Is it just me? A Dr Who discussion post.

***Beware, Spoilers Ahead***
***Spoilers Ahead***

Spoiler Warning: this post will be discussing “Cold Blood” the second part of the “Hungry Earth” episode featuring the Silurians, which has just aired in Australia. If you haven’t watched it, I recommend not reading on.

If you have watched episodes after this one, please do not discuss them on this thread, as some of us are watching them as the come on the ABC on Sunday evenings. Thank you.

Alaya – picture sourced from the BBC Dr Who website.

I’m calling this episode the woman hating episode. I found it really irritating to watch, despite the fact that I generally enjoy Dr Who. Let me explain why. Firstly – military leader who has to be put back into their box – female. Over ruled by Patriarchal elder. Why couldn’t we have an alien alternate earth species matriarchy, just once?  Person blamed for stuffing up alliance between humans and the Silurians? Female. Person who drove the mother to kill – female. Character killed off at the end because she didn’t do what the patriarchy demanded – female. Character punished for choosing someone other than the Dr? Amy, by having her significant other, Rory, erased.  Am I just imagining or reading too much into this? (Yes, I’m aware that Rory, male, also died, but that doesn’t fit in with my theory so I’m leaving it to one side at the moment. Maybe he was just an expendable beta male?)

I think what really annoyed me was the Dr having a go at Ambrose for not being human enough to rise above the torment of not knowing what was happening to her family. For not rising above her fear for her father. For believing that her son and husband were in the clutches of a species who might mean them harm, which is exactly what she was told by a member of that very species. In short, for caring about her family just as she has been taught to do as a good girl by society. Then she gets slammed for it by the Dr. Not. Good. Enough. Woman. Now your only role is to teach your young male child how to save the world.

You know what, if I were Ambrose I’d do it all again. If I were in Ambrose’s position I’d do it the same way, plus I’d tell the Dr to get his head out of his arse and realise that what I had done was completely human. If the Dr thinks that in 1000 years people are going to welcome the Silurians he has another think coming. They will welcome them with big bloody weapons, if they don’t dig them out and try to destroy them first. That’s human.

I’m not sure who wrote this episode, but in general I find the way that the Dr talks down to Amy, blames her when things go wrong and generally fails to acknowledge when she gets things right, even if he doesn’t like it really shits me. The erasing of Rory is giving me Donna flashbacks too. I’m very concerned about the story arc for Amy’s character.

If you think I’m reading too much into this, please say so (nicely). I’m desperate to start enjoying Dr Who again.

Categories: arts & entertainment, gender & feminism

Tags: , , ,

25 replies

  1. OK, I’ll bite!
    I think maybe a point is being stretched a little bit, in this particular case. You note one part that you’re having to ignore to continue with your thesis, but you’ve also not really looked at Nasreen, who is an AWESOME woman (and Asian to boot) who plays a big part in that serial and who neither dies nor fucks up. The fuckups seemed more to me to be folks-who-happen-to-be-female, and I think the fact that one is a military leader and the other one fucks up by being overly aggressive doesn’t really play to stereotypes.
    Also, the person who’s going to save the world is a kid with a disability whose disability isn’t played for superpower, pity, or tokenism, and that goes a really long way for me.
    Amy’s forgetting struck me as having a lot of resonances with Donna’s, but in very different ways. It looked to me as if the Doctor was pretty tortured about his role in Donna’s mindwipe, and was desperately, desperately trying to atone for that while trying to stop Amy from forgetting anything. And – hm, not sure how much I can say here, but I think Amy’s forgetting storyline is very very different from Donna’s in other ways also.
    The way the Doctor talks to Amy? I don’t think we’re supposed to like that. I think it’s one part of Moffat’s wind-back of RTD’s Doctor-As-God scenario. This season’s Doctor has been delightfully erratic, abrupt, cranky, annoying, and not at all Mr Perfect, and to me, that’s how he’s supposed to be – for me he’s not the point-of-view character, in a way, not the person I identify with. We’re not always supposed to like him, or even think he’s particularly good (the Dream Lord episode goes there explicitly). He may also be still a bit toey from Amy assaulting him, and I wouldn’t much blame him for that.

  2. I did really like that Nasreen was alive and well at the end of the episode, with her partner. I always suspected that she might stay, that her love interest stayed as well was good. I forgot that the child had a disability – fail for me, win for Dr Who.
    Thanks for putting the Dr in perspective. Now that I know I’m not supposed to like him always I think it will be easier to like him. I think I’m still getting over ‘he’s not David Tennant’.
    [eta: thanks admin magic for the nifty spoilers ahead sign!]

  3. So bummed about Rory. So bummed. I keep hoping that it’ll be dealt with somehow in the final episodes.

    • Rory’s exit was very much a NOOOOOO!!!! moment for me. I’d just been enjoying how his character was developing, and looking forward to an adventurous trio dynamic such as DW has had in some previous, especially pre-RTD, incarnations. I’m intrigued as to how Moffat is going to resolve the cracks though.

  4. I also loved Nasreen, but I’m not sure that makes up for the portrayal of women in the rest of the double episode. At one point, I was sarcastically yelling at the tv, “yes, that’s right women ruin EVERYTHING with their inappropriate emotions!” The first half in particular seemed to be all about torturing Ambrose, by taking away everyone she loved.
    But Nasreen *was* a pretty awesome character.

  5. Have to say that I found Ambrose giving in to the impulses of vengeful violence and torture to try and save her family a perfectly cromulent narrative choice, and one that didn’t strike me as anti-woman at all – it’s a very human reaction, and saying “damn the village/city/nation/planet, I just want to save my family”, unethical and ignoble as it is in the greater social context, is one that both men and women have given into over the millennia. The whole narrative about the nobility of sacrificing one’s own precious attachments for the sake of the greater good, of being that extraordinary person who thinks of others first, has always had to deal with the challenge of ordinary people who understandably focus just on what they personally have to lose.
    I also think that Nasreen’s awesomeness more than balanced the ethical inadequacies of Ambrose and the hissing malevolence of Alaya – there was a range of women characters with different strengths and weaknesses in this episode, and isn’t that actually a good thing?
    i don’t want the Doctor to only battle male villains and have all the women be virtuous allies. I don’t want the only folks around him who let him down to be the men. How tedious that would be.

  6. Re Ambrose – I felt like she was being punished for acting the way a man would in her situation which I thought a bit unfair. I agree though that having women as paragons of virtue would be equally if not more annoying.
    Nasreen was awesome. I just wish she wasn’t now frozen, although I suppose they could go 1000 years into the future and see her again. I was hoping that she might get to be a companion at some stage. I too am wondering what they are going to do with Rory, I really liked the three of them together as a team.
    Thanks for the food for thought. I’m starting to think that this current incarnation may be more like previous Drs from the 70’s, instead of the happy-go-lucky David Tennant model. Which is a good thing I think.

    • I felt as though the Doctor would have reacted to a man doing what Ambrose did in exactly the same way.
      re Nasreen, for those who are not fully aware of the range of awesomeness that is the ridiculously talented Meera Syal, you should check out virtually anything she’s been in, especially as the reprobate grannie on The Kumars at Number 42.

  7. @TT – if Ambrose had been a man I probably wouldn’t have noticed how the Dr reacted. Something to chew on there.

  8. @lauredhel,

    This season’s Doctor has been delightfully erratic, abrupt, cranky, annoying, and not at all Mr Perfect, and to me, that’s how he’s supposed to be – for me he’s not the point-of-view character, in a way, not the person I identify with.

    Agreed: in the classic Whoniverse, it’s always been the Companion(s) whose POV we filter the storyline through. The Doctor was always prickly and complicated, despite being awesome, and his moments of glee and playfulness never lasted for long.
    DT was so shiny and cuddly with glee that Ten’s complex prickliness got smoothed over, although he did always have it there underneath the manic pixie dream doctor stuff. But I think that’s one of the reasons Tennant left when he did – RTD had kinda boxed him in away from the prickly curmudgeon side and not left him many complex places to go.

  9. Been watchine Dr Who forever, what i find somewhat disturbing is the problem solving by violence that is creeping in.
    My Bryan-the-Younger (8) loves to watch and try as I might I cannot move him beyond the monsters and violence. Monsters I can cope with as he is unlikely to meet too many of the Dr Who variety in his daily life. But the violence…who (sorry) needs it.

  10. I wouldn’t go quite as far as the OP, but I think a big flaw in the episode was that it tended to be men rebuking women. But it was interesting that three women were the instigators of violence in a way, each for their own reasons.
    Is there more violent problem-solving now? I haven’t noticed, but it’s not something I’ve been watching for.
    Is Eleven unusually affectionate or is Matt Smith just a little bit different in his approach than DT? It just seems like Eleven is always hugging on someone. Obviously Nine was not terribly affectionate, but Ten didn’t have any problem with hugs. It just seems different with Eleven but I can’t put my finger on why.

  11. Chris Chibnil wrote this, as well as many of the crappy episodes from Torchwood.

  12. I always suspected that she might stay, that her love interest stayed as well was good.
    But the reason she gave for staying was that she wanted to be able to see the Silurian city again. I liked that.
    I was sarcastically yelling at the tv, “yes, that’s right women ruin EVERYTHING with their inappropriate emotions!”
    My reaction also had a streak of “Oh, so women being overemotional to the detriment of the big picture does transcend species, then?”
    I felt as though the Doctor would have reacted to a man doing what Ambrose did in exactly the same way.
    I think he would, especially in the case of the Silurians, where he is always dead set on finding a peaceful solution (and I was glad of the implication that they eventually did).
    So I’m conflicted on whether I agree with Mindy here. Although something that supports her point, I think, is the Silurian scientist Malokeh. When we first see him, he’s vivisecting people (only a few second’s luck prevents him from slicing Amy open). Yet as soon as Restac appears on the scene, he’s the ape-lover, the peace-monger, the one who’d never hurt a child. And no one ever mentions his former habit, including Amy and even the guy he did slice open. Brutal male given a pass, dead male (Rory) hagiographed.
    What I’d have liked was to flip Restac and Malokeh’s attitudes to the humans: Malokeh’s gone cold from his years of studying them, and doesn’t see them as people; while Restac is concerned with protecting her people, and doesn’t think a war where they’re outnumbered several million to one is the way to go with that (even if she’s conflicted over whether this betrays her sister’s memory). Restac can do everything that the elder did, and Malokeh could wake another military leader to lead the big Silurians converging tension at the end (or Restac could wake an elder to counter another military leader being woken).
    Aside from being less “women ruin everything,” we’d get some inner conflict in one of the Silurians, a reversal of Doctor Who’s usual soldier/scientist dichotomy, and no need to forget about Malokeh vivisecting people.

    • SN, good points on Malokeh and I like your retrojigging. Flipping Restac and Malokeh would have worked much better all round, I think.

  13. I thought there was misogyny in the episode too, but a) I have low expectations and b) I am too much of a Doctor Who fanatic to hate the show because of it. Nasreen was fabulous. Plot-wise, nothing prevents her from becoming a companion – the Doctor scoops her up 1000 years later? The kid with dyslexia was fabulous too.
    I think this is the very first episode with the Silurians in which the humans, or the Doctor, doesn’t wipe them all out. Cool.
    Also, a random note – I have been bothered by Amy’s matter-of-fact solving of adventures. But our family just went to see the most recent Alice in Wonderland film, and Alice was exactly the same way. It totally worked. Now I think of Amy as an Alice, and it totally works.

  14. Mindy- Hopfully the next ep “Vincent and the Doctor’ will make you happy again. I really liked it.
    No notable women characters, that’s one of the problems of only having 2 sexes I guess.
    The one after that..meh.

  15. Bet you a dollar Rory comes back. He’ll be living in that universe behind the crack there.
    But I like a sci-fi show that isn’t always on the human side. So much of sci-fi tries to say “Oh those aliens, they’re just like us really”, but I think this episode says “Humans are just as nonsensical and territorial than these lizard-people here.” A lot of humanity’s worse qualities are ascribed to the “reptile brain”, so it was nice to see these characters actually confront it.
    I was a bit worried when Amy killed herself in the dream episode. True love = ritualistic suicide isn’t a great message.

  16. I thought Nasreen was spectacular, and particularly liked that her focus was on exploring the middle of the earth. I like it when it’s not just the Doc and the companion feeling adventuresome.
    I *really* liked the anti-ableism stuff, where Elliott says that he can’t draw, and the Doctor says ‘That’s okay, I can’t make a decent meringue!’ That felt more perfectly anti-ableist than most negotiations of disability I’ve seen on TV.
    I actually kinda liked that Restac was a military commander, just because it remains rare to have a woman play a role like that. And as for Ambrose… well, I reacted pretty hard to the Doctor’s rebuke at the end—you can no longer be the best of humanity, so the most you can do is have your son do that for you, which felt like a massively gendered thing; i.e., I’m not convinced that the Doctor would have told a father the same thing—but to me, she was just reacting to a sucky and massively unfamiliar situation. And the thing was, everyone else had a reason to trust the Doctor: even Nasreen and Ambrose’s dad (I’ve forgotten his name) had had him react to the holes appearing at the mine had an investment there. Ambrose didn’t. Then again, I thought it was *awfully* unlikely that she was the only one who had gone off to find weapons while everyone else cheerfully *just* followed the doc’s orders…so that rebuke, as well, felt a bit ??? Especially given that Amy and Elliott’s dad (forgotten his name too!) turn up carrying alien guns. But I think this is probably the regular difficulty DW faces in general, with trying to have a peaceable protagonist who somehow manages to make people get along…

  17. Ambrose I didn’t care for at all, and Nasreen was great, so they balanced each other out. And actually, I wasn’t all that fond of Rory. He was a bit of a wet blanket, and not a patch on Mickey. However, I think the Doctor’s tetchiness toward’s Amy is because she wants adventures with him and love with Rory, and he’s not used to sharing his companion’s Favourite Male Award.

  18. I loved the treatment of the boy’s dyslexia. That was great. And of course Nasreen was a great character too.
    I don’t follow so much with the problem with the military commander. I liked that it was a woman playing such a strong role and to have a female character who wasn’t all sunshine and light, or virgin/whore.
    I confess that I was really, really irritated with Ambrose’s character. But I also felt that the way she acted was ridiculously built up – the Doctor giving that big speech about the best of humanity with swelling background music and everything. Ugh, I couldn’t physically cringe hard enough. You just *knew* the reason they were building it up was to make the emotion based decision making particularly inexplicable because they’d just been told not to do it. I think they set her up to be vulnerable in the first half, then made her look stupid in the second.
    And I wanted to cry when Rory died. Definite shades of Donna. I hope he’s magically brought back to life.

  19. Are you saying that all characters that err should be played by men?

  20. Sigh.

    • Indeed, Nick – has Dominic above not read the rest of the comments before posting his own comment? Poor netiquette, that.

  21. I haven’t seen the episode yet, so I didn’t read the post or the comments. I just wanted to say that this new season is giving me misogynist creeps since episode 3, I think. The last one I watched was Vampires of Venice, and I needed a break before going on with the others, after the whole thing about “I need to fix Amy so I’m going to tell her soon-to-be-owner that she’s been misbehaving”.
    It makes me pretty sad, because I was expecting to hate the new season because 11 is not 10, and came to love the way Matt Smith plays 11, but hate the writing.

%d bloggers like this: