How sexist is Doctor Who?–50 years of sexism in statistics

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been going through every Doctor Who story from 1963 to now, and assessing their gender balance by applying the Bechdel Test to each of them.

doctors

For a reminder of the rules, check the Intro here. Then, going by Doctor:

  1. William Hartnell
  2. Patrick Troughton
  3. Jon Pertwee
  4. Tom Baker
  5. Peter Davison
  6. Colin Baker
  7. Sylvester McCoy / Paul McGann
  8. Christopher Eccleston
  9. David Tennant
  10. Matt Smith

A quick reminder of the Test:

  1. It has to have two named female characters
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something besides a man.

Continue reading “How sexist is Doctor Who?–50 years of sexism in statistics”

How sexist is Doctor Who?–Part Ten

Smith1

Welcome to Part Ten of my attempt to analyse the sexism in every Doctor Who story ever, using the Bechdel Test – and my wits. For a reminder of the rules, check the Intro here. Then, going by Doctor:

  1. William Hartnell
  2. Patrick Troughton
  3. Jon Pertwee
  4. Tom Baker
  5. Peter Davison
  6. Colin Baker
  7. Sylvester McCoy / Paul McGann
  8. Christopher Eccleston
  9. David Tennant

A quick reminder of the Test:

  1. It has to have two named female characters
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something besides a man.

As Russell T Davies departs with a pretty good record of gender balance, in comes new and hotly divisive showrunner Steven Moffat. At the time, fans seemed very optimistic about this development – after all, he had a strong record of writing inventive, scary and acclaimed stories. However, his very distinctive style, while popular in small doses, proved less universally welcomed as a constant of the show. That’s fine, of course; every showrunner has their critics, and RTD was certainly not beyond criticism. But for those who do dislike Moffat’s style, the level of vitriol was several notches higher than it had been for RTD. And one of the criticisms most frequently aimed at Moffat was that his writing was actively sexist and misogynist.

I’ve always thought that a bit unfair. I don’t think Moffat is a faultless writer (far from it), but one of his trademarks is writing strong, capable women who usually outshine the hapless men around them. Though I do acknowledge that his palette there is somewhat limited; after a while, all these flirtatious, impossibly witty heroines do start to feel a bit… samey.

Also incoming with Moffat was a new Doctor – the seemingly far too young Matt Smith. At 26, Matt was the youngest ever Doctor, leading to fears that the next one would have to be in his (or her) teens. Thankfully, Matt turned out to be a superb Doctor, actually more popular than many of the stories he appeared in. The fact that his quirky, often quite dark performance went down so well with viewers was quite an achievement after the near-universal popularity of David Tennant.

While I very much doubt that Matt Smith himself is in any way sexist or misogynist, he doesn’t write his own dialogue (well, not much anyway). So let’s delve into this new era, and find out how it compares to older ones…

Continue reading “How sexist is Doctor Who?–Part Ten”

How sexist is Doctor Who?–Part Nine

The David Tennant years

Tennant1

Welcome to Part Nine of my attempt to analyse the sexism in every Doctor Who story ever, using the Bechdel Test – and my wits. For a reminder of the rules, check the Intro here. Then, going by Doctor:

  1. William Hartnell
  2. Patrick Troughton
  3. Jon Pertwee
  4. Tom Baker
  5. Peter Davison
  6. Colin Baker
  7. Sylvester McCoy / Paul McGann
  8. Christopher Eccleston

A quick reminder of the Test:

  1. It has to have two named female characters
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something besides a man.

 

The Tenth Doctor. David Tennant. Skinny suit. Converse sand shoes. Long coat. And endless cries of squee. Yes, Christopher Eccleston may have made the revived show a success, but Tennant made it a phenomenon. Clearly far more at home in the part than Eccleston ever was (not that Eccleston ever let that show on screen, to be fair), Tennant became Russell T Davies’ best asset in selling the show, both onscreen and off.

In his four years in the part, David Tennant notched up almost as many stories as Tom Baker managed in seven – 37 stories all told, as opposed to Baker’s 41. That’s mostly due to the fact that the new show has self-contained episodes, or at most two-parters. It also means that Tennant’s era offers a better balanced sample for the Bechdel Test than the mere ten stories of Christopher Eccleston. It also means that this is one monster of a blog post, made even longer by a combined Ninth/Tenth Doctor summary at the end to sum up RTD’s era as a whole. Ready?

Continue reading “How sexist is Doctor Who?–Part Nine”

How sexist is Doctor Who?–Part Eight

The Christopher Eccleston weeks

Eccles1

Welcome to Part Eight of my attempt to analyse the sexism in every Doctor Who story ever, using the Bechdel Test – and my wits. For a reminder of the rules, check the Intro here. Then, going by Doctor:

  1. William Hartnell
  2. Patrick Troughton
  3. Jon Pertwee
  4. Tom Baker
  5. Peter Davison
  6. Colin Baker
  7. Sylvester McCoy / Paul McGann

A quick reminder of the Test:

  1. It has to have two named female characters
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something besides a man.

Having now covered all of the classic series (and the Paul McGann interlude), it’s time to get up to date as we start to look at “Nu-Who”. This is where the idea for this series really began, with Rebecca Moore’s determined attempt to prove that Russell T Davies was more inclusive than arch-sexist Steven Moffat, as mentioned in the Intro.

I’m not going to do this by showrunner (yet), but continue by Doctor – though there’ll be a combined look at Doctors Nine and Ten after the Tennant post, if you want to assess RTD as a whole. In the mean time, as a nod to the new series tendency to harp on about the Doctor himself at often tedious length, I’m including a new check at the conclusion – how many stories that failed the Test might have passed if you don’t count the Doctor himself (a 900 year old non-human) as a “man”? There’s also a count of the trend that emerged for the Doctor to not actually resolve the plot himself, often leaving that to his companion (and sometimes other women). So, let’s take a bold stride into a new, hopefully less chauvinist era (though McCoy and Cartmel will be hard to beat)…

Continue reading “How sexist is Doctor Who?–Part Eight”

How sexist is Doctor Who?–Part Seven

The Sylvester McCoy years

Sylv1

Welcome to Part Seven of my attempt to analyse the sexism in every Doctor Who story ever, using the Bechdel Test – and my wits. For a reminder of the rules, check the Intro here. Then, going by Doctor:

  1. William Hartnell
  2. Patrick Troughton
  3. Jon Pertwee
  4. Tom Baker
  5. Peter Davison
  6. Colin Baker

A quick reminder of the Test:

  1. It has to have two named female characters
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something besides a man.

Last week, we saw that despite the production chaos around him, Colin Baker’s run was the least sexist of any Doctor so far, only failing the Test 18.8% of the time – the most sexist era so far being Jon Pertwee’s which failed the Test 54.2% of the time. With John Nathan-Turner still producing, and shifting the show ever closer to light entertainment courtesy of some dubious stunt casting, callow newcomer Andrew Cartmel comes in at this point to shepherd in a new Doctor. With his own light entertainment background, Sylvester McCoy might have seemed an odd choice, but was soon to prove otherwise. But how well would this new era treat women? Let’s find out…

Continue reading “How sexist is Doctor Who?–Part Seven”

How sexist is Doctor Who?–Part Six

The Colin Baker years

CBaker1

Welcome to Part Six of my attempt to analyse the sexism in every Doctor Who story ever, using the Bechdel Test – and my wits. For a reminder of the rules, check the Intro here. Then, going by Doctor:

  1. William Hartnell
  2. Patrick Troughton
  3. Jon Pertwee
  4. Tom Baker
  5. Peter Davison

A quick reminder of the Test:

  1. It has to have two named female characters
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something besides a man.

 

Last week, we discovered that Peter Davison had shown a marked improvement in Bechdel terms from his predecessors, scoring the least sexist rating yet. But with trouble on the horizon for incoming Doctor Colin Baker, can he continue the trend of improvement? Let’s see…

Continue reading “How sexist is Doctor Who?–Part Six”

How sexist is Doctor Who?–Part Five

The Peter Davison years

Davison1

Welcome to Part Five of my attempt to analyse the sexism in every Doctor Who story ever, using the Bechdel Test – and my wits. For a reminder of the rules, check the Intro here. Then, going by Doctor:

  1. William Hartnell
  2. Patrick Troughton
  3. Jon Pertwee
  4. Tom Baker

A quick reminder of the Test:

  1. It has to have two named female characters
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something besides a man.

With John Nathan-Turner now producing for the rest of the classic run, the job of ‘showrunner’ now starts to fall more than ever to the script editor. In this case, with a few exceptions, that means Eric Saward, not renowned for his sensitivity. Will his macho, violent style make the show more sexist than ever, or will the new, more sensitive Doctor be less of an unwitting chauvinist than his predecessors? Let’s see the results…

Continue reading “How sexist is Doctor Who?–Part Five”