Pitting Women Against Each Other Part Two

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!

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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?

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Pitting Women Against Each Other Part One

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.

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I will address The Girl in the Fireplace in part two of this post next week