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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.

spoilers through The Wedding of River Song are behind the cutCollapse )
Frances: DW - Companionsgoldy_dollar on October 11th, 2011 11:21 pm (UTC)
Ooh, this is such a great essay! You set down things so clearly especially with regards to how problematic River and Amy's arcs are.

I mean, I LIKE both women? They each have personality and I think are more or less acted by two actresses who care about the show/their character, but... I honestly have very little attachment to either of them. I don't feel like either went through much of an emotional arc (despite the fact that all these crazy traumatic things kept happening to them) so as a result I don't really "feel" them either. Which sucks because they both had a lot of potential.
fauxkarenfauxkaren on October 12th, 2011 03:14 pm (UTC)
Ty ty. I just had a lot of post series 6 ~feelings that I needed to work out. Thus, this essay was born.

And yeah, I think that one of the major problems for me with Amy and River is that Moffat is clearly so much more interesting in his plots that he neglects making his character feel real which means I don't feel connected to them.
phoeberebel on October 12th, 2011 08:25 am (UTC)
Hi there! I found you through fandomsecrets and you seem really cool! We have TVD, Harry Potter and True Blood in common so far. Friends? :)
fauxkarenfauxkaren on October 12th, 2011 03:15 pm (UTC)
(Anonymous) on October 29th, 2011 11:31 pm (UTC)
...This is a lovely essay. It's quite amazing, and if I had any friends who were into the fandom enough to dive into analysis like I do, I think I'd be sharing this around.

I actually haven't finished the 5th and 6th series (only watched a few episodes, mostly out of order, and been spoiled by various articles online), but I have seen Steven Moffat's episodes back during RTD's era. I find that it's particularly jarring to me that he tends to forget or ignore character development from the rest of the series completely. Not just for the female characters, but for the male characters as well...notably in Girl in the Fireplace and Blink especially. Moffat makes his views on women pretty clear in some of his interviews, but what interests me is that he seems to similarly demean the Doctor's character (though it does get better once Moffat takes over completely; stands out a lot less than a random episode in the midst of RTD or RTD-edited episodes).

[Quick question...why didn't RTD edit any of Moffat's episodes? I doubt he missed the inconsistent characterizations.]

However, I will concede that Moffat is very good at spinning plots that keep people intrigued. I actually failed to notice that he was using many similar plot devices over and over again because in the first watch of all his episodes, they seemed extraordinarily clever. Most people who watch Doctor Who probably aren't that interested in the deeper analysis of the characters, so I think that for entertainment value of the week, Moffat might appeal to more people.

You've definitely nailed the fact that his women tend to become plot devices rather than dynamic characters. His female characters have potential since he grants them a pretty 'special' status early on, but then their story begins and ends with the Doctor, and I just can't really fit them into the larger picture. With Rose, Martha, and Donna, I could easily imagine them living their amazing lives without the Doctor.

Honestly, I'd probably argue based on what I know from Moffat's era that the women aren't even serving to develop the Doctor's character...it's more about the plot at the moment rather than any character development at all. But I should probably reserve judgment until I finish the series.
fauxkarenfauxkaren on October 30th, 2011 12:41 am (UTC)
I'm glad you liked my ramblings! I think that Moffat really places characters secondary to the plot which was ok in series 5, but in series 6, the plot just became so convoluted that any attempt at character development just got shoved to the side. Series 6 was a huge disappointment.

From what I understand RTD didn't edit the scripts of anyone who had previously ran their own shows out of respect for them. But I do th ink t hat RTD and Moffat genuinely respect each other and each other's work. But when it came to writers who hasn't previously run their own shows, RTD wasn't afraid to pretty much completely rewrite scripts. lol.
Yanachocolateyana on October 30th, 2011 01:43 am (UTC)
I see...that makes sense. I think I've heard a lot of different facts from all over the place about RTD and his editing.

I'm a bit disappointed to know that on the whole, series 5 and 6 probably won't match up to previous seasons, but I'll probably still be a loyal fan to the show. Seeing Matt Smith and Karen Gillan having so much fun in interviews gives me hope!

I'm curious as to whether developing characters is always an issue with Moffat's scripts. I enjoyed Sherlock, but that show's considerably shorter and more straightforward action-mystery with no leading ladies.

[ also, off topic, but would you mind if I friended...? > < ]
fauxkarenfauxkaren on October 30th, 2011 01:55 am (UTC)
The impression I've gotten from various interviews and from reading RTD's book (A Writer's Tale) is that he MASSIVELY rewrites scripts. I believe he did a ton of rewrites for The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit as well as Human Nature/Family of Blood to name a few episodes. But he leaves scripts alone for fellow showrunners (like Steven Moffat and probably Toby Whithouse) out of respect.

There are individual episodes from series 5 and 6 that I really enjoyed even though I've been disappointed with the overall story arcs, so I'll continue to watch the show.

The only Moffat stuff I've ever watched is Doctor Who, so I have no idea if prioritizing plot so much over character is a common thing for him or not.

And of course you can friend me! 99.99% of my posts are locked just because I like to know who is reading my stuff, but I always add anyone who asks.
pickthisonepickthisone on November 2nd, 2011 05:34 am (UTC)
Complete concurrence with this. There was definitely a lot more depth to the female companions during RTD's reign, and now it's less so. Actually, in general, it just felt like there was actual character development going on. I'm not sure much has gone on at all. I still enjoy it, it's just a bit...weak on that front.
(Anonymous) on November 3rd, 2011 04:52 am (UTC)
I just don't have a LJ and found this essay though tumblr.

My response: Interesting. I both agree and disagree with many of the points.

My disagreement with this argument is not with points made about the characters, but rather how then it frames my general assessment of the companions, the show and Moffat.

I will rethink my opinions on Martha after this but not on Amy or River (and I already agreed about most everything said about Donna and Rose). For me the point of the Ponds is their revolvemeant around the Doctor. I think Moffat is exploring the ways that the Doctor isn't a hero, is dark, messes people up etc. Sure I have issues with characters, but that doesn't stop them from being good well developed ones. I would like for Amy to be more independent, but that is not the story that is being written, she met the doctor at a young age and then he became her best friend. (ALSO i think an alternate to Amy's story was developed in "The Girl Who Waited"). She is the girl who waited (for the doctor) because that is the type of relationship being explored with her companionship. And I think that is ok.

And as for River. I love time travel, messed up time-lines, reverse character development. But I know that too is a personal preference. I really have always loved Moffat's writing style. But, leaving that aside I also think that River learns to become independent and a rival to the Doctor (much like all 3 of RTD), but she is messed up, and her life does revolve around the doctors. But the point I think is to judge the doctor, not the writer. Moffat is interested in exploring different aspects of the doctor then RTD. Then again not everyone needs to like it.
fauxkarenfauxkaren on November 3rd, 2011 05:08 am (UTC)
Wrt Amy, I think that Moffat sets up interesting ideas like being the girl who waited and having her entire life revolve around the Doctor, but for the most part (except for The God Complex), the show doesn't bother to acknowledge it for the messed up thing it is. So for me the characterization seems incredibly half-assed.

Characters don't exist independently of their writers. So although, yes, the Doctor is to blame for how screwed up River's life is, Moffat CHOSE to write that storyline. And because of that both of his main female characters stories are about how their lives revolve around the Doctor and not about the women unto themselves. And THAT'S why I find their stories so unsatisfying.
tehjuxtaposer on November 6th, 2011 06:47 am (UTC)
Hey, I just wanted to pop in and address one point of yours regarding Amy, and then just a bit of my own rambling.

So, a little back story on me: I started with season 5, finished 6, and then went back and watched 1-4. So naturally, I'm biased toward 11/Amy/River/Rory. And I'm not a huge fan of Rose. Meh.

But anyway, I know you say that you wish you had a sense of Amy's home life, but you have to remember that here home life doesn't exist. literally. She doesn't have parents and doesn't even have a concept of the idea that she once had parents because of the Crack in the wall. She didn't have a home life, really. I kinda wish a little had been addressed in the flashbacks in the episode "Let's Kill Hitler", because it didn't make a helluva lot of sense. But eh. I think that a major part of Amy's character and why she revolves so much around the Doctor is that she has no one to go back to. No family except Rory. Rose had Jackie and Mickey, Martha her family, and Donna her Grand-dad. Amy has nobody. This is why she so desperately clings to the Doctor and his world, and that in turn is why her stories revolve around the Doctor. The stories are supposed to be from the companion's perspective, and in Amy's perspective the only things that matter are the Doctor and Rory. I do agree with you that she should have more emotion about her child, but que será será.

With regards to River, I think it really, really depends on how her character is written out. At the Wedding, i think that it should be considered the "midpoint" of her and 11's timeline, the moment when they love each other equally. Now, if the next time we see her with the Doctor, she knows him less, loves him less, trusts him less, yet he is head over heels for her, then her character works. She, despite her love for the Doctor, is a psychopath, and that means that she doesn't take the time to contemplate her own emotions; I doubt she even realizes how fucked up her life is.

As for Martha, I can't stand everyone who hates on her. She's actually my favorite of RTD's companions. People get all over her for pining or leaving the Doctor, but I think that those are two of the most important bits of her character. Like you say, she crushes on the Doctor, yet she understands that he'll never feel the same way about her and tries as hard as she can not to be bitter about it. She leaves because it hurts to be in his presence; the people who hate on Martha clearly have no idea how unrequited love feels. I know how much it hurts, and how when you're with that person you feel at the same time like you're walking on air and like you can't breather. It's wondrous and torturous equally. But you'll drive yourself mad like that, and I respect and love Martha so much for being able to understand this and step away. She was stronger for it. Unrequited love is like an addiction; you enjoy it and understand how bad it is for you, but the strongest can pull themselves away. Martha was strong enough to pull herself away and she should be honored for that, not hated.

Thanks for the excellent read :)