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09 October 2011 @ 02:46 am
Women and Their Stories in Doctor Who  
So, I ended up getting into a really great discussion with therealycats about RTD's Women in Doctor Who vs Moffat's Women in Doctor Who over in this post and while replying to her comments, I realized that I was basically writing the meta that I'd been toying around with writing, so I edited my comments together to create this post. If you want to see my thoughts in context of my responses to her and to see the discussion that followed, I highly suggest heading over there and reading the comments. But I do think that this meta stands alone. ALSO, I am going to leave this unlocked (for once) in case anybody feels like linking to this and so that people outside of my nice little flist bubble can comment and respond. I should warn you guys that I basically wrote all of this out over the space of a couple of hours so perhaps it isn't as perfect as I would like, but I think it still does a fairly good job of examining these characters in terms of their stories and what that says about them as characters.

To begin this essay, I feel like I ought to establish what makes a female character enjoyable and interesting to me. For me it's not about being a "strong female character" because well, I don't believe in that term. I think that that kind of conceptualization values masculine traits more highly than feminine traits. For me, what's important for a female character is that they be fully formed with complex emotions and character arcs that are about THEM and not about the men around them. So that's the place I'm coming from, and you'll see that reflected in my discussion of these women. I should also probably come out and say that I love RTD as a writer and I adore Rose, Martha and Donna. I should also state that while I don't really care for Moffat as a writer, I don't think that Amy and River set feminism back or anything like that. Amy isn't my favorite, but she's fun and spunky. I might loathe River's storyline, but her personality really grew on me in series 5. I just find them to be wholly disappointing as characters unto themselves.

I think that most people are in agreement about Rose in series 1 (since the fandom meme that I see tossed around is that Rose was awesome in series 1 but sucked in series 2). Rose's characterization in series 1 was all about being this girl who is bored with everyday life and has no real prospects for her future. She then sees the universe and her eyes are opened. She can't live that mundane life anymore The Doctor is the catalyst for Rose's change, but the story is still definitely about HER. This is exemplified in the speech she gives in the cafe in The Parting of the Ways where she says, "It was a better life. I don’t mean all the traveling and seeing aliens and spaceships and things. That don’t matter. The Doctor showed me a better way of living your life. You know, he showed you too. You don’t just give up. You don’t just let things happen. You make a stand. You say “no”! You have the guts to do what’s right when everyone else just runs away!"

However, I strongly disagree with the idea that Rose in series 2 was completely about the Doctor. Yes, there is a love story going on and the Doctor and Rose are going on adventures, but there is still a definite character arc going on there for Rose outside of the Doctor. Rose in The Christmas Invasion is freaked out and scared and lost without the Doctor. When push comes to shove, she does her best to stand up to the Sycorax, but she's flustered and doesn't know what she's doing. Then as the series progresses she becomes increasingly competent and brave. Rose is becoming a hero in her own right. In series 1, Rose regularly got herself into trouble and has to be rescued more often than not, but in series 2, she's investigating the TV shop in The Idiot's Lanter (though that does end in her having to be rescued), rallying the troops on the space station and getting shit done while the Doctor is in the pit in The Satan Pit, and figuring out how to save the world on her own after the Doctor has been trapped in the drawing in Fear Her. Rose loves the Doctor, but they're not attached at the hip. When they're in the alternate universe, Rose decides she's going after her alternate dad no matter what the Doctor says. When the Doctor wants to go down into the pit, she gives him a kiss on the helmet and tells him to be safe. When the Doctor wants to go after the detectives in The Idiot's Lantern, Rose ignores him and goes off to investigate the TV. Rose spends series 2 on the journey of becoming a hero and this comes full circle in series 4 in Turn Left when Rose essentially becomes the Doctor in a world where he has died. So again, the Doctor is a catalyst to her story, but in the end her story is all about HER coming into her own as a hero.

Is Rose perfect though? LOL NO. She never has been. She takes Mickey for granted all throughout series 1, but I would argue that she and Mickey finally break up in The Parting of the Ways. Rose looks at Mickey and tells him that there is NOTHING left back on Earth for her. And then in "School Reunion" Mickey describes Rose and Sarah Janes as the Doctor's "girlfriend and missus" which makes me think that he doesn't think of Rose as HIS girlfriend any more. He sees the Doctor and Rose as a team while he's the "tin dog". Rose is sometimes petty and makes jealous remarks (which is why her actions in The Girl in the Fireplace are so OOC and lead me to believe that Moffat wasn't actually writing for Rose, Mickey and Ten but was writing for Amy, Rory and Eleven). But all of these things just serve to make her a more believable character.

Rose DOES choose the Doctor over her family, but so what? Rose doesn't want to stay on Earth. She wants to keep on traveling. It's not just about Doctor vs family. It's also about seeing the universe vs being stuck on Earth. As Rose says in The Impossible Planet, "everyone leaves home in the end". She knows what she wants (traveling with the Doctor) and she's not going to let other people decide what to do with her life for her. I do think that her Journey's End ending is a bit unsatisfying because we don't get her specifically choosing Cloen over Ten, but from reading RTD's book, the moment where Rose kisses Cloen was supposed to represent her making her choice, and I can see that even if I don't think it was incredibly clear.

Rose is definitely strong minded. She doesn't let anyone tell her what to do. Nine sends Rose away ~for her own good~ in The Parting of the Ways? Rose is like "fuck that!" and finds a way back to save him. Ten tries to send Rose off to this happy family he's made for her in Doomsday? Rose is like "um. No thank you. I decide what I want for my life." Jackie tries to make Rose feel bad about becoming ~different and not being tied to Earth any more? Rose doesn't care. She just wants to keep on traveling. It's not that she doesn't love her mother, but she's also not going to live her life in order to please Jackie. Rose is living her life for HERSELF and no one else.

As Rose says to Jackie, she had a life with Jackie, but that's not want she wants anymore. She feels like the Doctor needs her, and she wants to stay with him and keep traveling. She loves her mom, but being stuck on Earth is not what she wants from life anymore. So she's choosing life on the Tardis with the Doctor over being with her family. Not a choice that everyone would make, but Rose is pretty determined to live her life without asking others for permission.

We don't know what Rose is up to in the alternate universe, but there's no reason to think that she's just been sulking the whole time. Even by the Bad Wolf Bay scene, Rose is already working at Torchwood. We have no reason to think that she hasn't been working productively at Torchwood throughout series 3 and 4. Rose isn't dumb, but she's also not smart enough to build the series 4 dimension canon all on her own. She would have needed Torchwood's help. Do you really think that Mickey and Pete would have been on board with Rose destroying two universes just to get back to her boyfriend? So to me it's pretty clear that things were going terribly wrong in the alternate world which led to the building of the dimension canon. Rose loved the Doctor and I'm sure she made sure that SHE was the one to go searching for the Doctor because she wanted to see him again, but I don't think that means that she was wasting away pining for the Doctor for however many years they were separated. I'm convinced she was being Rose Tyler, Defender of the Earth.

All of that to say, the reason I think Rose is a satisfying character is because her storyline is definitely about her. Her story is all about her transformation from the shopgirl living on an estate to a hero who saves the world. She's also brave, curious, and clever... but she isn't perfect. She has flaws (tendency towards pettiness and jealousy) that make sense and make her feel like a real person. THAT'S why I think she's a pretty brilliant female character.

Martha Jones is so underappreciated by fandom. I love her sfm. She's brilliant. She's clever, brave, loyal and completely 100% awesome from day one. But her story is about how she doesn't see that in herself. She's the unappreciated peacekeeper in her family, running interference between her parents. She gets this crush on the Doctor and is SO long suffering (much like it seems like she is with regards to her family) while the Doctor is oblivious to her. I honestly don't think that RTD set the audience up to dislike Martha. I think that he set Martha up as a character to be sympathized with. My reading is that the audience is supposed to be on Martha's side. That's why the camera lingers on her and we get her sad looks and long suffering sighs. We're SUPPOSED to feel bad for her and think that the Doctor is being an insensitive jerk. I don't think that the script wants the audience to be nodding along with the Doctor. The Doctor (especially as written by RTD) CAN be wrong. Just look at "Waters of Mars"!

The Doctor loved Rose and she was taken away from him against his will and thus he kind of idealizes her and puts her up on this pedestal and is blinded to how his actions and words are affecting Martha. The text acknowledges that the Doctor was in the wrong even before "Let's Kill Hitler" when her image makes him feel guilty. He looks properly chastised when Martha tells him off in "The Last of the Time Lords" and then in "Partners in Crime" the Doctor says, "The last time, with Martha, like I said it... it got complicated. And that was all my fault," which seems to be the Doctor acknowledging his fault.

In "The Last of the Time Lords", we get the pay off for Martha's suffering throughout series 3. Martha realizes just how awesome she is (something the audiences should have seen from her introduction). When the Master tries to compare her unfavorably to Rose, Martha LAUGHS IN HIS FACE. Evil Time Lord? Martha Jones doesn't give a fuck. She will lol at you. And then she gives her speech to the Doctor. She tells him that she is getting out. She's realized that she's NOT second best. Martha Jones is pretty fucking awesome, and now she realizes that and sees that staying with the Doctor is not a good situation for her, so she takes the initiative and gets out. So again, while the Doctor and her crush on him and her experiences with him are the catalyst, her story is definitely about herself and realizing her own awesomeness and doesn't exist to serve the Doctor. The Doctor's series 3 story (which is about him being more disconnected from people due to his grieving over Rose) definitely intersects with Martha's story, but in the end Martha has a story and personality all her own. She takes that new found confidence and faith in herself to first be a part of UNIT and later goes on to be a free lance alien fighter

The ending with Mickey in End of Time is somewhat problematic. It doesn't ruin Martha for me, but it was pretty blatantly RTD trying to kill two birds with one stone, showing Martha and Mickey together. Supposedly, RTD wanted to include Martha and Mickey into Children of Earth, but Freema and Noel's schedules didn't allow for it, so we missed out on their relationship developing, so them being married in End of Time was definitely out of left field, but in the end, I still feel like Martha had a solid story that was all her own.

Now with Donna we once again get a story for which the Doctor is a catalyst, but is still definitely about Donna herself. Donna doesn't believe in herself. She's content to live a life doing nothing doing jobs that are going nowhere because she thinks that's all she can do. But then the Doctor comes along and shows her that there is so much more out there and she can be so much better. So he takes her along with him and Donna blossoms.

The key to Donna's story is actually "Turn Left". It's in that episode that we see that Donna doesn't need ~The Doctor~ to believe in her. She just needed SOMEONE to believe in her. In "Turn Left" that person is Rose, and Rose gives Donna the confidence to be courageous and save the world.

I do think that Donna's ending is tragic. Although I do object to the term "rape" being used because using "rape" to describe anything other than rape bothers me. But yes, the Doctor violates Donna's mind to save her life. It's a tragedy, but necessary from a Doylist POV. Donna was set up as a character who would never want to just go back to her normal life. She would stay with the Doctor forever she could. However, Catherine Tate was moving on to other projects. So RTD had to come up with a way to lose Donna as a companion in a way that was believable for the character. He could have killed her off, but RTD didn't want to do that. So he created a situation where Donna could never be with the Doctor again or else she'd die.

But it's not a completely hopeless ending. As I mentioned earlier, we saw in Turn Left, Donna didn't need ~The Doctor~ to believe in her, she just needed someone to believe in her, and the script of Journey's End gives us hope that she has that now. Before series 4, Sylvia was constantly harping on Donna and yelling at her and belittling her. But in Journey's End when the Doctor tells Sylvia that for a moment Donna was the most important woman in all creation, Sylvia is basically like "fuck you. Donna is my daughter. She STILL is the most important woman in all of creation to me." Sylvia has seen Donna's potential, and their interactions in End of Time are not nearly as abrasive as they were in The Runaway Bride. It seems to me like Donna now has Sylvia and Wilf in her corner, believing in her and knowing her potential. Donna's husband Shawn also seems like a good guy who loves Donna for who she is (and imo, there's NOTHING wrong with part of Donna's happy ending being getting married because that's clearly something that was important to her). It's not a perfect ending, but with that support system and the money that the Doctor provides via lottery ticket, who knows what Donna could become?

So again, Donna has her own story, separate from the Doctor. The Doctor is a catalyst for her growth, but she exists as a person in her own right with her own story.

All three of RTD's companions had their own unique story to tell and they were definitely affected by the Doctor, but their stories weren't completely defined by him.

The problem that I have with Amy as a character is that her story is never really about HER. Well, that's a bit unfair, but the way in which the story affects her is never fully explored. Amy is The Girl Who Waited [for the Doctor]. That's how she's conceptualized. Her story is about her interactions with the Doctor and how he abandoned her. The crack plot and the fact that it resulted in her losing her parents is never fully developed. I mean, fans can try to extrapolate things, but it's not really concretely there in the text. (Also apparently in some spin-off media, in the post The Big Bang universe where Amy has parents, Amy is not a kissogram which says some interesting things about how Moffat views (pseudo) sex workers.) Amy's experience with the crack ends up being about how now she has special memory powers and can bring back the Doctor with those special memory powers. It's not about her as a person.

Things happen to Amy, but it's all about the Doctor. Melody being stolen? The Doctor's ~darkest~ hour. Really? REALLY? Nothing about how that might suck for Amy as Melody's mother?? Her reaction to the events of A Good Man Goes to War is practically non-existent until The Wedding of River Song, but for me that was too little, too late. The fact that the Doctor essentially screwed her up starting from when he abandoned her in "The Eleventh Hour"? Basically ends up being all about the Doctor. In "The God Complex", instead of Amy being like "you know what? My life has kind of been a mess because of you. I think it's time for me to go home to try to build a life independent of you," we get the Doctor kicking Amy and Rory out of the Tardis because HE realizes that he's been a screw up. In the end her story is really about him getting over his god complex. I mean her issues ARE talked about, but the Doctor is the one telling them to her vs her realizing her issues and confronting them (like Martha did in The Last of the Time Lords).

Your mileage may vary with the objectification of Amy, but the fact that in the Comic Relief special, the joke hinges on the fact that LOL RORY CRASHED THE TARDIS, BUT IT'S NOT HIS FAULT BECAUSE AMY WAS WEARING A SHORT SKIRT AND HE CAN'T CONTROL HIMSELF AROUND HER WHEN SHE'S WEARING A SHORT SKIRT. Therefore he is not responsible for his actions and it's Amy's fault, and the punchline is telling Amy to put on some trousers. Like, I get that it's a joke, but it's still some hugely problematic logic, and making something a joke doesn't make it less offensive. Amy is also kind of literally objectified when she spends the first half of series six being an incubator for Melody. Pregnancy in itself as a storyline for women isn't always bad, but the way it was handled with Amy made it more about Amy's body servicing the larger plot vs how it affects Amy and what it means for her.

The other thing that makes me side-eye Amy's character arc is that Amy "growing up" is conceived of in terms of her marriage. Now I get that what the writer was going for was for Amy to go from being Amelia Pond the fairy tale to Amy Williams the grown up woman, but phrasing it by giving Amy her husband's name was a bit clumsy and leads to the impression that Amy's growth arc revolves around her husband which I don't think was intentional, but still not ideal.

The bit with Amy and the perfume in Closing Time was SO clumsy because all we get from the text of the episode is a picture of glamor!Amy next to a perfume with a name and tagline that relates to Amy and Amy giving her autograph to someone. To me, that definitely reads as "some kind of celebrity who has her own perfume" which isn't horrible, but I just wanted MORE for her. I wanted something that said something about who Amy was. Amy has a talent for art. Why couldn't she have been a children's book author and illustrator who was at the store to do a reading or something?

I think there is a lot to enjoy about Amy on a purely entertainment level, but in the end, I feel like she was woefully underdeveloped as a character unto herself outside of her relationship with the Doctor or outside of how her character served the larger plots. She didn't seem to have a lot of psychological depth to her or a story to herself apart from the Doctor. I think part of this was because Moffat didn't explore Amy's home life, so we really just have no idea who she is outside of when she's with the Doctor.

Now with River, I think that a major part of my issue with her character has to do with the fact that her story is non-linear. The River we meet in series 4 (while grating to me personally) was still incredibly self-possessed and confident. Then from the audience POV she devolves into a woman who is possibly still a psychopath and is willing to destroy the universe for the sake of the Doctor. I mean, that's not what is actually happening because her story is all backwards and what not, but from the audience POV, that is what it feels like.

But now I kind of want to talk about the way in which our experience of River's life is as a life that revolves completely around the Doctor since the structure of the show means we never really see her life outside of when it intersects with the Doctor. Her conception and magical Time Lord-ness is because of the Doctor. She is kidnapped as a baby and brainwashed and groomed into a psychopathic killer by a crazy religious sect because of the Doctor. She gives up her regenerations for the Doctor. She becomes an archeologist because of the Doctor. She is willing to destroy the universe because she cannot bear the thought of killing the Doctor. She spends a significant portion of her adult life in prison so that the Doctor can maintain the illusion that he's dead (except for the days when the Doctor comes by to break her out or calls her to go on an adventure. In The Impossible Astronaut she says, "Every time we meet, I know him more, he knows me less. I live for the days when I see him."). She eventually DIES for the Doctor (except he "saves" her by giving her an afterlife in a computer where she wanders around in a floaty dress with some co-workers she barely knew as far as we know and baby sits some kids). River's life revolves around the Doctor and other than the times she gets go to go on some adventures with him, her life is really pretty terrible, and I don't feel like the text adequately recognizes that fact.

Going off of that, I kind of want to look at how River's story isn't really about River, but it's about the Doctor. We never really a full picture of the way in which what the Silence did to River has fucked her up (outside of a bit of her being a luzy psychopath in "Let's Kill Hitler") because in the end it's really all about her killing the Doctor and what that means for him and how he can get out of that. Much like with Amy, these horrible things that have happened to River feel more like it's about the larger plot and the Doctor than it is about HER.

The other thing that bother me when it comes to River and the Doctor is the power imbalance in the Doctor/River relationship that is a result of the non-linear nature of their relationship. In the beginning it's River who has the power in the relationship. She has all the knowledge and the Doctor has none. But then as the Doctor's knowledge of River increases, the power balance shifts and it becomes what River describes in The Impossible Astronaut. "When I first met the Doctor, a long, long time ago... he knew all about me. Think about that. Impressionable young girl, and suddenly this man just drops out of the sky, he's clever and mad and wonderful and knows every last thing about her. Imagine what that does to a girl."

When we first meet River's she's presented as someone who could be the Doctor's equal. She has a sonic screwdriver and is smart and capable and all those things. (I should mention however, that I hate the idea that someone needs to be super special to be the Doctor's "equal" and therefore worthy of his love. Rose might not have been super educated, but she was clever and brave and a good person and the Doctor loved her. I hate the idea that she was just a basic human and therefore not worthy of a Time Lord's love or something.) But in The Wedding of River Song, when River actually becomes the Doctor's wife, she is in no way treated like an equal. He belittles her and tells her that she is embarrassing him, and then tells her to "do as she's told", a weirdly paternal thing which is something that River herself actually agrees with back in The Impossible Astronaut where River says "we do what the Doctor's friends always do -- as we're told". It totally takes away from the impression of the confident woman we were first introduced to and creates this weird power structure between River and the Doctor.

The other weird imbalance is that we see how much River loves the Doctor. She is in love with him and devoted to him enough to destroy the universe for his sake and later dies for him because she loves him so much. But we don't really get that from the Doctor's side. The Doctor consents to marry her as a sort of deal in which he marries her and she will murder him in return, and also in order to get him to look into his eye so she'll see that he's the Tessalecta AND also so he can get her to kiss him to set time back into motion. I just don't get the impression that the Doctor loves River to the extent that she loves him. Even though he certainly cares for her a lot, it's not that passionate romantic love that River has for him which just makes me feel so sorry for River who has utterly devoted her life to him.

All of this combines to make this character who had the potential to be really interesting- an adventurer who sometimes meets up with the Doctor in a non-linear fashion- into a woman whose life is completely tied up with the Doctor's. She doesn't really seem to exist (at least to the audience) as a character outside of her relationship and interaction with the Doctor. She doesn't have a fully developed story of her own.

I don't mean this essay to seem like I hate River or Amy or demean those who love them. I understand why aspects of their personality appeal to people, and I respect that even if their character arcs do not resonate with me. I merely wanted to explore why I feel like the way Moffat writes women is unsatisfactory to me. Amy and River are both a lot of fun and their personalities can definitely be enjoyable to watch. However, Moffat's women don't seem to have stories of their own separate from the Doctor. Their stories often serve to further explore HIS character as opposed to developing Amy or River more. I feel like the companions of RTD's era (while not perfect and whose stories do have some problems) are fully realized women unto themselves. They aren't cookie cutters who fit neatly into molds, but they are each dynamic women who are strong and brilliant in their own unique ways who have stories of their own.
Opal: S5: River in the TARDISshinyopals on October 9th, 2011 10:47 am (UTC)
I am too sleepy to feel like making an intelligent comment rn, but IA with this essay.

It almost makes it worse that I legitimately like Amy and River a lot, because I want them to have these great stories and awesome lives but they do not. I also can't get over how horrifying/messed up River's life actually is and how unacknowledged that is.
fauxkarenfauxkaren on October 9th, 2011 10:51 am (UTC)
Yeah, River's personality grew on me a LOT in series 5, so it sucks that she's saddled with that convoluted and sucky story. And Amy had a lot of potential as a character (as witnessed in The Girl Who Waited), but the show just so completely failed to really capitalize on that. Basically for me, both of their characters are really missed opportunities.
(no subject) - _thirty2flavors on October 9th, 2011 04:07 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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sweet_anisesweet_anise on October 9th, 2011 02:30 pm (UTC)
Brilliant. I kind of want to print this essay out to show anybody who starts asking about my opinions on DW. :)

I feel like I spent two seasons waiting to get some real character depth on Amy, but by the end of season 6 I still felt like she was largely reduced to whatever the plot needed her to be. I think that's a big difference between RTD's and Moffat's styles as well: RTD created the character and built a plot to fit (I mean, he invented a series-spanning parallel universe arc just so that he could have a believable way to write Rose/ Billie Piper out), while Moffat builds the plots and writes the characters to fit. It's something of a trade-off-- Moffat ends up with arguably shallow characters, while RTD ends up with some pretty loltastic plots-- but just on personal preference I'd take character over plot any day.

(Or maybe, more accurately, Moffat prioritizes certain aspects of his plots, like timey-whimey twists and scary effects. As a whole, I actually think RTD's held water better.)
fauxkarenfauxkaren on October 9th, 2011 05:23 pm (UTC)
I'm glad that you liked my tl;dr ramblings! And yeah, I agree that Moffat prioritizes certain aspects of his plots which is why a lot of the time it feels like the characters are serving the plot vs them developing organically.
Diana: Flame Hair - Donnabutterfly on October 9th, 2011 03:15 pm (UTC)
This was a really interesting read. I didn't watch S5 or S6 but what you're saying about River and Amy tracks well with part of why I didn't watch those seasons. And, of course, I agree with you completely on Rose, Martha, and Donna.
fauxkarenfauxkaren on October 9th, 2011 05:24 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it! I think that there are individual episodes from series 5 and 6 that I enjoy a lot, but as a whole the character writing doesn't work for me and the larger series arc plots don't appeal to me either, so... yeah. I will rewatch some episodes for those series, but I won't ever love it the way I love series 1-4.5.
kem_viva: Jimmy Darmodykem_viva on October 9th, 2011 03:37 pm (UTC)
My ranking for favorite companions is a lot more about entertainment, and how good the episodes/seasons on whole are rather than just their stories. I am also not a huge RTD fan, but because I have not watched his episodes of Doctor Who in so long now I don't know if I can properly explain why. I like Moffat a lot more as a story teller, because as I have said like a million times lol, he was the writer for my favorite Doctor Who episodes. This season things just got far to carried away for me, but I think his first series is one of my favorites. I never noticed any of the problems with Amy or River really until what he did this season.

Anyways, Donna was my favorite companion, mainly because Catherine Tate and David Tennant were brilliant together. They had the funniest Doctor Who moments I can remember and played off each other so much. And I really dislike any romantic story line between the Doctor and his companion so it was especially awesome that they were just best friends. Donna's story was really sad, but IA with what you said that there really wasn't another way for that to end up. I wish they could bring her back for just one Matt Smith ep though, I think that could be hilarious!

Amy is my second favorite companion, and I sort of group Rory with her since she is the one who brought him into the show too. Vincent and the Doctor might be my favorite Doctor Who episode, and I really loved Amy in it. Amy just has really great personality and I think that is what makes me like her so much. I am hoping for the next series there won't be as much of an overarching plot (haha, i know) and we can have more individual episodes which I think let the companions have more character exploration. Also Rory and Amy are the cutest couple, I wish they could have an episode with just them two and no Doctor.

Rose was my third favorite, but I liked her episodes in series 1 more than series 2. I don't even remember why now but Rose was always just okay for me. I think some of it had to do with her relationship with the Doctor, and I know I really disliked the whole 10.2 thing where she got to keep a Doctor for herself after all. I don't know maybe I thought her story ended too melodramatically or something lol.

Martha was my least favorite, but because I found her series to be dull and uninteresting. Blink was my favorite that series and her and the Doctor really weren't in it. So I think she suffered from the writing, because personality wise I did like her more than Rose, its just that story line wise she did not have as many memorable moments imo. I also did not like them making her have a crush on the Doctor right after Rose, I think that almost forces you to compare Martha and Rose and I think thats why a lot of people don't like her. I did love that she was the one who left the Doctor though and got to live her own life. In some ways actually she is my favorite companion lol.
fauxkarenfauxkaren on October 9th, 2011 04:51 pm (UTC)
Oh there's nothing wrong in coming from that perspective. I think that there is a lot about Amy and River's personalities that are fun to watch. That's definitely one way to approach the show. It's just not how I experience and enjoy the show. So I just wanted to explore why Amy and River failed as characters for me personally. For me, it's about how much I connect to characters emotionally, and how much I "get" their stories. The fact that I found Amy and River's stories so problematic prevents me for really loving them as charactes.
Alexandra Leaving: GoT - Jaime Kingslayeralexandral on October 9th, 2011 03:53 pm (UTC)
Oh, I see the whole thing totally differently. I am sort of a neutral observer - although I have watched the majority of Dr.Who episodes (my daughter likes it), I never went further than "this is a light family entertainment" with it, and I am definitely not in a place where I can discuss the show seriously because this is my impression about it - good fun, not too much food for thought.

But overall, I would argue that the show is ABOUT Doctor, and always have been (all 700+ episodes), it never was about the companions, by default - it is DOCTOR WHO show after all. The companions are .. companions, seasonal accessories, and all the drama is about HIM.

PS: this all to say, Dr.number 10 was the least of my favourites ever. He just was ugly/shouting/bad acting. I would expect David Tennant to disappear into insignificance now that his Dr.Who days are over.
Kali: dw :: rose :: the valiant child_thirty2flavors on October 9th, 2011 04:04 pm (UTC)
But there's a precedent in New Who that the show is about the companions, and is told through the companion's perspective. The first 4.5 seasons of New Who set this up. I don't think "he's the titular character so everything should be about him, always" is really a good excuse -- there's no reason the lead female can't be fully realized while also developing the Doctor as well.
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(no subject) - alexandral on October 9th, 2011 05:50 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fauxkaren on October 9th, 2011 06:03 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - alexandral on October 9th, 2011 06:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
I looked up Moffat - alexandral on October 9th, 2011 07:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: I looked up Moffat - fauxkaren on October 9th, 2011 08:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: I looked up Moffat - alexandral on October 10th, 2011 08:24 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: I looked up Moffat - fauxkaren on October 10th, 2011 08:36 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: I looked up Moffat - alexandral on October 10th, 2011 08:42 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: I looked up Moffat - kilodalton on November 5th, 2011 04:26 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: I looked up Moffat - alexandral on November 5th, 2011 04:48 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Kali: dw :: team tardis :: well-chosen_thirty2flavors on October 9th, 2011 04:12 pm (UTC)
I think the absence of home life is a big thing for me. I don't think giving Amy a homelife would've solved everything, but I think one of the strengths under RTD is that we saw the companion as a person with a family and with a life they were leaving behind and we saw the consequences, good or bad, of leaving that life and those people behind. With Amy, the only person we ever saw her with really was Rory, and then he comes along so there's no mention of the life they've left. Rory's a nurse! SURELY HE MUST HAVE LOST HIS JOB BY NOW RIGHT?

But never see them visit home, or even call home, or even mention their parents more than once. I know Amy HAD no family in s5, but since the big happy resolution was that her parents had popped back into existence, I was hoping we'd see more of them. But I guess not. Amy's interaction with people outside the TARDIS is relegated to, like, secondary canon in random DW picture books, and I'm not cool with that, because it makes Amy seem less like a real person. Yes, River and Rory are her family, but they come part and parcel with the TARDIS travels, so there's no sense that there's any other side to Amy, that she came from anywhere. Mickey stays behind in Pete's World and Rose sees her altMom die, so the Doctor takes her home to cry on Jackie. Amy has her baby stolen and we don't see her grieve at all, let alone seek any kind of comfort and solace with her family.

Edited at 2011-10-09 04:14 pm (UTC)
fauxkarenfauxkaren on October 9th, 2011 05:32 pm (UTC)
I wish we'd at least gotten some concrete examples in series 6 of how parents had affected her and changed her from series 5 Amy, but the show never really addressed that. Amy not having a home life makes it hard to see her as having an existence outside of the Tardis, if that makes sense. She seems completely defined by her interactions with the Doctor.
(no subject) - _thirty2flavors on October 9th, 2011 06:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Megs: Lina/Gourry: Save Youdqbunny on October 9th, 2011 05:28 pm (UTC)
So, wandered in from therealycats LJ because I was curious and find that I agree with both of you. I wound up posting my own look last week right after the series 6 finale when I kept seeing both of them trashed. I think your post drives home the fact that I'm disappointed with the fact that we see Rose, Martha, and Donna all develop into the strong, amazing women and have that unraveled.

With Rose, I was always bothered with how she was treated in series 4 for her return. Her and Donna together in "Turn Left" was amazing, then she starts whining throughout a good bit of "The Stolen Earth" when she was at the Nobles' house. This isn't the Rose I'd grown to admire. I also was disappointed that she was left with Ten II without really making her own decision about any of it. I'd rather Rose be left on her own and have it be her choice, her telling the Doctor, "I love you, but I don't need you. This is my world, and I'm needed here to protect it." It's such a lovely progression from where she was in "Rose." Instead, we got a soap opera.

You nailed Martha. With Donna, I felt that if we had gotten the tiniest glimpse in the specials that she'd gone beyond who she was on her own despite her wiped memories, then I would have been satisfied. But, she didn't. She was still focused on finding a guy and getting married, and it's just so sad. I know what Donna has the potential to become, but really, even one line could have been spared to show Donna's achievements outside of netting the guy.

With Amy, it took me until series 6 to warm up to her. I actually stopped watching series 5 after episode 2 in disgust because of Amy (I thought she knew way too much about the Doctor too quickly and much preferred Rose's "Do you smell chips?"), and it was River who brought me back right around when series 6 began. I like Amy a whole lot more now than I did then, and I think if anything shows about how she's grown, it's the very last scene of her in "Wedding" where she's quietly mourning the Doctor rather than in hysterics like she was in TIA.

River I still adore, and I really hope some post-series 6 NSAs have her and the Doctor having some amazing adventures set between LKH and Wedding that fills in the character gaps there. For me, if the story for River had been linear, I don't think I'd like her so much. I think the problem here is the same issue we have with Harry and Ginny in the Harry Potter series. JK Rowling tells everyone in interviews that Harry and Ginny are soulmates and she lays out this life for Ginny that really is truly awesome. However, because she limits the series to Harry's POV, we do not see Ginny develop into the BAMF she's suppose to be.

A lot of the Doctor's attitude toward River in Wedding I think was a huge show for the Silence. Of course he's not going to barge in there and start spouting his plans in front of Madame Kovarian. He's trying to get River angry enough to push her to touch him and go through with his wishes, but she refuses. I do think he loves River, just like I'm sure Nine and Ten loved Rose, and there are signs throughout: The relief and joy at the end of AGMGTW when he finds out who she is, how he never once censored her for her actions in LKH and fights for her not to be harmed, then with the whispers at the end where he has a message for River and Melody replies, "I'm sure she knows" which is a lot like in The Satin Pit when the Doctor says, "Tell Rose ... oh, she knows."

Was River's actions selfish? Oh, yes, no disputing that. The scene resonated for me because my other OTP (the one in the icon) did the exact same thing: She chose him about the universe.

Long story short, I love all of these characters. I ship Nine/Rose, Ten/Rose and Eleven/River, and I embrace all of their strengths and flaws. I think all five of these women have stories of their own and with the exception of Amy, we've seen those. With Amy, I feel we're getting there.
fauxkarenfauxkaren on October 9th, 2011 05:55 pm (UTC)
I think Rose was completely in character in "The Stolen Earth". Rose has always had a slight tendency towards pettiness, but I think the main reason it fits her character is because well, Rose is FRUSTRATED. She spent however long, jumping through however many universe, trying to find the Doctor. And she's SO CLOSE to him. She can see him! But she can't talk to him. When she sees all the people up on the screen who can talk to the Doctor, she recognizes all of them except for Martha. So yeah, it makes sense to me that Rose is like "Um, who is she? Why does she get to talk to the Doctor while I am stuck here unable to communicate?" I agree that I would have liked it better if Rose had been more obvious with her choice in "Journey's End", but I don't think your scenario would have made sense for her character. Rose loved the Doctor and wanted to be with him, and I think that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. She was intrigued by the idea of Cloen, but she basically knew him for 5 minutes so for her to be like "I am choosing this guy. You can go shave your back now, original Doctor," would have been completely out of character. The way things ended in "Journey's End" wasn't perfect and ideal, but neither is life. Relationships are messy and complicated, and Rose's ending was the best she could hope for and still remain true to her character.

I don't think Donna's ending was a happy, neat little package, and yes, it would be nice to see how the differences in her relationship with her mother has changed her as a person. But that would have been a bit TOO pat, you know? I don't think that there's anything wrong with Donna wanting to get married, and I do think that it is a change from The Runaway Bride where Donna was so desperate and begging this guy who wasn't all that into her to marry her. In End of Time we see her with a man who seems to genuinely love and respect her. So it's not a total reset to the exact person she was. She's still herself, but I do think that she was growing and changing and with the freedom that the lottery money will bring her, who knows what she could become?

I disagree a lot about River, but clearly we're reading scenes very differently, and it's kind of pointless to have this discussion if we're coming at it from such different points of view.
ALBATROSS: Doctor Who // Elevenkeirelle on October 9th, 2011 08:12 pm (UTC)
Excellent essay, I agree with every bit, especially about River. Her first appearance in the Library episodes was grating, and then she grew on me SO MUCH in the fifth season, and I remember thinking about what her story may end up being, meeting the Doctor when she was young, growing up and going on adventures in between studying to be an archaeologist (not because of the Doctor), never a full time companion but on and off, falling love and all that, and actually being really excited for it because if done right, the Doctor could fall in love with River legitimately, maybe get closure about Rose without the narrative needing to put River above her somehow, and all would be well.

But then season 6 happened and I'm *so* disappointed, for all the reasons you stated. River had so much potential, and now I have a bad taste in my mouth leftover from the season finale.
fauxkarenfauxkaren on October 9th, 2011 08:57 pm (UTC)
I will totally admit that when River was first introduced, I was a butthurt Ten/Rose shipper. But the way that you outlined how a relationship between the Doctor and River could develop is something I could have gotten behind. The way it actually played out though... WHAT WAS THAT EVEN?
(no subject) - keirelle on October 9th, 2011 09:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
orange_crushedorange_crushed on October 9th, 2011 08:34 pm (UTC)
I am glad that you've written this all up. I'm having a lot of the same feelings re: character development and writing approaches.

I like Amy. I like River. I've written fic about both of them. But I've never felt that I know them the way I knew Martha and Donna and Rose. And frankly, the recent treatment of River's character (and by extension Amy's) disturbs me. Here's someone who has had their life (and largely their agency) stolen away from them, and I feel like the show is barely talking about it. Rory was going to be a dad, Amy was going to be a mom, River was going to be a daughter. Instead River is turned into a weapon, she's used for a purpose, and she's locked up to wait until she can be used again. (There's an uncomfortable metaphor about a writer's treatment of character in that.) Her whole life is twisted in a knot around one person- not because she chose him, not because she was ever free to choose- but because someone showed her his face from the cradle and said, "him." I want the show to deal with it, and I also don't. It's terribly dark, even for Who.

And if I can dip into irritation for a second- sorry in advance- I do tire of the idea that Rose is selfish and awful for deciding to stay in her universe with the Doctor (who at that point has basically no-one to call family) and say goodbye to her mother (who would've had a support network of friends and family minus Rose). Yes, everybody who commits to a relationship is terrible. Women should never leave their families without permission. When you are violently separated from someone you love, the best thing to do is join a dating service and get over it as quickly as possible.

Would fandom have liked Rose more if she flirted with a succession of male guest stars in the second series? If Journey's End had introduced her Torchwood boyfriend, Peter? Or would we instead be burdened by lingering discussions of what a promiscuous, faithless chav she was? I just don't think it's a situation in which Rose can ever be 'right.'
fauxkarenfauxkaren on October 9th, 2011 09:15 pm (UTC)
I completely agree with you about River. If the show really acknowledged how messed up it is, I still wouldn't be a huge fan, but it would bother me a lot less. Instead the show seems to just gloss over it and is trying to pass it off as some sort or epic romance.

And I think you're right about Rose. Falling in love and being in a committed relationship does not automatically make her a weak woman. Rose decides what she wants to do with her life, and I find that to be incredibly empowering. She's a real woman with complicated feelings and emotions. If she'd just gotten over the Doctor, it wouldn't have rung true. I think the moment it seemed like the Doctor and Rose loved each other, Rose was damned if she did and damned if she didn't by fandom.
ladysophiekitty: Martha is a starladysophiekitty on October 9th, 2011 09:21 pm (UTC)
I know that I always say that while RTD could be rather silly and go overboard (which I usually liked, by the way), the real joy was knowing the characters and seeing how they would REACT to the situation. Which is why a simple plot or storyline seemed to not be so simple. With Moffat, while I like his characters well enough, that same joy isn't there because it's mostly a complicated plot without much emotion or reaction. In series 5, I was still able to find some enjoyment in the story, but with series 6 that became more and more difficult.

You're right, too. Rose, Martha, and Donna were all shown to havelives outside of the Doctor, and their stories were about them just as much as it was about the Doctor, whereas River and Amy have been mostly about the Doctor, and have had their lives revolve almost entirely around him.

It's also made worse by the fact that I was (and am) heavily in the RTD era fandom, which menas that as a viewer I'm much more observant and involved than a casual viewer or one who mostly became involved in the Moffat era, because I notice the shift in the tone a lot.

Unfortunately, because of this, it often turns into a RTD vs Moffat argument, whereas for me it's more of a RTD's approach to the story and characters vs Moffat's approach to the story and characters. But with constantly having to defend or argue between the two, I can start it turning into a Moffat vs RTD debate for me as well. I'm not sure how good it is because I'm not a Torchwood fan, even though that was done under RTD (or, at least as far as I know), which means that his story approach didn't work for me under that context. I think that both RTD and Mofat have the habit of going a bit overboard with their ideas.
fauxkarenfauxkaren on October 9th, 2011 09:35 pm (UTC)
the real joy was knowing the characters and seeing how they would REACT to the situation.
I completely agree. That's part of why I love the series 3 finale so much. It's a basic "evil mastermind takes over and destroys the world" type plot, but what makes it brilliant is that it's not actually about that at all. It's about Martha coming into her own and recognizing her brilliance. It's about the Doctor's Master Issues. The plot is a way to explore the characters.
anna_sg1: dw - all companionsanna_sg1 on October 9th, 2011 10:07 pm (UTC)
I agree with all of this.

And I was so dissapointed/sad by the way River's character turned out to be because I really really loved her. Even when we first see her with Ten, in the Library. And then season 6 happened and Let's Kill Hitler happened and that horrible wedding and I just CAN'T WITH HER LIFE. So freakin' sad and tragic and no one gives any fucks about it, least of all River.

As for Amy, well, like most people say, I like her but I don't get her... or know her. *shrug*

And another thing, usually season finales are the companions turn to shine and save the world/help the Doctor save the world in a big huge shiny way. I never felt that happened in season 5 and 6. Amy just remembered the Doctor (while important was anticlimatic from what I got used to) and River... got married? IDK. I really wanted Amy to have her own laughing-in-the-Masters-face moment... but that's a whole other problem of having non-descript villains to laugh at, I guess it makes it more difficult.
fauxkarenfauxkaren on October 9th, 2011 10:31 pm (UTC)
I think that as a whole Moffat is just more interested in the Doctor as a character, so his plots and all the other character's stories end up being about the Doctor. Which... I guess if that's what you like, good for you. But I used to love the companion's stories and I loved their Crowning Moments of Awesome in the finales. We don't really get that with Moffat's Who.
phoenixrising06: dw- pink and yellowphoenixrising06 on October 9th, 2011 10:17 pm (UTC)
I'm guessing that, having already read my posts on the subject, you already know I agree with you.

I tried to like Moffat, I really did, but the feminist in me can no longer abide him or his characterizations.
fauxkarenfauxkaren on October 9th, 2011 10:32 pm (UTC)
I have liked some thing that Moffat has written, but his poorly constructed female characters and the way the plot has just tripped all over its own feet is just getting to be too much for me.
(no subject) - phoenixrising06 on October 9th, 2011 10:41 pm (UTC) (Expand)
EmmyMik: [Doctor Who] Bad Wolf Roseemmymik on October 9th, 2011 11:57 pm (UTC)
Well said! I agree with basically everything you wrote.

We've spent two season with Amy, and I still don't know who she is. I mean, all I know is that she obsessed over the Doctor since childhood, gets married, has a baby whose existence is like the saddest thing ever, becomes a model/perfume creator (lol, what?), and really digs Vincent van Gogh. But I have no idea what she will do in any given situation. Whereas with Rose/Martha/Donna, I tend to mentally insert them into episodes because I'm always curious as to what they would do in these different situations. I just can't get that feel for Amy, even if she's in the episode.

As for River, I feel nothing but pity. I had so much hope for her when I first I first watched SitL/FotD. I didn't realize that there had to be any extra mystery surrounding her. I thought the "ordinary" mystery of introducing a new character would have been enough (why yes, I would like more adventures of a sassy space archeologist from the future. She knows these adventures, but I don't. I can't wait to see them!). But there had to be a bigger mystery that turned out to be a massive ball of "hot mess" and "do not want" with a side of "ick". And then I just feel sorry for River because her entire existence sucks and lacks any kind of free will (and that's supposed to be romantic in some way? Really now, fandom).
fauxkarenfauxkaren on October 10th, 2011 12:59 am (UTC)
Both of Amy and River's stories just reek of wasted potential.
Cateisawthephoto on October 10th, 2011 12:49 am (UTC)
Everything in this is perfect. I shared a lot of this on my tumblr and linked back to you, just so you know.

I had honestly hoped that Moffat might show some of the pain that Amy and River went through--ie: Amy not being able to raise her child because the Doctor was being lazyish; River living her life for a man who either does not trust her or does not love her enough; etc--but lol like he'd pay attention to problems his female characters face that don't have to do with their hair and shoes.
fauxkarenfauxkaren on October 10th, 2011 12:56 am (UTC)
It's totally fine that you linked me on tumblr! I left this post unlocked because I wanted people to see it and spark discussion! For the purposes of stroking my own ego and seeing if people like or reblog it, do you have a link for the tumblr entry handy?

I think that in general Moffat is just so much more interested in his plots than he is any of his characters, and when he does stop to care about a character, it tends to be the doctor.
....ourtremblinkind on October 10th, 2011 04:27 am (UTC)
This entire entry is flawless and vocalizes so many of the opinions I've had on Davies/Moffats/Doctors/Companions, but most especially that of River Song, who is a character I find impossible to enjoy simply because I feel like Moffat is using her a tool of manipulation on the viewer.
fauxkarenfauxkaren on October 10th, 2011 10:37 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it! I think a lot of the problems I have with River as a character is that she often feels more like a plot device than a real character.
(no subject) - ourtremblinkind on October 10th, 2011 11:19 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fauxkaren on October 10th, 2011 11:24 pm (UTC) (Expand)