Sarah Michelle: Moffat and Women: The Case of River Song and Comparing the Two Production Teams of Doctor Who in Terms of Levels of... ›
“So we’ll put the speech scene here since I’m mostly discussing that.
RORY: What did you mean? What you said to Amy: there’s a worse day coming for you.
RIVER: When I first met the Doctor, a long, long time ago, he knew all about me. Think about that. Impressionable young…
Ah, well. Not quite the response I expected. I’m glad you enjoyed my post, though I’m not entirely sure why you made it about RTD’s Era. I want to be very clear about something though: His era was also sexist.
To start with your examples, in no particular order, we’ll pick Sarah Jane. In School Reunion we are told by Sarah Jane herself that she wasn’t able to have a life after him. There’s a scene where the Doctor asks her basically how things are going and she admits she hasn’t moved on, that she’s investigating because it’s the closest thing to the Doctor she can have. She was jealous and needy when Sarah Jane wouldn’t be. When we saw her off, she was fine. In fact, despite what people say about Old Who, most companions left of their own accord. They made a decision to leave and left. Yes, there were still sexist things then. But at least they decided to leave without their lives being ruined.
Rose, meanwhile, actual states, in the text, in the show, that she did not move on. She didn’t build the cannon and work for Torchwood to have her own life. She built it to reach the Doctor. When he’s shot and dying, she screams that it’s unfair now that she finally has him again. Her ending? To be shoved back off into a world that she ripped a hole in the universe to escape from, given a close of the Doctor, and we see this choice is rather forced as she runs for the TARDIS. Rose started out as a wonderful character who lost had agency stripped from her and her life made to revolve around the Doctor until she devoted her energy to getting him back.
The Doctor’s life did revolve around her for quite some time, yes, but he was the controlling one. He made decisions for her - again I’ll point to Doomsday and how despite Rose having made her decision, he sent her to Pete’s World anyway. And again she has no choice in going back there when all is said and done, either.
Martha has a variety of issues but one I’ll address here is that she didn’t push her feelings on the Doctor. There was a lot of very poorly-written mixed signals nonsense and the Doctor was just as guilty of bringing up Rose as Martha. In the end, the show was always comparing them, because according to accounts, viewers would be wary of her as well and so it was only right. But how is this fair at all? Putting women against each other over a man is a long-standing issue in writing.
In fact, when Rose returns and she sees strangers on the screen, it’s Martha that she says, “Who’s she?!” about. Now, why would she do that? She had no reason to hate or dislike her. If there was anything good about School Reunion, it was that Rose learned that the Doctor has had companions before her and will after her. She’s fine with Donna! Yet Martha, the one she’s pitted against, is the one she singles out. Much of Martha’s problems in fact are that they aren’t about her, they’re about Rose.
And Donna, oh, Donna. I could write a million very angry essays about Donna’s fate and it’s a very emotional topic for me because, quite frankly, Donna’s fate is triggering.
PLEASE NOTE WHAT I AM ABOUT TO DESCRIBE COULD BE TRIGGERING.
I never thought I would have to slap a trigger warning on Doctor Who of all shows but I do. There is nothing okay or acceptable about what happened to her. She was crying, screaming, begging the Doctor ‘no no no please no’ as he came down on her, invaded her mind, and took out all of her development, everything that had made her grow and change and become happy with herself. That is a perfect example of lack of agency because she said no. Did it have to be done? The narrative says it does but why did we set-up a narrative like that? Why oh why was it needed to act out a scene so very disturbingly close to rape? Why did she need that fate?
Because she was set-up, like so many others, to not want life without the Doctor. She tells Martha she wants this forever and that was the moment I knew she was doomed to a shitty ending, because she’d have to be pried off him. She’s similar to Sarah Jane as she had some fun with the Doctor and then left him. Donna had a wonderful parting line of leaving to “walk among the dust” and it was wonderful to see her horizons expanded and a newfound hope in her.
Cut to S4 where Donna has been investigating only so that she might find him. She even carries everything she might need with her. I love Donna dearly but again, a life that needs him and revolves around him and in the end she is completely and utterly stripped down to her core by him and tossed aside. She doesn’t remember. Her ‘prize’ is marriage, like Rose’s prize is a man, like Martha’s prize is also a man, namely Mickey. The rewards given to these strong women who fought and saved the world is to go off with a man.
So yeah, while I wasn’t going to discuss RTD, I definitely would never, ever say he’s not sexist. It’d take me much longer to go in-depth on it all since they all deserve an essay each, really. But these are just a few examples off the top of my head.