Are the Doctor Who Companions a Feminist Ideal?

So, here’s the post I was supposed to have up last week, but no matter, I shall give this a second attempt.

Anyways,  it’s this week’s geeky feminist post, where it’s going to be all about that programme involving time travel via a bright blue police box. 

Doctor Who is a British sci-fi programme on the BBC, which has been on television for nearly 50 years. There was a break from 1989 right up to 2005, with the writer Russell T Davis decided to revive the show, with Chris Eccleston being the Ninth incarnation of the Doctor, the main protagonist of the show. Since then there have been two other actors since then, along with several companions. 

People are probably wondering about the Doctor Who fandom. Especially as you now get some fans who only know about the 2005 onwards shows. So, I sat down and figured it all out. I want to make this clear before I go on with the rest of this post.

There are two different types of DW fan. 

1) The Old Age: These are the DW fans who have been fans since the very beginning, they will have watched the show since they were young, or they were introduced to the older episodes by their parents, and are just as much fans of those old ’63 shows as the modern ones.

2) The New Age: These are the fans that have only watched the 2005 onwards shows, and only recognise those three Doctors, and those series, and wouldn’t know their stick of celery from their overly long scarfs. They would of been introduced to it either through the Christmas Specials or because their mates watch it. 

I’m a New Age fan, as I haven’t had the chance to watch those old episodes, although I have had a go at learning a bit about the Old stuff (One of my friends is a Doctor Who cosplayer, and has been watching DW since he was super small, and one of my classmates is also a massive fan). Because of this, I shall only focus on the companions from the 2005 onwards shows rather than from both old and new. Perhaps here I ought to note that in 2005, feminism has morphed a lot more since its beginnings in the ’60s. Also note that in the UK, the feminism battle started three years or so prior to the first Doctor Who, so naturally the old DW companions will be different to the 2005 onwards ones. Please also note that I will only look at the main female companions rather than the male and one episode companions.

The main female companion of the time of the Ninth Doctor is Rose Tyler, played by Billie Piper. She also is the main companion for the Tenth Doctor, with whom she has a romantic relationship with. What’s interesting is the fact that although she is at first portrayed as the classic blonde tag-along who doesn’t know what she’s doing, letting the Doctor save the day, she does start to help him out with decision making, although this is done in a back-seat manner. She is an emotional outlet for the Doctor in several ways, not only as a romantic outlet, but as one to vent out other emotions, such as anger and frustration. It brought out fear, and sadness. It made the Doctor seem almost human.

So is Rose Tyler a feminist ideal? In some ways, she isn’t. She doesn’t ever take on a leadership role, rather she follows the Doctor, some might say she does so blindly. On the other hand, she could well be a feminist ideal, as she isn’t forced to make the choices she makes, if anything, she does make those choices in an informed manner, and she does sometimes argue back when she doesn’t agree with something. She also shows wit and intelligence when the situation calls for it, although she (in my opinion) doesn’t really do it enough.

The next female companion I’ll go through is that of Donna, played by Catherine Tate, in my opinion, one of the most irritating actresses on British TV. But I digress. We meet Donna for the first time when she is about to get married, to a man who turns out to be an alien, who only wanted her for her energy. However, she goes with the Doctor for a while after he (surprise, surprise) rescues her from the problem at hand, without her attempting to get herself out of the mess. She’s cocky and she’s witty (the former reminds one of that annoying schoolgirl character that she portrayed prior to DW) and once again, she takes a very backseat role, although she also gives some ‘comedic’ and emotional outlets to the show.

Is Donna a feminist ideal? I don’t believe so. If anything, Donna is the least of these. I might of originally said this about Rose, but at least Rose used her brain, and made a heroic sacrifice. Yes, Donna does do some pretty good things, like taking initiative to seek out that alien when the Doctor tells her about it, but that’s about it really.

So, that brings us to the Eleventh Doctor’s companions. Starting with Amy Pond. At last we see a companion who although is sexy, is able to think for herself and make really educated choices. She is able to confront the Doctor about things that she does’t think are right, and she is also unafraid to get her hands dirty and to get into the action as far as fighting monsters is concerned. However, one could mention that all rationality goes out of the window when one speaks of the relationship between Rory and Amy, as a romantic set-up. This is when Amy is at her weakest, and her decisions become affected by her need to ‘look after’ her male partner, rather than focusing on the problems at hand affecting the universe. She will make rash choices, because of this. Does this make her a feminist ideal? I guess not. Such a shame, because I did like Amy as a character.

Now, the final companion, Clara Oswald, played by Jenna-Louise Colman.  The Girl Who Died Twice, the Impossible Girl. What makes her different straight away is that there are major plot lines involving her. Mystery is shrouding the character, rather than than the character being made an obvious companion and side character from the moment we are introduced. We see the character in two episodes, ‘Dalek Asylum’ and ‘The Snowmen’, in both of these episodes she dies saving the life of the Doctor. Not feminist, to sacrifice yourself so a patriarchal hero can save the day, right? Wrong! When the choice is made consciously, and for the benefit of others, that is feminist. She shows a strength that not many of the other companions would of shown. She also shows initiative, as when she is told to take over a whole platoon of soldiers, despite knowing nothing about military strategy, she takes over completely, finds out how weapons work, and then goes about taking control of the situation, leading the soldiers to safety in the Comedy Castle, followed with her leading them into battle. This is something that not many other companions would do, which also makes Clara more feminist than her predecessors. She even chooses to turn down a marriage proposal in this episode, as she tells Porridge, “I don’t want to rule the Universe.” She turns down a proposal of not just marriage, but also a very powerful position in the universe, because she chooses to follow her desires and what she wants, rather than what everyone else would want/expect her to do. Yes, a marriage between the two would be something wonderful to behold, I assure you, but it’s the principle of Clara standing up for what she believes in.

So, all in all, the companions are more feminist than one would think. Which, in these modern times, when feminism is coming back to the forefront, almost back into the mainstream, can only be a good thing.

’til next Monday, I wish you all good day!

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