When a football game ends, I have rarely had a boyfriend who didn’t immediately run to the computer to read the ESPN or Deadspin recaps of the game. They know what happened — they just saw every fumble and pass — but they want the commentary. That’s how I operate with Doctor Who. I love the show. I have fun watching it. When an episode is done, I want the juice, the over-analyzing, the nit-picks.
For the last two episodes of Who, the first of series 7, there’s been a running theme in the recaps I’ve read: fishy feminism. Since this season, we’ve been told by producers and writers that the episodes will be arc-light and full of blockbuster-y one offs, two brand new female characters have already been introduced. In the premiere, “Asylum of the Daleks,” we met Oswin Oswald, an adorable computer genius who is (SPOILER ALERT) trapped inside the body of a Dalek. (By the way, Daleks are scary again. They’re doing a sort of Cyberman thing where they turn people into Daleks. Oh? Where did all those Daleks come from? Yeah, I don’t know either, bud.)
In the second episode, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” we get Queen Nefertiti herself. I love when Who uses actual historical figures. (Remember Shakespeare? He ruled. Or Agatha Christie? Awesome.) I actually would have preferred if macho man Rupert Graves, who played 1900s big game hunter Riddell, was actually Ernest Hemingway like I thought he might be. (SO cool, right? I should write this show.) Anyway, for funsies and to keep Who in check feminist-wise, let’s break down these two ladies and how they were portrayed and written.
Who is Oswin?
Oswin, played by future companion Jenna-Louise Coleman, was cheeky and smart. A computer hacker and space explorer, she was trapped in the Dalek asylum when her ship crashed. She’s portrayed as a brilliant genius, getting the Doctor out of scrap after scrap from the comfort of behind her keyboard. The Doctor is super impressed by her.
She’s whip smart. Smart enough to create a realistic dream world just to maintain her humanity.
She’s also super funny and quick-witted. A joy to watch.
She erases the Doctor from the Dalek’s memories in what has to be the most awesome, large scale favor ever.
Oh god, the way her story ended was so tragic. It was one of the most horrifying things that I’ve seen happen to a character since Amy was forced to give birth.
She mentions being bisexual, but then calls it a “phase.” This kind of thing has to be taken as part of a whole, and not a portrayal of realistic human complexity — obviously some people go through phases, that’s legit, but the line is played for a joke here, which is…not ideal.
She flirts with both the Doctor and Rory, which is fine. (We all love Captain Jack after all) But! It’s becoming kind of a trend that all female characters hit on the Doctor. There’s a reason fans needed Donna Noble after Rose and Martha — we were tired of women thinking the Doctor was the bee’s knees. Let him meet a woman who doesn’t immediately want to jump his bones for once. Let that be normal and okay.
I found it funny that she asked the Doctor to “save [her] and show [her] the stars” when she spent the whole episode saving him. But sure, whatever.
Who is Neffy?
She’s THE Queen Nefertiti of Egypt who mysteriously disappeared. Like Agatha Christie on this show, her disappearance is explained by Doctor Who-y interference. (I’m a sucker for that idea.) Nefertiti was at one point equal ruler to her husband. She was the lordess of two lands. She was, as Amy puts it, “super famous” and worthy of all the high fives. She was a badass woman — one of the originals.
Actually played by a woman of color. I hate when Egyptians are portrayed as white people. It’s ridiculous.
She and Amy actually get along and are great to each other. What could have been played as jealous Amy feeling possessive of the Doctor, actually became two women working together and supporting each other. Bravo!
The conversations she and Amy have shutting down Riddell’s ridiculous, yet historically-accurate misogyny.
She’s autonomous and she bends to no one. She calls herself a Queen and shouts down anyone who tries to make decisions for her. Choices! Hooray!
They sold her! To Solomon! They just…traded her like an artifact when she is a person. Just bad, bad, bad.
She was SUPER sexualized and basically just looking for a new husband, which is fine but how does that line up with her being a freakin’ QUEEN? There’s this weird idea on Who now that to be a brilliant woman, you also have to be sexy. I don’t like it.
There was a pretty clear rape threat, which I think was just used to show that Solomon was vile and deserved to die but man, I am sick of sexual assault being used as a plot device over and over again in TV and movies. Why did Neffy cower about that? She should have ripped his balls off and eaten them. (She gets him later, but still.)
This next one is a problem I have with the women in graphic novels all the time: Why is fighting back with a man about feminism or a misogynistic comment he’s made portrayed as flirting? If Neffy shuts Riddell down for saying terrible things about women, she’s only hitting on him? That’s ludicrous. Why does that continue to be a trope? I am not flirting with you when I tell you you’re being anti-feminist. But this is why you think so.
OH AND OF COURSE, they end up dating. Of course they do.
For the hell of it, let’s also talk about constant companion Amy Pond.
Who is Amy?
At this point, you know who Amy is. She’s one of the Ponds, the Doctor’s companions for the past two seasons. Both she and her husband Rory are on their ways out though. They’ve got three episodes left to say goodbye.
In “Asylum of the Daleks,” she’s a bit limp, needing to be saved by the Doctor but…
In “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” Amy shines. Without the Doctor around, she becomes a sort of defacto-Doctor, pushing buttons, dealing with her “companions,” and saving the day. She’s brilliant and as Neffy says, “If the Doctor trusts Amy, then so do I.” This episode is some of the best I’ve ever seen of Amy. She’s confident and smart and self-reliant. All it took was separating her from the boys for a bit so they could, I guess, do this unnecessary kissing:
“I’m easily worth two men.” HA!
Is it weird to anyone else that Amy’s post-Doctor job is as a model? Sure, she’s gorgeous but she’s proven herself to be far more than just her looks. Shouldn’t she know by now how capable and smart she is? Not that models aren’t capable and smart, but I just don’t get why Amy would want to be a model. I think she’d find it boring at this point.
Just because she can’t have kids she thinks she’s useless to Rory? Oh boy. Also, I don’t buy the whole “Rory loves Amy more” thing. It does such a disservice to their relationship and it puts a lot of BS on Amy that isn’t fair.
Glad she finally called The Doctor out for making her wait around for him. Wish she would have realized that maybe she should stop waiting.
In conclusion, there have been some great female characters on Who so far, almost despite the poor way they’re being written. Let’s hope for Miss Jenna-Louise’s return to be just as triumphant as her surprise first appearance. And maybe the eventual return of Neffy, having dumped that nerfherder Riddell or at least given him a true lesson in gender politics? Sorry Rupert Graves (love ya!), but a feminist-y Whovian can dream.