The New Who: In Which I Have a Lot to Say About One Image

For the record: I have not seen “Asylum of the Daleks.” The Man and I don’t have cable – we just do everything through Netflix, so unless we resort to less-than-legal methods, it’ll be awhile before I get to see season 7.

However, I’ve of course been paying attention to the hype and promotion building up to the premiere over Labor Day weekend, and there’s something that’s been bothering me. Every time I saw it, I felt a little squicky, but I thought, “Oh, you’re just being silly.” The more I think about it and see some of the reactions coming in, though, the stronger I feel about saying my piece.

I’m talking about this image right here:

Disclaimer: Ten is my Doctor. And coming off the AWESOMENESS that was Donna, the Ponds have not been my favorite companions. I’m ready for them to move on and see what comes next. And while Eleven will never be my Doctor, I do kind of like what Matt Smith does with the character.

My problem with the image above is wrapped up a lot with my feelings toward the changes in the show since Russell T. Davies left and Moffat took over as showrunner. Moffat wrote some of the most brilliant episode under Davies’ reign – of course he seemed like a natural choice to take over for season 5. However, unchecked, his storytelling abilities are starting to cannibalize themselves. He has evolved the show from its origins to a sexy, blockbuster-ish series where everything is HUGE and people RUN AWAY FROM EXPLOSIONS IN SLOW MOTION.

I mean – seriously. Look at that photo up there. I mean, it’s cool and everything, but…that’s not the Doctor I know. That’s nothing of the Doctor Who I love.

And that right there? That’s not a companion worth giving a damn about.

Being carried from the wreckage like a Fainty McFainterson. Swooning in the Doctor’s arms. That tells you everything you need to know about how Moffat has been writing his primary female in the show for the past few years.

Let’s do a quick comparison by taking a look at Davies’ three companions.

  • Rose: Whether you like her or not, woman took charge. Season 1? She became the TARDIS. Season 2, she risked herself alongside the Doctor to save the world. Then she crawled her way back across space and time to get to his side and stood against a Dalek invasion.
  • Martha: I’m not even a huge Martha fan, but this woman is badass. She grew from doctor-running-away-with-a-crush to a soldier who took charge of her own life. She crossed a ravaged and occupied planet on foot for a year to save the Doctor’s ass and everyone else’s, too.
  • Donna: Oh, Donna. My favorite. She always felt not quite good enough, but more than any of the others, she was the heart that kept the Doctor grounded. More clever than she knew, always softer than she let on. When the shit hit the fan, she absorbed Time Lordiness and moved planets alongside her best friend.

Now let’s take a look at our wilting flower up there. Amy has:

  • Remembered the Doctor
  • Had a baby that’s a ridiculous vixen stereotype
  • Squabbled with her husband

In all fairness to Moffat, let’s take a look at his other lady – his “strong woman” River Song, who has:

  • Sexually harassed and nagged at the Doctor in a sex-kitten-as-wife role
  • Become what the Doctor said she was just because the Doctor said it
  • Ruined the whole world so that the Doctor had to clean it up
  • Generally degraded in intelligence and natural confidence since we met her character in season 4

Now I must ask myself, which of those groups of women would I want my little sister looking up to? The Well-Rounded Women’s Club who consistently stand alongside the Doctor and help him save the world? Or Sex Kittens Anonymous who have to be carried from the chaos and are mainly valued for how they look in a miniskirt?

Seriously.

Look, Who is Who. I’m going to keep watching and hoping (probably in vain) that Moffat turns around and makes new companion Clara a strong, layered character (and not just his definition of strong, which seems to only consist of “is sassy”). But I do miss the focus and humanity of the past seasons and regret a bit what it’s becoming.

That image? It’s a very accurate depiction of the new Who. It’s just not quite my Who.

17 thoughts on “The New Who: In Which I Have a Lot to Say About One Image

  1. Interesting reaction, but not the one I had to this image.

    Eleven’s bond with the Ponds has been one that goes beyond companionship; they’re family. And when I saw the image of the Doctor carrying Amy, my thought was not that she was swooning (because Amy would NEVER swoon). My thought was that they are trying to imply that she is going to die. This is not an image of a hero carrying a damsel in distress. This is a man carrying his dying friend through the burning fires of hell.

    Now I may be a bit off the beam. This scene hasn’t played out in either episode I’ve seen thus far in season 7. So maybe you’re right. Then again…

    I think Amy, Rory, and River Song are strong characters. None may be the same kind of companions that Ten had, but every companion is different. I think it goes back to the fundamentals of the story. Amy and Rory’s Doctor is a fairy tale character. He’s not science fiction. The essence of the story calls for different character types. Amy is the fairy princess. Rory is her knight in shining armor. The Doctor is the wizard, filling their story with magic.

    I’ve rambled on a bit here. My apologies. But I think you need to give season 7 a shot before judging too harshly from one publicity image. There’s more to come, and from what I’ve heard it’s going to be epic.

    1. Oh, I definitely intend to watch season 7. Like I said, for me, any Doctor Who is better than no Doctor Who. πŸ™‚ I’m not trying to judge I haven’t seen yet on that photo. Instead, that image, to me, demonstrates issues I’ve been having with the evolution over the past two seasons. It’s about seasons 5 and 6 more than 7. It’s about how the overall feel of the show has changed since Davies left and how that’s exemplified in that one publicity shot.

      I think your perspective on it this Doctor and the Ponds is interesting – I’m just not sure that I feel like Moffat is conveying that interpretation very well. I really that’s what he’s going for, but I don’t see it played out on my screen. Which is just me, really, and how I watch things versus how you watch things, so we’ll probably just have to agree to disagree on Moffat’s reign. πŸ™‚

  2. YAY DOCTOR WHO! πŸ˜€

    Like you, Ten is my Doctor and Donna is my favorite companion. They worked together so very well, and Donna was a welcome change from three seasons of companions falling in love with the Doctor. They were friends, real friends, and I adored it. Which is really saying something, considering I HATED Donna in “The Runaway Bride” when I initially saw it.

    I’ve also never been a fan of Amy, and while I really liked River initially, over the course of the last season I’ve liked her less and less. Not sure if it’s because she’s getting “younger” or what.

    Of the three, Rory has been my favorite current companion, in a large part because he took a MASSIVE level in awesome over the course of seasons 5 and 6. I was disappointed to find out Amy and Rory were coming back for another season (at least in part), just because they had such a good sendoff last season.

    I’m not sure I would call Amy a wilting flower, but it did bother me that she seemed to spend a lot of time waiting for the Doctor or Rory to rescue her. Heck, she’s even called “The Girl Who Waited.” While I can appreciate the damsel in distress archetype, it’s far from my favorite.

    I’m holding out hope for the new companion, though. πŸ™‚

    1. I’m very interested to see what Clara will bring to the table. The actress is rumored to have given Matt Smith a run for his money in the fast-talking department during the audition, so fingers crossed she’s more Donna-like!

  3. very thought-provoking post. I’m also a big doctor/donna fan and miss tennant terribly. i have grown accustomed to smith and enjoy the show enough to keep watching. i have to say, i think the image, which actually DID come into play in the very first episode, is part of a growing trend i see as the “americanization” of brit shows that that come “across the pond” or at least try to expand their audience to a wider american viewership by adding a layer of glitz and kapow to their shows unnecessarily. bbc america did do a big push in for doctor who with matt smith, even setting his second season IN america – many people think he’s the first doctor – as if! gordon ramsey had a wonderful show called the ‘f’ word where he was actually allowed to appear jovial and human. take him to america with hell’s kitchen and there’s almost nothing but rapid camera cuts, edited drama and rage – cursing, scowling, kicking, throwing things – no joviality. seems that maybe dr who 11.0 is amping up the explosions, the sexiness, because tv execs think americans just can’t take a fantastic doctor tennant-esque style without all the bells and whistles. and explosions. you gotta have explosions.

    1. I think you made a super-excellent point here, and I really agree with it. Who starts being pushed toward America and all of the sudden the skirts are getting shorter and the explosions are getting bigger. Once again, Eddie Izzard proves that he speaks so much truth:

  4. I’ve been slow to get on the bandwagon that Moffat is a sexist writer, which is something that people have been saying since practically day one of season five. I still think that there are a few things that he gets accused of that are unfair and/or reaching – for example, the female characters revolve around the Doctor because everyone revolves around the Doctor. Even Rory.

    However, considering last season – and the points that you make so articulately in this article (Moffat *knows* that he’s been criticized for being sexist; and yet he okays *this* image, which is the most keyboard-slamming just -arghhhh) – I’ve started to agree that Moffat is not good at getting into the female perspective and can only write female characters that are either pure or sex kittens (apparently we have no other modes). He’s definitely sexist to the extent that many female viewers are going to eventually roll their eyes and say, “I can tell a man wrote this crap.”

    1. I agree with your point that I don’t think he’s guilty of everything he’s being accused of, and I don’t think he sets out, mustache a-twirl with diabolical-ness, to degrade his female characters. I just don’t think he’s very good at writing women. He knows dudes and typical heterosexual relationships, so that’s pretty much all we’re gonna get. And he has proven himself rather unable to listen and adjust to criticism, which is unfortunate. I do think he’s trying to write the best Doctor Who – it’s just more that his version of what makes Who awesome and my version don’t exactly line up.

  5. I’m so with you. Except I’ve only been able to bring myself to watch one episode with Eleven. Despite not liking his smarmy looks (sorry!), I gave it a chance. The script felt weak, the acting seemed…not very good, to be kind (it was the Churchill episode, fwiw). Ten was the Doctor that hooked me, and I went backwards, but I struggle to go forwards.

    I agree, Moffat was brilliant writing under Davies’ helm, but everything I’ve read about this new direction has not drawn me in enough to care. And what you said is spot on what I thought about the image… “Is this for a big screen adaptation?” It’s just a bit overblown, and that’s saying a lot if you’re talking about Doctor Who, where in the second episode with Rose, she saw the Earth being blown to bits.

    Speaking of which, Rose was my favourite, and although it took me ages to warm up to Martha, I loved her by the end as well, by the strength and perseverance she showed. The one episode I saw with these folks, I just couldn’t make myself care about them. I’d like to hope, like you, that it starts to improve, but I think I sadly agree about the Americanisation of it all. As it gets a wider audience, I guess it has to have more “mass appeal” which means sexier, swoon-ier, and bigger explosions.

    1. Oh, the Churchill episode… That really wasn’t one of their best – at all. Smith is good and has really grown on me, but it wasn’t until about halfway through series five. And I honestly still don’t love series five that much. I liked series six better even as it doubled-down on its twisty storylines.

      It’s just…yeah. The Americanization is too much. Best episode of the past two seasons was the one written by Neil Gaiman, and it was almost entirely insular from the overall plotline.

      1. I might have to hunt that Gaiman one down, then. It might help me ease into the rest.

        Good to hear Smith has grown on you. I know he’s still the Doctor, but given that each actor clearly puts their own spin on the same character, I can’t really help it if I don’t warm to his…spin. πŸ˜‰

        1. No, and he’s not as easy to love as Tennant. He plays up the more alien elements of the Doctor – the terrible intelligence, the way he sometimes pulls on people’s strings, etc.

          Gaiman’s episode: “The Doctor’s Wife” – series 6. It’s amazing.

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