I’ve purposefully titled this post ‘Doctor Who and it’s girls’ rather than ‘his’ because of the rife rumours surrounding the 12th Doctor’s identity and gender. As Helen Mirren has stated that she believes that “it’s absolutely time for a female Doctor Who”, I think it’s time we took a look back at the Doctor and it’s female characters to get an idea of how a female Doctor would be handled. Specifically exploring the last 3 series’ females, as Steven Moffat will be continuing his writing and control over Doctor Who even once Matt Smith leaves.
Firstly let us consider what tropes the Doctor’s female companions stereotypically play; to scream, to be rescued and to ask the Doctor what is happening so that he can then explain the plot to the audience. There is no doubting that these three examples seem to happen extremely often in any episode of the show. However the show itself can be considered to have limitless possibilities because of its premise; the Doctor can go anywhere in time and space but yet the elements of the female companion seem to remain static.
As much as I loved Amy Pond’s energy, personality and attitude, there were a lot of character developments and plot devices surrounding her that made me take her less seriously as a companion and by the time she was zapped by an Angel I was glad to see her go. Throughout the whole of Series 6, Amy is mostly used as an incubator for the Doctor’s future wife. She was oblivious to the fact that she was pregnant and was given no choices or input into her pregnancy and the Doctor only decides to inform her of her pregnancy once she’s already in labour. This is because for the whole series we have been watching a ‘flesh’, a replica, whilst the real Amy is in a chamber; so the real Amy does absolutely nothing for the majority of Series 6 except lie in a chamber and carry the Doctor’s future wife. This also raises issues of Amy’s sexuality; pregnant Amy is only ever seen once in Season 6, at the end of her pregnancy directly before she gives birth, this could be thought of as to keep the character sexualised for the audience.
Clara Oswald on the other hand… I don’t have such a strong opinion about. Her character is so shrouded in mystery that that is pretty much all we know about her; her mystery. She has no character development because of this obsession the Doctor has with her and her mystery which needs to be fed. Clara is funny, witty and clever and she has really cute style, and I really do like her. However, her intelligence is mostly used to ask interesting questions about the Doctor to discover more about him as a character, not her. Then when we finally discover that she was ‘born to save the Doctor’, we don’t actually ever see her do any ‘saving’. She just flies through some vortex wearing pretty clothes and that’s about it.
Mostly the female companions are used as a way to develop the character of the Doctor. However, if the next Doctor were to be a woman, and say for example she had a male companion, would he be used as a way to develop the character of her Doctor? I think he would probably have more agency, more control over narrative development and would be more than a stereotypical parent/spouse like Amy or a mystery for the Doctor to solve like Clara.
Moffat’s writing of female characters seems, to me, to be sketchy and troublesome. Even when a seemingly kickass female character emerges, such as Queen Nefertiti, the character always slowly becomes disappointing; Nefertiti being sold for example. And so, until there is someone else who has creative control over Doctor Who who has better experience at writing women who are just as complicated and contradictory as male characters, I’m hoping for another male Doctor for now.