Doctor Who–Season 8, Episode 2–Into the Dalek

“Clara, be a pal and tell me – am I a good man?”

_Into_the_Dalek_poster

(SPOILER WARNING!)

After last week’s flawed but mostly satisfying season opener, this week Doctor Who followed up with the return of the show’s arch villains in a story that was flawed but, for me, less satisfying. If you’ve read my reviews before, you know that if I don’t enjoy a story, I usually break down the reasons why. The trouble is that this time, I can’t quite put my finger on exactly why I felt that way.

Continue reading “Doctor Who–Season 8, Episode 2–Into the Dalek”

Doctor Who: Series 8, Episode 1–Deep Breath

“He is lost in the ruins of himself. We have to bring him home.”

DeepBreath1

(SPOILER WARNING!)

The arrival of a new Doctor has always been a hotly anticipated event for us fans, but until recently the rest of humanity tended to just roll their eyes indulgently at the excitement of the nerds. Since the show’s resurrection in 2005 however, it’s been getting more and more popular; to the extent that last night, Peter Capaldi’s debut as the Twelfth Doctor was simultaneously broadcast in countries all over the world, while back here in Blighty, you could go and watch it on the big screen at one of 450 cinemas across the country. Those cinemagoers were also treated to a live Q&A session with Capaldi, Jenna Coleman and Steven Moffat, broadcast by satellite from the stage of the Odeon Leicester Square.

This isn’t just a cult TV show any more – it’s a cultural phenomenon. And so, there was a lot riding on this episode, which had to introduce a Doctor who, for the post-2005 audience, would seem radically different – because he was (gasp) old.

Continue reading “Doctor Who: Series 8, Episode 1–Deep Breath”

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? – The Intro…

“Have you never heard of female emancipation, Brigadier?” – Liz Shaw
There’s nothing ‘only’ about being a girl.” – Sarah Jane Smith
You will do as the Doctor says or I will cut out your heart!” – Leela

RTD1Moffat1

With the TV shows I usually review all on summer breaks right now, I found myself a little short of something to keep me disciplined enough to produce regular blog posts. Then I remembered a recent article I’d read in that the official journal of the gender wars, The Guardian, that reported a study claiming to prove that, under Steven Moffat, Doctor Who was measurably more sexist than it had been under Russell T Davies.

Continue reading “How sexist is Doctor Who? – The Intro…”

Sherlock: His Last Vow

“I’ve had to do with fifty murderers in my career, but the worst of them never gave me the repulsion which I have for this fellow. And yet I can’t get out of doing business with him — indeed, he is here at my invitation.” – from the journals of Dr John H Watson, MD, The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton

ScreenShot051

(SPOILER WARNING!)

And so, another all too brief season of Sherlock comes to an end, with an episode that should please more of the fans than the previous two (though I’m, sure some will never be satisfied). If you didn’t like the previous two stories’ lurch towards ‘soap opera’ character drama in place of crime plots, the balance of this ep will probably have made you happier – and in retrospect, it has become clear that the previous two were all about building up to this one.

Continue reading “Sherlock: His Last Vow”

Sherlock: The Sign of Three

I love you, Mary, as truly as ever a man loved a woman. Because this treasure, these riches, sealed my lips. Now that they are gone I can tell you how I love you. That is why I said, ‘Thank God.’” – from the journals of Dr John H Watson, MD, The Sign of the Four

Sherlock2Speech

(SPOILER WARNING!)

I must confess, I was a trifle surprised last Thursday to find myself being a little negative about the return of Sherlock. Previously, to many people (including me), it’s been a show that needs little criticism, more polished and better thought through than Steven Moffat’s other series du jour, Doctor Who. Imagine my surprise, then, looking online, to discover that my criticisms of it were mild indeed compared to the vitriolic dissatisfaction of many, including plenty who described themselves as formerly having been unalloyed fans of the show.

Continue reading “Sherlock: The Sign of Three”

Sherlock: The Empty Hearse

‘Holmes!’ I cried. ‘Is it really you? Can it indeed be that you are alive?’” – from the journals of Dr John H Watson, MD, The Adventure of the Empty House

Sherlock_221B

(SPOILER WARNING!)

It has been, as was noted several times in the script for this episode, just about two years since we last saw an episode of Sherlock (give or take a fortnight). In that time, the stars and writers of the show have hardly been idle. Benedict Cumberbatch has been seemingly everywhere, most notably as the villain in Big Hollywood Movie Star Trek Into Darkness, while Martin Freeman has had two lengthy epics released in which he plays Tolkien’s famous hobbit Bilbo Baggins (with a third due this year). Mark Gatiss has busied himself with MR James adaptations and a series on European horror movies, while Steven Moffat has been busy with something called Doctor Who.

Continue reading “Sherlock: The Empty Hearse”