How sexist is Doctor Who?–Part Ten


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…

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