it makes is almost seem like Amy was only written to have a baby and give River a background story.

Cordelia Chase – Angel

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In the fourth season of Angel, Cordelia is mystically impregnated by a Higher Power for that Higher Power’s own birth, only to go into a coma immediately after giving birth. It is also later revealed that the Higher Power had instigated several miracles to ensure that this would happen.

There are so many issues surrounding this, both on screen and behind the scenes. The main issue on screen is that since the Higher Power had influenced history to ensure that Cordelia was impregnated, her consent to the situation is questionable. Also, falling into a coma just after giving birth and then being killed off in the 100th episode of the show just after she returned makes it seem like her only purpose in the show was to have a child.

Behind the scenes things were an even bigger mess. The actress who played Cordelia, Charisma Carpenter, had gotten unexpectedly pregnant just before filming the fourth season of the show. When she told the show’s producer about it he was reportedly very angry that he had to rewrite her character’s story line and chose to kill her character off despite promises not too. It is horrendous that women in the film industry are shamed and punished for getting pregnant since it is a personal decision for those actresses to make.

Caroline Forbes – The Vampire Diaries

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When Jo Laughlin is murdered on her wedding day, her family of witches performs a spell that transfers the twins she is pregnant with into Caroline’s own body.

This whole situation is incredibly icky. Jo’s family impregnates Caroline without asking for her consent. On top of that, Jo’s fiancé, Alaric, is her professor and best friend’s adoptive father. Caroline has known him for years and he has served as a mentor figure for her and her friends throughout the show. When word gets out that she is pregnant with his children, fellow students and professors at the school are highly judgmental. It is terrible that the writers shamed her for getting pregnant despite it not being her choice. As if things couldn’t get worse, Caroline decides to raise the children as her own and gets engaged to Alaric who is twice her age.