home Arts & Literature, Europe, GLBTQI, Racism, TV, Women How Doctor Who became Nurse Rory

How Doctor Who became Nurse Rory

RORY: Just point and think.
AMY: But what do I think?
Doctor Who, “Let’s Kill Hitler.”

It’s usually hard to pinpoint the exact moment when a beloved TV series goes off the rails. Fans will debate endlessly when a show definitively jumped the shark, but the decay of a TV show — which is always a big, complicated project, made by many people, and entailing a multitude of decisions — usually comes about as the result of several factors. The original show-runner can be replaced. An especially unappealing new cast member or character can be added; a beloved one can be removed. The writing staff can change. The production values can increase or decrease. It takes a village, is the point here; there’s usually no one scene or choice that causes the viewer to stop caring.

Fortunately, that’s not the case for Doctor Who. Not for me, at least. In the end, the reason I stopped caring comes down to one moment. Five simple words: “But what do I think?” Just like that, I was done. That was the moment that Doctor Who officially ceded its claims to its own title, and became a very different, much worse show — the show I’ve come to think of as Nurse Rory.

Sorry: Flashback time. Doctor Who, you see, is a show about a time-traveling alien who takes human, usually female “companions” along on his adventures; a little non-linearity is to be expected. Since its premiere in 1963, a long chain of different show-runners have created any number of variations on this basic theme of Doctor, adventures, and companion; the crucial thing to know, when you watch Doctor Who, is that it is not one show, but a series of shows which share the same basic premise. Liking one version of Doctor Who is no guarantee that you’ll like any of the others; the cast, writing, and production are always subject to radical change.

So, one and a half seasons ago, staff writer Steven Moffat took over the show from former show-runner Russell T. Davies. Davies’ Who centered around many of his pet themes — the tendency of power to corrupt; the creation of family; religion; blunt speechifying about liberal politics — and was subject to many of Davies’ weaknesses, including the aforementioned speechifying, melodrama, and sloppy plotting. His Doctor was an obvious Christ figure, a profoundly lonely man in search of a family, and a metaphor for self-realization; his companions were usually women, and always looking for greater meaning in their lives. The draw was Davies’ in-depth, multifaceted characterization of the leads, his moral seriousness (even when the characters were in goofy rubber suits, Davies and the Doctor both obviously cared about doing the right thing by them) and his cosmopolitan vision. Earth-based plots were set in major cities, queer characters and characters of color served as Companions, and women — here’s the fun part — were encouraged to want more from their lives than marriage and children. In fact, fan-favorite Donna’s learning to want more from her life than marriage to a man, ANY man, was pretty much the central theme of her plot.

Enter Moffat. Gone is the urban setting; gone are the central characters of color and the major queer characters. (One gay couple, introduced in the mid-season finale, literally said that they “didn’t need names,” and were comfortable with being identified simply as That Gay Couple. “Let’s Kill Hitler,” last Saturday’s episode, contained one of Moffat’s first black female characters; she was a hypersexualized, gun-toting criminal, and was killed off and literally replaced by a white actress about ten minutes in.) Gone, definitively, is the idea that women can or should want more from their lives than marriage to a man. ANY man. Even the man known as Nurse Rory.

To explain: About a season and a half ago, the Doctor ran into a little suburban girl known as Amy Pond. He promised to take her off on his various time-traveling adventures. They bonded. Then, he disappeared. When he came back, she was in her twenties. For him, it had only been five minutes; for her, it had been a lifetime of waiting. The Doctor took the adult Amy off on her various time-traveling adventures. All was well. Or, at least it was until the advent of Rory.
Rory was Amy’s fiance, a nurse, and not much else. I would tell you more about him, but the fact is, he didn’t have much else going on. He was a generally mopey, dweeby, insecure fellow, whose one accomplishment was hanging around his lady-friend until she reluctantly settled for him.

The moment the Doctor found out about Rory, the importance of time-traveling adventures decreased radically. Instead, the Doctor became a matchmaker and alien fairy godmother, single-mindedly devoted to making sure that Amy overcame her ambivalence about Rory and married him straight away. He referred to this process as “getting [Amy] sorted out.” From henceforth, both the Doctor and the show have been cramming every bony, whiny inch of Rory down our throats, in a doomed attempt to convince us that he is awesome. He fights vampires! He whines about being rejected by his girlfriend! He’s a Roman Centurion! He mopes about being rejected by his girlfriend! He punches Hitler! He complains about being emasculated by his wife! Who used to be his girlfriend! That he whined about being rejected by! But never mind: Now that he has her, he is super-emasculated! So he whines about that, too! Don’t you just love Rory?

Meanwhile, Amy has been killed and put in a box through no agency of her own, resurrected and married off through no agency of her own, impregnated through no agency of her own, replaced by a synthetic clone through no agency of her own, had a baby through no agency of her own, somehow raised the baby inadvertently through no agency of her own, and spent “Let’s Kill Hitler” as a robot duplicate and/or helpless mess, looking to Rory to replace agency of her own, of which she has none. Amy’s so firmly construed as Rory’s property that the Doctor actually asks Rory for “permission to hug” her in moments of emotional crisis. Amy making choices would apparently interfere with the show’s premise. Which used to be a Doctor taking a human, usually female companion on time-traveling adventures, and is now one white, straight guy bending time and space to help another white, straight guy get laid.

And then we got there. The moment I stopped caring. Amy is surrounded by killer robots, in possession of a life-saving tool that can do anything she can think up, and Rory actually has to instruct her to “think” something. But even this isn’t condescending enough, apparently. Because Amy then turns to Rory, and asks him: “What do I think?”

Jesus, Amy. I don’t know. If Moffat cared enough to give you a recognizable human thought process, I’d still be watching Doctor Who.

Photo of Doctor Who stars Matt Smith and Karen Gillan by Michelle Woolnough, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

49 thoughts on “How Doctor Who became Nurse Rory

  1. Amy was impregnated ‘through no agency of her own’? It WHAT parallel universe?

    Amy became pregnant through having sex with her husband on her wedding night. What are you saying? Marriage is rape?

    This article is incredible because it appears you watch the show without paying the slightest attention.

  2. Alternatively – Rory was encouraging his wife and trusting that her instincts would save them. What a cad.

    The thing about shows ‘going off the rails’ is that you do need to have more than one point of reference. Otherwise you might just have confused it with ‘a bit I don’t like’.

    And aside for the pregnancy howler mentioned above, do many people kill themselves and then put themselves in a box ‘through their own agency’?

    So, you’re not keen on Rory (or Amy, but that looks to be more through projection as she does like him). I’m not mad about River Song, but I’m not so dramatic as to try and link her inclusion to some grand show-destroying malaise.

  3. Russell’s characters were “multi-faceted” and looking for “greater meaning in their lives?”. All but one of the tenth doctor’s companions wanted nothing more than to get into the doctors underwear, with the remaining companion not really being a consistent character at all, offering mind-numbingly unfunny comic relief one minute and embarrassing melodrama the next. Your description of the storyline under Moffat’s era is so reductionist it could pass for an article in the mirror or the daily star. Kevin O’sullivan would be proud. I could reel off pages of gay, female, and ethnic minority characters that have been featured in Moffat’s era of Who that you’ve conveniently neglected to mention. It sounds to me that you just don’t have the mental resources to keep up with the show anymore, but don’t want to admit it, so decided to falsely accuse it of being homophobic and racist instead.

  4. Isn’t it just as sexist to say that women SHOULDN’T be looking for marriage or a husband? Can’t they decide how they chose to live their life? After 3 companions wanting “so much more than life” isn’t it nice to have one who just wants to be loved?
    Since when did Doctor Who have to become the nation’s moral compass. Can’t it just represent humans in all their variations?
    Amy and Rory act just like married couples I know. They have a playful, insult-based banter. Since when did companions have to be “perfect”? Moffat said that after 3 perfect little angels, he wanted a bad girl in the TARDIS, one with faults just like real humans. Characters in TV shows don’t need to be friend material to be interesting and watchable.
    Get off your high horse. You’re spotting patterns in things that aren’t there and looking for problems.

  5. SO many factually inaccurate parts and misquotes in here that, to anyone reading this who has not seen the show, makes the show sound like a homophobic woman-hating load of rubbish. Get it right, drop your own spiteful agenda and reveal the show to be what it is – forward thinking and pretty damn good!

    Just some of your mistakes are remunerated below:
    1. “One gay couple, introduced in the mid-season finale, literally said that they “didn’t need names,” and were comfortable with being identified simply as That Gay Couple.” – they were actually referring to themselves as “the fat thin gay married anglican marines” – it was a joke about there not likely being another couple anything like them on board the ship.

    2. “Moffat’s first black female characters; … was a hypersexualized, gun-toting criminal, and was killed off and literally replaced by a white actress about ten minutes in.” She WAS River Song as seen in previous series, played by Alex Kingston as a “hypersexualised, guntoting criminal”. Anyone with the slightest understanding of the show will know that a regeneration means a change of appearance. It’s not “replacement” it’s alteration. And we KNEW who she would be changing into. Would you prefer it to have been another black actress “because there’s not enough of them on telly”? YOU’RE the racist here.

    3. “…one white, straight guy bending time and space to help another white, straight guy get laid.” – You are amazing. I take it you have watched the show? You’re a spiteful bitter man who, like many, goes all academic and “ooh, they’re being racist, misogynist and homophobic all of a sudden” when the truth is simply you do not enjoy the show anymore. You MAKE UP racist, sexist, homophobic, misogynist things from within the show using out of context quotes and the hope that your readers don’t watch Who.

    You’re pathetic and I’m glad you’re not watching. Though, at the rate this link is doing the rounds online and the inevitable number of hits you’ll get from that, I wonder if you’ll carry on watching now, just to get other quotes and moments to twist to suit your own greedy means.

  6. I didn’t know the actress who plays river song was White? I thought she was black(or at least mixed race)

    Interesting insight however the way you have interpreted the writers beefing up of rory’s character because he was such a douche before is a tad conspiracy theory-esq

  7. I’m pretty sure when she said ‘What do I think?’ she just meant what am I supposed to think that will stop the jelly fishy monsters? And Rory didn’t know what to do either so it seemed like something anyone in that position would say so I don’t see why you’re nitpicking at the smallest thing.

  8. Dear all the men commenting above me: Shut up. When a woman, a member of an oppressed class, talks about the sexist, problematic issues in a mainstream show, the oppressors shut their mouths and listen instead of trying to talk over her AS THEY HAVE ALWAYS DONE.

    You’re all white and straight, aren’t you? Stop defending your white straight maleness. You are the norm. You can get it anywhere and have it stroked and coddled anywhere else. Go to those places and stop trying to shut a woman up.

  9. Righty-ho.

    Personally, I was highlighting some aspects of the author’s argument that I though didn’t hold up, and so undermined their point. This could be taken as helpful feedback.

    Seems a bit silly to have comments, really, if we’re meant to be just sitting around nodding at the [perceived, not-very-well-argued] issues raised.

    (Note – And rich. I’m white, male and rich. None of which had anything to to with me.)

  10. Here’s an idea, “queer feminist”. Instead of trying to counter arguments with the awesome power of yelling white males should feel guilty and shut up, just prove them wrong with an actual argument.

    Imagine it, you type an actual comment, with actual points, that destroys these (supposedly) sexist comments designed to defend “white straight maleness”. You’d be a hero! Everyone who posted above you would have no recourse but to stutter and stumble around your excellent points! You’d have accomplished something and forced anyone who had the reaction of the initial commenters to re-examine their thoughts.

    Or you could yell that “white straight males” should shut up like the worst kind of spoilt brat who is unable to comprehend or debate any point of view they do not automatically agree with.

  11. Since apparently we need to post our life credentials in order to validate our opinion (which censorship, to me, is a TOTAL travesty of feminism, which requires both men and women to work towards a common goal), I am a Latina feminist liberal who worked for a number of years as an academic scientist (physical sciences) and was greatly offended by Larry Summers’ vile comments about females’ inability to do science. So, yeah, I have known and experienced sexism, and Moffat’s plots are NOT IT. The author is free to pursue her agenda, but her analysis does not stand up to even minimal scrutiny.

    She complains about sexism, but her main complaint about Rory is that he doesn’t fit her idea of traditional male values. What is the value of repeatingly characterizing him as a whiny nurse? I mean, goodness forbid that Moffat give a male lead a profession that is often associated with females and show that that male lead is VERY comfortable with his identity. Wow, that Moffat always sticking to traditional gender norms.

    She complains about the Fat One and the Thin One, but completely overlooks the brilliant Canton, Jenny, and Madame Vastra. Not to mention that that relationship was not played only for laughts, but also to show the pain of the Thin One’s realization that his husband had been sacrificed to the headless monks.

    And I could go on and on, but I don’t think that the writer has even paid attention to one bit of the plot. Because it was Amy who took the lead in figuring out how to stop the torture of Melody and who decided to show Melody who River Song was. But there is no point in arguing with someone who is clearly not interested in understanding.

  12. All of this is perfect. The hell is wrong with the comments, though? Eesh.

    Amy being denied knowledge she was pregnant was skeevy enough and my least favourite thing Doctor Who has ever done– way to take a woman’s ability to choose what to do with her body, Moff. It’s not about whether she chose to *become pregnant*, it’s about the fact that once she was pregnant she was denied any knowledge of, again, HER OWN BODY, or the ability to make any choices about it. Sci-fi needs to drop this stupid cliche, it’s terrible.

    The lack of queer characters that are not minor characters or one off jokes is really concerning. Yeah, the “we’re defined by xyz characteristics!” thing was a joke. Using it on a queer couple when queer people are often reduced down to their sexualities makes it an *offensive* joke. Deal with it.

    @Gareth, re: River Song. Firstly, yes, it’s SO RACIST to point out how black people are underrepresented on TV and how correcting that by placing more people who are black in roles is a good thing. This makes so much sense! You know. Except for the way it doesn’t. Underrepresentation of people of color is not okay, and results in the idea that only white stories are ones worth giving a damn about.

    Yes, River was always sexualised and gun-toting- but that has *different connontations* for white women and black women. It’s a stereotype used far more often to represent black women, which means it has a greater, and more harmful effect when applied to Mels than when applied to the regenerated River. Also, Alex Kingston replaced whoever was playing Mels. That is a very literal replacement of one actress by another. Regeneration does not actually change that.

    @Hamish, it is indeed sexist to tell women not to look for partners! That is not what’s being said here, however, to my eye. It is *not* sexist to point out that making *every single woman* on TV look for partners as one of their defining characteristics is a sexist trend that Doctor Who is playing into by having Amy’s plot so wrapped up in Rory and accepting marriage as the best path for her.

    @John, you know what, I’d be way more interested in a Rory that wasn’t a white, straight man. I’m sure people will roll their eyes at this, but there are a lot of generic white, straight men on TV. There are fewer, say, bisexual men, or major love interests who are black. It would give a different perspective, which is useful when telling a story. Call me silly, but I have to say- I like my characters to represent a diverse set of people or else I get bored.

    In general to all the commenters complaining here: to be honest, shut up. I love Doctor Who. I adore Doctor Who. I’ve liked a lot of series six. My favourite ever episode of Doctor Who is *in* series six! But it’s possible to look critically at a show that you like. It isn’t ‘overanalyzing’ or ‘digging too deep’. Let me put it this way- I feel instinctually uncomfortable when watching Amy’s pregnancy plotline, and I feel that way because I am female. No analysis. No digging. I even actively tried NOT to, thinking I was being a bit weird. No dice. I felt alienated from a show I love because of its treatment of a female character as a woman, and to be frank, if that’s “looking for sexism in everything” then it sounds to me like you think nobody should ever bring it up, and what kind of a terrible attitude is that?

    Fact of the matter is, some people are sexist, some people are racist, some people are homophobic. Some people are unintentionally these things in fairly casual ways, even, without hating women, people of color or gay people! And some of these people then go on to make TV shows and write scripts. And sometimes it shows in their work. This isn’t some deep, academic analysis, it’s common sense.

    And I question anyone who says that caring about the effect fiction has on us as people is “too deep” or “too academic”. You must have a very poor opinion of fiction, and of us as people. People and their reactions to things are complicated, sexism and racism and homophobia and social attitudes are complicated, *good* fiction is often complex and layered. So to then act like the implications of all three of these things is worthy of a single article for an entire series of TV is “digging too deep” or “looking for an agenda” or “overanazlysing” or “ridiculous” is just….. absurd. Really? You think that poorly of the show?

    Doctor Who has some dodgy shit in it. If it doesn’t bother you, fine- you don’t have to personally care, by any means. But stop whining that it bothers some of us, stop telling people to care less about it, and stop saying that if you don’t see it then it can’t possibly be real because you are all-seeing.

    And finally, nobody wants to be offended. All things considered, it’s a very unpleasant feeling. I don’t *want* to feel my favourite TV show doesn’t care much about me, yeah? The fact that nonetheless, this is the impression that I get? That says something. Maybe consider just what it says for a while

  13. OMG this is everything I have ever felt and thought and loathed about Rory who reminds me of every vaguely creepy boyfriend I ever had in my 20s who was terrified that I’d outgrow him. ALL TRUE. The Nice Guy ™ from Hell.

    But I have to disagree that RTD was doing a much better job, because:

    1) Did you forget what HAPPENED to Donna? She only got agency for such a short while and then, haha, she got married and pleased her mother!
    2) Rose didn’t end up in such a great place either.
    3) The best thing that can be said of Martha Jones’ denouement is that she escaped both RTD and Torchwood with her sanity and health mostly intact.
    4) Have you SEEN Torchwood? It’s like the Tea Party wrote it. Most of the queer sex is forced, Owen is a rapist, Jack gets tortured all the time, the latest plot is basically “gay people’s lovers’ quarrels will seriously destroy the world”…
    5) I could so do without RTD’s obsession with the Companions’ families and making them fight with their mothers;
    6) Rory is simply Mickey writ large only this time the Doctor’s on his side, wtffffff, plus Mickey got a clue and levelled up…
    7) I don’t watch DW for domestic drama anyway;
    8) RTD seriously strikes me as someone who believes whenever you step away from hearth and home and family and acquire power or are faced with the great unknown, you WILL become evil, which strikes me as a rather odd point of view for a science fiction show producer
    9) Fridged cyberwoman in the basement really?
    10) Victorian woman trying to reform her society, naturally she’s evil really?
    11) I could go on like this for hours but they actually expect me to work here since they don’t pay me to write blog comments 😉

    And so on.

    Moffat is being incredibly offensive with this whole Amy/Rory BS plot. But it’s not as though Davies were all that much better, for while he gives us plenty of queerness it’s all wrapped up in a giant load of smelly IT ALL ENDS IN TEARSness.

  14. Look… you’re welcome to throw out complaints about homophobia, misogyny, racism, whatever as much as you like. As a person on the other side of the screen all I can do is put my face in my palm and just move on to something else. From my perspective, it just seems like you’re giving the show the most uncharitable interpretation possible simply because you don’t like it anymore. Fair enough, that’s entirely your right.

    The one specific thing I will comment on is the “Thin, Fat Gay Anglican marines” gag, because it’s clear you’ve gotten the wrong end of that one on a somewhat spectacular scale. Moffat isn’t suggesting that all people who are different from the norm should be referred to by their types on television, rather he’s ironizing the way people who complain about, say, “token” gay characters on TV tend only to identify them by types rather than as individuals. “Why would we need names as well?” is just dripping with irony. He’s essentially trolling the very people who are most likely to complain about his having included two gay characters for seemingly no reason.

  15. @Tom, just cause that’s how YOU saw it doesn’t mean everyone did. As a queer person I personally thought it was a terrible attempt at a joke that used me as a punchline. I’m sure that’s not what Moff intended, but it was badly executed and telling people how to react to things that may offend them personally is just not on. It wasn’t funny to me, because straight men making jokes like that isn’t really a great idea- too many people will take it seriously.

  16. Again, that comes back to what I said about giving things an uncharitable reading. If it comes down to such a stark difference between how you and I interpreted a single line (not to mention how the author intended it), there just isn’t much of a debate to be had.

  17. When two white, middle-class people are offered all of time and space and spend all their time whining about it and reinforcing gender roles it stops being interesting. It is the epitome of a post-everything show.

    I actually stopped watching because of the Doctor, though. I always loved the way the Doctor very specifically transended gender. He seemed to find female companions because he genuinely enjoyed their company, and because they fit with his non-confrontational, listening-based, “let’s escape from boredom!”approach to the world. It always seemed to me that part of his alienation from humanity was gender based, because he simply didn’t fit in to the model of gender (even as that model has varied over time). The Doctor was, to me, a profoundly queer character.

    …Until this one. I don’t know why, if it’s the dialog, the director, the actor or his relating to women as objects instead of people with whom he deeply empathizes, but this one just falls flat for me. So I stopped watching long before “What should I think?”

  18. A couple of comments, while I am not completely sold on Moffett. That same episode with the Thin, Fat Gay Anglican marines, also featured Madame Vastra and Jenny (one of the best queer couples on television ever).

    Additionally, as to characters of color, Liz 10 kicked butt.

  19. @ Meg (and, for that matter, Sady) — we must be watching different shows. This Doctor’s the queerest I’ve seen on New!Who. Eccleston, bless him, exuded straight masculinity, and Tennant’s run was mainly “ROSE COME HOME” with a dash of “Oh, yeah, and you two can tag along until I’m sick of you” regarding Martha and Donna. I particularly resented the erasure of everything Donna experienced. Weirder things have been explained away on this show, I’m sure, than that situation.

    Eleven is refreshingly Other, whatever we call that Other; I can see him being fine with whoever wants to share his personal space *cough* in ways I never saw with the other two. He got his kit off in front of pretty much everyone in his first episode, doesn’t generally withhold affection from anyone unless someone else might have a prior claim. Heck, I’d believe a Rory/Amy/Eleven triad if not for all this heavy-handed River Song being The One business. Time will tell (har, har) whether I still can believe that by season’s end.

    And a specific @ Sady — any previous experience with Moffat’s work? At all? Because he’s not kind to anyone’s gender roles in “Coupling”, I’ll tell you that. (Which is hilarious. I highly recommend it.) He’s probably not a feminist, but he’s not a he-man woman hater, either. Everyone’s foibles get mocked under his pen.

  20. In fact, fan-favorite Donna’s learning to want more from her life than marriage to a man, ANY man, was pretty much the central theme of her plot.

    …and then when placed in a dream world, she marries a man. Then she loses all her memories. Then she marries a man.

    I think the Amy/Rory relationship is one of the healthiest and most feminist I’ve seen on TV, so I’ve followed any meta about them all over the internet- unfortunately I lack the ablity to really string anything together myself. But I will say- a) What about Canton? He was awesome. b) When has Rory ever complained about being emasculated by his wife? and c) Amy making choices would apparently interfere with the show’s premise.– um, the episode Amy’s Choice?

    I may be back.

  21. What is the gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation of this writer?

    If we’re going to be policing the comments we may as well know all we can on the author, so was can decide if it’s valid. Or does that only work when the comments disagree with you?

  22. The problem isn’t so much Rory, it’s Amy.

    Frankly, she doesn’t DO anything. She’s all attitude and bluster, but when it comes down to it, she doesn’t do anything but get kidnapped/put in danger and require saving. And the few times she does Do something? Is directly in relation to her being a mother. Sure, she makes the robot show River herself. And you know, I’m fine with a woman being a mother on DW…hell, I think that’s got some serious potential…but this isn’t what’s being explored. She’s just….empty. What does she want?

    She was crazymaking first season, but I understood that as a function of her parents been erased by the Crack. An early marriage made sense in light of that, that sort of wild restlessness she had made sense. But then, they rebooted the universe and she HAD a family.

    All those understandable traits, all those things that made sense in a person who had that fractured, unstable past…they’re still there. In a person who had a presumably stable family. Who never lost her parents and couldn’t figure out why. And sure, some things are just personality, but having an ENTIRELY NEW background should have had an effect on her and it didn’t. None. Zip. That’s sloppy writing. That’s ignoring the things that actually create a character. I got her motivations first season, even though I found the character problematic. This season? Well, hell, we’ve only had actual Amy for two episodes. So…who the hell is she? What does she want? She wants Rory? Ok. She’s got him. She wants to time travel? Fine. Shes’ doing that. But she just….she seems empty. Like she’s interchangable with any other “feisty” woman out there. But you know, feisty isn’t a personality, it’s not motivation. Amy feels like she’s written by someone who just doesn’t understand women that well.

  23. Wow. I feel so sad reading this article and these comments.

    I love this show. Even the old, super-sexist episodes.

    Maybe, despite traveling through time and space, Dr Who is just a product of it’s time? It’s wonderfully mixed up and rambly and confused. Just like, apparently, it’s audience.

    For the record: my straight, Catholic, married at 20 housemates adore it. My 54 year old anarchist, aetheist boss bought the DVDs. My favourite cafe – also a youth-queer space, run but a 24 year old lesbian – has papered its back wall with both Tennant and Smith as Dr Who.

    I’m a feminist and I love it. I love Amy. Rory is adorkable. It’s pop, it’s fun, and it is thoughtfully made.

    Let’s agree to disagree, shall we?

  24. Hi all – Global Comment editor here.

    While we encourage robust debate here at GC, I’d like to remind you all to not get personal with writers – ad hominems are rarely helpful to any discussion.


  25. @ A+ “Underrepresentation of people of color is not okay, and results in the idea that only white stories are ones worth giving a damn about.”

    As long as skin color is a defining factor in your mind this may be true. If you truly thought all people should be treated equally then it wouldn’t matter what color they are because they’d be people and all people are equal. I mean, I don’t even really register race when I meet someone, I’m sure it’s there in the back of my mind but I don’t think “oh, he’s black” or “she’s asian” or “she’s white” because honestly, I don’t care. It’s not like seeing white people on tv is gonna turn someone who isn’t racist to begin with into a racist. Hell I got more engrossed in black characters in the Wire’s stories than I have with a lot of white characters. What’s next? “Ohh, we’ve never had a black Doctor so they’re saying black people can’t be genius time travelers who save the world.” That’s bullshit, yo.
    Now, if you’re talking about representing actual culture over just color (which I didn’t get from anyone’s comments; everyone just seems to want token [though they would never use that word themselves] minority characters to make them feel better) that’s a different story. TV in general doesn’t portray other cultures very extensively because people want to watch something they can relate to in some degree and since Doctor Who is made in the UK, that’s the culture it represents. You want tv that shows Indian culture? Watch Indian shows. Mexican culture? Watch telenovellas, (lol). But, yeah, no one’s been talking about culture, just color because it seems skin color is the most interesting thing about someone in these people’s minds.

  26. I occasionally worry I’m a bad feminist for having no major problems with Doctor Who/Amy/Rory/Season Six whatsoever.

  27. I’m sorry to say I disagree with everything this article says. I’m also sorry that so many people decided to show their disagreement by insulting the writer. She deserves to speak her mind without being treated like this. Anyway, the writer did make plenty of mistakes by stating her opinions as facts. Some of the statements made are simply wrong.

    Just because she doesn’t like the way Amy and Rory interact doesn’t make Rory or Moffat sexist. They have a lovely relationship where they trust each other completely. Rory has asked Amy for help and Amy has asked Rory for help. “But what do I think?” is not a sign of misogyny. She was scared because robots from the future were about to kill her, so she said something kinda stupid. So would a lot of people (including me). Never has Rory demanded Amy do something for him at her expense. He loves her for her and doesn’t try to change her. The line about “being trap in his wife’s head” and “not seeing it as a metaphor” is not sexist and makes perfect sense in their relationship. Amy is clearly the type of person to get the attention in a room. Rory is definitely not that type of person. So when other people think of them as a couple, they say “Amy and her husband Rory.” Amy is the center of the universe and Rory revolves around her. Its not because she is a woman, its because she attracts more attentions than Rory. Rory has gotten use to this. He realizes he is Amy’s companion and not the other way around and he is happy with that. There is true misogyny in entertainment today, but to point at something like this and call it sexist its insulting to feminism, married couples, and strong women.

    As for the racism claim, well, sure they could be more people of color. I’d love to see that, but Moffat is not racist at all. Mels turning into River is not a sign of racism or white privilege, its actually the exact opposite. We already know Melody was white when she was born, which means at some time she regenerated into Mels. A white person became black. I read a lot of superhero comics and one thing that annoys me is that whenever an alien looks like an Earthling he/she is white. (Like Superman.) Also, whenever a person’s skin color changes to something unusual, like blue or green, they were originally white. (Like the X-Men’s Beast) What both of these tropes do is imply that white is the normal skin tone and everything else is strange. Having a white Melody turn into a black Mels implies that white is just one skin tone in a variety of skin tones. Being black is just as normal as being white. I loved that she regenerated into Mels. Being a black, I don’t get to see people similar to me in pop culture and knowing that Moffat feels that black and white are exactly the same makes me so happy.

    Then there is the lack of queer characters. Well, the writer is flat out wrong about this. She forgets Canton who got a two-episode arc and was a total badass. (Plus, he was in an interracial gay relationship in the 1960’s, which is awesome.) Plus there was the Silurian Madame and Jenny, who were amazing and completely in love with each other. Lastly, the “fat thin Anglican married gays” were wonderful characters. They acknowledged that they were considered unusual and they would be known for what makes then different. They decided to look at this in a positive light and be funny about it. Since I live in a small town and have gotten use to being known as “that tall black gay geek,” I completely understand what they mean.

    The writer has the right to not like the show, but to accuse the show of misogyny, racism, or homophobia is rude and uncalled for. It de-legitimizes all the actual cases of misogyny, racism, or homophobia in the entertainment industry. And trust me, there is a lot. So, maybe we should focus on those problems and not make up fake ones to be upset about.

  28. I would modify this sentence:

    ‘He was a generally mopey, dweeby, insecure fellow, whose one accomplishment was hanging around his lady-friend until she reluctantly settled for him.’

    He was a generally mopey, dweeby, insecure fellow, whose one accomplishment was hanging around his lady-friend until she reluctantly settled for him, which in no realistic world would she need to do since she is galactically hot.’

  29. I occasionally worry I’m a bad feminist for having no major problems with Doctor Who/Amy/Rory/Season Six whatsoever.

    For all its camp, Doctor Who sometimes veers into distinctly horrific territory, and this season is one of those times. It’s not like I disagree with the feminist critiques on this storyline – but the issues raised don’t make me hate it, they make me feel all the more the hell that Amy was going through. I’m not sure that ought to be my reaction, but it is.

    Not to say I don’t want to see her kick some ass soon though.

  30. All I was going to say was that I thought Amy was wrong to be angry with Rory: she may have waited 36 years for him, but he waited over 2,000 for her!

    I also agree with Sady that there doesn’t seem to be anything special about Rory, and I think the only reason they threw him in was that if he wasn’t around, Amy would be on the Doctor like white on rice.

    People also seem to forget that Moffatt has written some of the best Who episodes ever, under RTD’s watch: “The Empty Child” and “Blink” were masterpieces.

    Also, didn’t River Song mention that she first met the Doctor as a child earlier on? I think it’s a mistake to show how she first meets THIS Doctor rather than one further down the road…

  31. Also, I just read the comments, and I am shocked!

    Everyone I know who watches Doctor Who thinks Moffat’s a sexist, myself included.

    Compare Rose to Amy!

    Rose was all action and energy. In the FIRST episode it’s HER idea to pull the fire alarm to get everyone out of the restaurant. SHE saves the Doctor from the Plastics.
    Not that she wasn’t sometimes a Damsel in Distress- but she was always thinking and doing thinks. Hell, she was almost sucked into the void because she risked her life trying to grab the lever.

    Amy? She’s a flirty kiss-o-gram (now model) who can’t decide which boy she wants (whereas Rose chose the Doctor, many times, despite Mickey’s clinging adoration). I mean, there isn’t much more to her, is there? She just kinda whines….ONCE in a great Moffat-while he’ll give ‘er something clever to think (such as hitting the pause button while watching the Weeping Angel) but when it happens it almost feels out of character!

    I thought this was obvious…and it pretty much comes down to it, right? Moffat writes shitty women.

    River Song sucks too (despite Alex Kingston’s great performance). I know NOTHING about her personality
    except that, like Amy, she’s kinky/flirty and carries a gun.

    Moffat thinks ’empowered’ = kinky/flirty girls with guns.

    I mean…the only real female role he’s created was Susie Sparrow in “Blink”. But now that I see his other females, I think it was just Carey Mulligan’s performance (she is pretty good!).

    Anyway, I stopped caring about the show, too, but I still watch it- in the hopes that it will return to its former glory.

  32. Thanks for the article Sady. I’ve been a huge fan of the show and while I am enjoying Matt Smith’s Doctor and the improved creepiness of the bad guys, the past two season have been unsettling and disappointing. If you love something you should be able to talk about it’s flaws and want it to be better. Keep writing you’re insight is apperciated.

  33. What happens right after that question? She decides what to do. And it’s to risk the lives of everyone on the ship for her pseudo-daughter.

    Your analysis seems solid on the bit about the doctor trying to get Amy married. Why bother? If she wants to break up with someone you know pretty much nothing about, let her. If she’s into you and you don’t feel the same, get her to leave it be.

    Plausible motivation? He’s trying to displace her affection rather than deal with it.

    More recently he gets her to fit back into “normal life”, using the standard form of a surname, normal job and house etc.

    He’s intentionally trying to undo his own effect on her life. And so basically being a massive conservative.

    Ways to fix this? Next set of characters let him have people who want to adventure, and are not particularly impressed with him, and then have him leave them on a different planet in the future to do something significant. Why?

    Because that will act against his basic conservatism of the past two series, and imply that having started his task of erasing himself in the end of the season, he will choose people who’s lives do not revolve around him. Because doctor who companioning is supposed to be about wonder and personal change, they can still be excited about journeying, but because they want to do stuff.

    Basically it will provide a context for understanding and judging his previous behaviour, and a good starting point for setting up an alternative that is better balanced without having any serious effect on being able to make “normal world” episodes in future.

  34. How many time have I heard the phrase,”We’re all equal.” If that’s true why do we still focus on racial profiling people. It wouldn’t matter if Rory was Black or white, we still feel the same about him. The only difference is if he were black there wouldn’t be any negative critism for the fear of being “Racist”.
    It doesn’t matter if he’s black, white, Asian, or Native American, Moffat would still write the same.
    And I really enjoy the fact there is a straight married couple. It’s a refreshing change.

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  36. Okay, im pretty sure moffat was a little too pre-pccupied writing brilliant and intricate plots with interesting characters to think about “gee, i might offend someone by making the main characters white and straight”
    Oh, imagine that rejection could make someone upset! Even the doctor mopes sometimes. And though i havent seen much of moffat’s work on doctor who, in most of his episodes i have had the pleasure to view, amy is just a powerhouse of brilliance and ass kickery. So what if she has traditional values? How is that a problem? Hell, shes a lot better off than, say, rose, who is just all kinds of messed up thanks to the doctor. I love amy and river, theyre strong female characters. If you pay any attention at all you can see that.
    A bisexual white female.

  37. Trust me… I also stopped watching, some time after Amy actually did something – remembered Doctor back to existence… Trust me! remembered!!!

    Not that RTD’s stories were so great, coherent and logical, but, trust me, I just couldn’t get over the impression that Moffat got lost. Much as I loved his single episodes before. Trust me.

    And ‘trust me’ phrase was tragically abused, it’s even annoying for me to write this way…

    And Doctor was trying to get Rory laid. That’s why he took the two of them to Venice, wasn’t it?

    I’m looking forward to some change in the show!

  38. Am I the first? Really?

    The irony of this conversation (oh how I’ve always wanted to say that) is that when Amy does think for herself, resolving the torture of her daughter at her own great peril, she thinks of what makes the Antibodies tick — and she subverts the monsters of privilege, sanction, and authorization, machine and human alike.

    RORY: I’m trying not to think of this as a metaphor.

  39. I would like to take this opportunity to point out the fact that though I read the entire article, I quit respecting the author as any sort of authority on the Doctor Who subject after about a paragraph and a half. Why, you ask?

    1. Doctor Who is not a “series of shows which share the same basic premise”. Everything that BBC puts out regarding Doctor Who is considered ‘canon’, which means that it is all part of one storyline. It is commonly accepted that there are 11 Doctors from 1963 to present and each is the continuation of the previous. There has never been overlapping Doctors. If you really want to go there, I suppose it is fair to consider that there have been 3 consecutive shows. The one that progressed from Hartnell to McCoy, the movie that starred McGann, and the show that progressed from Eccleston to Smith. But I think it should be considered first and foremost as one continuous storyline. And true Doctor Who fans, that is to say the ones who enjoy the storyline rather than simply watching it for ‘hot’ actors (whether or not you or I think they’re hot is completely irrelevant), love the whole storyline, because they know that every part of the storyline is incredibly important in making the Doctor who he is (fictionally, of course).

    2. Of the entire series, there are two companions that stand out in fans’ minds. Two companions that have so ingrained themselves on the storylines that they showed up in one way or another in both the new series and the old series. One of these companions was Sarah Jane Smith. That’s pretty obvious, she got her own spinoff series. But the second’s name is Jamie McCrimmon. HE came onto the show in 1966 and was incredibly well-loved then and now. Let’s not forget Ian Chesterton, who entered the show in the PILOT and traveled with the Doctor for quite some time as well. Steven Taylor: entered the show in ’65 and is seen in 10 different serials. Ben Jackson: also well-loved half of duo Polly and Ben, entered the show in ’66 and is seen in 9 serials. Harry Sullivan: entered the show in ’74 and seen in 7 serials. Adric: ’80, 12 serials. Vislor Turlough: ’83, 10 serials. That’s not even getting into the debate about whether or not the Brigadier was a companion or not, and also not including any character in the new series. So please, continue talking about how the Doctor’s companions are usually female.

    I also have several objections about the usefulness/awesomeness of Rory Williams. And quite a few objections regarding the rest of the article, mostly on the fact that it is both ill-informed and mean-spirited, two hallmarks of anything written by an idiot. But most everything I have to say has already been mentioned by the amazing family that is the Doctor Who fandom.

  40. your article was very interesting. It did get me thinking, which is why I’m responding.

    I see your points. I understand your point of view.

    but there’s one thing I think you failed to incorporate into your evaluation – the continuation and evolution of the sub-text which you accurately identified, and found so very compelling.

    You said “Davies’ Who centered around many of his pet themes — the tendency of power to corrupt; the creation of family; religion… His Doctor was an obvious Christ figure, a profoundly lonely man in search of a family, and a metaphor for self-realization; his companions were usually women, and always looking for greater meaning in their lives. ”

    This is all very true, and a very strong a sub-text, which HAS been carried over, but it is has been carried over and EVOLVED, which is the part I think you factored out.

    To be blunt, I think you misidentified the “greater meaning in their lives”. Donna saw it as traveling and having a broader perspective of herself and the world — but the Doctor, by contrast, sees the ‘greater meaning in life” as being love, family, and honesty to one’s self.

    The sub-texts of “always looking for greater meaning in their lives” continues to be a driving force in Doctor Who – they just changed in whom they were being revealed, and how.

    You seem to be fine with the companions searching for “greater meaning in their lives,” but seem less thrilled that the DOCTOR, who you identified as a “Christ figure” is ALSO looking at his life, and having found it — and realizing THAT HE CANNOT HAVE IT – wants desperately to create a universe in which others CAN have it.

    You define ‘having greater meaning” by DOING something “important” – like saving the world. But the Doctor did that- at incredible personal expense.

    In “Family of Blood,” Tennant has a tour-de-force moment when he presents the dichotomy of John Smith, Everyman -vs- The Doctor, cosmos-hopper. He sees the life John Smith, Everyman would have with Joan, the nurse, and she says to him, “The Time Lord has such adventures but he could never have a life like that.”

    But that is something he DOES want — family, love, and particularlly, forgiveness, because the most important thing the Doctor ever did (stop the Time War) necessitated an act of infamy.

    He knows what it is to “do something important,” and what it means to have ‘self-realization’ – which is WHY he wants to give them to Amy and Rory.

    But the Doctor knows that has nothing to do with running about the cosmos.

    There has been a sub-text about the importance of family and love through this incarnation, beginning with Rose; the Doctor said, “I’m not going to be domestic.” But then he eventually becomes MORE than domestic – he becomes matchmaker, and father-figure — which is a mobius-strip, time traveling synergistic loop, because that is, in fact, where we started with the Doctor and his granddaughter, Susan.

    The Doctor has ALWAYS been about family, love, and creating an environment where THOSE qualities are important, and can be nurtured.

    I hope you read this, and I hope you will reconsider this aspect of the sub-text: the Doctor is still the man you though he was, and he is still on a great adventure, and he is still HAVING that great adventure. He’s simply added an ADDITIONAL dimension to it that has nothing to do with time or space — and yet has everything to do with what is most important in the universe.

  41. Well, the way I see it is that Rory is finally our long lasting male companion. And I find it oh so refreshing that he’s normal. He worries about Amy, he’s a bit clumsy, kinda stupid. He’s also kind, brave even though he’s scared. To be honnest, the Doctor is awesome but he’s just too perfect, too cool, to awesome to handle.
    Rory has his flaws. And don’t get me wrong, I loved the messege in previous series where women could choose to live their life bigger. But does a TV show always have to hold the same message. Has Doctor Who been reduced to a message that can’t even change?
    Or is it the representation of as many sides of society as possible and how we should deal with them? Amy and Rory want to get married. Why is that sexist?
    I enjoy the turn DW had, focussing on their relationship more than on the relationship between doctor and companion. I like it better that way, because I hate that once the Doctor leaves, many companions feel empty.
    You say that with RTD, women were encouraged to want more for their life, well except for Martha (who still had a hard time dealing with it) all that they wanted want to keep travelling with the Doctor.
    I really like the fact that Amy will have someone to share life after the Doctor. I also like the fact that it’s not the perfect Doctor she loves, it’s “Nurse Rory”, with all his flaws. It sends a rather good message, this time not only to women but to men as well.
    And 11, a christ like figure? I think that couldn’t be more off.

  42. firstly Rory is not whiny, i’m a woman so i can’t know for sure but i imagine that any man would feel insecure when their fiancé runs off with another man on the night before their wedding. Secondly the character you said is Moffatts only female black character is river song who regenerated into a white character that we already knew. she wasn’t replaced just altered, regeneration alters your appearance, also there has been another black female character- the queen from the episode the beast below. And you can’t say the shows homophobic when it includes characters like the thin/fat gay couple and captain jack and the lesbian characters Madame vastra and her assistant jenny. it seems to me like you haven’t really paid attention to the show.

  43. I don’t think you can say that Rory is emasculated while simultaneously advancing the argument that Amy has no agency of her own. If both are true, who is causing Rory to be so emasculated? As I see it, Rory is just so thoroughly ordinary that the early closeness of the Doctor to Amy aggravates his own insecurities. His initial bitterness over this is hardly commendable, but it’s not at all difficult to understand; to his credit, as the series progresses he does ultimately get over himself.

    As for Amy, I will admit the Doctor’s manipulative behavior concerning her is a point of concern. The whole matchmaking episode, while clearly well intentioned (remember her character was already engaged at the time!) ultimately comes off as insincere and calculated. And the business of keeping her own pregnancy secret from her was totally manipulative and squicky. One of my biggest problems with the whole series is how quickly Amy and Rory both forgive the Doctor for that. While it’s certainly in keeping with the Doctor’s character to do such grossly insensitive things, I fully expected the Ponds to run off in a huff at the end of that story line.

    That being said, saying that Amy is just a bystander in all the other stories is a gross oversimplification. As early as “The Beast Below”, we see that Amy is perfectly able and willing to make decisions that the Doctor would not and follow them through despite his protestations. This assertiveness is in fact the very thing that makes Rory so uncomfortable with her in the beginning – he and the Doctor both recognize that she is the dominant member in their relationship.

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