Regression Through Time

While we have been on the topic of Martha in class, I wanted to take a moment to compare how Martha is treated in “The Shakespeare Code” and in “Human Nature.” After watching both episodes, I was shocked at the differences I saw. From what I know of history, 1599 was around the time when white Europeans were of the opinion that native peoples were an inferior species, and their sole purpose was to be enlightened and civilized. Yet, in “The Shakespeare Code,” Martha’s color serves as a point of interest for Shakespeare, making her more attractive rather than an inferior being to be scoffed at.

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Although I applaud the decision to make Martha the object of affection, I then had higher hopes for “Human Nature.” Surely a show that upends racial stereotypes that far in the past would do so in 1913 also, but I was disappointed and shocked at her treatment. For example, the boys in the school make racial slurs at Martha, claiming that they do not know how she can tell when anything is clean with hands that color. John Smith also thinks less of Martha, especially when she is trying to convince him that he is really the Doctor. He chalks her ranting up to cultural differences and proceeds to treat Martha like her brain is incapable of understanding rational conversation.

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The difference in Martha’s treatment might come from the points each episode is trying to make. “The Shakespeare Code” emphasizes what an extraordinary man Shakespeare was, and portraying him as having positive feelings towards people of color is the perfect example. On the other hand, “Human Nature” emphasizes how human the Doctor truly has become. He cares for Martha as a Time Lord, but seeing him as a human and treating Martha as inferior is used to show how complete the transformation was. In any case, I was disappointed that the writers chose to display such racial distinctions when they had previously been so progressive. I already feel bad for Martha as the rebound companion, and I feel she deserved better.

 

Dr. Her Part 2

Last time I discussed the portrayal of women in the television show Doctor Who in the episodes we have seen so far. Through this analysis, I would like to pose the question of whether a female doctor has its place in the future of Doctor Who. The main concerns here deal with the already established expectations of what a doctor must bring to the show. It may be unfair, but if and when there is a female doctor, the critical lenses of all viewers will be fixed on the female’s demeanor. In this theoretical scenario, the producers must find a woman actor who can deliver much of what is expected out of a doctor while spinning in some individuality. Certainly with every change there is opportunity, so another side question becomes, what advantages are there to having a female doctor?

Though uniqueness is desired in every doctor, some characteristics must remain the same even if a woman were to be the doctor. The trademark of every doctor is superior intelligence and a female doctor would be no different. Dr. Who is unique in the fact that problems are solved with intelligence rather than force, and it would be counter-productive to create a female doctor who did not fit the intelligence mold. Another quality that must be maintained would be the strong presence held by the doctor. This does not imply masculinity, but it does mean that a strong-willed woman would be a good idea. So far, the show has shown both strong and weak women, but on top of will is the authority that a doctor figure holds. The viewers must be able to believe that this hypothetical woman can lead and guide those around her.

So far, all these concerns sound like a hassle for producers to deal with, but one must also think of the positives that a woman can bring to the show. Women naturally have different experiences than men and these different perspectives could open up a new range of possible storylines.

After viewing the season 2 episodes, I wonder what might happen if a future female doctor would run into an old female companion who had some kind of romantic interest in the doctor. Hopefully, the producers would come up with an interesting plot to explain all the little questions like this people would have. If nothing else, a female doctor would create an immediate spike in viewership if times were to get tough in the future.

The Girl in the Fireplace and her Impact on the Man in the Blue Box

Doctor Who focuses mainly on the fast-paced adventure sequences that make it palatable to many different audiences. Once in a while, the format changes slightly and there is something different. The Season 2 episode, “The Girl in the Fireplace” is one such episode. Sure, there are alien robots running around 18th century France, but I focus on the dynamic between the Doctor and Madame de Pompadour throughout the episode every time I see it. What always strikes me the most is that this is an episode where the Doctor doesn’t know everything and explains it to his companions like they should know what he’s saying. In this particular episode, the Doctor is discovering France and getting to know the person of Madame de Pompadour throughout her life. Remarkably, she is a strong and intelligent woman, something rarely seen in Doctor Who episodes. Her command of her life goals and her sensibilities in the face of a robot attack both attest to her character and strength. The Doctor is only there once in a while to assist when defeating foreign and advanced technology is slightly beyond her power

Another interesting note is that the viewer gets a better sense of what time travel really does to a person and their perceptions of things. In this episode, the Doctor is jumping around Madame de Pompadour’s timeline while she lives it out once day at a time. Seconds to him are years to her, and that is the danger of time travel. The Doctor and Rose miss so much of the daily grind in the TARDIS, and it is specifically pointed out here. As the Doctor is forming a relationship with Madame de Pompadour, she is getting on with her life-as she must-because she can never be sure when the Doctor will show up again. What did she feel during all those years? Did she wait for him and think of him often, or forget him and put it aside in the greater goal of getting on with her life?

The “Regeneration” of Rose

The Doctor is not the only one who changes through the Doctor Who series. We are introduced to Christopher Eccleston during season one of the reboot, and in efforts to save Rose by absorbing the energy from the TARDIS’s heart, we meet the tenth, Doctor David Tennant, by season two. Not only did this change in doctors occur, but Rose’s appearance and character seemed to transform as well.

 

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Looking at this first image, we see Rose as she started in the series. She usually wore hoodies/sweatshirts most of the time, and looked like an average teenager of the working class population in London. Her mother and boyfriend also seemed to wear similar things. Through the season, we learn that Rose did not go to a college or university and worked at a shop everyday. During her visits back to her mother and boyfriend (or ex-boyfriend, this relationship seemed to be a little complicated), she would mention that the doctor showed her a better life. In a way, I see Rose’s character mature through these experiences.

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Though I have only seen three episodes of season two, I can see obvious changes in Rose’s character. Looking at the second image from season two, her short hair and change in clothes make her look more mature. She does not wear hoodies and sneakers as much and makes more of an effort to find outfits to fit in to wherever they are travelling next, such as in “Tooth and Claw”. However, her attempt is backfired when they arrive in 1879 instead of 1979 and her t-shirt and overalls are making everyone consider her naked. Along with looking physically different, her sexual relationship with the Doctor also seems to be more apparent.

But why does Rose change so much? During “New Earth”, when Cassandra takes over her body and kisses the doctor, she says she did it because she was in Rose’s head and could tell she was attracted to him. Looking back at past episodes, it is clear there is attraction and that it has been building up. Though many people thought Rose and the Doctor in season 1 were together, there were also many comments about how far in age the two were, making the possibility of a sexual relationship weird. However, now that the Doctor has regenerated and appears to be much younger; this makes a possible relationship between Rose and the Doctor a little more accepting to the public . The fact that Rose’s appearance also seems to change with the regeneration of the Doctor may also be because she is suddenly even more attracted to a younger doctor. Perhaps this was exactly what writers were thinking when they chose to cast David Tennant next…

The Doctor’s Romance

For those who have just started watching Doctor Who, I recommend not reading this, or waiting on reading this, since I will be referencing future episodes and plotlines. Therefore, to give you a warning and for River’s sake, “Spoilers!”

Practically every single companion that the Doctor has had since the show began was a woman. If there was a male on the TARDIS, they typically were with the female companion. Though we would like to think that the Doctor’s initial plan isn’t to find a romance between himself and his companions, it doesn’t stop the romance from forming.

Since I have only watched a few episodes of the Classic Who, I’ll start with what I do know well, which is the New Who. Rose is one of the first companions that I believe had a large romantic interest with the Doctor. She was with him as both the 9th and 10th Doctor, until she was separated from him. Eventually, she managed to get reunited with the Doctor. At least, she was reunited with a part of him.

Obviously we shouldn’t ignore the Doctor’s romance with River Song, since he did get married to her. However, the story of that romance is far too long and to complicated to even begin in this short post.

In addition, questions on the Doctor’s romance with his prior companions are even asked by some of the current companions themselves. Amy Pond and the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith, have a small and funny moment where Amy questions why the Doctor’s companions are mostly female and what his true intentions are with his companions:

The Doctor’s romance doesn’t even begin nor end with his companions. Through out an assortment of episodes, the Doctor is receiving and giving kisses by a wide range of people he runs into, including Rory in the episode “Dinosaurs on a Space Ship”.

After describing and thinking about these few romantic examples that I’ve posted, it’s gotten me to think that why has the Doctor had mostly female companions? Did the writers intentionally make so that if the Doctor was always male, the companions should be female? Of course, then that brings up the question that if the Doctor became female, would the next companion then be male?

Dr. Her

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.