Nine/Women

Splendid Chaps finally makes it to new Who! Hosts Ben McKenzieJohn Richards and Petra Elliott discuss Christopher Eccleston and women in Doctor Who (and didn’t we need more time for that huge topic!) with guests Karen PickeringCeleste Liddle and Tansy Rayner Roberts! It’s the ninth live Splendid Chaps episode, recorded at the Gasometer Hotel in Melbourne on September 15, 2013. Plus there are prizes, a tonne of audience questions, and a surprise musical performance from two of the chaps! Oh, and a word of warning: this one gets a bit more sweary than usual. But what do you expect? We’re Australians!

Play

Don’t forget you can go into the draw to win Christopher Eccleston’s first season of Doctor Who on DVD, courtesy of our friends at BBC on DVD! To enter the draw, just comment on this episode at splendidchaps.com. Were you won over by Eccleston, or do you think he’s a creep? Who are your favourite women from Doctor Who? If we’d had another hour, what do you think we should have covered in our continuing chat about women in Who? Comment by October 12 to be in the running, and we’ll announce the winner at the recording of Ten/Sex on October 13.

49 comments

  1. Andrew says:

    Sadly the Pertwee-esk Toxic hasn’t been released as a single yet… who do i have to complain to about this outrage!

  2. Sarah J says:

    This episode was incredible, I’m so sad I missed it because I was sick! Looking forward to buying tickets to everything for the rest of the year (:

  3. Steve Clark says:

    If there was a female Doctor would there be a male or female companion. I’m not sure if a male companion would work if they kept with the whole sexual tension vibe of new Who.

      • Steve says:

        Do you know what, the more I try to verbalise this the more I realise how misogynistic the argument sounds as it’s based on the (female) companion of the New Who era almost always falling for the Doctor, who is written as the dominant male (can I blame Steven Moffat). My thinking was based on the idea that the companion would be written as a dominant male to a female Doctor. As long as the Female doctor was someone like Tamsin Greig (what a fantastic choice that would be) then I think that it could work.

        • Sarah B says:

          I could see it being a problem as much as that described in the podcast for Rory or Mickey when they were portrayed as “weaker” men – not as popular as when they were acting more dominant/manly/traditional.

  4. After having scoffed at the Stephen Moffat/misogyny question being a yes/no question.. the panel then go on to say vehemently that he hates women without really backing it up with any evidence.. slightly baffling.

    Otherwise.. enjoyed this edition throughly 🙂

    • Ben says:

      To be fair, I was the one who scoffed at answering yes or no, not our guests! Karen offered Moffat’s back catalogue as evidence, which, aside from Press Gang, offers plenty of examples of sexism – particularly Coupling. For a general, non-feminist audience, though, I agree we could certainly have elaborated – something we’ll hopefully get a chance to do in future. In the meantime I’d encourage you to hit up Google – there’s no shortage of articles on the subject!

  5. Splock says:

    Thoughtful, insightful, entertaining and again too short, but most welcome. Thanks again for a wonderful episode that opened the mind, gladdened the hearts and tickled the funny bone. Just what the Doctor ordered.

  6. Ryan says:

    Really interesting show, guys. And a great music number.

    I’m a bit disappointed you didn’t spend more time talking about women in classic Doctor Who, though.

    For one, I’d like to hear which female companions people think work and which don’t as strong or independent characters and why.

    • Ben says:

      It was on our list, Ryan – but we barely had enough time to cover new Who! Hopefully we’ll get a chance to make it up to Barbara, Susan, Vicki, Sara, Katarina, Dodo, Polly, Victoria, Zoe, Liz, Jo, Sarah Jane, Leela, Romana, Nyssa, Tegan, Peri, Mel, and Ace in future!

    • Sarah B says:

      Not to detract from this podcast, but different women in classic Who has been covered pretty well in some other podcasts (Verity comes to mind). I would have loved to hear this crowd talk for longer on the topic, though.

  7. Franco says:

    Very entertaining podcast chaps – and very enlightening discussion about how the Doctor has at times treated his companions with rudeness/abuse. Unfortunately, I thought the panel got stuck on the idea that it is women who are being portrayed as weak and victims since most of the Doctor’s companions have been female. While this is true to some extent, I think it could be argued that:
    1. It is inevitable that most companions will be female given that the show will always want to have a mixed set of protagonists so that the maximum number of viewers will find characters to relate to, (and since the Doctor has always been male).
    2. There have been some male companions and they are portrayed no better than the female companions. For example, Mickey and and Rory get a pretty raw deal (e.g. The Doctor deliberately and repeatedly getting Mickey’s name wrong is quite dismissive and demeaning) and their entire character is defined by them being the boyfriend (baggage) of Rose/Amy. (e.g The Last Centurion (Rory) standing guard for 2 millenia! over the love of his life Amy)
    3. It would have been interesting to hear a discussion of how other women had been portrayed throughout the series (e.g. acts of leadership, heroism, bravery, self-sacrifice such as Harriet Jones or Gwyneth) or how the portrayal of women had evolved and changed during the past 50 years – now that would make an interesting study.
    Keep up the good work.

    • Ben says:

      Thanks Franco! Number three was definitely on the agenda – and was the reason for some of the homework story choices – and I certainly hope we get to address it in future. I want to talk about Amelia Rumford for one!

      • Franco says:

        Oh no! I just listened to the second half of the podcast again and realize now that most of my comments were in fact already addressed. (including point 3 to some extent). Great podcast! Sorry for the misinformed criticisms.
        New Rule: Listen to the podcast twice before commenting.

  8. Andrew Mitchell says:

    Thanks everyone, loved this episode, but that’s not unusual. 🙂 I really enjoyed the discussions about women’s roles, writing and gender. I too had cringed along at many of the movements described (especially Martha and poor, sad Sarah-Jane) but I hadn’t really added it all up before and thought about it in gender-political terms. Thanks for that.

    I note that you specify the prize as “Eccleston’s first season”. Is he having a second? 😉 [If my name is drawn, please give someone else the prize, I don’t need it.]

    • Ben says:

      Ha – we wish, Andrew! But we just wanted to make it clear which season we’re giving away, since sometimes Matt Smith’s first one is also referred to as “series one”.

  9. Avril says:

    This podcast series is getting more and more depressing! Two months’ ago I discovered that the show’s attitude to faith was incredibly patronising and almost Dawkinsesque in its dismissal; last month we all found out that the show does science really badly; and now I’m never going to be able to look at New Who without seeing misogyny everywhere. I’m terrified about next month because undoubtedly we’ll find that the show is heteronormative and not at all queer-friendly. Agh!

    I hadn’t thought of Nine as abusive because I wasn’t seeing him as human at all. To a centuries’ old non-human who has just detroyed his entire planet I can imagine that the narrowness, selfishness, and triviality of humanity would be profoundly depressing and cause a lot of anger. It might just be post-election; Operation Sovereign Borders; dismissal of the Climate Council, thing – but I’m not feeling too fond of humanity myself at this moment. And I am human.

    I hadn’t thought of Moffat as a misogynist because I grew up with Press Gang (which was truly awesome) and Sherlock has always been about the Holmes/Watson stuff and of course women would be peripheral to that central relationship. I haven’t seen Coupling. Do I dare go look at the discussion on the Internet?

    I’ve never had a problem with ‘companion’ but that’s the minister of religion in me. A companion is someone with whom you break bread and so it’s a term we church-types use all the time in a good way; we’re all pilgrims and companions together. But obviously that’s not where fandom and the show are coming from. Agh! Another thing spoiled!

    Seriously, I’ve got a big block of chocolate here and I’m about to do some unhealthy comfort eating. Do I dare come to Ten/Sex? If you destroy Tennant and the queerness of Doctor Who I’m going to weep.

    • Ben says:

      Oh, Avril…we’re sorry! But…well…maybe you shouldn’t come to Ten/Sex. Tennant should survive intact, but I’m not so sure about the queerness of the show…but no spoilers!

  10. Avril says:

    Hmm.
    The Doctor is asexual.
    Asexuality is not heteronormative.
    Therefore Doctor Who is queer.

    (Ignoring the fact that he started off life with a grand-daughter, which suggests a son/daughter, which might suggest sex at some point in his life, but maybe Timelords have some form of asexual reproduction.)

    Will bring chocolate in case you shatter all my illusions/delusions.

  11. Matt Kelly says:

    Really enjoying your podcasts. Thanks for the incredible effort you’re going to.

    I’ve been re-watching new Who and while I will alway prefer old Who (I agree with Johns comments in the Nine/Women podcast) the new Who music is amazing. I saw the Symphonic Spectacular in Melbourne and cried like a baby. The music of Murray Gold added so much to the show. It added more to the show than the CGI, writing or acting.

    The music of Doctor Who would be a great topic to cover on your show.

    I hope you keep going after the Christmas special…

  12. I, for one, think that Amy being a kissagram was AN AWESOME decision. Sadly, it is my opinion that many of the companions in Doctor Who are stripped of their sexuality and, being a sex-positive type myself, I get a bit cringe-y when females are neutered in media. Yes, it’s a family show, so it doesn’t need to be anything overt, but I think that’s why the kissagram thing works well, because it has an air of innocence about it. Amy is a young woman in touch with her sexuality, why shouldn’t she have a job that expresses that? And, even further, what right have we to slut-shame her about her choice of profession, anyway? So, she dresses up sexy and kisses people at parties — is that really so scary? And, hell, if she were a stripper or a prostitute, I’d STILL think she has a right to be one. Plus, I truly doubt she was planning on being a kissogram as a long-term career or anything. I mean, how many people are strippers to pay for college/university or — perhaps in Amy’s case — a HUGE house that she’s paying the mortgage on all by herself? One can use their sexuality to their benefit and that is not a bad thing. So, yeah, anyway, I applaud Moffat for putting on a young female character that I felt was more realistic than many companions I’ve seen on the show.

    • Ben says:

      I hear often that Amy is in touch with her sexuality, but is she any more so than Rose or Martha? I think there’s room for criticism in the way she’s written, especially in stereotypically “masculine” sexuality she is presented with: aggressive rather than assertive and shy of commitment, both most obvious in her kissing the Doctor scene (reverse the genders and it’s quite a horrible scene). She’s rarely sexual with Rory, though the moments where she is are much better than the Doctor nonsense.

      As for being a kissogram, the program doesn’t show it as a career choice, but as a placeholder job – something she’s only doing because she hasn’t got her life together, post-Raggedy Man. It’s written as a joke, to misdirect us about her job, call attention to her short skirt, and then it’s forgotten and never mentioned again. It would have been great if she’d really loved her job, and though I remember her being defensive about it, I never felt that she owned it.

  13. fred says:

    For a show that started out saying “There’s no wrong way to be a doctor who fan”, you’re starting to become very doctrinaire about “well, no, actually, there is a wrong way and enjoying Steven Moffat’s work as showrunner is it”.

    There is this weird thing where Who Fandom every so often wants to destroy the show… you’ve sorta become the new Anthony Howe and Zerinza. If you’re viewing a program just to help you build a case against it… that IS the wrong way to be a Doctor Who fan, as far as I’m concerned.

    • Ben says:

      For the record, I’ve really enjoyed much of the Moffat era – especially his first season and the first half of the most recent one. But this episode was about women in Who, and I think there are plenty of legitimate criticisms of the way Moffat writes women (not just in Who) and allows them to be portrayed as show runner. It’s telling that an audience member asked us if he was “the worst thing to happen to women in Doctor Who” – and as such we addressed him in those terms.

      I love some things about Moffat’s Who, but I am also critical of it. I would hope a feminist critique of anything doesn’t equate to “you’re doing it wrong if you like this”.

      • fred says:

        No, but I’d like a debate of the point rather than a “everybody agrees that Moffat is the worst thing ever”.

        Beisdes, one could very easily argue that Splendid Chaps has exactly the same gender issues you’re accusing Who of having – you and John as leads, with Petra as designated assistant – woman again restricted to just assisting man, rather than actually having her own actualised voice. Why isn’t Petra a co-lead?

        • Ian Simpson says:

          That’s a good point; although I noticed that this time Petra took part in the “keep warm” sign off that normally seems to be Ben & John (with Petra doing hers after reading the credits)… Though i was getting off the bus one stop early at the time because “Pertoxic” made me laugh at loud (and of course I was the only one who could hear it….)

          • Ben says:

            Petra usually joins in on the Thank You, It’s Good, Keep Warm at the end, Ian! Though it’s true that sometimes during the live show, it ends up being whoever is near a mic when we remember to do it… 😉

  14. Jessica says:

    Really, really enjoyed this episode!

    I agree with commenter Franco above that DW is less damsel-in-distressey than it sometimes appears. The Doctor is the hero, so the sidekicks by definition come across as weaker than he is, and in NewWho the sidekicks are most often female. Mickey and Rory got plenty of being-seen-as-weak treatment too. Even Buffy got that criticism, and that show has a female hero — writer Jane Espenson said something like “we got a lot of flack for always putting Willow and Cordelia in situations where they had to be rescued, but the truth is that it couldn’t always be Xander!”

    One thing I was hoping you would cover is the bitchiness of the women in NewWho. Rose and Martha are self-determined women who make their own choices and occasionally tell the Doctor off, but are pretty much nice people who you’d want to be friends with. But with Donna and Amy, I feel like the writers were unable to distinguish between “strong woman” and “screaming, sarcastic, bitchy shrew”. The way Donna insults and berates total strangers (like that poor cop giving her a ticket!) isn’t “being a strong woman”; it’s being downright mean! And the way Amy treats Rory is sometimes appallingly dismissive and insulting and unkind. (See the beginning of The Doctor’s Wife: “Do you believe any of this stuff?” “I was there.”) I’ve never been able to wrap my mind around why those characters got praise for being “strong women” and I would have loved to know what your panel thought.

  15. Sarah says:

    Thanks for another Cool Poddy Guys!

    I find that a lot of the “Stronger Women” in New who especially are the 1 Ep characters. Like Harriest Jones, Adelaide Brook or that Woman from Unit recently (power of three)?

  16. Sarah says:

    Also guys…

    You’re always saying you didnt have time to talk about everything you wanted, ummm you could just make the Podcast a little longer. I dont think anyone would mind 😉

  17. Ian Simpson says:

    Here’s a genuinely serious question- why are you stopping doing the podcast after this year is over? I think you’ve shown that you can have interesting, intelligent and very amusing debates about a wide range of topics in Who ( Nu or Classic) and I would definitely keep downloading to hear more….

    • Ben says:

      It’s a good question, Ian. We love the live, recorded-in-front-of-an-audience format, but it’s a lot of work for very little money. Plus we like the idea of it being a time capsule of what we, and our guests, thought about Doctor Who in the anniversary year.

      But never say never – while we currently have no plans for further shows beyond our Christmas Special in December, we did have many more ideas for episodes than we were able to make in the last year. The Splendid Chaps team loves working together, and we’re talking about other projects we might do together, so do keep an ear out!

      • Ian Simpson says:

        Thanks Ben – I suppose the fact that you have a plan (of sorts!) of how many you want to do and on which topics stops you from being the more generic ‘talking head’ review based show.

        If it helps I’d pay some £s/$s/€s to subscribe…..

  18. Ryan White says:

    I really enjoyed this podcast and I am pumped that it’s going to go past 11! The ninth doctor’s tenure was way too small and I was really disappointed that he cut it that short. However, R.T.D. was brilliant if he wanted to use the birth, life, and death of this doctor just to get the reboot going. It functioned quite well in that manner, but didn’t do enough to define the character for me. Too bad that he hasn’t done any BF productions.

  19. Mr_Parfitt says:

    Really disappointed that the panel were almost unanimous in their opinion that Moffat is the worst thing to happen to women in Doctor Who, yet up to that point all of the examples of bad writing of women in new Who were from RTD’s era.

    There are many, many sites criticising Moffat, but I’ve never seen a criticism that couldn’t also be applied to every other writer in Who history. Would have liked some defence of Moffat.

    On the upside you need to release Toxic immediately. Can we get it to No 1 in time for the 50th anniversary?

  20. Rohan Ireson says:

    I really did enjoy this episode the ninth doctor is perhaps my favorite and, technically speaking, my first it was great. The discussion on women was also very entertaining and enlightening as they are such an integral part of the Who mythos

  21. Dani says:

    I’d like to speak out in defence of the Martha/Doctor relationship.

    I was once in a situation similar to Martha’s. For the longest time I felt nothing but shame when thinking back on it. After all, it’s the 21st century, women aren’t supposed to be weak and pathetic anymore, feminism has happened! Seeing Martha, an otherwise sensible and perfectly capable (if fictional) woman go through the same thing made me realise I shouldn’t write myself off as weak and useless, it can happen to anyone. Falling in love with someone does not make you weak. Especially someone like the Doctor! Aren’t we fans all guilty of falling in love with him in one way or another?

    And as for the Doctor’s treatment of Martha… Again, I was in a similar situation with a friend of mine who liked me rather more than I felt comfortable many years ago. In hindsight I was downright cruel to him, much worse than the Doctor was to Martha. At the time though, it was genuinely clumsy and desperate attempt at changing his mind about loving me while preserving our friendship.

    The reason I’m writing this is to show that neither of the above are in any way specifically gender issues both. And for what it’s worth, Martha realised in the end that it wasn’t healthy and had the balls to tell the Doctor to his face, forcing him to acknowledge the situation. And on the Doctor’s behalf he goes some way to admitting he didn’t handle the situation well in the beginning of S04 while Donna shoves suspiciously light duffle bags in his arms.

    The above traits while aren’t particularly pleasant, are human traits and Doctor Who is a show about humanity seen through the eyes of a time travelling alien.

  22. Sarah j says:

    I loved girl in the fireplace. One of my Favs! But I don’t think Madame de pomdador is a strong woman. She’s quite passive, she’s a waiter (like a lot of women in who) and then when she steps through to the alien ship she freaks out and wants to go home.

  23. Baz says:

    Great podcast! Best one yet! The views of the three splendid chaps (Tansy, Karen and Celeste) were wonderfully entertaining. I could have listened for another hour and a half!! Please find a way to keep these going past the 50th, not neccessarily with live audiences obviously, but Doctor Who is such a huge and varied topic for discussion you could keep these podcasts going to eleven……..forever hahahaha. Thanks anyway for doing this all the way over in Oz. We’ve had nothing like it here in the UK and you guys have really brought a smile and no few laughs to my face while I work away on the nightshift.

  24. Koa says:

    Loved this episode, but was always going to since I went to the show. It was absolutely worth travelling from Sydney for.

    Obviously the topic of women in Doctor Who is a big topic and you were never going to cover everything, but there was lots of interesting food for thought. Like some previous commenters, I am torn about Steven Moffat – I grew up with Press Gang and thought Linda was one of the Best Female Characters Ever. And Moffat’s episodes of DW are always SO clever and scary – if it gives me nightmares it was probably written by Moffat! (The Empty Child, anyone?!) But I think he can be lazy in his characterisation, especially of women. And he does always seem to go for the joke even when it is in poor taste… But I don’t want him to stop writing for Doctor Who! (Maybe he can let someone else have a turn of show running, though, I feel he’s getting tired – I really didn’t like much of this year’s half season).

    Looking forward to all the extra episodes over the next couple of months. And please everyone consider contributing to the crowd funding for the Sydney show!

  25. Koa says:

    There’s nothing like being up in the middle of the night with small children who won’t go back to sleep – it means you can completely rethink your previous post!

    Well, maybe not completely rethink – but I do want to add that since Moffat gave us River Song and Sally Sparrow (especially River), I can forgive him for quite a lot 🙂 Like Tansy, I’m good at editing out the lines that I don’t like…

    And I’d also like to thank all the Splendid Chaps for being such a friendly bunch of lovely people! You were all so nice to talk to after the show.

  26. Mike Lavery says:

    Unrelated to this episode in particular, more of a question for the next (reposted and adapted here from the Melbourne Geeks on Facebook).

    So, I watched The Web Of Fear, and The Enemy Of The World last friday. Thing is, I did this via Skype and a webcam due to wanting to watch it with old friends in the UK (who have been long term Doctor Who watching buddies after re-introducing me to the series at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne in 1994) and not having the funds to buy them at the time myself.

    This got me thinking – what are the oddest/most unusual/most convoluted lengths that you have gone to in order to get Doctor Who fix just right?

    (Oh, and for the record, really enjoyed The Web Of Fear – found it gripping, tense and greatly improved, particularly the above ground fight scenes in Ep. 4. The Enemy Of The World, not so much. Still good silly fun, but not as engaging as I’d hoped).

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