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Feminism of the Doctor - Yew Erdri Ming

About Feminism of the Doctor

Previous Entry Feminism of the Doctor Aug. 26th, 2017 @ 04:46 pm Next Entry


If one watches Doctor Who through from the 1963 première to present, one notices there has been a definite feminist evolution on the show. It's something the writers have been quite conscious of as you can see in the moment in The Five Doctors when the Fifth Doctor has to apologise for the First Doctor automatically ordering a woman to make him some tea. Watching the gradual change on the show gives one a peek into how attitudes about the place of women in work and society were changing in the world at the time. From The Daleks, the second serial, when Barbara, a schoolteacher, fearfully asks fellow teacher Ian what's going on when there's no reason to expect he should know more than her; to the Second Doctor's young math wiz companion, Zoe; to the Third Doctor's first companion, Liz, who was actually a respected scientist. It was during the Third Doctor's era that feminism started being discussed more by the characters in dialogue--Three and Liz are amused and disappointed by a chauvinist administrator who doesn't want her included in a meeting in The Silurians. And when Three's second companion, Jo Grant, was introduced, she specifically mentions "women's lib" in sticking up for herself. Arguably she did need to make her case as the show deliberately dropped the knowledgeable Liz so the Doctor could have a more traditionally clueless companion to explain things to.

The show would take a step back now and then, as in the Fourth Doctor's first season when his companion, Sarah Jane Smith, was reduced to a whiny damsel in distress, which I suspect was a factor in actress Elisabeth Sladen almost leaving the show. But in the Fourth Doctor's second season, partly due to some great improvisational chemistry between the two actors, Sladen made Smith a fuller character capable of courage and ingenuity, which makes for a more interesting dynamic in addition to being less obnoxious.



Anyway, this is all a lead up to me saying I watched the Fifth Doctor serial, Four to Doomsday, again this past week. When I was complaining about the lack of Chinese characters on the show after Talons of Weng-Chiang, someone reminded me that Four to Doomsday has Burt Kwouk as Lin Futu, the head of a group of Mandarin Chinese men detained on the giant spacecraft on which the serial takes place.



I'd completely forgotten him, possibly because he doesn't have much of a role in the serial. He's about for the whole thing but doesn't actually have any significant dialogue until the fourth episode where the Fifth Doctor swiftly convinces him to come over to his side. This was only the second time I'd watched the serial and I'd forgotten other things, too, like the beautiful moment when the Doctor calls Adric an idiot.



I've watched State of Decay and Keeper of Traken a few times but generally I avoid watching any serial featuring Adric. When I want to watch a Fifth Doctor serial, I'm most likely to watch Arc of Infinity (I love the stuff in Amsterdam), Enlightenment, Frontios, and of course, The Caves of Androzani. Though I would say the Fifth Doctor has some of the worst written episodes of the series and it's not all Adric's fault--Time-Flight is tedious and Warriors of the Deep tragically squanders an appearance by Ingrid Pitt.



But the reason I started talking about feminism is because one of the reasons I hated Adric so much was that he took valuable time away from Nyssa. As shown in the first episode of Four to Doomsday, she's a lot smarter and more sensible than Adric but by the fourth serial, in a disappointing throwback to Barbara in The Daleks, Nyssa looks to Adric as a figure of strength and reassurance in a moment of danger, crying out, "Adric!" for no apparent reason. Ugh.



To be fair, it's clear we're meant, in this serial at least, to find Adric annoying--thus the Doctor calling him an idiot. And I kind of like how some of the drama in this serial comes from Adric and Tegan being twits. Though when Tegan tries to run off by herself in the TARDIS, it's a lot more satisfying watching her stomp on the TARDIS manual in her heels than it is to listen to Adric being a snot.



It's hard to believe Peter Davison had to fight for Nyssa to stay--she wasn't supposed to stay on as a permanent companion. I'd forgotten, too, how Adric and Nyssa were written as a pair of mildly competitive children, I'm so used to the nearly romantic chemistry between Nyssa and the Fifth Doctor in the audio plays.



Despite some awkward writing and staging for the collection of earthlings on the ship, Four to Doomsday is a pretty good serial, one of the better in the Fifth's first season. Davison is particularly good in it, at turns guilelessly enthusiastic to learn about this strange place and people, at turns carefully playing the circumstances to outwit the arrogant would-be invaders.

Twitter Sonnet #1027

The alphabet's composed of rubber balls.
You can't festoon a cloud with painted cans.
Forgotten throats will never clear the halls.
Across the yard a hare'll load the vans.
What autumn comes in fire's folded sleep?
What shaky turning bed beheld the cell?
In time with ticking planes the punch was deep.
But careful chords could not replace the bell.
To metal turned the sighing morning grass.
Found late at night but made for dawn it was.
Behind some worlds the stars concealed a mass.
The calmer dream runs as it always does.
At last a certain note returned to blank.
The final eyes could see the islands sank.
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