Don't Stop Me Now

41a9efd8c71bfc3a0295d87ce8decaadSo there are two facts about me that many of you know by now: 1) I am a Whovian. (A fan of Doctor Who, for those who don't speak my brand of geek.)

and 2) I have a very righteous, active and at times insane fantasy life.

When you combine these two things about me, and my profession as a writer, you get a distinct, burning desire on my part to write for Doctor Who. Now, I am under no delusions that I am, at this stage in my career, going to find that falling into my lap like a purring kitten. However, it's a goal that I strive toward much the same way other pursue Oscars, Hugos or the ice cream truck. (Seriously, my episode of Doctor Who will be how I win my Hugo. Then I'll buy an ice cream truck.)

So, you can imagine that my heart sank a little when I saw agency sibling and rock awesome story spelunker Paul Kreuger post this article at the Daily Dot. According to the Daily Dot, the next season of Doctor Who will see many writers who are old friends of the show. (Show-runner Steven Moffat has said himself he likes to keep things "in the family", as it were, and does not try to deny nepotism. This is well-documented in terms of his other hit show, Sherlock.) A few new hands have joined this season.

And not a single one of them are women.

From the article:

"...this is now the fourth season in a row that has employed precisely zero female writers.

In fact, since Steven Moffat took over as showrunner in 2009 he has never hired a single female writer. And only once has he brought on a female director, back in season five. Needless to say, this track record only adds fuel to the ever-growing number of fans who say Moffat is taking Doctor Who in a more conservative and sexist direction."

The internet is full of evidence and speculation about Moffat and his potential to be a misogynist. You can look that up elsewhere. I'll say that at the moment my jury is still out. I have really enjoyed watching Sherlock, and think that Mr. Moffat has a gift for creating engaging stories. However, having watched Coupling and his episodes of Doctor Who, I have issues with the way he portrays women. I'm sure that Mr. Moffat himself is a lovely person but can neither confirm nor deny this from firsthand experience.

cautionmenworkingNow, I'll be honest, I'm only about half-way through the first Matt Smith season of Doctor Who. Already, though, I'm pissed about some of the writing decisions. Those decisions are, invariably, tied to the way women are written or treated. Specifically, women who are given monumental power and then divested of it almost immediately. It has happened with Donna Noble and it happened with Amy Pond... the woman had a pivotal choice to make that could save or condemn the universe...and when she made her choice she was strong. She owned. She saved the day.

And then... (Spoilers, sweetie.)

The choice didn't matter.

In Donna's case, within the same episode we take the choice she made and the being she had become and took it away from her in a horrifying way. Everything she'd been to us up to that point simply erased. All of her past mattered in the grand scheme of the universe, but that moment of her becoming more than herself? Robbed of it. And put back into a world where she is slow on the uptake and flakey because she "missed" huge world events (that she played a major part in!!!) In a way it's worse than death or being marooned in another dimension.

In Amy's case? Wow... she made her choice to live in a world with Rory in it no matter what that might mean in the long run. Her love for him (and the fact that it eclipsed her infatuation with the Doctor) was so fucking amazing and heartrending at the end of that episode! She realizes in that moment something she hasn't admitted to the audience, to the Doctor or to herself! She needs, loves and wants Rory in her world. WOOT!

And then...

In the next episode, Rory is killed. (Yes, I know, shut up. Not there yet. Grr.)

It feels like they gave Amy the choice: The Doctor or Rory? And then when she made her choice, someone (*coughMOFFATcough*) said, "You know what, you didn't make the choice I wanted you to make. So guess what. Oh, and I'm going to take your memory, too."

In both cases, the woman was given the +1 Stompy Boots of Awesome. In both cases it is up to the Doctor's companion to save not just the Doctor and those in the immediate area, but the world as they know it! In both cases, the women make the clutch decisions, regardless of the odds or how difficult it may be. And in both cases, their actions and memories are deleted so that the Doctor can have a moment. (In one case, the moment is morose and bitter, while in the other...well, he's now #1 and doesn't have to compete with poor Rory any more.)

(As an aside, I don't remember thinking "poor Mickey" every episode, but damn, do I pity Rory.)

While I can't know the writers' motives on the matter, or how it went down in story planning, it plays out like this weird situation where Amy and Donna are working away merrily when the Doctor steps up to look over their shoulders. "Oh, no, that won't do. You'd better let me," he says. Then he shoulders them aside and does things his own way.

And casts "obliviate" on them. Quit fucking with women's heads and memories, Moffat!



But I digress.

 (/end Spoilers.)

capaldireactions6New season of Doctor Who with Peter Capaldi manning the female writers. As I said, I saw this link when my friend Paul Kreuger posted it to Facebook. Someone commented on that thread, "Why does it matter?"

*raises hand*

Allow me to explain.

I watch Doctor Who and I don't see myself in the women there any more. The change happened shortly after Russel T. Davies and Julie Gardner left the show, to be replaced by current showrunner, Mr. Moffat.

In the RTD era, I could empathize with Rose because I remember what it was like to be 20-something and listless with a shit-paying job and no idea what I wanted in life. I could see the allure of running away with the Doctor. I could see myself in Sarah Jane whose heart had developed a scar in the shape of the Time Lord. Martha was smart, capable and invisible to the man she loved. But once she got over that crush on the Doctor, she continued to be a badass! She was more WITHOUT him. (In fact... Rose became MORE without the Doctor. As did Sarah Jane. Those women grew and took their time with the Doctor as a foundation. They built wonders.) And Donna? Never once was she dewy-eyed and lovestruck by him. She was the "mate" he'd been looking for! A take-no-bullshit partner.

But then...Donna didn't get to be more. She was diminished.

Amy? River? Don't get me wrong, Amy has had some choice moments, and River has had some great dialogue. But, thus far, these two women have been defined by their relationship to the Doctor. They are props, set pieces and plot points bowing dutifully or batting their eyelashes at the Doctor. They aren't whole people.

And that is a problem.

For one thing, in terms of story? It gets old. I'm tired of seeing the Doctor with young companions who just fawn over him! It's a hope I have with Capaldi in the role: older companions who aren't trying to bed him or wed him. I want him to have a companion again.

For another... I want to see women written as fully-formed human beings (or aliens, or whatever). I want them to be written from places of truth where they have real motivations and histories and needs and fears that have NOTHING to do with the Doctor! Men on this same show get that. Captain Jack, the Master, even Mickey "the Idiot". They all have fully-realized characters who have the opportunity to grow in--and because of--their time with the Doctor.

That is why it's important to have diverse writers. For more points of view, and more satisfying, emotionally engaging stories where everyone can see themselves portrayed in a positive role.

keep-calm-and-no-girls-allowedMore importantly, though...

....when such a high-profile show has no women writing or directing episodes, what does that do to the crop of female writers? In my case, it pushes me. It's not going to deter me, though it might hobble me. It's another obstacle for me to circumvent, climb, think my way out of or blast into rubble. (Just like the Doctor, Martha, Donna, Rose etc etc have done time and again.)

But what about others? What about young girls? Kids like my daughter. If they don't see women directing, writing or collaborating on the things they love, they may think they are not allowed to do those things. My daughter has already said she feels "more like a boy" sometimes because she likes comics, video games and Doctor Who. Why are these boy things? They aren't! They are for everyone. So when little girls look at the lists of creators on a show and don't see female representation...they may believe that this is something they can't do. And sweetie, let me tell you, the only things a woman can't do that men can involve peeing while standing.

This move--this continuation of keeping Doctor Who a Boy's Club--is dangerous because it says to women and minorities that we are not welcome. And sci-fi has always been about exploration, finding humanity and ourselves in the alien.

By excluding us, you're limiting yourself.

Now, I am not professionally ready to write an episode of Doctor Who at this point. My writing is not at that caliber, and I need more experience with the older Doctors (plus I'm not caught up). But that doesn't mean I'm not going to keep my head down and work toward that goal. Moffat might not be the showrunner when it's my time, but my time will come.

I'm the same woman who said, "I'm going to drum on stage of the Briar  Street Theater in Chicago with Eric Gebow (my Blue Man Group idol)". And I did.

I've never let my gender stop me. So why should you?