Hello and welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.

Now it’s a common enough trend to throw insults at Steven Moffat for being a ‘sexist’ or a ‘racist’ or things along that regard. People taking quotes of his that were out of context in an interview he made ten years ago and using that as a basis to support their argument (and conveniently ignoring any quotes that show that Moffat is willing to listen to the opposition and is not the devil amongst us). But something I noticed in the last season of Doctor Who is, above all else, how socially progressive it was. So as much as Steven Moffat gets attacked, are those attacking just being blinded by their own prejudices? Is Steven Moffat and Doctor Who in general that ‘sexist/racist’? Well lets find out.

1.7 Kill the Moon, aka The Great Abortion Debate.

Oh boy. This episode. This episode presented two of the greatest split in fandoms: Over whether science this fantastically bad should be acceptable (answer: no, unless it takes place in a time and space not tied to Earth) and whether this episode is about anti-abortion (answer: also no, but not for the reasons think). It’s the latter we’re going to be looking at, so without further ado, a plot recap.

The Doctor, Clara and young student Courtney from last episode take a trip to the moon, only to intercept a rocket travelling there. On board are two men (who only exist to die, so I’m not gonna bother naming them) and Captain Lundvik, the female leader of the expedition. The six explore the moon as the two male astronauts get killed off, leaving the women and the Doctor. The Doctor, meanwhile, makes a startling discovery: The moon is actually a giant egg, ready to hatch. The Doctor then leaves, leaving up to Clara, Courtney and Captain Lundvik to decide the fate of the baby. Courtney wants it to live, Lundvik wants to kill it, Clara is undecided. She asks the people of Earth to decide, either leaving their lights on to indicate ‘live’ and turning them off to indicate ‘kill’. Now whether the whole world is meant to vote or just the section she sees in the hour is not clarified (I presume the latter, adding to the drama of the episode), but the world votes to kill it off. But, seconds before it happens, Clara stops the bomb and saves the creature, just in time for the Doctor to come back and evacuate them off. The baby flies away, laying a moon egg in the process. All very silly, right? The science is awful. But lets look at the ethical debate.

The thing everyone focuses on is Courtney’s line ‘So it’s a baby’. This line takes up most of the discussion, since it’s where the allegory for the ‘anti-abortion’ argument stems from. The plot is resolved by not killing the baby, ergo the story must be anti-abortion, right? Well, no. It’s actually more complicated than that. So lets break it down a bit more.

Firstly, the only male character who could be useful to the conversation, leaves the women to make up the mind by themselves. He says its not his issue, since it’s not his moon, and buggers off. This in of itself is a very telling moment: If we take this episode as an abortion allegory, the one man of the group leaves the discussion. The man realises he has no place in this discussion, since he is, well, a man. He can’t have babies. His opinion is not as valid as a woman’s. In a day and age where a lot of the rights around abortion are discussed by men (something that the feminists quite rightly call shenanigans on), the show has its lead male character leave. He has no right in this conversation, textually because he’s an alien, meta-textually because he’s a man. So that’s our first big incident. What about the characters that remain?

Well Courtney, Clara and Lundvik are three different perspectives on the issue. Courtney is the naive youngster that believes all life is sacred, focusing more on the smaller details than the bigger picture. To her, all killing is wrong, regardless of how justified it is. In this debate she’s the ‘anti-abortion’ supporter who argues against abortion on ethical grounds. She cares more about the baby’s life than anything else.

On the flipside you have the older, wiser Lundvik. She is the one that looks at the big picture, of how the baby might potentially damage the ‘mother’ (in this case, Earth, since it helped protect the baby). She is more concerned with protecting the Earth, the needs of the many and all that. IT is noticeable that she is given the stronger arguments in the text, pointing out that the baby might very well be dangerous to the ‘mother’. That for the mother’s safety the baby should die.

And then we have Clara, the middle ground of this. While the Earth can be seen as this baby’s ‘mother’, so too can Clara. After all, Clara is the most experienced out of the three. She is the one that has travelled the universe and learnt a lot from the Doctor. She is the one in the position of highest authority. The choice is left up to her. The baby and herself are essentially tied together. She is, in many ways, this baby’s mother as well. So what does she do? She turns to society for the answer. She asks society what to do, and society tells her to kill the baby. However, despite what society says, she chooses not to. Now pay attention to that last sentence: She chooses not to. Despite the arguments for the killing, it is ultimately her choice, and she chooses for the baby to live. And therein lies the thing that most people miss about this episode, if one applies the abortion analogue to it:

It’s not an anti-abortion message, but a pro-choice message. Just because Clara chooses to let the baby live doesn’t lessen the fact that the story is pro-choice, it in fact strengthens it. Pro-choice is about giving women the choice about whether or not to keep the baby, not telling them that they should be forced to give it up if society deems so. If the story was truly an anti-abortion message the Earth would vote for the baby to live, since that’s what society would argue as well. Likewise Clara wouldn’t make the choice to save the baby, a third option would come up (no doubt from the Doctor himself). That would be the anti-abortion story: The baby doesn’t have to die because there is a way for it to live, and the ‘mother’s’ choice in this story doesn’t matter. If the three female character’s arguments and choices ultimately amounted to nothing, to not being a part of the story, on being nil themselves, that would make it anti-abortion. But it’s the opposite. The women’s choices are what guide the story, they are what the story is pinned on. Ultimately Clara chooses to let the baby live despite what society is telling her, because it is her choice to. The story could easily be called ‘Clara’s Choice’ and it’d make as much sense.

Which brings us round to the end of the episode, where Clara calls the Doctor out on his horrible behaviour. She needed him and he left her high and dry. If we take Clara to be the ‘mother’ of this story, than the Doctor is clearly the ‘father’. He helped create this problem, but crucially, he does nothing to fix it. He supports Clara’s choice and has faith in her, but isn’t there to help her when it matters most. He leaves the baby’s ‘mother’ to fend for herself. So if this story is an abortion tale, the role of the father is one of abandonment, and he’s called out on it. The man does have the place in the discussion: it’s by the woman’s side supporting her. She’s angry that he abandoned her to make it by herself. Despite his arguments that it wasn’t his discussion nor problem, he should have still been there for her. At the very least that’s the right thing to do.

So is the story all about abortion? Yes, but not in the way one would think. At the end of the day if any message can be read from it, the pro-choice message is what the writer was intending. After all, if we criticize the woman’s choice for keeping the baby and argue she was doing it for the wrong reasons, aren’t we just as bad as those who criticize the woman for aborting it?

Tally (excluding Courtney, who was already covered):

White Male characters: 2

White Female characters: 1

Total:

White Male characters: 11

White Female characters: 5

Non-White Male characters: 3

Non-White Female characters: 4

Alien Male characters: 1

Alien Female characters: 1

1.8 Mummy on the Orient Express, or The Role of the Female Companion.

Now I’m immediately doding this episode, since anything I could say about it have been discussed before or since. However, since this is the best place to talk about Moffat’s companions, lets do that. And the best way to do that is to look at Davies’ companions.

The most telling moment in Davies’ writing is the first scene of Army of Ghosts, where Rose narrates “For the first nineteen years of my life nothing happen, nothing at all. Then I met him.” How about Donna’s farewell, where a lot of Wilf’s comments run along the lines of ‘She was better with you’. Even the big theme of Davies’ run was that the Doctor made his companions better people. Which is fine and well… if not a majority of those companions were women, and the one male companion of significance was gay. Because this raises a troubling implication: The Doctor makes these women’s lives better because he is a man, and a man makes women’s lives better by default. Even Captain Jack, as a gay man, is shown to be a better man because of the Doctor. The Doctor is placed to be a shiny beacon of good, with his presence making life better. Falling in love with the Doctor isn’t just acceptable, it’s mandatory. Rose and Martha are meant to fall head over heels for this fabulous man, as was Penny (the character who was created before Donna came back). Even one shot characters like Astrid are portrayed as supposing to love the Doctor in a very heterosexual relationship. So why is this a problem?

Because it sends the unfortunate implication that women need a man in their life for their life to be worth anything, especially if it’s a romantic connection. Life is better for a woman if you have a man in it. And if you think this is a load of baloney (and I do admit, it’s a stretch to say the least that Davies wrote his work to be sexist like this), this is the same sort of arguments Moffat haters level at Moffat. But, there’s one crucial difference between Davies and Moffat.

In Davies’ run, the companions and other female characters revolved around the Doctor.

In Moffat’s run, the Doctor and the male characters revolve around the female companions.

Take Amy, for instance. The story she goes through is essentially having to choose between two men in her life: The quirky boyfriend whose great for a fling but you can’t settle down with for a long time, or the dedicated man whose willing to go to any lengths to prove his love. Time and again Amy is forced to choose between these two men, even though it’s very quickly confirmed that Rory will win every time. But both the Doctor and Rory are defined by Amy, and their lives revolve around the female character. She is the focal point of the series, the object of interest. But, crucially, the show goes to great lengths to show why being with the Doctor is a bad thing. While Davies’ run played up the idea that the Doctor makes people better, Moffat showed how being with the Doctor made things worse. As much as we like Amy and the Doctor together, the relationship is not a healthy one. The climax to Amy’s story is her finally getting free of the Doctor and, crucially, the Doctor finally letting go of her. The Doctor’s life is defined by Amy, since she is the thing his life revolves around. And then there’s River Song…

Now I don’t like River Song, but what’s interesting to note here is how she is positioned to be another object for the Doctor to chase. The Doctor’s life is connected with River’s since the Doctor’s life revolves around River. Once again we have the male Doctor chasing his female companions, with his female companions taking centre stage. Even in the latest incarnation, Clara is put in the same situation with Danny and the Doctor. And once again, part of the story will inevitably be the Doctor learning to let go.

The partings in the Davies era are tragic because the women can never be with this fantastic Doctor again. The partings in the Moffat era are tragic because the Doctor can never be with these fantastic women again. The Doctor is essentially put in the ‘lovesick companion’ role to demonstrate why it doesn’t work. If anything Moffat is more feminist than Davies by having his companions define who the Doctor is, rather than the other way round. But while I’ve brushed the surface here, we’ll talk more about Clara next time.

Tally (for record keeping, in this episode we have the Captain, the Professor, the Mechanic, the Mummy and the Damsel, for the sake of convenience):

White Male characters: 3

White Female characters: 1

Alien Male character: 1

Total:

White Male characters: 14

White Female characters: 6

Non-White Male characters: 3

Non-White Female characters: 4

Alien Male characters: 2

Alien Female characters: 1

1.9 Flatline, or How a Female Doctor Could Work.

Before we start, lets get some of the housekeeping out of the way. In this episode we have a black ‘lead’ (or at least the male character taking up most of the on-set work), a non-English side character, three white men (including a horrible racist) and a black female policewoman who once again proves my point that if the role can have anyone in it, casting something other than a white man is a good idea. Onto the actual topic.

Perhaps in a bit of foreshadowing, one of the big ideas of this episode is Clara taking on the role of the Doctor for it, even calling herself the Doctor at one point. She has the wits, the sonic screwdriver, all the she-bang. The Doctor is a side character in this story. Now the last episode of this series has a joke about Clara claiming to be the Doctor to avoid being killed by the Cybermen, but here the idea of a female Doctor is explored. Clara is, essentially, the Doctor in this story. And while some people dislike the character of Clara, the idea is certainly an interesting one: Could you have a woman playing the character of the Doctor and still have the show be good? The answer is an obvious ‘yes’, but this is the first episode to really explore the concept in any great detail. The first ‘Doctor-lite’ episode we had in the New Series was Fear Her, where Rose was portrayed as a crazed lover who willingly attacks a child and is in the right for it. The next ‘Doctor-lite’ episode, Turns Left, deals with the Doctor being dead and how the world so desperately needs him. The third (by my memory at least) is The Girl Who Waited, a story that keeps the Doctor mostly in the TARDIS and places him in the role of antagonist (since it was his foul up that leads to the tragedy of the episode). So we come to this, and the Doctor is treated as little more than an exposition fairy and a dues ex machina. So, female Doctor and a male companion. Does it work?

The answer is yes. If this proved to be a testing ground for a female Doctor, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they followed this formula. This episode may be forgotten to time, or it may have been seen as one of the great series turning points, but the best thing to take away from it is that a female Doctor is entirely possible and can work.

Tally:

White Male characters: 3

Non-White Male characters: 1

Non-White Female characters: 1

Total:

White Male characters: 17

White Female characters: 6

Non-White Male characters: 4

Non-White Female characters: 5

Alien Male characters: 2

Alien Female characters: 1

So there you have it. Part of my extensive look at Doctor Who in relation to the concept of diversity. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.

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