In my previous post I discussed the issues with female representation in the episode School Reunion and I will now address the issues with S2E4 The Girl in the Fire Place.
In this episode the Doctor, Rose and Mickey find themselves on a broken down spaceship with windows that lead into France in the 1700s. What they later find out is that the ship’s crew is using human body parts to repair their ship and that the windows are all moments in Madam de Pompadour’s life since they need her brain as the final piece.
The first couple times the Doctor fleetingly meets Madam de Pompadour, otherwise known as Renette, she is a child. When he meets her a third time though she is a woman and she almost immediately kisses him and he is thrilled yelling out,
DOCTOR: I’m the Doctor, and I just snogged Madame de Pompadour. Ha, ha!
Renette is set up as a love interest for the Doctor from the get go and since Rose had already been well established as a love interest, this forces the audience to pit these two women against each other.
Later on in the episode the Doctor and Renette have a short conversation where he goes into her mind in order to find out why the crew wants her. He becomes enamored with her and when she invites him to a party he accepts, seeming to forget about Rose and Mickey who are in grave danger. When Rose ask him why he would leave them in harm’s way his simple explanation is that he “invented the banana daiquiri a few centuries early.”
The Doctor and Renette only get closer as the episode goes on and by the end he considers bringing her onto the TARDIS and making her his next companion. When he goes to the future to pick her up though he misses her by a few minutes making that impossible.
The issue with this episode is that it diminishes a strong woman in history by making her a love interest through lazy writing and cheap tricks. The Doctor is almost a thousand years old so meeting Renette would have been a tiny speck of his life to him. On top of that, he had only met her twice as a child for a few minutes before they are suddenly making out and running off to parties together. It’s a love story that makes no sense. Why create a love triangle that the writers never intended to follow through with?
It’s unfortunate that the writers of Doctor Who make almost every woman that meets the Doctor fall in love with him. An incomplete list of these women would be Rose, Sarah Jane, Renette, Martha, and Amy. Why can’t a woman want to travel with the Doctor simply because she loves adventure and wants to explore time and space?