Guest Post: Steven Moffat - A Case For The Prosecution

(200 comments)

Personally, as I've said, I quite like the Moffat era. I dare say I love it. But I recognize that this is a controversial opinion, and it seems fair, before we go in, to give the opposition a chance to state the case against. So here's Jack Graham doing what he does best: being loud, angry, and leftist about Doctor Who. We'll be back on Monday with a Pop Between Realities to kick off the Moffat era, and then The Eleventh Hour on Wednesday. Also, to clarify, the illustration on this one was my pick, meant as a cheekily representative example of anti-Moffat criticism, and not Jack's at all.

I’m here to up the anti, so to speak.  As such, I’m a sacrificial lamb.  Firstly, I’m going to annoy you all by delaying the arrival of the proper posts about the Moffat/Smith era.  And Phil specifically asked me for a polemic, so what follows will be an angry screed.  There really isn’t space here to do more than gesticulate irritably at the issues (since I’ve tried to have some mercy on you regarding word count).  I’ve had to leave out lots of points, cut loads of stuff about the wider political context (I promise you - it was all in the first draft, and it was brilliant) and, of necessity, simplify.  So this post is going to sit here seething, vulnerable and alone, a hostage to fortune, as Phil winds up his phenomenal Eruditorum project with a series of (doubtless) nuanced and subtle redemptive readings of the era I’m about to intemperately trash.  At least nobody can say I balked at making myself a sitting target.  

(I must acknowledge Phil’s own ‘Definitive Moffat and Feminism Post’, which I used as a springboard, and the generous assistance of Richard Pilbeam and Jonathan Barlow, from whom I have cribbed shamelessly.  All errors are, of course, mine alone.)


Phil’s recent, devastating piece on ‘The End of Time - Part 2’ describes what I find most worrying about the late RTD era.  But for Phil, ‘The Eleventh Hour’ was probably like the cavalry turning up.  For me, ‘The Eleventh Hour’ was like the cavalry turning up and immediately opening fire on me.  

It’s interesting to note that whereas RTD usually drafted in celebrities – Chris Morris style - to satirise themselves without knowing it (which they always fell for), Moffat drafts Patrick Moore in to be flattered.  RTD got Sharon Osbourne and Anne Widdecombe to endorse Harold Saxon (i.e. the Anti-Christ).  Moffat gets Sir Patrick to play himself as a charming, twinkly-eyed expert.  Aside from lauding a well-known reactionary and sexist, Moore’s guest appearance is emblematic of a wider complacency.  Amy’s village is a retreat from anything like the Powell Estate.  This is maundering ‘long shadows on village greens’ territory. The episode celebrates cutesy, ostensibly lovable, eccentric Britishness.  

There’s a near-immediate attempt to problematize such things in ‘The Beast Below’… but the actual result is instructive.  Starship UK is all of Britain, divided into counties that are now housed within tower blocks.  There seem to be no social divisions preventing some residents from fitting easily into a tower block with others.  Starship UK is a great communal space in which everyone fits happily into the same shopping mall.  This isn’t a problem.  Indeed, it is specifically portrayed as wonderful until the Doctor deduces that Starship UK is also police state… not that there’s much evidence of this, or of any need for it, beyond the arbitrary decision on the part of the authorities to feed children to a monster that refuses to eat them.  There are problems, of course, but social or economic hierarchy isn’t one of them because it doesn’t exist.  There are no poor or homeless people.  There’s a Queen, but she seems to be the only protestor in existence (usurping an entire subculture of activists and transferring their bravery and commitment to the monarchy).  There are sinister government types, but they regularly admit their secrets openly to the entire population… just like our own elites don’t.  The exploitation of the Space Whale becomes the collective fault of the entire population, all kept fully informed by their extraordinarily forthcoming government.  The people all choose – from a position of total freedom – to voluntarily embrace hypocrisy and complacency.  Moffat is groping towards a critique of complicity.  And there’s a germ of a point here because it’s true, to an extent, that many of us know that our society is monstrously unfair yet often choose to do nothing about it.  But Moffat has the government openly admitting its crimes (which misrepresents the reality of government secrecy and media propaganda) to a population who are all equally free and empowered (which misrepresents the reality of people struggling under huge disadvantages, preoccupations and economic blackmail), and who all equally choose to co-operate in exploitation (which… you get the gist).  The exploitation is carried out by the population as a whole.  But who are they exploiting?   The Whale isn’t akin to the working class because they’re not there anymore (in accordance with bourgeois wisdom).  Is the Whale meant to represent the victims of economic or military imperialism?  Precious little sign of it.  This attempt at a spiky, satirical episode resolves into a standard, victim-blaming, liberal whinge about how ‘we’re all middle class now, we get the government we deserve, we’re all complicit, even the activists and protestors’.  This kind of ‘critique’ leads nowhere except to more of the ‘apathy’ that it supposedly attacks.  Economic inequality, economic coercion, layers of social management, the suffocating obfuscation of the media, the manufacture of consent, even capitalism itself… none of these things are anywhere to be seen.  The dark secrets come from nowhere, except maybe the dark side of mankind or something.  And, in the end, the oppressed creature is held to a higher standard of morality than the oppressors, as is usual in these bourgeois morality plays.

Even Moffat’s best attempt at an angrily political story, ‘The Bells of Saint John’, is compromised by the kind of bourgeois reductionism that writes off the London riots - an explosion of rage at austerity and police bullying - as a glitch in the software.  His underlying metaphysics support the baddies’ claims about how the human brain works, and thus cuts agency away from anyone who might try to protest.  The idea of social rebellion is incomprehensible in this neoliberal vista, except as a moment when the top-down control briefly malfunctions.  Even if it turns nasty, the liberal capitalist millennium is escape-proof.  

Instead, you have to fit into it.  Madame Vastra is a Silurian who, thanks to her own comfortable position in bourgeois society, has made her peace with the world.  The Silurians were always the Palestinians of the Who universe.  Displaced, kept down, promised recompense by the Doctor – the great, well-meaning liberal compromiser - and then betrayed so that the status quo can be reset.  In Moffat’s version, one of our heroes is a Silurian who has been separated from her defeated people, bought off and reconciled to the conquerors.  (But then, on Moffat’s watch, all nuance was dropped from the Silurians, with their return story featuring a metaphor about how sometimes good people just have to torture terrorists to protect the innocent.)  Meanwhile, Strax is Vastra’s comedy sidekick.  The Sontarans no longer have anything to say about militarism.  This dimension cannot be explored in Moffat’s version of the show.  It wouldn’t be recognisable to modern TV as a palatable part of a profitable franchise.  The only thing you can do with a metaphor about militarism is laugh at it.  

Jenny, Vastra and Strax are a perfect illustration of how Steven Moffat waters down any of the satirical or polemical acid in the show’s signifiers, of how he neutralises and sanitises the show’s inbuilt tendency to engage in (admittedly imperfect) political critique.  He excises anything potentially worrying to the mainstream.  He is semiotic paint stripper.  He makes Doctor Who safe for neoliberalism.

Related to this are the repeated and jarring ethical failures.  There’s the Doctor becoming a neoconservative of other people’s souls, rearranging their innards until they become more to his liking.  In ‘A Christmas Carol’, the Doctor rewrites a man’s life – while he protests.  I realise Kazran is a horrible man, and full marks to Moffat for relating his callousness to his commodification of people as collateral.  That has some potential bite.  But Moffat doesn’t see Kazran as representing a system as opposed to individual villainy (even RTD’s capitalists are more systemic than Kazran).  He doesn’t adapt the parts of Dickens’ fable where Scrooge is persuaded through arguments about social justice.  He leaves out the levelling parties from Scrooge’s youth and replaces them with celeb bashes where Kazran and the Doctor exploit women.  Abigail is a literal ‘woman in a refrigerator’… except that she makes the hero and the villain like each other!  Abigail is literally put in and out of the freezer according to the whims of the boys.  This is only one signal of a wider malaise, as we get to the end of the episode without the Doctor even asking about any of the other frozen people.  We may assume that the Doctor’s newly created version of Kazran will free them (unfair economic systems happen because one or two guys are old meanies, natch) but it isn’t like the Doctor to not even check.  He says he’s “never met an unimportant person” but his actions say otherwise.  How Abigail feels about the fact that she’s been a slave for years, and is now about to die, fails to be a blip on anyone’s radar.  If the Doctor’s going to alter the past, why permit the system that puts Abigail in the fridge to start with?  Why is Kazran the priority here?  Because, once again, the system is inescapable.  Moffat and the Doctor have made peace with it.

The most egregious failure of moral priorities – again linked to a distinctly neoliberal kind of political context-removal – is in ‘The Day of the Moon’, in which the Doctor defeats the Silence by brainwashing the entire human race to become mindless, genocidal killers.  Moffat thinks everybody on Earth has seen the Moon landing on TV, apparently discounting the humanity of anyone too poor or non-Western to not get televised updates on American triumphalism.  It is never explained how or why the Silence are any worse than Nixon, with whom the Doctor gets comfortably pally, given that he dropped more tonnage of bombs than were dropped during WWII on small peasant countries in South East Asia.  Indeed, the Doctor seems to think that Nixon is the leader of a slave rebellion.  In effect, Steven Moffat has compared Richard Nixon to Spartacus or Toussaint L’Ouverture.  But then, the Doctor would be a hypocrite if he waxed superior to Nixon in this story, given his own – apparently heroic, amusing and sexy - engineering of ethnic cleansing.  He’s hypocritical enough for waxing superior to the Silence, who are never actually shown doing anything much wrong (aside from one murder that seems to have been put in solely to justify calling them the baddies).  Remember what I was saying last time about villains sometimes having an objectively superior moral position?

Moffat’s at it again with the snuggling up to powerful leaders in ‘The Day of the Doctor’.  Moffat has the Tenth Doctor conducting a romance with Elizabeth I, during which she jokes about how routine it is for her to have people killed - and he doesn’t bat an eyelid.  How this makes her any better than a Zygon is never explored.  I’ve read irritated posts on tumblr about how Moffat reduces Elizabeth I to a simpering, infantile, love-struck girlfriend.  And yeah, I can see the sexism there… but I’m equally worried by the idea of the Doctor being friendly with her at all, given that she was a ruthless, blood-splattered autocrat.  Just like all feudal monarchs  And like Richard Nixon.  And like several other people the Doctor has gotten matey with during the Moffat era.  Moffat’s repeated tendency to have him cosy up to rulers, presidents, kings and queens, bosses, presidents, etc, is quite revolting.  Okay, the classic Doctors used to occasionally talk about being pally with Napoleon or Mao or Nelson or Marie Antoinette… but you could usually rely on them to distrust or dislike the ruling classes they actually met.  RTD’s depiction of Queen Victoria was far too sympathetic (in reality she was a horrible person who lived in obscene luxury at the apex of a brutal empire) but she didn’t exactly end up as the Doctor’s best friend.  

On the subject of sexism…  I have a quite simplistic view of this.  I think the reason that lots of people think Steven Moffat’s version of Doctor Who is sexist is because it repeatedly acts and sounds sexist.  It may be that Moffat consciously tries to craft his Who as feminist or pro-feminist.  If so, I don’t think there’s any better illustration of the crucial point that, in a sexist society, however much of an ‘ally’ you may be, if you’re a man then you still enjoy male privilege, and probably don’t realise it half the time.

The Doctor describes Clara as “a mystery wrapped in an enigma squeezed into a skirt that’s just a little bit too tight”.  The Doctor describes Marilyn Monroe as though she really was nothing more than the stereotypical ‘man crazy’ ditz she played in some of her movies.  Rory likens being married to Amy to being trapped inside a giant robot duplicate of her.  We get dialogue like “Why did she try to kill you and then want to marry you?”  “Because she’s a woman”.  Osgood, a scientist, is shown to be secretly obsessed with jealousy towards her prettier sister.  A Dalek develops a female alter-ego, and she spends her time cooking.

Moffat’s show is crammed with tropetastic Manic Pixie Dreamgirls who tease and tantalise our hero.  Like all MPDs, they each play the role of muse to our broken hero.  The jokey put-downs are part and parcel of the MPD by the way – she always admonishes the hero out of his slough.  The put-downs are not a sign of independence or a genuinely critical attitude; they’re part of the MPD’s job.  The hero is slumped in melancholy - really, was there ever a Doctor as petulantly self-pitying as the Eleventh?  Ten isn’t even in the running – and along comes the MPD, all quippy and perky and happy and impossible – to heal, inspire and reawaken him.  Even as the MPDs have such an excess of personality, every last one of them revolves eternally around the hero.  The Doctor is, of course, the lead character… but he doesn’t need to be the flame around which all these fluttering butterfly girls dance.  

(This, by the way, is a manifestation of Moffat’s unhealthy and point-missing insistence on the Doctor being what the show is about, rather than a way of unifying the polemics and allegories and metaphors and satires and pastiches inside one meta-text.  That isn’t me calling for the Doctor to be characterless.  Indeed, the trouble now is that he’s more characterless than ever before.  The more Moffat concentrates on him, the more characterless he becomes, because he becomes more and more a narcissistic navel-gazer, rather than an actor in social events outside himself.  Once again, the true neoliberal attitude: the atomised individual is what matters, not the social act.)

In Moffat’s show, women are overwhelmingly defined by their traditional gender roles or bodily functions.  It doesn’t matter that their excellence in these gender roles is praised by show and lead character.  It doesn’t matter that we’re supposed to be impressed by the virtuosity with which River tricks people using her feminine wiles.  It doesn’t change anything that the Doctor goes into rhapsodies about the wonders of motherhood.  That isn’t liberating; it’s still the mapping of male, patriarchal conceptions of female value onto female characters.

River exists entirely because of the Doctor.  Who the hell is River?  She is an assemblage of gender essentialist tropes and wisecracks.  When does she ever – beyond, arguably, her first appearance – behave like an academic or a scientist?  When does she ever display anything resembling erudition or intellectual curiosity?  When does she ever do or say anything to show or engender love?  Admittedly, the Doctor seems to be sexually aroused by the way she shoots people… which is just charming.  In ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’, she is incarnated as Mels, a character we’ve never seen or heard of before, and plonked unceremoniously into the story out of sheer, brazen convenience.  She stalks Amy and Rory (her unwitting mother and father) for years, pretending to be their friend, all because of her pre-programmed monomaniacal desire to get to the Doctor.  She regenerates while “concentrating on a dress size”.  She spends the rest of the episode obsessing over her hair, clothes, shoes and weight.  River’s instability is finally conquered by the love of a good man.  This seems intensely hostile and patronising.  If that isn’t what was aimed at, then somebody is a very bad shot.  

It doesn’t matter that River is ‘powerful’.  Fetishizing ‘power’ in women characters – having them kicking ass and always being ready with a putdown - isn’t the same as writing them as human beings.  Moffat’s Who may not be quite as blatant an iteration of this misprision as, say, Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, but, strangely, it might even be worse precisely because it seems superficially better.  Snyder’s film might, on a first viewing, be mistaken for something which knowingly panders to adolescent male fantasies only to ruthlessly pull the rug out from under the leering male viewer… Snyder does, after all, pepper his sexploitation sequences with grim representations of real sexual exploitation.  Moffat doesn’t, for instance, put River into suspenders and pigtails (though he gets close to this sort of thing a few times with Amy) but then neither does he bother to really address the consequences of gendered violations like forced pregnancy.  Moffat can get away with as much, if not more, than Snyder (or, for that matter, Uncle Tewwance) precisely because he seems to be ‘on side’.  There’s neoliberal feminism for you in a nutshell: the absorption and assimilation of protest by the dominant hegemonic culture.

The show repeatedly reduces Amy to the roles by which patriarchy constructs femininity: girlfriend, fiancée, wife, mother, ex…  There’s even a ‘comedy’ episode in which Amy is said to have used her sexuality to pass her driving test (tsch, these women drivers!), is split into two people and literally fancies herself, thus providing lesbian fantasy fodder for the men around her.  Remember that episode of Red Dwarf where Rimmer and Lister meet their female counterparts in a parallel universe?  At one point, Rimmer is aghast because his female opposite has, in an effort to pull him, “gone to get some sexy videos” because “she seems to imagine that seeing two men together will turn me on”.  Moffat may be writing Doctor Who-as-sitcom, but a line in a real SF sitcom skewers the absurdity of the male idea that all women secretly want to engage in lesbian sex for male titillation.  The rest of the ostensible laughs come from Rory staring up Amy’s skirt… because it’s hilarious to violate her privacy without consent!  But, of course, Rory and Any are married by this point, so that effectively makes Amy into Rory’s property (remember how, once they’re married, the Doctor has to ask Rory’s permission to hug her?).  Rory’s half-hearted acceptance of this new arrangement is all part of the joke of Rory.  He is, of course, a slave to Amy.  He can’t stop himself staring up her skirt because she’s just too pretty (putting it all on her) and has to accept that he’s now ‘Mr Pond’… but its all part of the trade-off that the Nice Guy makes.  

Rory is an emblem of Nice Guy Syndrome.  He’s the bloke who thinks he’s entitled to the girl because he helped her move house that time.  In Rory’s case, he was her playmate during all the childhood years when she wanted to play Raggedy Man (again, the Doctor-fixation).  He hung around throughout school and college, waiting for his time to come.  As with so much of Moffat’s work, this is a recycling of stuff that was big in the 90s.  Rory is a reiteration of the Nice Guys Who Waited in 90s sitcoms – Niles in Frasier, Ross in Friends.  Like them, he’s a self-pitying, yet idealised, nerd Mary Sue (contrary to sexist myth, Mary Sues are not just the province of female fan-fic writers).  He hangs around pining, being loyal (for thousands of years in Rory’s case), and thus earns the girl.  He accrues his entitlement to her via years in the ‘friend zone’.  Initially, she barely notices his maleness because it is obscured by his niceness (girls like jerks) and his allegedly less-than-stunning looks (girls like hunks, the selfish…) while he, of course, desires her for… well, without any self-awareness, he desires her for her stunning looks.  “You’re so beautiful,” moans Rory on one of the occasions when he dies.  It is only later, after she has been educated in her role as wife and mother, that he gives any indication of liking anything about her personality.  Rory is an illustration of all this, written as lovable, swathed in the alibi of irony.  Later Rory gets his forceful and decisive moments.  But even here, it’s hard to not see these as a reassertion of proper male authority.  In the meantime, he gets repeatedly slaughtered in order to hammer home the point that Amy is, for all her supposed independence, slavishly dependent upon him.  They may not fancy the nice guys, but they need them!

There’s a feminist reading that claims Moffat’s female characters as role models.  Post-Demon’s Run Amy, for instance, can be seen as a rape survivor who refuses to allow the experience to define the rest of her life.  However, the trouble here – aside from the trotting out, yet again, of the Mystical Pregnancy trope by a male writer who feels entitled to reduce his female characters to uncanny uteruses - is the sheer blithe glibness of the representation in question.  Yes, it might be an admirable thing to show a woman who, having been violated with an unwanted pregnancy and birth, only to have her baby stolen from her, were shown as living past such trauma and refusing to allow it to define her… if we were ever given any real sense that the experience had been traumatic for her.  It might be objected that this complaint amounts to asking for more concentration on the rape and the trauma.  But I didn’t want to see SF rape on Doctor Who again at all!  Even so, given that Steven Moffat made the unforced artistic/business choice to put SF rape in there, I’d have much preferred to see some indication that the victim found it more than slightly and briefly unpleasant.  After all, violence against women – sexual and otherwise – is currently at epidemic levels globally, and getting worse (one of the social by-products of neoliberal crisis and austerity).

We’re all supposed to think modern Who is so much better than old Who because it’s ‘emotional’… well, you can’t just turn that off when it suits you and not expect anyone to cry shenanigans.  And I can’t help noticing that the moment when the supposed emotional maturity of modern Who fails most catastrophically is also the moment when it forces itself into the corner of dealing with the sexual violation of a young woman.  

Tell you what: why don’t we get some women writers back onto the show, and they can decide if they want to write about rape or pregnancy in SF terms, and, if so, how they think it should be done.   It’s a thought.  

Relatedly, there’s the issue of heteronormativity.  This is the first era to have a married couple aboard the TARDIS as regulars, the first era to have the Doctor married off, or even to have him straightforwardly and explicitly straight (unless you want to argue about Susan).  This is the first era that repeatedly focuses on heterosexual couples, the first era that repeatedly has alien menaces defeated by the aggressive assertion of heteronormative gender relations.  It happens again and again, be it through the declaration of heterosexual love (‘The Lodger’), the power of heterosexual fatherhood (‘Black Spot’, ‘Night Terrors’), the emotions of the heterosexual nuclear family (‘The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe’, ‘The Snowmen’), the restatement of heterosexual parenthood as an implicit good (‘Closing Time’), etc.

Yes, there are positively drawn gay characters here and there - Canton in ‘Day of the Moon’, for instance.  But anyone who thinks that a relationship between a humanoid reptile and a subservient housemaid/ninja (in which they solve crimes in Victorian London) qualifies as normative….  In the midst of a sea of heteronormativity, it’s hardly a workable defence to point to one homosexual relationship which is sketched in the most outlandishly Fantasy terms, and features no characters of any consistency.  Jenny, for instance, becomes a ninja – out of the blue - whenever required.  It is a mark of how little genuine respect is shown these characters that her unveiling as a ninja in ‘The Crimson Horror’ is just that: an unveiling, with the camera panning up her legs, clad in tight leather for the benefit of the male gaze.  Oh look, we’re back at the sexism.

‘The Crimson Horror’ is Gatiss’ best script yet for the TV series, featuring lots of quite well-drawn female characters… so it’s tragic, and illustrative of the lack of care which undermines this era, that the episode also features two lapses into breathtaking male privilege: the Doctor’s offhand description of Tegan as “a gobby Australian” and the truly jaw-dropping moment when the Doctor forcibly snogs – i.e. sexually harasses – a young woman whom he knows to be in a committed same-sex relationship.  This moment is, needless to say, brushed off immediately and treated as another bit of fun.  

We get something similar (though arguably not quite as bad) in ‘Time of the Doctor’ when the Doctor slaps Clara’s backside to prove that she’s his property… I mean, girlfriend.  I realise, by the way, that this is supposed to be a sign of the Doctor’s unworldly, immature, crass misunderstanding of human relationships.  But that’s an unconvincing alibi.  Firstly, ‘it’s just a joke’ has long been discredited as an excuse for sexism… or should’ve been.  Secondly, this is the same character who is supposed to be emotionally mature enough to sustain a romantic relationship with River which we are meant to find noble and moving.  You can’t just move the character’s maturity dials up and down from episode to episode depending on… oh, hang about.

On the subject of Clara… she’s really the ultimate example of the Moffatian variant of the MPD: the woman-as-puzzle.  She also emblematic of the Moffatian habit of simply altering the female character to fit each episode as it comes along.  With Clara, he literally makes her a succession of different people.

There is something about the spurious way that all the multiple Claras are declared - by fiat - to be part of one whole, that strangely mirrors Moffat’s obsession with forcing all the previous Doctors into line with his.  Here Moffat shows the a truly fannish impulse towards syncresis.  He crams all the old Doctors into his ‘of the Doctor’ tetralogy, just as he’s been crowbarring clips of them in at every opportunity since ‘The Eleventh Hour’.  The aim is to bring the past into his orbit, the better to overwrite it.  The truth is, Steven Moffat has become the Great Intelligence.  The threat posed by the Intelligence in ‘Name of the Doctor’ is that he/it will take over the Doctor’s entire life and rewrite it to suit himself.  This in the same episode in which Moffat literally inserts his own character, Clara, into every moment of the Doctor’s life, having her meet every single one of his incarnations, putting her at the very moment when the Doctor first leaves Gallifrey, telling him which TARDIS to steal.  This in the same episode in which he introduces an entirely new, never-before-seen incarnation of the Doctor.  Whatever else you can say about him, Moffat isn’t a writer who allows himself to be troubled by an excess of self-awareness.  Of course, all Who is a palimpsest.  But Steven Moffat seems to be the only writer to work on the show who is absolutely determined to overwrite his own personality on top of the whole damned thing.  

Part and parcel of this seems to be his fixation upon the Doctor himself.  Admittedly, this is a recurring problem of new-Who going back almost to the start in 2005.  But again, Moffat seems to have taken it to a new level.  And, y’know… this show isn’t fundamentally about the Doctor.  He’s a narrative device for moving us from satire to polemic to allegory to metaphor to pastiche to whatever.  That doesn’t, of course, mean that he has to be written as a cipher without interiority.  On the contrary, I love it when he is written as having interiority.  But the thing is… well, there are several things.  Firstly, as mentioned, the kind of interiority he has now is of the self-involved, atomised individual of neoliberalism, not the social actor he should be.  Secondly, there’s no necessary connection between giving the Doctor interiority and making the show about him.  Thirdly, even if we accept that the show must be intensely emotional and focused upon the feelings of the lead character, wouldn’t it be better if it actually… umm… did that?  

The reason I feel ill when the Doctor snogs River’s ghost at the end of ‘Name of the Doctor’ is not that I hate emotion in Who, or that I want – because I’m a sexually and emotionally repressed nerd or something – Doctor Who to be emotionless.  Rather, the opposite of this is the truth.  The reason I feel ill at moments like that is rather that I hate fake emotion, cheap emotion, unearned emotion.  Commodified emotion.  Packaged, marketed, profitable, sugary, junk emotion.  Sentimentality, in other words.  

Sentimentality is disgusting because it’s not fundamentally about other people, or relationships.  It’s about oneself.  It’s self-regarding, self-comforting, self-pleasing.  It isn’t social.  It’s narcissistic.  This is precisely what is so horribly wrong with all those Moffatian emotional tornadoes.  How can they be touching when the characters and relationships are so shallow?  When we’re watching narcissists adoring their own reflections in their partner’s eyes?

This post has gone on too long, but there’s so much still to say about these last few years.  There’s the hubris of having the Doctor frighten away enemies by touting his reputation.  There’s the moralistic preaching and speechifying.  There’s the sheer boredom of the story arc mysteries, impossible to care about because they’re always waved away with some bit of nonsense made-up-on-the-fly.  There’s the constant undermining and reversal of death.  There’s the banalization of the Time War into a Lucasfilm space battle.  There’s Matt Smith (luckily, my politics means I’m used to being in a tiny minority).  There’s ‘Victory of the Daleks’.  There’s the relentless middle class-ness of almost everyone and everything.  There’s the way the Doctor’s behaviour never changes, no matter how many times he learns his lesson.  There’s “the tears of a whole family on Christmas Eve…”  There’s the inconsistency of claiming that the Doctor’s moral status has beend challenged by comparing him to a warrior when the show is chock-full of unambiguously noble warriors.  There’s the stigmatising of loners.  There’s the use of slightly surreal environments which then get fully explained, just in case anything off-the-wall makes the viewers uncomfortable.  There’s the reliance on tropes that were big in the 90s… I’ve mentioned Nice Guys from US sitcoms, but how about Greys and Area 51?  There’s the stalking-as-romance trope.  There’s the sheer privilege-blindness involved in making the first all black guest cast in Doctor Who play a bunch of fools who need to be captured and threatened into moral behaviour by the Doctor, or in giving a greedy trader the name ‘Solomon’.  There’s the Doctor relating to his vehicle by fancying it.  There’s the way ‘Night Terrors’ lectures the working class on how to be better parents.  There’s the way every resolution seems to involve solving the monsters to death (usually with love), thus defeating the rump gothic with the power of comforting banalities.  There’s James Corden.  There’s… oh, that’ll do.  I’ve had enough.  I don’t like having to hate this show.  I want to love it.  


I’ll say one more thing.  It may be true that previous production teams have, at one time or another, been guilty of things similar to everything I’ve just been talking about.  But I think that’s a red herring.  What does it matter?  What does it change?  Besides, even if it’s true that Moffat gets a lot of extra stick because expectations have been raised… well, that isn’t unfair.  Even if he’s the one who raised them (which I don’t buy), it still isn’t unfair.  It’s part of how things get better.  The people in power, the privileged, deliver something, and instead of saying “thanks boss”, you say “not enough – do better.”  Moffat has a harder time pleasing everybody because more people are politicised and vocal about stuff like sexism.  The neoliberal feminism of a privileged ‘ally’ isn’t good enough for them.  And that’s as it should be.  Be reasonable, I say.  Demand the impossible.

Comments

Ross 2 years, 11 months ago

@Chicanery: Is it entirely okay with you for it to be the fact of your being a queer person alone that excludes you from normativity, rather than the decision to eschew normativity being your own?

What I mean is this: as a straight person, I can choose to live a "normative" sort of life, or I can choose a "non-normative" one. Historically, it has been the case that for non-straight people, the former was off the table

Link | Reply

Ross 2 years, 11 months ago

because his puzzle boxes are not generally resolved with hand-waving but with alarmingly tight structure that requires attention to otherwise throw-away detail from episodes or even seasons earlier.

Except that they're not. They're resolved by Moffat going "Ha! Fuck that noise, I'm tired of this puzzle box. It never mattered anyway."

Link | Reply

peeeeeeet 2 years, 11 months ago

Normativity is dull, assimilatory and anathema to me as a queer person.

You're just arguing for conformity to a different group though. (And if you think the gay community doesn't police its own culture, consider where, for example, bi people fit in? I'm often genuinely saddened by how openly hostile gay people feel they are allowed to be towards bi people.) If you really want to argue for non-conformity, that unfortunately means affording people the freedom to be boring if they want.

Link | Reply

Steven Clubb 2 years, 11 months ago

I like to think of the Silurians as Nazi War Criminals, many of whom are hellbent on committing genocide on a species they all refer to as vermin, a race they regularly performed inhuman experiments on prior to losing their position as the Master Race.

In the most recent Silurian tale, one of the "good" guys is someone who was moments away from performing a vivisection on Amy and did perform a vivisection on another character... but all is forgiven because he doesn't harm children, which is like giving the organizer of a dog fighting ring a pass because he dotes on puppies.

But such are the confused politics of Doctor Who, which needs to address complex issues in an uncomplicated manner. To only deal with clear-cut black & white issues would render the show uninteresting, while not finding a (clearly BS) simple solution to the problem would render the character irrelevant. RTD largely avoided the problem of "The Beast Below" by simplifying the baddies to the point that utterly destroying them was simple solution, which is easily as problematic as Moffat's tendency of finding a happy compromise... more so if you've got a problem with the xenophobia inherent in always making the aliens irredeemably evil and any attempt to negotiate with them is foolish, unless it's that random story where the Doctor bullies them into submission and he gets to direct some ill-conceived sermon at the human agents who blew up the alien menace this week. Brute force and cynicism being tools only the Doctor can use with impunity, because "he's worth it" being the go-to explanation for forgiving all of the Doctor's sins in the RTD Era.

Which is not to say Moffat's approach is superior to RTD, but both have significant problems if you start thinking about the message each is delivering. Moffat is happy to forgive a reptilian Megale because he shows an ounce of compassion in order to help forge a peace between two warring factions. This is staggeringly naive in its execution, but has a very valuable lesson at its core. Peace is built upon the ability to put atrocities aside. RTD also preaches a very valuable lesson about holding people accountable for their actions, but his stories end with the eradication of the offending party and the bleak unintended message that no peace can be had once blood has been spilled, the guilty must be punished.

Which is why it's a very good thing Doctor Who changes hands every few years. Kids need to be exposed to as many different ideas as possible, to question why one course of action is wise in one situation and not in another. Doctor Who isn't capable of exploring a complex situation in a suitably complex manner and must rely on sending many different messages and situations for the viewer to put together in a more coherent world view.

Link | Reply

Steven Clubb 2 years, 11 months ago

I would say Screwball Comedy. This is why his female leads have a tendency toward the same character traits. They're all women who comically dominate the male characters.

Link | Reply

Steven Clubb 2 years, 11 months ago

Moffat has major problems with series long puzzle boxes, because a good puzzle box requires a lot of rewriting. The solution should be present long before the resolution.

But since he doesn't know the end (because it's all dependent on which actors are available), he's got to rewrite the past to make stuff work. His individual series work okay, but he's terribly inconsistent with anything coming from an earlier series.

Link | Reply

Chicanery 2 years, 11 months ago

@peeeeeeeeeeeet - Fair enough, I hadn't thought that through. But I am not a part of gay culture, I reject heteronormative culture but I am not homosexual or part of that culture.
@Ross - It doesn't bother me personally, but I totally see why other people are bothered by being forced away from normativity. I support the option of inclusion but am wary that it has the potential to erase queer people that don't want a marriage and a mortgage and two kids at the same time.
It was never an option for me, being autistic and queer, but if it were an option I may have taken it. But then, my heterosexual relationship wasn't normative either.
Besides, my problem with the essay is that all same sex couples want is to be normal, and all queer people just want normative representation.

Link | Reply

jonathan inge 2 years, 11 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

Link | Reply

Jack Graham 2 years, 11 months ago

Honestly, the last thing I want is to make anybody feel bad for liking stuff.

Link | Reply

jonathan inge 2 years, 11 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

Link | Reply

Steven Clubb 2 years, 11 months ago

I'm not convinced the BBC forced him to do anything. Moffat pays attention to audience testing. He doesn't pay terribly much attention to fans (who often hide behind faux confusion to attack unimportant changes to continuity), but does pay attention to what general audience are saying.

As was mentioned during the Coupling entry, Moffat is really good at exposition. Series 6 was the most confusing Doctor Who has ever been in its history... and I've lost count of the number of people I know who became fans of the show during it. Trying to get your head around the whole thing is difficult, but there's nothing particularly confusing about individual episodes. The casual audience had no problem following along, it was the hardcore audience that were going crazy trying to fit discarded bits on it, throwing their hands up, and saying "this is too confusing".

Link | Reply

Steven Clubb 2 years, 11 months ago

Unless you're arguing that this is a perfectly acceptable state of affairs, I stand by the Nazi War Criminals analogy.

I have a very large problem with the way they're often portrayed, starting with the first episode. They veer toward genocide a bit too quickly for me to consider them "misunderstood" and throw around the word "vermin" far too often to escape the obvious comparison to Nazis. And, yes, I'm going to use that word for anyone who would perform a vivisection on someone they're capable of holding a conversation with.

Link | Reply

jonathan inge 2 years, 11 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

Link | Reply

Steven Clubb 2 years, 11 months ago

But at their core, the Silurians stores are largely about "you guys need to get over the whole 'they tried to commit genocide on us' thing", while you guys need to get over 'they took our planet' and come to some sort of agreement."

Overcoming misunderstandings and putting past differences aside are major components of the Moffat run and I find it a rather refreshing attitude after the Blow Em Up Real Good nature of the RTD Era... even if I find the Silurians a particularly nasty bunch who remind me far too much of our worst impulses. I find them to be a better Nazi analogy than the Daleks.

Link | Reply

jonathan inge 2 years, 11 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

Link | Reply

Steven Clubb 2 years, 11 months ago

The reason is it's not really all that confusing on a practical level.

River Song will make your eyes cross if you think about her too hard. Conceptually, she's as confusing as it gets. But on a practical level, she's very simple. She's the Doctor's (maybe) wife from the future. This is entertainingly established in every episode she's in, mostly by her interaction with the Doctor. If you need to know something, Moffat communicates it while leaving all the more involved business out of the conversation.

Link | Reply

Ross 2 years, 11 months ago

River's story is actually entirely straightforward in the order it's told. It's only if you go back and put the episodes in some kind of River's-Timeline-Order that you look at it and go "Wait, actually her character arc and motivations don't quite add up."

Link | Reply

jonathan inge 2 years, 11 months ago

Some folks don't like not having a clearly defined, demonized baddie. Not me. It's a little more interesting when characters have motivations I can understand. Plus, it helps separate antagonists. The Daleks will always be the highest level of evil in the DW universe. Well, unless you count the Time Lords, but The Doctor saved them so I guess they're redeemable.

Link | Reply

Steven Clubb 2 years, 11 months ago

I feel compelled to expand on that last sentence about them being better a better Nazi analogy than the Daleks.

The Daleks are essentially, what if every Nazi was as bad as the worst of the Nazis. A race completely dedicated to the cause. It makes for a suitably dramatic villain, but this was not the reality of the Third Reich. There were levels of involvement.

The Silurians are much more individualistic. There's a banality inherent in their evil, as quite a number of them are going along with genocide because that's the orders. There's an underlying sickness to the culture in that they instinctively think themselves infinitely superior to the humans, but many are less culpable than others. They are a species in desperate need of a cultural rehabilitation as happened in Germany following WWII.

Link | Reply

John 2 years, 11 months ago

But "The Lodger" is very fun as a one off! I'd also just say, with respect to drfgsdgsdf's criticisms of Series 5 based on it having some mediocre episodes that I fail to see how that differentiates it from any of the other seasons.

Link | Reply

jonathan inge 2 years, 11 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

Link | Reply

Steven Clubb 2 years, 11 months ago

I like to call that "moment-to-moment sense". Audiences often don't think too hard about their entertainment, because there's really not much value in it. So long as a character's actions make sense in relation to their last scene, then you can get away with some shocking inconsistencies of character.

To bring it back to Doctor Who. How often has a character been introduced as a heavy, done something pretty damn unforgivable, then through the course of the story found himself on the Doctor's side. There's a Big Finish story where a would-be companion rapist ends up being an ally. I mentioned in another comment the Silurian who goes from preparing to perform a vivisection on Amy to being the Doctor's staunchest ally... and whose previous vivisection victim is just totally cool with him.

There's really nothing gained by going back through River's story and adding things up. She's constantly evolving to fit the story being presently told so there's lots of discarded bits floating about.

Link | Reply

Steven Clubb 2 years, 11 months ago

Series 6 was the big push into the American audience, which is what explains the abundance of new fans.

But it does serve to underscore how fans are often horrible judges of what is new fan friendly. I'm on one message board where Moffat is constantly being blamed for making the series completely incomprehensible to new fans... and this is very clearly not the case.

Link | Reply

Steven Clubb 2 years, 11 months ago

I find Series Two to be pretty much nothing but mediocre stories. Even the two best stories ("The Girl in the Fireplace" and "Love & Monsters") are decidedly mediocre by Best Episode standards.

I think the problem we run into during the Moffat Era is he's not micro-managing the series to maintain a certain level of diversity in story types.

Link | Reply

jane 2 years, 11 months ago

The thing about Vastra and Jenny is that they're both normative and non-normative. Specifically, they're non-normative individuals, yet they repeatedly make the point that they are married.

This is messy. On the one hand, they're the first reoccurring gay couple in the history of the show -- even RTD didn't try this. More to the point, though, the subject of marriage in the context of queer relationships is problematic. At least in the States, legal marriage confers all kinds of social material benefits that have been systematically denied to queer couples, so one can't help but cheer when queer marriages are lauded and sustained in popular media.

On the other hand, though, the institution of marriage is problematic itself. It has a history of making women the property of men, though that is no longer the case. It carries all kinds of connotations about how a relationship should be enacted, cultural baggage which is difficult to shed even for those aware of it. And of course, it rather begs the question of why certain privileges should be afforded to people in committed relationships in the first place.

Link | Reply

Ross 2 years, 11 months ago

It troubles me more than a little that Jenny is Vastra's wife, but she's also her servant. Vastra is affectionate toward Jenny, but Jenny is still expected to treat her wife as "The Mistress" -- and not in one of the fun ways.

Link | Reply

Tom Dickinson 2 years, 11 months ago

A lot of this makes a lot of sense to me, but I'm struggling to get my head around Rory's alleged nice guy entitlement. Say what?

Can anyone think of a single instance in which Rory ever indicates that he feels deserves to be with Amy, because of what he's done or gone through?

It's easy to imagine a scene where Rory says something like "I'm the one who waited two thousand years for you, but the second you hear that TARDIS..." but as far as I recall, nothing remotely like that ever happens.

Link | Reply

David Ainsworth 2 years, 11 months ago

There's a lot to engage with here, and I hope these points come up again as the individual episodes roll around. But I really had problems with the "SF Rape" section. Is there ANY evidence River was an unwanted pregnancy? How does a woman having sex with her husband and then being abducted before she realizes she's pregnant represent rape? Her abduction could be read as an attack on state intrusion into women's reproductive rights, or as medical horror, or as body violation, or even as a metaphor for Amy's alienation from her pregnant body, but those readings run the risk that Moffat may have stumbled into something genuinely feminist at some point.

And reading River as the child of rape seems so massively wrong-headed to me that I don't know where to even begin a response. Kidnapped, yes, and the underlying plot structures are at least as old as the Oedipus story. But unlike Oedipus, River wasn't abandoned willingly, and there's every indication that she was wanted. This isn't a rape survivor story, it's closer to a "pro-life" dystopia where a pregnant Amy loses control over her own body even if she had no interest in aborting her child. (Amy's Choice suggests what she would have chosen, I think.)

Link | Reply

Spacewarp 2 years, 11 months ago

I'm with you on that score Alex. Although I do find posts like this very interesting, I don't allow myself to think that they are possibly right and I am possibly wrong to like what I'm watching. I can see where sexism and ageism and possible racism might be seen by some commentators, but I console myself that this is an interpretation, nothing more. In the case of racism, there has never been an out and out smoking gun case of the programme being utterly and knowingly racist. The worst that can be said is that it has been unintentially and culturally racist (I'm looking at "Talons" and "Toymaker" here). No some people may say that's unacceptable, but I agree with an earlier comment here that what I would not tolerate from a stranger I would tolerate from a well-loved but misguided family member or friend.

Doctor Who has been a well-loved family member of mine for 4 decades now and I will forgive it most things, because I know it doesn't mean it in a malicious way. If the Doctor comments on Clara's tight skirt, I have no problem with that, any more than I suspect a female counterpart of mine would have problems with River Song making the Doctor uncomfortable with her ribald comments on how attractive she finds him.

I disagree with a lot of this post, but it doesn't annoy me, because I know it's not the truth. It's how someone sees the Moffat series, not haw the Moffat series is. The way I see it is not how it is either, but just my own interpretation. I'm secure in that, and happy that the way I see it is right for me. And short of the Doctor shooting someone with a gun explicitly because they're non-white, female, or gay, I'm fine with that.

Link | Reply

jane 2 years, 11 months ago

Making the Silurians a metaphor of the Palestinians does a disservice to both. The Palestinians were actively and intentionally displaced, and part of a long historical context. The Silurians, on the other hand, displaced themselves. To make this a metaphor is to suggest that the Palestinians are actually responsible for their plight, which is blatantly offensive.

Especially because the way the Silurians are originally presented back in the 70s suggests something completely different. Spencer, the man who first encounters them and comes out alive, ends up in a sick bay drawing "cave paintings" on the wall. The Doctor says the fear has "thrown the man's mind back millions of years!" Coupled with the fact that the Silurians are found deep below the surface of the Earth (a common metaphor for the deep subconscious) this rather suggests that the Silurians are better read as representative of our psychology as opposed to a specific political situation.

Not that there isn't a political reading here. The Silurians then and now fight amongst themselves as to what to do, as do we primates, and the show consistently depicts the militaristic tendencies of anyone on either side as being in the wrong, while also cynically suggesting that such tendencies will not be quelled.

Jack is wrong when he says that "all nuance was dropped from the Silurians," because the Silurians were never nuanced to begin with. The original Silurians were completely one-dimensional as individuals. The scientist is only interested in study, the wise Silurian leader wants to make peace, the young Silurian wants to make war (and be leader himself.) That was the extent of their characterization. Now the Silurians have names, and multiple motivations; they aren't defined solely by their function.

Nor does Cold Blood actually laud the use of torture. On the contrary, Ambrose's "reasonable" motivations for torturing and killing Alaya are not given a pass; indeed, not only does she doom any hope of peace, her actions are found morally repugnant: "Show your son how wrong you were, how there's another way. You make him the best of humanity, in the way you couldn't be." All of which is used to show that regardless of motivation, such acts are reprehensible.

Link | Reply

Steven Clubb 2 years, 11 months ago

While I shall not make the case that Moffat isn't sexist, I do find his breed of sexism to be really refreshing.

There's a lot of bloke humor, a lot of boys will be boys attitude in there, but at its core is the sense that he absolutely adores strong-willed and competent women. Narratively speaking, River has to be in a subordinate role as the show is called Doctor Who and does not revolve around her, but within that frame-work she is shown to extremely capable who is more capable in some regards, less capable in others, and generally brings a different skill-set to the table.

Amy is not unlike Rose in that she has no career ambitions and her life largely revolves a boyfriend she takes for granted (Rose simply didn't love Mickey in any way that mattered), but there's never a sense that she should sit back and let the men folk handle things. She's a partner in crime, bringing her own skills and sensibilities to the problem at hand. There's a great love and affection for the character even though she's often portrayed as callously self-centered... and it goes beyond her simply looking good in a mini-skirt.

So, yeah, there's sexism on display here, but there's also a complete acceptance of basic feminist ideals... and, unlike the RTD Era, they don't turn into monsters the second a baby exists their body.

Link | Reply

Jack Keyser 2 years, 11 months ago

Always interesting to see these posts and this one is certainly a touch more nuanced than the usual STFU-Moffat crowd though I, like jonathan inge, would like to see the more politics-heavy first draft version in the future.

Uhhh I don't really have much to say (second time commenter here on this nice blog? Someday I will cultivate opinions hopefully) only that the above gif positions Moffat as the architect of a Golden Age cruelly brought down by a hubristic, arrogant Tumblr!Doctor.

Link | Reply

Mackerel Sky, Ltd. 2 years, 11 months ago

Re: drfgsdgsdf
"I mean every season or series is flawed, nature of the beast, but Series 5 seems to get a pass based on the high of it's best work, rather than being brought down by it's worst (and I would argue that it's worst is as cynical as the very worst)."

I think the reason--or one of them--that people (myself included) point to Series 5 as the best season of contemporary Doctor Who, is not simply that we are enamoured of the "highest highs" of the season, whilst ignoring the lows, but because it is the season that most perfectly pulls off the season arc, with a season finale that involves elements of all previous episodes, in a more substantial way than adding "Bad Wolf" into the script or set somehow, or Series 6's awful PSA"Amy is both Pregnant and Not-Pregnant. You may now return to your previously scheduled one-off episode."

Davies's season arcs are more of an afterthought, and of Moffat's seasons, Series 5 is really the one season-arc where all the Moffatty cleverness pays off, the arc serving to elevate the season rather than drag it down like Series 6.

If you're just looking for a ratio of good episodes to bad, or some sort of normalization between the highlights and lowlights of a given season then yes, Series 5 might not be particularly excellent. But I generally only love 1-2 episodes/stories per season anyway, liking another 2-3, hating 1-2, and the rest being meh--ratios varying by season--so that might have something to do with it. For instance, the only episodes from S.3 I would choose to rewatch are Blink and the Human Nature/Family of Blood two-parter.

Link | Reply

John 2 years, 11 months ago

There's their argument in Asylum of the Daleks, where he says it's obvious he loves her more than she loves him. But that's not the same thing, I don't think. And they're both being pretty bitchy to each other at that point, iirc.

Link | Reply

Theonlyspiral 2 years, 11 months ago

I was expecting a whole lot more. I don't mean offense by that; I generally find your stuff challenges me strongly on many things and makes me reevaluate my beliefs. It's why (despite often disagreeing with you) I follow your blog. I know when I read your work it's going to be aggressive, angry and self-righteous. When I saw what today was, I was actually concerned that it would set me off my day. THAT is how strongly your writing affects me.

A lot of this is stuff I see on Tumblr, incomplete, half-formed and wrong. Rory as a "nice-guy"? A (apparently) deliberate misread of "The Beast Below" and it's political statement? Invoking the manic pixie dream girl without an example (because there is none) ? You ignore the fact that RTD made the Doctor straight and laid that at Moffat's feet. You miss the fact that the Doctor is WRONG about Clara being a mystery and that he is shown to be monstrous for thinking of her like that.

I dis-agree on the re-writing of Sardak's history being wrong, or the fact that Jenny and Vastra have a non-normative relationship, but those are matters of opinion. What gets me is that I'd thought the rise up of an oppressed population in "Day of the Moon" (which seems to endorse the kind of strike back against oppressors at any cost style of rebellion) seemed to disgust you.

I know this was rushed, I know this is not your best draft. But this was not the blistering assault I expected.

Link | Reply

David Anderson 2 years, 11 months ago

I realise I'm writing from a position of privilege here, but I find the most heteronormative relationship in New Who to be Doctor/Rose. The omnisexual third wheel is introduced and then almost immediately abandoned intentionally in order to leave the Doctor/ Rose relationship unthreatened. (Also Rose's arc is wrapped up first with Rose's nuclear family being reunited, and then with Rose setting up a nuclear family with the metacrisis Doctor.)

Link | Reply

Ross 2 years, 11 months ago

It's strange to me that anyone could find it refreshing in 2014, given that his breed of sexism was pretty much par for "progressive" sitcoms in the 1980s.

Link | Reply

Jack Graham 2 years, 11 months ago

I don't actually say the Silurians are a metaphor for the Palestinians. I simply draw an analogy between them. They are in an analogous (though far from fully-overlapping) political position.

Link | Reply

Jack Graham 2 years, 11 months ago

The thing that I - in my self-righteous way - find so worrying about Day of the Moon is precisely that it's *not* an uprising of the oppressed, yet it is couched as such. Moffat paints the masses hypnotised by a great saviour, becoming mindless killers, ignoring Nixon and ethnically cleansing an entire race who (whatever the writer thinks he's done) fail to look much like villains. And this is the only conceivable form of collective rebellion. It's yet another example of Moffat the neoliberal. Established forms of human power may be flawed but they are essentially unchallengeable. (To be fair, this is a psuedo-historical, and the historical genres have always had something of that conservative impulse built into them). The people can only rise up mindlessly when told to by someone powerful. Then they forget about it and everything gets back to normal. That this is couched in terms of a slave rebellion shows a huge degree of political confusion, confusion that maps perfectly onto neoliberal priorities and assumptions.

Link | Reply

Ross 2 years, 11 months ago

And don't forget, the people the Doctor has the human race mindlessly exterminate have been moving down through human history secretly guiding their destiny at every step, manipulating mankind down a technological path and forever shaping their destiny with the goal of....

Inventing the apollo space suit.

So that River can wear it when she shoots the Doctor.

Because they're an extremist faction of the Doctor's personal private military.

This would be the most pointlessly circituitous plan for evil domination involving the papacy in all of fiction if it weren't for that time anti-mutant extremists tried to get Nightcrawler papified so they could rapture him.

Link | Reply

Theonlyspiral 2 years, 11 months ago

People can live consensually in a non-typical power dynamic. Saying that troubles you borders on shaming.

Link | Reply

Steven Clubb 2 years, 11 months ago

To a large degree you're right, but in this kind of program it's amazing how easily shows fall back on "hot chick who kicks ass" or "lead heroine always having to be saved by secondary male character". I'm currently enjoying Lost Girl, which falls prey to both of those tropes without an ounce of self-awareness.

I think Moffat is part of a greater movement which is sincerely trying to create a more equatable environment for men and women. We've seen the sexy kick-ass heroine a million times, but Moffat is the one who casts a woman is not only middle aged, but looks it. She's not a 40 year old who can pass as a 20-something (again, Lost Girl).

And you know what, I'm not going to condemn bloke humor. I think it has its place, but we do need to continue to root out damaging bloke humor. A gag about a husband finding his wife's mini-skirt distracting is a different thing than a guy making pervy comments about random women. There's a sexual playfulness in a sexual relationship where you get to notice each other's naughty bits and be distracted by them. One is within boundaries previously established, the other is not. And the idea that we can still have quite a lot of adolescent fun within a feminist-friendly environment is something we're going to be seeing a lot more in the future. Two of the most juvenile games of the last few years are Borderlands 2 and Saints Row 3/4, both of which don't shy away from sexual humor but within a more female-friendly frame work.

And there's going to be mistakes made, there are going to be jokes that are over the line, and I'm happy to see people being called on it... but there's a lot of progress being made. I'd like to see Moffat's breed of sexism in more genre shows rather than what we too often get.

And, yeah, I like Lost Girl despite my annoyance with a couple of too commonly used tropes, but it still ends up treating the women in the main cast better than Grimm where the most prominent woman in the first couple of seasons was cast in the role of Stick in the Mud, who is neither interesting, complex, nor capable.

Link | Reply

Tom Dickinson 2 years, 11 months ago

I thought of that too, but it's definitely something quite different there, and even then it's clear that Moffat only has him bring it up to show that he's misguided in thinking that.

Link | Reply

Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

"A gag about a husband finding his wife's mini-skirt distracting is a different thing than a guy making pervy comments about random women. There's a sexual playfulness in a sexual relationship where you get to notice each other's naughty bits and be distracted by them."

Thank you. The joke in Space/Time was that Rory just happened to look up at Amy through a glass floor, saw up her skirt unintentionally, and dropped the techno-doodad that started the plot. It was not, in any way, presented as a sign of Rory's perviness, and frankly, I think it sounds like reverse sexism to say that women have the right to be as sex positive as they wish but men are to be condemned for any sexual thoughts they have in response.

Link | Reply

Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

"This would be the most pointlessly circituitous plan for evil domination involving the papacy in all of fiction if it weren't for that time anti-mutant extremists tried to get Nightcrawler papified so they could rapture him."

And yet, that STILL wasn't the worst storyline Chuck Austen ever wrote.

Link | Reply

Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

Am I the only one who gets the feeling that Jack Graham has watched each Matt Smith episode at least five times so that he can properly articulate EXACTLY how Steven Moffat has disappointed him this week. Then again, I think an intense desire for disappointment is the only reason I'd watch a mass market sci-fi children's show put on by a state-run television network in hopes of finding subversive content designed to undermine the Western neoliberal consensus.

Also, posts like this are why I personally hope that we never get a female Doctor -- because there is NOTHING a female Doctor could do or not do that would not be grounds for complaints of sexism, reverse sexism, or heteronormativism from some segment of the audience.

Link | Reply

Toby Brown 2 years, 11 months ago

Although I understand the criticisms of Moffatt and how problematic his version of Doctor Who is, I just can't see how it's any worse than the vast majority of media. I'm not saying that it means it doesn't matter (if anything it matters more that it can make it's issues invisible), but it does mean that I can't bring myself to demonise it. It's still one of the funniest, most intelligent, interesting eras the show has ever had (YMMV of course) and I'm going to enjoy it for that and just try and acknowledge that the show does have issues.

Link | Reply

Peter Wood 2 years, 11 months ago

"Oh, go on then, run! It's him again, isn't it? It's the Doctor! It's always the Doctor! It's always going to be the Doctor. It's never me!"

Oops, wait. That's Mickey.

Link | Reply

Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

I am of the opinion that the only way you will see a truly equal marriage with absolutely no power dynamics to worry about is in a marriage between two clones.

Link | Reply

Peter Wood 2 years, 11 months ago

I think the rape reading comes from the way Amy is traumatically abducted, used for one purpose, and discarded.

Link | Reply

Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

The Silurians treat humans just as humans treat other creatures. We use animals as food, pets, test subjects, clothing, etc. We feel above them. The Silurians behave no differently than we do.

Except, perhaps, for the fact that none of the animals used in that way are capable of looking us in the eye and saying in words we understand "please don't vivisect me" as Amy did with the Silurian.

Link | Reply

Theonlyspiral 2 years, 11 months ago

You mean the race that subverts our entire history so that our every output serves their whims, who dominate us in every area, who use a child as a weapon, who drive a man mad, fail to look like villains? What more do they need to do? Kick a Dog?

The collective bodies of human power are shown to be impotent. Pointedly, Nixon does not get a hero moment of killing a silent during the montage. Instead we get the average people, rising up and striking back at their oppressors. It's flawed but it's hardly a neo-liberal endorsement.

And the church is never shown to be the Doctor's "Personal Private Military". They ally against the Daleks. He works with them twice in Smith's entire run.

Link | Reply

Phil 2 years, 11 months ago

Reverse sexism isn't a thing though. Sexism isn't individual examples of discrimination, it's systemic. There does not exist a system that discriminates against men in favour of women. The idea that men are controlled entirely by their sexualities IS a legitimate issue, but it's a feminist issue that's also caught up in ideas of victim blaming and normative gender roles and the fact that these are enormously damaging to everyone within society. Which is sexism, not "reverse sexism".

Link | Reply

Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

Can anyone think of a single instance in which Rory ever indicates that he feels deserves to be with Amy, because of what he's done or gone through?

It's really quite the opposite, IMO. Far from demanding that Amy love him because he's a Nice Guy, he spends most of his time mired in insecurity, convinced that she'll drop him the first time someone better comes along.

Link | Reply

Theonlyspiral 2 years, 11 months ago

Jack you call them the "Palestinians of the Who universe". Even if you're not outright using a metaphor there, it's a damn bit stronger than a simple analogy.

Link | Reply

Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

Then we have stretched the definition of rape beyond all meaning. Personally, I think it trivializes rape to view every situation in which a woman is traumatized as a rape analogy.

Link | Reply

Peter Wood 2 years, 11 months ago

I got the opposite reading out of The Hungry Earth. The mother tortures Alaya and all she gets for it is a dead Silurian, motivating Restac to jump to all-out war. If the Siluran-human war had come, the blame would have rested almost entirely on the mother's shoulders. I hate that story because it's about people on both sides being mistrustful idiots, though I concede that that's what it was trying to do, and therefore I hate it for being effective.

Link | Reply

Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

Okay, then, I think it sounds like sexism to say that women have the right to be as sex positive as they wish but men are to be condemned for any sexual thoughts they have in response.

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 2 years, 11 months ago

I hope you will stick around. If only because I think I have readings of the Moffat era that are, to be honest, as innovative as anything I've done since the classic series. I mean, there's an occasional muttered criticism that goes by suggesting that maybe the blog has started agreeing with the default fan consensus a lot, which has been true for the wilderness years and the Davies years, and even for a lot of the Nathan-Turner era for the maddening reason that I think fandom has gotten most of those right.

That is not the case for the Moffat era. At all. I genuinely believe I have new things to say about these next three years. And I do hope that you'll stick around, even if you disagree, because I honestly think I'll give you new things to think about.

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 2 years, 11 months ago

To firmly defend Jack on the question of time pressure, I had an entry fall through about a week ago, and begged Jack to write this as a replacement. Jack stepped up to do a frankly ghastly brief on a week's deadline. Honestly, I think it's a fantastic post even without making excuses for it, but anyone who feels it needs excuses should rest assured that there are many valid ones. :)

Link | Reply

Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

Personally, I hated it because I thought it was practically a beat for beat remake of "The Silurians." Humans dig a big hole for some contrived reason. Silurians wake up and cause problems. Frightened humans respond stupidly and cause more problems. The Doctor tries to negotiate a peaceful solution but is undermined by extremist Silurians. Rocks fall. The Silurians go back to sleep. All the moral quandaries raised get punted for a generation or two. Oh, and at some point, the Doctor says something howlingly stupid about elementary biological science.

Link | Reply

encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

Theonlyspiral: what misreading of "The Beast Below" are you thinking of? For my part, I was surprised more wasn't made of the fact that Amy's clever solution here is to suggest that if only we would stop whipping it, the slave would actually choose to be a slave.

Link | Reply

Ross 2 years, 11 months ago

@Theonlyspiral: If you are suggesting that they are engaged in a complicated power-based sexual roleplay that they publically present to the world as an employer/servant relationship, I... disagree with your interpretation.

If you presented the scenario "A middle-class victorian marries the servant girl, but keeps her in her station as servant," I do not think it is reasonable to accuse anyone who finds that deeply problematic of "shaming". Given the history not just of SIlurians treating humans as being somehting akin to a lesser animal, but ALSO the particularly Victorian history of the upper classes taking terrible advantage, including sexually, of the lower classes, erasing all that borders on Splaining.

Link | Reply

xen trilus 2 years, 11 months ago

I don't see "complaints [ ] from some segment of the audience" going away regardless of what gender the Doctor is

Link | Reply

Ross 2 years, 11 months ago

It feels very much to me like Rory, and the narrative at large, is saying that Rory's mistake is Amy's fault. As if Rory had no agency of his own but was clearly powerless in the face of his wife's short skirt. Which is all part of the "Men are mindless penis-ruled animals who can't control themselves which is why we must instead control women" bullshit that infests pretty much all of our culture.

Link | Reply

Steven Clubb 2 years, 11 months ago

Ross, I see your point on this, but I think you're focusing far more "blame" on Amy than the tale intended. It's intended as a bit of screwball comedy where things are coming at you sideways, so Rory making a mistake and Amy accepting blame for it sets up the gag of how that could possibly be.

And you find that funny or not.

Reading deeper meanings into things not meant to have deeper meanings can be extremely problematic. Like do we take RTD to task for treating the sexual desires of a middle aged woman only as comedy (Moffat's "Silence in the Library" being one of the few examples where middle aged women are allowed to be sexually desirable without a punch-line attached). Well, no, because the joke is we're seeing these women through the eyes of their daughters who find their mother's sexuality embarrassing. RTD just finds this kind of thing funny.

Link | Reply

Theonlyspiral 2 years, 11 months ago

The part where the "classless""perfect" society is built on willing slavery, where the information is freely available, and when confronted with that face, people choose to ignore it and continue. It's a condemnation of of the mindless exploitation of others and complacency. Jack may say that critique goes nowhere, but it gets young people (the type the show, and this episode is targeted at) thinking about that sort of thing. It's not a fiery condemnation but its a start.

Link | Reply

encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

I was a bit disappointed that Philip wasn't the one writing this entry, because I wanted to see what flaws he personally saw in the Moffat era, or at least to see how he responded to the points that are usually raised against it. I hope we'll get some sense of that as we work through each story individually, but at the moment I see a lot of really good points Jack has raised and I have the uneasy feeling we won't hear about them again after this. That is, I get the sense that this is a way for Philip to exorcise these criticisms, to acknowledge them (and let someone else voice them) and get them out of the way, so he can focus on the redemptive reading without agreeing that they need to be redeemed in the first place.

That's sort of great, if only because Jack does this sort of thing better than almost anyone (and I'm with others in wanting to read some version of the first draft), and because it's exactly the sort of setup I'd want if I were Philip. But I hope it's not what I think it is.

I'm somewhere in the middle here. A lot of the things that annoy Jack annoy me about the Moffat years. I'm glad to see him call out "Christmas Carol," for instance, which is precisely the moment I decided I would have to change up my own expectations in order to really love the show. And I suspect that at least some of the things Philip loves about the Moffat years are things I love too.

Of course, the biggest of those things is Matt Smith. Jack and Lawrence Miles hate him, I'm with a zillion other people in loving him, and whatever flaws his Doctor might have, the actor is so tremendous that he makes even his worst episodes watchable. The importance of that can't be overstated, even if it's irrelevant to a post about writing and the story side of being a showrunner, except insofar as an actor's performance (Smith's, Kingston's, Gillan's, Darvill's) can communicate redemptive nuances that can work against what a script may on paper be implying.

I love "The Lodger," easily my favorite casual-viewing episode of the new series, though it's far from perfect. My complaints about it are more that it bums me out that the Doctor is good at sport than that Craig and Sophie are a heterosexual couple and that the (IMO intentionally a bit perverse) resolution is for them to give up their dreams in order to stay in suburbia together. And since Craig is one of my favorite New Series companions and I love the chemistry the actors have together and the way Roberts writes both of them, I'm OK with "Closing Time" too and can mostly ignore the ending (which would surely not have changed appreciably if the Doctor and Craig HAD been Stormageddon's parents).

I could go on, but really, people, we gotta save something for the individual entries, right? The last thing I'll say in this too-long comment is that I must be blinded by my own male privilege, because I can't figure out how calling someone, even a woman, a "gobby Australian" is an example of it.

Link | Reply

Jack Graham 2 years, 11 months ago

Well, maybe I could've phrased it more carefully. I think "the Palestinians of the Who universe" clearly indicates that I'm drawing an analogy, but perhaps something even clearer would've been wise.

Link | Reply

Matter-Eater Lad 2 years, 11 months ago

"Instead we get the average people, rising up and striking back at their oppressors."

Given that the Silence are capable of interstellar travel, and the Earth has just barely made it to the Moon in 1969, it also seems likely that the outcome of this will not be "genocide" but "making the Silence run away."

Link | Reply

Daibhid C 2 years, 11 months ago

"The one episode I truly dislike is "The Lodger" because it doesn't set up anything in the long run (although I think it was supposed to) and thereby comes across as filler."

The timeship in "The Lodger" is the same as the one in "The Impossible Astronaut." This never gets explained,even in "Time of the Doctor"'s "here's exactly how the Silence stuff fits together" scenes.

Link | Reply

Jack Graham 2 years, 11 months ago

This is where someone like me is in a bit of a trap.

If I don't watch the episodes at all (and I'm usually happy not to these days, until morbid curiosity gets the better of me) then I can't write about them. All well and good, some might say, but it leaves me without a potential subject because, in my amateur way, I'm a writer.

If I watch the episodes once only (these days I'm hardly ever minded to watch them again once I've seen them) then I haven't paid sufficient attention to them to be able to write about them knowledgeably.

If I watch them two, three, four or five times, in order to make sure I've *got* them, then I'm an obsessive hater who ludicrously forces himself to endure stuff he hates in order to rage about it.

As it happens, Phil will be able to confirm that I had to set time aside to get around to watching the most recent four episodes (including the 50th anniversary special) for the first time, in order to be in a position to write this essay without being ill-informed.

As it also happens, Encyclops has already pointed out something else about 'The Beast Below' that I should've mentioned, but which I forgot about because I've only seen it twice, several years ago.

Link | Reply

Jack Graham 2 years, 11 months ago

I, for one, will certainly be sticking around.

Link | Reply

drfgsdgsdf 2 years, 11 months ago

re: Series 5, for all my problems with it, I agree with what you say can firmly get behind the idea that as the Series works well as a whole, with each episode building to the next.

I would also add that that's the reason I still like Series 1 the best.
I think the Parting of the Ways does so much more than simply answer the (small) question of Bad Wolf. It deals with the themes of the series, and the emotional journeys both the companion and the Doctor have been on in every episode. But yes,I would say in that respect Series 5 comes a very close second.

I also agree with Mr. Inge about The Lodger's place. It makes more sense when you remember it was a late replacement for Gaiman's The Doctor's Wife. If I remember correctly, in the Series 5 version Idris's last words would've been to Amy asking to remember her. It would've seemed tragic at the time, but paid off at the wedding, with 'something old, something new' etc

What really puzzles me is where the other lost script from Series 5 would've fitted in: Gareth Roberts' Death to the Doctor.
It was about a disgraced Sontaran pursuing the Doctor. From the little I've read it would've been like a prequel to the Strax character in Good Man Goes to War. I suppose it could've set up how famous the Doctor had become for the Pandorica

Link | Reply

encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

You pointed out a lot of other stuff I missed on my first two viewings, so I'm glad of your different focus.

This sounds like an obnoxious rhetorical question, but I promise it's genuine curiosity about your perspective: are there any Moffat-era episodes you particularly liked or would at least hold up as his best efforts?

Link | Reply

drfgsdgsdf 2 years, 11 months ago

That was a dumb thing to say, Philip Sandifer, and I apologise. You would've been well within your rights to say something about good riddance and not letting the door hit me on the way out etc etc So thank you for being so classy. I will stick around, but keep my damn mouth shut more often,

Of course this blog is always interesting, complex and challenging, and fun. For what it's worth unlike, almost every other Who blog, I have never once dismissively rolled my eyes at anything written here.
And when it's caused to me to shake my head, it was still with the greatest respect. A respectful shake

Link | Reply

Theonlyspiral 2 years, 11 months ago

No. I am suggesting the relationship of the lizard-woman from the dawn of time, and her kung-fu maindservant may not be based on the modern-western power dynamic. You're free to disagree, but for numerous reasons I disagree with reading this as "A middle-class victorian marries the servant girl".

Link | Reply

encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

Accounts of lost scripts and moved episodes, along with my ongoing habit of reading The Writer's Tale at bedtime, two or three pages at a time, are giving me a somewhat more relaxed perspective about how well what makes it to the screen actually fits together. Davies ticking off the stuff he has to do over the course of a typical day is horrifying -- it's astonishing that he has two free minutes to think at all about what a script might end up being, particularly when he's trying to wrestle someone else's story into shape.

I wonder if modern Who might not benefit a bit from going back to more of the old producer/script editor model, or dividing the labor even more in some other way? It seems as though even with the Gardner/Davies duo they were both just slammed all the time. So many of our criticisms probably stem from having so much more time to think about these episodes than the people who made them did. I don't think that renders those criticisms invalid, but it does put them in perspective.

Link | Reply

Lokian Eule 2 years, 11 months ago

After the original Moffat-feminism post on this blog I wasn't really ready to read another one here, but I'm pleasantly surprised.

Link | Reply

Jack Graham 2 years, 11 months ago

Well I *quite* like (with reservations) most of what he wrote for the show before he took over. Everything up to 'Forest of the Dead' really, which is where I disembark. During his showrunner tenure? The last two episodes of Series 5 definitely have their good points. There's very little that I find even tolerable about Series 6. Things perk up a bit in Series 7. 'Bells of Saint John' has some good stuff in it. I'd like 'Crimson Horror' quite a lot if it weren't for the problems I mentioned.

Link | Reply

drfgsdgsdf 2 years, 11 months ago

I've heard the "making the Silence run away" line before, and watched the episode with that in mind
But the problem is we don't see a single Silence member run away. We see several different shots of different Americans in different locations. being triggered, and then shooting a Silent point blank.
We then see River blast about ten other members of the Silence, while flirting with the Doctor, The Doctor leaps about happily saying he shouldn't enjoy this, but he does.

We don't see a single Silent survive and run away. I remember the original explanation from fans was that this would be answered at the end of the arc. But it never was

Link | Reply

jane 2 years, 11 months ago

Indeed, the choice of Tumblr graphic is deeply ironic, given that moment represents not only one of RTD's more insensitive moments, but one that's a bit reprehensible for the Doctor, too.

Link | Reply

Steven Clubb 2 years, 11 months ago

I think I would have been far happier if they were the Palestianians of the Who Universe (and have the original story set much further in the future). That they had a legitimate claim gives them some weight, but the present day setting of the original meant they had to be removed by story's end. So they had to make their actions so extreme that the Brig could kill them all without being a complete villain.

The whole concept is a big wobbly wheel which the Pertwee Era was ill-suited to handle.

Link | Reply

Alex 2 years, 11 months ago

Yes, I know he's a bit racist and, as a mixed-race brown man I should probably care, but sod it - I loved Patrick Moore, and always have done, ever since I was a junior astronomer, pointing my Fisher Price telescope up at Orion's belt. 'The Patrick Moore Astronomy Pack', acquired from the Royal Observatory at Greenwich was my bible.

And, of course, he was the frigging Gamesmaster. God rest ye, Patrick.

(Thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the column, much as I also enjoy the Moffat era.)

Link | Reply

hobbit-feets 2 years, 11 months ago

My problem with Jenny and Vastra is not that they're non-normative, an 'exceptional' queer couple-- indeed, on paper, I adore the concept-- nor indeed the potential for power imbalance-- but rather that their relationship is not respected by the text. Repeatedly, they're used as a punchline-- oho, look at that naughty reference to oral sex with lizard tongues; the reveal that Vastra is a woman married to a woman is supposed to be more shocking to a Victorian man than the fact that she's a lizard person, etc etc. Nor are they allowed the kind of casual physical affection one sees in, say, Amy and Rory's marriage. Jenny has been sexually assaulted by the Doctor, but she hasn't kissed her own wife onscreen. Further, there's no sense of the social context in which their relationship occurs; never does one get the sense that they're living in a society which would jail them (or in Vastra's case, probably vivisect her for Science) were their sexual proclivities discovered. Granted, acknowledgement of broader social context is not exactly one of Moffat's strengths.

I see a lot of people who hold up Jenny and Vastra's relationship as a reason why Moffat's Who *clearly* can't be sexist or homophobic, and yet to me, that doesn't translate onscreen. They way they've been executed, Jenny and Vastra are little better than a schtick.

Link | Reply

jane 2 years, 11 months ago

That there are still Silents in 2011, in Utah, suggests that that genocide did not occur.

What no one seems to be pointing out is that the Silents themselves are responsible for the brainwashing. Not only do they start it, being hidden shadowy monsters who've colonized us and made us into unwitting slaves (and really, to defend the Silents is to say that we'd all be perfectly happy slaves if only we repeatedly forget we were slaves, that's a real nice political message), they themselves believe and state out loud that we "should kill them all on sight." Their brainwashing power has simply been used against them; the tools of the masters become their undoing.

Of course, as to their villainy, not only do they subvert our entire history, make us serve their whims, turn a child into a weapon, kill an innocent woman in the bathroom, and drive a man mad, they actively tamper with our memories. Lest we forget, the entire preceding season was devoted to exploring the importance of Memory and identifying it as something precious to our humanity; indeed, its treatment is kin to being "sacred."

Of course, this plays well into the positioning of the Silence as a religious order. Not only does it suggest that religion is a form of brainwashing, but that it's actually antithetical to a humanist spirituality.

Link | Reply

jane 2 years, 11 months ago

"Repeatedly, they're used as a punchline"

No, it's the backwards reactions of the people around them that are used as punchlines. In this respect, the text absolutely respects them. And, likewise, there are plenty of moments when Vastra and Jenny aren't being used to make fun of homophobia at all, but are actually about their relationship.

For example, there's Vastra's tender remembrance of how she and Jenny first met, and her utter terror when Jenny disappears. Their bantering just before the tongue joke suggests an ongoing issue regarding Vastra's "insensitivity", in this case her rather dismissive attitude towards gender. There's the constant eye-contact between the two during Clara's "One-Word Test" -- Vastra's constantly looking to Jenny to confirm that Clara's the real deal, which belies the power dynamic of their relationship.

Even the tongue joke isn't played as "naughty" -- if anything, it's celebratory. Why does Jenny stay with the insensitive Vastra? At least in part it's because they have fabulous sex. That moment isn't played as something to be ashamed of. Quite the opposite -- Jenny seems extremely happy with that aspect of their relationship. Nor is it played for the male gaze. The humor isn't based on their being lesbian, but solely on the surprise that the show has the audacity to present someone who obviously likes sex, communicated entirely through Jenny's gaze.

Link | Reply

jane 2 years, 11 months ago

"Moffat is the Great Intelligence" is the best part of Jack's whole wonderful essay.

Link | Reply

jane 2 years, 11 months ago

Even as an analogy, Jack, likening the Silurians to the Palestinians isn't terribly apt, for precisely the reasons stated. When you do so, you're making the Palestinians culpable for their displacement. It's a terrible, terrible analogy.

Link | Reply

drfgsdgsdf 2 years, 11 months ago

The scene where Amy sees the Silence by Lake Silencio also puts paid to the idea that they were "made to run away" unless they got back pretty quickly.
We can conclude that a lot of them got gunned down by brainwashed people and that was that

I do think there's the question of whether using an alien's evil brainwashing techniques to brainwash the human race to kill them, doesn't make you as bad as that evil aliens themselves.
It's a question the episode doesn't even consider, not even for a moment. Not even a "We did good Professor?"

And it's a long way away from the supposed even handed nature of the Moffat era (Beast Below/Hungry Earth) proposed above.

What's more I'd like to think that if I ever encountered aliens who had brainwashed humanity for centuries, and kidnapped a child etc and I had a chance to stop them, I would. I'd like to think I wouldn't "enjoy it" like the Doctor gleefully does. If I did it would trouble me

I'd honestly be far more curious about what they thought they were doing and why.
But that's the problem with Series 6's arc based plotting, you can only get so curious about something, before you have to move on to the next pirate ship

And what to make of the Doctor working side by side with the more authoratative Papal side of the religious order in Time of the Doctor.

Link | Reply

Alex 2 years, 11 months ago

Incidentally, I do long for Jack's opinion on Corden/Cameron...

Link | Reply

Theonlyspiral 2 years, 11 months ago

The idea that mankind would be better with a secret oppressor guiding them appalls me. When you oppress someone for (minimum) thousands of years, you don't get the moral high ground, you don't get consideration. The question isn't asked because there's no question that it's the right thing to do.

The Doctor has long been cosey with authoritative bodies while he feels they do more good than harm. The church undertaking missions like eradicating the Angels seems like an organization he'd want to owe him some favors.

Link | Reply

jane 2 years, 11 months ago

Regarding the Beast Below...

There are several aspects of the story that have been overlooked. First, it's actually trying to present a systemic critique as opposed to one based on "bad things happen because of bad people." The entire system of Starship UK is at fault, and it perpetuates itself. The real "monsters" are the people who maintain it, the "police" men who are twisted two-faced oppressors. Nor should we discount Amy Pond for recognizing an appropriate solution -- she forces Liz X to press the "abdicate" button that strips the monarchy of its power and signals the end of the system itself.

No, it's not the most elegant critique of political economy. But coupled with the Doctor's sheer rage at everyone for their complicity, at least it's trying. (Interesting how the Elevators Of Doom are sponsored by a "candy burger" company.)

Secondly, regarding the metaphor of the Star Whale, it's explicitly likened to the Doctor: "What if you were really old, and really kind and alone? Your whole race dead. No future. What couldn't you do then? If you were that old, and that kind, and the very last of your kind, you couldn't just stand there and watch children cry." It's blatantly obvious that Amy understands the Star Whale because she understands the Doctor.

This, then, is the primary intended metaphor. To say the Star Whale (a volunteer savior) represents the working classes, or any oppressed people, is to make a gross error. Obviously, the oppressed are not volunteers. Nor do the oppressed have such singular freedom and power like the Doctor. To force the Star Whale into a class metaphor is quite simply a mistake. It's trying to shoehorn a flipper into a jackboot.

That doesn't mean that the obvious metaphor isn't deserving of criticism, but it should be criticized as such. The story seems to be saying that the Doctor will carry Britain on his back into space -- out to the stars. It's a rich metaphor (the most obvious being that the show itself stirs the imagination) but it's obviously problematic. It plays into the "great man" trope, and furthermore makes the "great man" an aggrieved party who if only he was understood should be adored. Gack.

But there's a second reading for the Star Whale which is also built into the story. It comes from the poems that frame the episode:

:: A horse and a man, above, below
:: One has a plan, but both must go
:: Mile after mile, above, beneath
:: One has a smile, and one has teeth
:: Though the man above might say hello
:: Expect no love from the beast below.
::
:: In bed above we're deep asleep
:: While greater love lies further deep
:: This dream must end, this world must know
:: We all depend on the beast below.

This is a metaphor for the relationship between the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. The subconscious is where emotions are generated. It is where our individual and personal monsters reside -- but it is also the place where are better natures reside, too. It is the place of angels and demons, the "id" and the "superego" as Freud might put it.

In which case, the story isn't just an allegory about the problems of political systems, and not just an extended metaphor for the Doctor (and Doctor Who), but also functions at the level of individual psychology. It specifically indicates that we can't repress the "beast below" but must reconcile ourselves to our own dual natures. This theme, by the way, runs through all of Series Five, at least.

Link | Reply

Triturus 2 years, 11 months ago

Yeah, I get the same feeling. I come away from posts like these with a sense of unease, like I've been obliquely accused of complicity in some dreadful crime just because I enjoy the last three seasons of Dr Who. Every time I read a post vehemently declaring Moffat's treatment of gender, race, politics or whatever in Doctor Who as being "heinous", or "horrific" or whatever, I just can't get on board with that strength of feeling, and because I don't have the critical skills to properly articulate why I disagree, I just end up feeling vaguely unhappy about the whole thing.

I probably just need to put down the internet for a bit and stop being such a whiny prat. Hey ho.

Link | Reply

jane 2 years, 11 months ago

"In Moffat’s show, women are overwhelmingly defined by their traditional gender roles or bodily functions."

No, the critique of Moffat's show is overwhelmingly defined by hinging on traditional gender roles and bodily functions. This is the most disappointing part of Jack's essay (which I love for its fire and desire to improve our lot) because it actively ignores and dismisses all the fantastic traits of Amy, River, and Clara that have nothing to do with traditional gender roles or bodily functions. The text isn't reductive, it's the critique.

Let's start with Amy. Amy is first and foremost defined by her intelligence, by her ability to remember, by her conflicting needs of adventure and settling down, and by her violence. Repeatedly the text bears this out:

-- The Eleventh Hour: she infiltrates the hospital, explores Prisoner Zero's room despite the Doctor's admonitions, defeats Prisoner Zero by remembering what he looks like, and leaves on an adventure the night before her wedding. She hits the Doctor with a cricket bat and bites her psychiatrists.

-- Beast Below: She's the one who figures out the nature of the Star Whale, which is accomplished through a near-photographic memory. She knows how to pick locks, and she's willing to go where she's not supposed to go. She uses force to make Liz X abdicate her power.

-- Victory of the Daleks: Amy is the one who successfully disarms Bracewell, because she has a better understanding of the dual nature of human psychology (unlike the Doctor.)

-- Time of Angels: Amy defeats the Angel in the video monster by successfully understanding both the nature of a looping video feed as well as the nature of an Angel itself. She revels in this victory. In "Flesh and Stone" it's established that she has strong memory, and is willing to risk her life and ignore the Doctor's warnings by opening her eyes to see the shape of "the Light." In the end she tries to force herself onto the Doctor.

-- Vampires of Venice: Amy kills the vampire that's threatening Rory by using her intelligence, directing sunlight at it through the use of her compact mirror. She demonstrates bravery in infiltrating the vampire lair, and kicks the vampire queen.

-- Hungry Earth/Cold Blood: Amy picks the Silurian Doctor's pocket to save herself, acquires weapons, figures out that most of the Silurians are in suspended animation, and contributes to the negotiation of a peace settlement between Silurians and humans.

-- The Lodger: Successfully uses the TARDIS to do research.

-- The Pandorica: Fights off a Cyberman, observes that Pandora's Box and Romans are favorite subjects of hers, saves herself from the Pandorica, and remembers her parents, Rory, and the Doctor back into existence.

That's just Series Five. Afterwards we see Amy fight pirates, shoot an Apollo astronaut, kick and punch doll monsters, prepare to fight at Demon's Run armed with only a pipette, slay countless robot nurses, and shoot the Doctor in the head with a stun gun after leading a paramilitary operation to rescue him from Churchill. Amy's the one who first captures an image of a Silent with her cell phone, who figures out the telepathic "password" to the auxiliary console in the TARDIS, who figures out how to summon the Doctor by making a "crop circle," who builds her own sonic probe, who discovers the secret of the Silurian Ark, and who restarts the Doctor's heart with a defibrillator.

To say that Amy is "overwhelmingly defined by her gender role and bodily functions" -- that she's first and foremost to be identified as a wife and mother -- not only completely discounts all of her accomplishments, idiosyncrasies, intelligence, and character, it's to say that any woman should be considered in any other light other than as a wife and mother simply through becoming married and having children.

It's a deeply reactionary critique.

Link | Reply

jane 2 years, 11 months ago

"it's to say that any woman should be considered in any other light other than as a wife and mother simply through becoming married and having children"

should read

"is to say that any woman shouldn't be considered in any other light other than as a wife and mother simply through becoming married and having children."

Link | Reply

Doctor Memory 2 years, 11 months ago

So much to engage with here that other people are already doing better than me, but this one bit stuck out:

...the truly jaw-dropping moment when the Doctor forcibly snogs – i.e. sexually harasses – a young woman whom he knows to be in a committed same-sex relationship

Good grief. If you're going to insist on reading that scene in the most uncharitable light possible, at least get it right: what the Doctor does there is not "sexual harassment," a term with several colloquial and legal meanings, none of which apply here, it's simple assault.

(Whether a joyful dry kiss of someone with whom, narratively, the Doctor has been friends for minimally years should actually be read as assaultive is of course a dissertation onto itself.)

Link | Reply

Alex Antonijevic 2 years, 11 months ago

Glad I'm not alone in this.

Link | Reply

Ross 2 years, 11 months ago

The idea that mankind would be better with a secret oppressor guiding them appalls me. When you oppress someone for (minimum) thousands of years, you don't get the moral high ground, you don't get consideration. The question isn't asked because there's no question that it's the right thing to do.

And, of course, it turns out that their goal is not conquest or shaping human destiny or any of that. All of it, being secret oppressors for thousands of years, is exclusively for the purpose of killing the Doctor. There is no higher meaning to it than that. Their entire raison d'etre is to kill the Doctor before he gets to Trenzalore.

They shaped all of human history for that reason alone.

If you're going to commit a moral outrage on that scale, it is kind of a ridiculous payoff.

Link | Reply

Theonlyspiral 2 years, 11 months ago

To kill the Doctor, to stop the Time Lords returning which will (in their opinion) restart the Time War. The pay off actually seems reasonable when not leaving things out. They are manipulating human history for what they believe is a fine end, but there were many slave owners who though their slaves needed them. You don't get to take away an entire race's agency because you think you know better.

Link | Reply

Daibhid C 2 years, 11 months ago

but I agree with an earlier comment here that what I would not tolerate from a stranger I would tolerate from a well-loved but misguided family member or friend.

In principle, yes. But in practice it's not quite that simple, at least for me. If a well-loved but misguided friend were to express views I found problematic, I'd be able to talk to them about it. I can't talk to Doctor Who; the friendship is one-way.

In addition, though, if my well-loved friend is not expressing these thoughts in private conversation, but a public meeting, social media, or maybe a regular column in the Daily Mail, my next thought, selfish as it may be, would be "If people get outraged by this, what do they think of me?" Even if I'm trying to change the subject as tactfully as possible, rather than explicitly say "Well, I don't agree with what he's saying, but he's a nice chap, so cut him some slack", I'm down in their books as The Friend Of The Sexist Guy.

And that's why I get more annoyed about apparent sexism etc. in Doctor Who than in a programme I never liked that much anyway. The same reason why "Has DC Comics Done Something Stupid Today?" is compulsive, cringe-inducing reading, as I wonder what the company whose comics I, most of the time, love has done to make me embarassed to be a fan now.

Because if my well-loved friend is actually an unrepentant misogynist, then maybe I never knew them that well in the first place.

Mind you, I think Jack's overstating his case, and I do, in fact, like the Moffat era. But "My series, right or wrong!" isn't a philosophy I can get behind.

Link | Reply

Daibhid C 2 years, 11 months ago

On the subject of the "tight skirt" line, incidentally, ISTR someone somewhere saying that this was obviously a line Moffat added to Gaiman's script. Any evidence for that, or is it just that All Sexism Must Be Moffat's Fault and Neil's one of the "good guys" so it can't have been him?

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 2 years, 11 months ago

The latter. Absolutely, 100% certain the latter.

Link | Reply

Daibhid C 2 years, 11 months ago

The idea that mankind would be better with a secret oppressor guiding them appalls me.

I honestly haven't seen anyone in this thread saying that.

When you oppress someone for (minimum) thousands of years, you don't get the moral high ground, you don't get consideration. The question isn't asked because there's no question that it's the right thing to do.

The question as I understand it isn't whether it's the right thing to do to the Silents. It's whether it's the right thing to do to humanity.

You don't get to take away an entire race's agency because you think you know better.

Unless you're the Doctor.

Is a story where The Man From Outside steals the slaver's whip and uses it to force the slaves into killing the slaver the same as a story about a slave uprising?

Link | Reply

David Anderson 2 years, 11 months ago

As a matter of fridge logic: All the Doctor knows is that Canton signed off the Silence's statement. Every time the Doctor looks at the broadcast and sees that it will result in actual genocide, he immediately forgets.

Link | Reply

Daibhid C 2 years, 11 months ago

if only we would stop whipping it, the slave would actually choose to be a slave.

Since I'm apparently determined to disagree with everyone about everything: Surely the difference between slave and not-slave is the ability to choose?

Personally, I was reminded of the comicbook cliche where the criminal mastermind blackmails the superhero into rescuing his daughter from kidnappers or something, and the hero doesn't understand why they'd bother; if the mastermind's daughter is in danger, of course he's going to save her.

Does this make the superhero a slave? Only to their own sense of morality, surely.

Link | Reply

soru 2 years, 11 months ago

Once you have started noticing it, it does tend to stick out. The number of times you read something that seamlessly transitions from talking about the details of a script written by person X (for any X, though commonly a G) to how Moffat is literally the worst monster in history probably isn't really all that large.

But it is certainly non-zero.

Link | Reply

Doctor Memory 2 years, 11 months ago

Thank you, this was pretty much everything I wanted to say, only much better written than I was likely to produce. :)

Link | Reply

Matthew Blanchette 2 years, 11 months ago

Incidentally, what all critics of that scene seemingly miss is that the kiss was suggested and improvised by Matt Smith, and was not original to the script.

Link | Reply

BerserkRL 2 years, 11 months ago

When I read criticisms of Moffat, I usually find myself mostly agreeing. And when I read defenses of Moffat, I likewise find myself mostly agreeing. I think he has both enormous flaws and enormous virtues, and infuse both into his shows.

Apologies for my unexciting position.

Link | Reply

Whittso 2 years, 11 months ago

I enjoyed Jack's blog post and many of the comments, and I agree with some of the criticisms made, but I have to say when I read Jane's comments I could hear "I am the Doctor" in my head....

Dun dun DUN da dun da dun....

Link | Reply

Daru 2 years, 11 months ago

Got in late and missed the debate - but immediate gut response is well done Jack for jumping into the fray with such a tight deadline and a tough brief! I don't have the same experience as you with regards to Moffat's era, as I really respond to this time through really being into the faerie/magical storytelling elements that were brought in - and consequently love this era.

Great to read your essay though and I will go back to it again to read it properly. The most glorious moment (I agree with you Jane!) Jack is when you describe Moffat as being the Great Intelligence - sheer genius! I believe he would genuinely LOVE being seen as that, and may secretly do so in his own head...

Link | Reply

Iain Coleman 2 years, 11 months ago

To say that Amy is "overwhelmingly defined by her gender role and bodily functions" -- that she's first and foremost to be identified as a wife and mother -- not only completely discounts all of her accomplishments, idiosyncrasies, intelligence, and character, it's to say that any woman should be considered in any other light other than as a wife and mother simply through becoming married and having children.

It's also to ignore the core message of the end of series 5 and beyond: that marriage and parenthood are not the end of the story, and don't mean you have to stop adventuring. Marriage as an end-state, a goal, the final tying-up of the story is absolutely standard, from fairy tales to Shakespeare. How many of the Doctor's previous companions have got married off? How many have jumped right back into the Tardis again afterwards for more adventures? Moffat is saying something unusual and important here, that doesn't fit well into the standard argument structures of gender-based critique.

Link | Reply

jane 2 years, 11 months ago

And, in story, the Doctor seems to do it in order to provoke Jenny into slapping him ("You have no idea how good that feels"), presumably to finish up his recovery, or just to slap some sense into him. Regardless, the text makes it clear through Jenny's slap that the Doctor is in the wrong here.

This is as good as any place to point out that the Doctor should not be used as a source of morality, either by the writers or the readers. The Doctor is a source of mercury, which makes him more of a psychopomp who leads us to the strange, the weird, the unsettling, not the arbiter of Good and Evil. (The Companions are the true source of morality.) Putting him in the position of the Hero is always going to be problematic, because his solutions aren't always going to be "moral". They will be mercurial, the quicksilver which can "reverse the polarity" of a situation.

Not to say that the Doctor doesn't have a sense of morality, or that we can't glean some moral ideas from him that reflect a perspective broader than our own, just to say that "morality" isn't really his proper role in the narrative. I certainly don't look to him for it.

Link | Reply

jane 2 years, 11 months ago

One of the most sensible positions I've seen today.

Link | Reply

encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

jane, I can see why you favor this reading. If nothing else, it allows you to accept Amy's unsupported intuition at face value, and it's presumably more what Moffat intended. But to say that it's "blatantly obvious," and that any other reading is "a gross error" and "quite simply a mistake" seems a bit over the top to me. Neither Amy's comparison of the Star Whale to the Doctor nor yours to the subconscious quite convince me, but I'm not prepared to say you're incorrect to explore it.

Link | Reply

Ross 2 years, 11 months ago

When I read criticisms of Moffat, I find myself agreeing in principle and disagreeing in particular. When I read defenses of Moffat, I find myself agreeing with the defender's opinion about the detractors and disagreeing with the defense. It feels a lot to me like most defenses of Moffat are less about what the defender thinks of Moffat and more about what the defender thinks about Moffat-haters.

Link | Reply

encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

Surely the difference between slave and not-slave is the ability to choose?

Perhaps a relevant question to the Vastra/Jenny debate. :)

But if I'd said "...if only we would stop whipping it, the slave would still choose to be a servant doing exactly the same duties it had performed as a slave," would that sound better to you? It wouldn't to me.

It's interesting to compare what happens with the Star Whale here to what happens with the Doctor in "Time." In both cases, we're presented with a very old creature that spends a long time more or less trapped by circumstance and obliged by morality (we're told) and a love for children to save a small group of ape descendants from their own fecklessness, who upon eventually being given an opportunity to escape ends up sticking around to do the same thing by choice. I'm not certain why I find this easier to buy when the Doctor does it than when the Star Whale does it. Maybe it's that the Doctor has a voice he uses to declare his intentions (not to mention a prophecy that says this is what he does), and we have no way of knowing what the Star Whale is thinking or feeling (for all we know it's so damaged at this point that it can't really escape anymore). Maybe it's that the Star Whale so easily stands in for the way we treat animals and the way we treat the underclass, and the Doctor can't. Or maybe it's just that a comparison of the Star Whale with the Doctor is a wild guess, and a comparison of the Doctor with the Doctor is tautological.

Link | Reply

encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

The Doctor is a source of mercury, which makes him more of a psychopomp who leads us to the strange, the weird, the unsettling, not the arbiter of Good and Evil.

On this point I absolutely agree with you, and I love the way you put it.

Link | Reply

encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

Of course, if he's the Great Intelligence, he's also Clara -- DOUBLY rewriting the Doctor's narrative to suit himself...

Link | Reply

Ross 2 years, 11 months ago

At the time I really liked The Beast Below, but reading this exchange reminds me of a complaint I often have about Hollywood's liberal leanings: that they're not actually about being liberal so much as about making rich liberals feel good about themselves. On one level, the crux of this episode is telling the wealthy priviliged people who are being driven neurotic over their guilt at the fact that their civilization is built on exploitation: Don't worry; your pain is entirely of your own making; make a one-time act of contrition and you can have your guilt assuaged without having to give up even the slightest amount of the comfort and privilege your exploitation of others has earned you.

Link | Reply

jane 2 years, 11 months ago

I'm not saying that "any other reading" is a gross error -- I'm saying that likening the Star Whale to a class struggle as a means of criticizing the text, in particular, is a gross mistake, given that the text itself has explicitly linked the Star Whale to the Doctor.

That likening of Amy's isn't unsupported intuition. The text specifically says that the Star Whale is "the last of its kind"; Amy specifically remembers the Doctor making this same point about himself ("Just me now.") It points out that it arrived at a moment of crisis, when "children screamed", and that it won't eat the children; the beginning of the story goes to great lengths to point out that the Doctor's stated policy of non-interference goes out the window when he sees a little girl crying. I'm sorry, encyclops, but that practically defines "blatantly obvious."

Now I'll readily admit that reading the Star Whale as a metaphor for class struggle is interesting and even worthwhile -- we should always be searching for such metaphors in our texts. But we should equally be aware of when other metaphors have been deliberately placed into the text, and modify the conversation around the implications of class politics themselves, without mistaking any of those implications as representative of the position of the text.

Jack's right, of course, that the lack of any class consciousness on Starship UK, as represented by the banality of the mall, is certainly ripe for critique, as is its monarchical government. Even here, though, I wouldn't say its reflective of the text's attitudes (and hence Moffat's) considering that the entire setup is eventually challenged; it's not like Starship UK is presented as an idealized situation. It is appropriate, however, to point how this vision can highlight the problems with neoliberalism itself.

Link | Reply

jonathan inge 2 years, 11 months ago

@Alan.

Reading some of Shabogan Graffiti today, I came across this quote: "I don't know about you, but my compassion for someone is not limited to my estimate of their intelligence."

As one biologist told me, we shouldn't apply our outlook/disposition on animals' behaviors. However animals do communicate, have emotions, and most react to pain and suffering akin to human responses under adverse conditions.

To use a being's level of intelligence and ability as an excuse to subjugate them is terrible.




Link | Reply

encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

I didn't think I was suggesting anything about the text's attitudes. I didn't think I had to be.

And yes, it's blatantly obvious why Amy draws these connections, and that we're meant to accept them as conclusive. In Amy's situation I myself would find those connections specious, and as a viewer I still do.

Where we might agree is that ending the torture promptly is the right thing to do, even if we disagree about how safe (diegetically speaking) a gamble it might be.

Link | Reply

encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

Incidentally, I happened to watch Sucker Punch this week. I found it pretty impressive compared to what I'd been expecting.

Link | Reply

Tom Dickinson 2 years, 11 months ago

That's definitely part of it, but there's also a Tumblr post (http://neil-gaiman.tumblr.com/post/50290346173/re-nightmare-in-silver-how-did-you-mesh-in-continuity) in which Gaiman sidesteps a direct question about the "skirt" line by answering "Some lines were mine, some weren’t."

Link | Reply

jane 2 years, 11 months ago

I see.

I'd agree that, in terms of "realism", Amy's reasoning doesn't have much to go on. But I think it's important to note that fictions -- especially genre fictions with a fantasy bent -- aren't beholden to such considerations. In this particular case, the point of showing us Amy's reasoning isn't to display how blindingly clever that reasoning per se is (as if solving the "moral dilemma" was the point of the story) it's to show us how Amy reasons, and that her reasoning is perfectly apt within the narrative conventions of Doctor Who. Its primary purpose is to reveal character and theme; the plot is simply the vehicle to deliver those revelations.

I still stand by my critique of Jack's analysis, which is primarily concerned with the attitudes of the text (not the realism thereof) yet fails to recognize the text's most blatant features. As I was writing about the text's attitudes, and Jack's reading of those attitudes, I assumed you were, too.

Link | Reply

John 2 years, 11 months ago

In that case all of human civilization is inexcusably monstrous and probably unforgivable. I don't see how taking that position leads us anywhere useful.

Link | Reply

Spoilers Below 2 years, 11 months ago

If you check out the license plate of Rory's car in "The Eleventh Hour," it reads "NISE CUY". (Around 38:00 in) Not quite "Nice Guy", but darn close.

I mean, come on. That's piling it on a little blatantly, isn't it?

Link | Reply

Peteski 2 years, 11 months ago

Yep, yep, yep. Love this Jane.

And Iain, I agree so much with this. Such a big step forward from Susan and even Leela

Link | Reply

Jack Graham 2 years, 11 months ago

With respect to Jane (who totally rocks): "likening the Star Whale to a class struggle"... I didn't do that. In fact, that's kind-of the exact opposite of what I did. :)

Link | Reply

Jack Graham 2 years, 11 months ago

Except, of course, when five minutes after showing him as thrillingly amoral, someone (writer or star or whoever) wants him to go back to being the most moral person in the universe.

Link | Reply

Jack Graham 2 years, 11 months ago

In don't care who wrote it. It's in there. That makes it fair game.

Link | Reply

Jack Graham 2 years, 11 months ago

As I said, Moffat can get away with more precisely because he seems on side. The essence of neoliberal feminism. Neoliberalism loves strong female characters that can lean in, etc, because it can utilise their strengths. Meanwhile, being a deeply two-faced form of praxis, it can also utilise them for how they look in policewoman outfits, how they produce babies, etc etc.

Link | Reply

RBC 2 years, 11 months ago

I think accusations of sexism within pop culture are prone to analytical sloppiness, because this form of critique exists within a dichotomy between individual textual analysis and overarching trends. If the top 100 movies with female protagonists revolve around them getting married, there's probably a problem. But the fact that a movie includes this trope doesn't make it inherently sexist. There are many narrative elements that are simply namedropped as evidence of sexism without providing any supporting analysis, because it's assumed that one representation of one man/woman/other embodies - in this case - Moffat's view of that gender.

This is why I think it's instructive to genderswap or invert some of the allegedly sexist representations criticised in Jack's post, and see what happens.

- A Christmas Carol: Abigail is a bitter, meanspirited old dictator who, once a year, just needed the presence of a defrosted Kazran to make her into a good person. All women become bitter and meanspirited without a caring, loving man in their life.
- Osgood: she is secretly consumed with jealousy of her brother. Women have penis envy because men are better than women and masculinity is better than femininity.
- River: she has no discernable sexuality, no sexual chemistry with anyone, and pays no attention to girly things like her hair and weight. Women past their mid 20s aren't sexually desirable.

I'm stretching some of the analysis a bit, but it's not dissimilar to the slapdash rhetoric often used by Moffat haters. The reason I think inverting these narratives is meaningful is that it reveals the degree to which perceived instances of sexism rely on tenuous interpretation and extrapolation. If reversing the gender roles in a supposedly sexist characterisation could produce an equally sexist reading, I'm not convinced of the analytical validity of the interpretation.

Compare the above with the following:

- Plot opener: Amy looks up through a glass floor, catches a glimpse of Rory's hot ass, gets distracted and drops a thing
- The doctor refers to a male companion as “a mystery wrapped in an enigma squeezed into pants that are just a little bit too tight”.

I could picture the first of these scenarios being framed as farcical, but not normal or convincing. The second certainly has homosexual undertones. More importantly, I can't imagine either of these scenes being shown in a televised episode of Doctor Who. It's "normal" for women to be the target of such behaviours, but not men. That, in my opinion, constitutes sexism.

I think Jack hits on a more incisive line of argument when he writes that,
"Fetishizing ‘power’ in women characters... isn’t the same as writing them as human beings."
Addressing sexist representations isn't just about subverting gender essentialism, it's about portraying women as 3-dimensional people. Two ways of doing this come to mind: having a profusion of different female characters, and fleshing out female leads properly and convincingly. The Moffat era of DW seems ill-equipped to adopt either of these approaches, but I would argue this has little to do with overt sexism. As has been mentioned, seasons 5-7 of the show focus far more heavily on the interiority of the doctor and his companions, and I think the accusation of flat characterisation is far more applicable to Rory than anyone else. At most, I would allow a claim that Moffat's directional vision and style of characterisation have disproportionately negative impacts on female portrayals, by exacerbating representational imbalances that already exist. (i.e. having 1-dimensional female characters is worse than having 1-dimensional male characters, because women are so often depicted 1-dimensionally in pop culture to begin with.) That's not a view I necessarily agree with, but I think it's more nuanced and probably more accurate with respect to Moffat's actual intentions.

Link | Reply

SpaceSquid 2 years, 11 months ago

Compelling as ever, Jack, my known problems with the Paleostinian angle notwithstanding. I wonder if there's any chance of a dialogue post between yourself and Phil at some point somewhere into the Smith era? To the best of my recollection that's not something Phil has tried out here, but I'd love to see the two of you discuss these issues more directly.

Link | Reply

David Ainsworth 2 years, 11 months ago

The problem with that critique, Jack, is that it denies women the possibility of choosing to dress like sexy policewomen or to have children without implicitly making themselves pawns of the neoliberal agenda.

Link | Reply

Jack Graham 2 years, 11 months ago

Nope.

Link | Reply

Chicanery 2 years, 11 months ago

Well, I'm glad that's been cleared up and a dissenting opinion has been silenced.

Link | Reply

Steven Clubb 2 years, 11 months ago

One of the things I horribly addressed in my own post is the idea of being able to have a sense of humor about sex and sexual differences and so on. The whole stereotype of the Humorless Feminist is really a reaction against a lot of harmful adolescent humor being called out with the perpetrators attempting to hide behind the "it's just a joke" defense.

And I think part of the reason why so many women are reluctant to identify themselves as feminist is they do have an adolescent sense of humor and enjoy having a giggle about all things sexual... and identifying themselves as feminists often elicits a reaction of them being part of the No Fun Brigade.

I personally have a very dirty sense of humor and there's one very important thing I do which has allowed me to avoid sexual harassment suits. I don't direct perverted comments *at* a woman. It's never about her. And I've gotten a surprising number of laughs from women over the years ans have become quite good friends with quite a number who enjoy my sense of humor.

If you're aware of the comic book Preacher, Garth Ennis once said it had a far larger female fanbase than it deserved. It's one of the filthiest, dirtiest comics to ever come out of a major publisher, but if a woman has a significant role in the story he does what he does with male characters... he writes a character he finds interesting. She's not just decoration, she has a reason for being in the scene. She's not a stick in the mud. She's not an obstacle to be overcome by her boyfriend. He likes women and he writes women he likes.

This is why 42% of Game of Thrones' audience is female. Even though it uses women as decoration, it treats it genuinely enjoys spending time with its female characters.

Link | Reply

encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

I assumed at least part of jane's comment was a response to the sub-discussion I'd triggered with my "slave who chooses to be a slave" comment, which in hindsight was probably presumptuous of me. :) And it's entirely possible I'm using terms that have specific meanings I don't fully understand.

By now it's probably clear what I'm saying, but basically I get what "The Beast Below" wants me to think about what the Star Whale represents, but I think it left the door too far open for unintended implications that I didn't have to search for, but found almost impossible to ignore.

That said, I generally liked "The Beast Below" (especially compared to some other episodes in the season) and I'll try harder to ignore those implications next time I watch it.

Link | Reply

Jack Graham 2 years, 11 months ago

Yeah, 'cos by typing 'Nope', and thus stating my view that David is just plain wrong in what he says, I also magically transported him to a gulag in Siberia that has no internet access.

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 2 years, 11 months ago

Though there is a button for that in the Blogger moderation options, if you look hard enough.

Link | Reply

jonathan inge 2 years, 11 months ago

Humans are unforgivable but not necessarily monstrous.

Most if not all life on Earth feeds off each other. As humans, possibly the one species imbued with enough awareness to have existential crises, we need to be aware of our ecological relationship with flora and fauna. Everything is connected. Therefore everything must be respected.

The innate desire to feed, clothe, and shelter oneself is not evil. How one goes about doing so can be monstrous.

Some cultures prescribe giving thanks to the slaughtered animal for providing further life to those who eat/use it.

Sadly, popular culture today is void of such concepts and becomes just about devouring resources to the point of titillation and waste.

This goes back to the Silurian-human conflict in DW. After the initial fear of "aliens" resides, the larger fears emerge. It's not just they're talking reptiles. It is the potential demise of civilizations. It's interesting to note the Silurians by comparison are better than humans. They are not only more advanced technologically (cures for diseases, solutions to food problems), they are more eco-friendly in everything they do (even in space!).

This is why I can't consider Steven's analogy apropos.

Silurians serve double duty, mirroring human arrogance and magnifying our deficiencies.

Link | Reply

UrsulaL 2 years, 11 months ago

I wouldn't say that Amy lacked ambition.

Certainly her initial job, as a kissogram, showed a level of desperation. She was somewhat embarrassed to have to make her living that way. She was also a teenager, and parentless, with an (incorrect) history of mental illness diagnosis as her real experiences with the Doctor were treated as delusional. As young, desperate women have often had to do, she used her looks to get by. But doing something that you're not happy with out of desperate circumstances is not the same as lacking ambition.

The second career we see her at is working as a model. She's clearly successful. Managing this type of career takes ambition and hard work. The hours are often long, and often irregular, you need to find and work with an agent, and you have to be careful about choosing jobs - you need to accept enough to make a living, but avoid being typecast or falling into a trap of jobs that don't help you get ahead. This wasn't her passion in life, but she clearly worked hard and with ambition to be successful.

Amy's third career is as a travel journalist. This is, clearly, a job that she's perfectly suited for. Wanting to travel and telling stories are two characteristics that she's given from the moment we meet her. Again, she seems to be successful at this,working hard, and enjoying the work. Not a characteristic of someone who lacks ambition.

Amy's fourth career is writing children's novels. This is something that requires a great deal of self-discipline, to sit down and write and stick with it, day after day, to finish one piece and send it to publishers and start immediately on the next one. It also seems like the fulfilment of life-long ambition, making a career of her love of story-telling.

***

As for Rory claiming to love Amy more than she loved him - when he said that, Rory was forgetting that the only reason he sat outside that box for 2000 years was because he'd just killed Amy, and was keeping her corpse safe until she could be healed. It is a great act of atonement, but not proof that his love was greater than hers.

After all, Amy not only forgave Rory, but went back to him, and spent the rest of her life sleeping by his side despite the memory of him shooting her. That's a great act of love and trust, as well.

And to hold those 2000 years as proof of greater love was quite unfair. Amy might have waited for him 2000 years, given the opportunity. But it wasn't an opportunity she had. And it is toxic to good relationships to have one person insisting that they love the other more, that the other is somehow lesser.

Making giving up his dream of children into one more sacrifice that Rory made for Amy, showing how much he'd give for her and that he loved her more, was a problem.

That loss should have been the two of them, as equals, giving up the hope of future children together.

Happily, they did manage to sort things out. And to get past both the idea that Rory loved Amy more than she loved him, and the insecurity Rory had that Amy would leave him.

Link | Reply

UrsulaL 2 years, 11 months ago

In the larger story, however, the Doctor seeing Clara as a mystery in a tight skirt is shown to be wrong.

Clara repeatedly calls the Doctor out when he is seeing her as a mystery rather than a person. She won't be a substitute for someone he's lost. She won't run away with him when he so clearly wants her to - he wants to take over her life, to make her life about being his mystery to explore, and she's having none of it.

When the Doctor asks Emma what Clara is, Emma is clear - Clara is an ordinary woman, clever, frightened by trying to be brave. And that is how the Doctor should be seeing her - as the person she is.

The mystery is a red herring in her character development, as we see a woman who meets and travels with the Doctor on her own terms, has commitments and responsibilities that she takes seriously, has experienced life and loss and become genuinely adult long before she met the Doctor.

Link | Reply

encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

Yes. Which I guess is sort of mercurial too, but also irritating.

Link | Reply

encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

Plot opener: Amy looks up through a glass floor, catches a glimpse of Rory's hot ass, gets distracted and drops a thing

Man, I would love to see this. Particularly if we could somehow make it Adam's hot ass instead.

Link | Reply

Richard Acres 2 years, 11 months ago

I thought the point of Clara's character was that she is earnest and has a heroine complex - her echoes act how she imagines the Doctor's saviour would act. I suppose we'll have to see whether this analogue to real people's insecurities about being a valued member of society is sufficiently challenged - only two episodes have aired since Clara's act of self-sacrifice in the time stream. And I thought her character was a subversion of Steven Moffat's own tropes - a brilliant and mysterious woman who the Doctor has a not-very-well-concealed crush upon (although I don't think he really fancied Amy - that was more of a father/guardian -child relationship IMO, at least for series 5) - who was really just an ordinary girl. To the Doctor the Impossible Girl arc was part of his falling back in love with humanity after the loss of the Ponds. We must note that Clara, quite apart from being inordinately pretty, is an amicable and compassionate person and dare I say it a good role model (bossy neuroses aside). Also, the tumblr/BBC gif is crass and insulting and misses the point of what RTD was trying to get across in that scene in the Christmas Invasion. How old are you, twelve?

Link | Reply

Adam Riggio 2 years, 11 months ago

That's precisely what I like about Moffat's work. He builds his characters like the ridiculous dominant women in screwball comedies, and because he's so well-practiced in the art of sitcom farce, he can also craft similar plots based on miscommunications and the collisions of secrets in the sci-fi context of Doctor Who.

And I actually like that about Moffat's approach to the narrative above Davies, simply because Davies' soap collisions resulted in melodrama and overwrought emotionality. I mean, Davies was brilliant, but it wasn't my favourite kind of tea. Moffat's is my favourite kind of tea, and it works well to construct mysteries. After all mystery stories are just the same kinds of stories about the slow revelation of secrets that sitcoms are about, but the mysteries have serious subjects and dramatic characters, while the sitcoms are played for laughs.

I mean, I can see where Jack's coming from calling River Song a MPDG (and that Amy and Clara fit this to some degree as well). But Moffat has written this kind of character before: she's a competent revision of Jane from Coupling.

Link | Reply

Andrea S. 2 years, 11 months ago

Ok, I was going to read all the comments before posting but I can't. So, I'm sorry if I repeat a lot of things that has been said (I'm sorry also because I'm going to have some ortographic errors and stuff because my english is not that good and I'm in a hurry).

First I want to say I agree a lot with your opinion about the Moffat era.

And well, we all agree with the fact that every era has had issues and bad episodes, but the real problem to me with Moffat is the lack of character development, he introduces characters and just leave them there and we can't see what's really going on with them, River never evolves as a character, which is why I can't understand why she is so beloved by fans. (I see this especially in opposition to the RTD era, where we had Donna Noble a great developed character, who actually was a very strong woman and evolved to be even stronger).

Then my second problem with Moffat is the fact that he makes fun of the RTD era a lot, a big example of that is in "The Day of the Doctor" using Ten just as a sort of comic relief or with Eleven saying in "The time of the Doctor" that Ten was vain (which is undermining the character a lot, 'cause he was handsome and a a little egocentric but not really vain).

And talking about comic relief, there were episodes where the Doctor was being funny almost all the time (I'm mean I love when they make us laugh but not when is totally unnecessary), which I believe is the reason a lot of people think of Eleven as clowny. And I can't get out of my head the Doctor Who Confidential of "The girl in the fireplace" (yet another girl who waited) when Moffat said something like the funny stuff (he was talking about the horse) were for the grown ups because the kids took the Doctor seriously and they didn't need to laugh to keep paying attention. So, maybe I'm too childish, but I take the Doctor very seriously, and I think Moffat should too.

Link | Reply

jonathan inge 2 years, 11 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

Link | Reply

Daibhid C 2 years, 11 months ago

But if I'd said "...if only we would stop whipping it, the slave would still choose to be a servant doing exactly the same duties it had performed as a slave," would that sound better to you? It wouldn't to me.

Fair point.

Link | Reply

Ross 2 years, 11 months ago

I do not think you are going to win any "Srsly you guys, Moffat's totally not a sexist!" arguments by admitting that he's lifting female characters from Coupling.

Link | Reply

williamsilvia.net 2 years, 11 months ago

I enjoyed this article, and shared it, and would have had a whole lot to say if not for the fact that it describes consensual, unprotected wedding night sex as "SF Rape" and "Force pregnancy". That kind of left a bad taste in my mouth.

Link | Reply

Doctor Memory 2 years, 11 months ago

I have these fond memories of a day when "neoliberal" had a rather more specific meaning than "any form of self-identified leftism that the interrogator has deemed insufficiently pure or revolutionary-minded."

I realize that the ship has sailed and all that, but since we have successfully beaten any shred of actual analytical and historical context out of the word, perhaps it is time to retire it?

(Or, I suppose, you could mount an actual attempt to show how Steven Moffat's depictions of female sexuality and empowerment are clearly in line with the aims of the Mont Pelerin Society -- an effort which I suspect would be roughly entertaining and insipid in equal measure, but would at least beat the hell out of simply using it as a magic incantation intended to make the audience immediately recognize the sagacity and wisdom of the wizard intoning it.)

Link | Reply

Richard Cooper 2 years, 11 months ago

This piece makes very similar points to a blog post of mine posted online on the 18th May 2013 (a sequel to one posted on 18 November 2011)

http://richardhcooper.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/steven-and-women-or-how-steven-moffat.html

which both Phil and Jack have read. Here is a tweet Phil Sandifer sent me on 21 May last year indicating that he's read my blog post on Moffat and sexism:

https://mobile.twitter.com/PhilSandifer/status/336901436522786816?screen_name=PhilSandifer

It remains the only time he has contacted me or mentioned my blog in any way. (He did go on to write the piece he mentions in that tweet, but it contains no reference to my stuff)

Here's Jack's blogpost praising mine, on the 21st May 2013:

http://shabogangraffiti.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/maybe-some-of-us-belong-in-fields.html

If this newer piece had appeared on Jack's blog, I would have no problem with it, but Phil's site contains no mention of me or my blog, and no links to it. Here's an email I sent Jack when I read the guestpost:

Hi Jack.
Could you edit your guestpost on Phil's site to add a link to my posts on Moffat? This isn't a dig at you: I ask purely because whilst your own site has been such a good supporter of my work, Phil's makes no mention of me or my blog at all, even though I know from the one tweet he sent me that he's also read my Moffat sexism piece. Also, Phil has considerably more influence and readers than I do. Acknowledging me would mean that no-one reading my blogpost without checking the date would think I had read your guestpost on Phil's and derived from it witbout acknowledgement.
All the best,
Richard

This was Jack's reply:

Dear Richard,

I've messaged Phil about this, and we've decided that we don't think a link to your essay is called for.  I'd hate anyone to come across your own excellent post and wrongly assume that you'd derived anything from me, so I'll add something to my own post at Shabgraff about the guest post, linking to your essay and acknowledging that you 'got there' before me. 

I did consult your Moffat essays when I was outlining my own guest post for Phil, but (with respect) there was nothing in them that I wanted to adapt which I hadn't already noticed on my own. 

I hope this does the trick.

Sincerely

None of this is egregious, just bad manners: for example Lawrence Miles's blog and SOTCAA are clearly influences on my blog, the difference is that I talk about and link to them on the blog and Phil Sandifer seems determined to do neither regarding me. As I said in the email, he has a larger following and more influence than I do (this piece has attracted more comments in less than 24 hours than my 2011 piece on Moffat has in two and and a half years). An abiding point here is RBC's comment: "I think Jack hits on a more incisive line of argument when he writes that "Fetishizing ‘power’ in women characters... isn’t the same as writing them as human beings."" Here's a line from my blogpost: "Unfortunately, a fetish for powerful, sexy women who like cheating people is no substitute for an interest in human beings."

Just to stress, all I would have liked was a brief mention or link. If you don't want to, Phil and Jack, I can't force you, but the next time you "consult" my stuff while you're outlining a piece for a bigger platform than mine, maybe show some courtesy, or kindness to a struggling blogger, particularly if you think it's "excellent".

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 2 years, 11 months ago

I would suggest that perhaps complaining about manners and courtesy while trying to bully people into linking to your blog is ill advised.

I don't link to you in my Moffat and Feminism post because I have not read or thought about you since that tweet nearly a year ago. This is because, to be perfectly frank, I found your essay unimpressive. It stimulated no thoughts whatsoever, and I had totally forgotten about it and you until Jack messaged me today. Looking at your piece again, I find it facile and fond of making cheap jokes to cover up the places where you have no actual argument. Though at least it's better than your 2011 post, which is absolutely abominable.

Similarly, I take Jack at his word that although he read your piece he was not in fact influenced by it, and that he had come to the same conclusions you did on his own. This is because, quite frankly, you do not actually say anything that hasn't been said by dozens of other critics within the extremely large body of work that has been written on Moffat and feminism, a body of which your single essay is a very, very small part.

Link | Reply

Jack Graham 2 years, 11 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

Link | Reply

Jack Graham 2 years, 11 months ago

(Second version. It needed a rewrite to amend a mistake.)

Richard, if you want to accuse me of plagiarism, don't be coy. Come right out and say it. Don't pretend to be complaining about bad manners.

The bit you cite sounds similar, no doubt. Shall I spend 5 minutes on tumblr finding 50 people who said pretty much the same thing, in pretty much the same words, ages before either of us?

I acknowledged two people from whom I took specific points that wouldn't have been in the essay if they hadn't mentioned them to me. I didn't mention you because... well, you've already reproduced the text of the email I sent you in which I explain that.

People who have read both our essays will know that there's loads in mine that is nowhere to be found in yours (I don't recall you mentioning neoliberalism anywhere) and, likewise, loads in yours that is nowhere to be found in mine. There are points of similarity where we both go through some matters that are now pretty much 'common currency' on the internet.

I enjoyed your essay at the time and said so publically. As you mention, I devoted an entire post on my own blog to saying how much I liked it, quoting from it approvingly, and linking to it.

And, unlike you, I've never written for Salon.

Link | Reply

Steven Clubb 2 years, 11 months ago

I don't mean to suggest she's a shallow creation and has no character arc or whatever nonsense usually gets tossed about. She's about as well-developed as any character in the history of the show, even *gasp* RTD's run.

Amy & Rose largely started in the same place (unambitious women and boyfriend they take for granted), but if we we started with the assumption that RTD has a problem with female characters and dissected Rose's arc in the same way we do Amy... well, she doesn't come off too good.

Firstly, she drops her entire life to go run off with a man she knows nothing about. There's not a whole lot of agency in this decision. He flashes a bit of TARDIS leg and she hops to it (Amy is running from her own impending adulthood, which is at least a motivation all her own). And through two seasons we learn nothing of any substance about her hopes and dreams outside of spending all her time with the Doctor, even though it becomes clear in the second series that he's leading her own as he gets a very uncomfortable look every time she starts planning their future together.

And what is the grand future she envisions for herself: to do what he wants to do, because she has no hopes and dreams of her own. When she is finally torn away from him, she ends up transforming herself into a mini-Doctor, who eventually manages to get her man... or a reasonable facsimile of him who she goes off. There's even a cut scene where they get their own TARDIS so she can continue to revolve around the man she loves without a hint of any other ambition.

Sure, she has her own supporting cast, but their primary function is to talk about the Doctor with her, because what else is there to talk about?

This is, of course, a horribly unfair reading (I have equally unfair readings of Martha and Donna), but such is the limitation of Doctor Who. RTD can't really make the show about Rose. It's about her flowering in an environment where she battles aliens and saves the Earth, something she's incredibly good at and she becomes a better person as the show progresses.

RTD is a bit sexist. So is Whedon and Veronica Mars' creator, Rob Thomas. They all do problematic things with their characters which don't bear too much scrutiny and come with a heaping dose of male privilege. Moffat has stepped in it a few times and now people are over-scrutinizing everything he does, and, of course, it doesn't hold up any better to scrutiny than any of the character arcs during the RTD.

Link | Reply

Whittso 2 years, 11 months ago

I'm pretty on board with RBC's reasoning, but the whole Amy / Rory thing:

Plot opener: Amy looks up through a glass floor, catches a glimpse of Rory's hot ass, gets distracted and drops a thing

... Didn't we get at least one Rose and Captain Jack scene along those lines?

Link | Reply

rpundurs 2 years, 11 months ago

I think it's interesting that you've identified one of Amy's most redeeming features as her memory. When did sci-fi time-traveler super powers become evidence of one's strength of character?

Why is it that we have to scrape the bottom of the barrel so hard to find any characterization for Amy that doesn't boil down to "feisty redhead?"

Link | Reply

Doctor Memory 2 years, 11 months ago

Jane: spends the better part of a two pages listing the interesting aspects of Amy's character.

Rpundurs: picks the least interesting one off the list, declares that one must scrape the bottom of the barrel for any evidence of characterization.

I despair.

Link | Reply

encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

I wanted to say "thanks" for this, but didn't want to type a captcha and bother you just to say thanks. :)

So I'll pack in a followup question: are the RTD years similarly sparse for you in terms of stories you enjoyed/appreciated/thought had good stuff in them? If not, do you have any hypotheses as to why?

Link | Reply

Daru 2 years, 11 months ago

Now there's a fun thought! Love the thought of Moffat's own 'inner Clara'. Maybe that's why there's tensions in his work that create so much dissent - as there is a great internal battle between his male and female selves, each fighting to bend the narrative to their own will? maybe Moffat no longer really exists and is splintered across time (The Impossible Writer) as this war rages on?

Link | Reply

mengu 2 years, 11 months ago

When you put ther episodes into River Song order, as many of her fans have done, you find that her character arc makes great sense, and is more interesting and heart-breaking to boot.

Link | Reply

Kit Power 2 years, 11 months ago

So so so much this. I would pledge small cash dollars to read this.

Link | Reply

Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

"As for Rory claiming to love Amy more than she loved him "

We should perhaps also note that when Rory said that, it was in the context of Amy initiating divorce proceedings against Rory without actually telling him why (the infertility). In fact, did Rory even know about the fertility issue until she told him in Asylum?

Link | Reply

Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

The part where the "classless""perfect" society is built on willing slavery, where the information is freely available, and when confronted with that face, [SOME] people choose to ignore it and continue.

Your statement (which I have edited) ignores two things. First, my impression was that, on occasion, some voters were so outraged by the situation that they voted to release the creature, knowing that the price for voting their conscience would be to get killed. That number of voters is small, less than the 10% (IIRC) that would free the creature, but the implication is there that some people of conscience have voted to free the space whale.

Second, the anger some people have (including the Doctor) for those who voted to keep the whale in bondage ignores the fact that most (possibly none) of these voters were alive when this no-win scenario was devised. They are simply presented with a stark choice: keep the while in pain or bring about the death of every man, woman and child on the ship. That is a false choice, but none of the voters knows that.

Basically, this episode is a remake of "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" reimagined as a sort of fairy tale story. Which is problematic because (a) freeing the dirty child of Omelas will destroy the city's prosperity, not kill everyone in it and (b) fairy tale stories don't make for good science fiction because they tend to be riddled with plot holes.

Link | Reply

Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

a big example of that is in "The Day of the Doctor" using Ten just as a sort of comic relief or with Eleven saying in "The time of the Doctor" that Ten was vain (which is undermining the character a lot, 'cause he was handsome and a a little egocentric but not really vain).

1. Ten had a lot of good comedy bits, but the most intense moment in Day of the Doctor was Ten's visible anger at Eleven having forgotten how many children died on Gallifrey. Also, a lot of Ten's levity almost seems like gallows humor since he apparently knows that his regeneration is near.

2. The man kept his own severed hand in a jar for an indeterminate amount of time just so he could use it to regenerate without changing his face. He was also openly bitter in End of Time about the prospect of changing. From Eleven's perspective, I can see how that would look like vanity.

Link | Reply

Gavin Burrows 2 years, 11 months ago

Perhaps you shouldn't deliver a verdict without hearing the case for the defence, but I have to say I very much enjoyed reading this. Like many other commenters, I'm absolutely green around the gills I didn't come up with the line “Steven Moffat has become the Great Intelligence” first.

If I didn't nexcessarily absolutely agree with everything (and some I'll need time to mull over), one thing I'm fully on side with is this misplaced fixation upon the Doctor. As Andrew Rilstone wrote at one point “Increasingly, the Doctor has not even needed to produce a canister of Antiplastic from his Doctor Utility Belt when he is fighting the Plastic Monster. Increasingly, what he pulls out of his pocket is himself: the very fact of his Doctorness defeats the enemy... The Doctor doesn't have a deus ex machina: the Doctor is a deus ex machina.” It's a terrible way to tell stories in general, and an even worse way to tell them about the Doctor. It's like the worst kind of fanfic, adulation of the character masquerading as understanding what the character's rosebud is.

Worse, Moffat seems to be doing pretty much the same thing with 'Sherlock'. He seems to have decided there isn't a Sherlock so there can be Sherlock-style stories, but that there are Sherlock-style-stories so there can be a Sherlock. And the result isn't pretty at all...

Here's more of a thought experiment than a theory... Supposing Moffat's 'Who' is less neo-liberal than it is post-modern. Moffat feels like less of a political writer than Davies. Of course he's done political stories, but they feel more exception than rule. I suspect were he to read this critique, he'd simply be nonplussed by it. Which, needless to say, doesn't strike the critique out. But it does throw a slightly different spin on things...

Two quick examples... There's the perpetual epicness, the feeling that events of great import are perpetually happening, that the machine is always in the action of being turned up to eleven, without any feeling of genuine change or development at all. It's that peculiar mix of frenetic dynamism and numbing status. The convoluted plot threads are the main dissatisfier for me as a viewer, of late.

But also there's the historic guest starts, who are framed just like celebrity cameos. Of course, to take a random example, when Napoleon turns up in 'Reign of Terror', he's a rather silly stereotype. But he also represents the best guess of a Sixties scriptwriter of what the historical Napoleon was like. Whereas, say, Churchill was played precisely like an impersonation of Churchill – the voice, the cigar – like we're supposed to take him as a representation.

Of course this tendency starts with Dickens way back when, but it feels more emblematic of the Moffat era. And it reaches its risible epitome with Hitler. It's like all our received images of the past have replaced the past. We've even noticed this ourselves. And we don't care.

(Disclaimer: I couldn't work my way through all the earlier comments. Apologies if I'm simply repeating stuff.)

Link | Reply

Jack Graham 2 years, 11 months ago

Well, I'd have much preferred not to go on the record in quite this way until after reading Phil's extensive, forthcoming 'case for the defence'. But he needed a Valeyard right now, and in a hurry. :)

And, though I acknowledge that much fine work has been produced by 'postmodernists' or in the 'postmodern' vein, I *do* fundamentally think of Postmodernism(tm) as an expression of neoliberalism, or at least as one of its symptoms. The cultural logic of late capitalism is a good way of putting it, though I don't go along with Fred Jameson on absolutely everything. If Moffat is postmodern, he's probably *that* kind of postmodern.

Link | Reply

encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

The Doctor doesn't have a deus ex machina: the Doctor is a deus ex machina.” It's a terrible way to tell stories in general, and an even worse way to tell them about the Doctor.

This is one of my chief frustrations with the Moffat era and the stories he wrote for Tennant that feature this sort of resolution. And he keeps hinting that he plans to remove the Doctor's celebrity and failing to follow through (and wouldn't the end of "Time of the Doctor" have been the perfect chance to do it? All the monsters leave thinking the Doctor's run out of regenerations and he's done for...and then this tiny spark triggers the reboot, with only Clara as witness, and out comes this Capaldi fellow who's in no one's data banks?). If I could fix one thing for season 8, that would be it. The story should almost never be about the Doctor, or hinge on his fame to resolve itself.

there are Sherlock-style-stories so there can be a Sherlock. And the result isn't pretty at all...

Well, arguably the result is pretty, and that's the main reason it's worth watching. The question is whether it's also good. :)

Link | Reply

Theonlyspiral 2 years, 11 months ago

That was somewhat presumptuous of you Alan.

Firstly, your impression that some people voted to release isn't anywhere in the text. All it takes is 1%. 1% of the people. All it would take is one line from Mandy or Hawthorne, but there isn't anything. Every 5 years people can go in there, and they choose complacency and slavery.

You don't get to say "I wasn't around when this slavery thing was set up, it's not my fault." You don't get to exploit someone and then hide behind your forefathers when you are repeatedly confronted with it and choose to continue it.

Doctor who doesn't make for good science fiction in general. It uses Sci-Fi props to do things that are much more interesting. Moffat's whole idea behind series 5 was as a dark fairy tale, and it consistently works to that logic rather than that of a sci-fi show.

Link | Reply

Gavin Burrows 2 years, 11 months ago

You're the Valeyard? This isn't going to end well at all then!

Jack, yes. One of the reasons I'd call my thought experiment a thought experiment (rather than even a theory) is that it requires a robust means of distinguishing postmodernism from neoliberalism. Whereas, as you say, it's easier to see how the two fit together. Most of the time, po-mo just seems like neoliberalism at prayer.

Were I minded to pursue it, I think I'd probably go with the ostensible apoliticism. Po-mo seems a mix of presenting itself as thrillingly new and dynamic, while insisting that it couldn't really be any other way. And that claim of radicalism, while spurious, is important. You see it in the way Moffat's Who presents itself as a bold break from what went before, while simultaneously overwriting what went before to make it more like itself. For me, its like the cavalry turning up, then slowly morphing into Jacques Derrida.

Encyclops, also yes. Moffat's repeatedly acknowledging there is a problem, then returning to where it all was before. It's like a junkie ceaselessly promising to quit.

Incidentally, among other typos what I meant to say above was “that peculiar mix of frenetic dynamism and numbing stasis.” I'll try to make less mistakes in fewture.

Link | Reply

Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

But the Doctor himself saw no options except "torture the whale" or "kill everyone" until Amy had her epiphany. It's one thing to be horrified by the exploitation of the creature. It's another to actively choose the creature's freedom over the lives of everyone on Starship UK. Indeed, the Doctor himself put the lives of the humans above that of the creature, which he was willing to lobotomize so that it could continue to serve as a slave without suffering. I find it difficult to be judgmental towards people who choose the least bad option.

Link | Reply

Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

That said, I do admit to misremembering some of the details which increase the humans' culpability. In my defense, I didn't know there would be a pop quiz on this episode so soon.:)

Link | Reply

ibishtar 2 years, 11 months ago

What a beautiful post. I didn't read Phil's post on the feminism of Moffat era because I rather avoid having to read what men have to say about what women should and shouldn't find empowering, and I was going to avoid this one for the same reason, but after I saw some quotes of tumblr I decided to give it a go. Couldn't agree more with everything you said, and like you bring up at the end there's still so much that could be said. Excellent post!

Link | Reply

ibishtar 2 years, 11 months ago

Also, here's a comprehensive list of Moffat critique:
http://acciothenoseofvoldemort.tumblr.com/post/76540618570/the-ultimate-moffat-critique-masterpost

Link | Reply

Theonlyspiral 2 years, 11 months ago

That's the way to an open mind and widened horizons: avoiding the consumption of ideas and knowledge.

Link | Reply

ibishtar 2 years, 11 months ago

I consume plenty of ideas and knowledge, thank you. I'm allowed to be discriminate about it as well.

Link | Reply

ibishtar 2 years, 11 months ago

After all, not all opinions carry equal weight.

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 2 years, 11 months ago

I would hope (it is not for me to decide, but) that the Moffat and feminism post, and my work on Moffat in general, are less saying what people should or shouldn't find empowering and more "here is a view that is both a valid reading that is supported by the text and might explain why a large number of women in practice do find the era valuable and empowering."

Link | Reply

Richard Cooper 2 years, 10 months ago

One final comment from me on this page: I've now blogged on the similarity between this piece and the earlier one of mine that both Phil and Jack had already read, plus Phil's responding with absurd attempts to trash my piece, here:
http://richardhcooper.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/how-phil-sandifer-read-my-essay-hosted.html

Link | Reply

Richard Cooper 2 years, 10 months ago

http://richardhcooper.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/how-phil-sandifer-read-my-essay-hosted.html

Link | Reply

mengu 2 years, 10 months ago

No one cares that one bunch of generic Moffat hate makes a few similar points to another bunch of generic Moffat hate. They're not worded the same, they were made almost a year apart, both are functionally identical to a hundred other mindless rants. At least Jack's has the promise that given more time he'd have come up with something interesting, or at least unusual.

If any kind of credit is deserved it would more likely go to stfu-moffat, or the don't-you-think-he-looks-tired tag on Tumblr.

Link | Reply

Richard Cooper 2 years, 10 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

Link | Reply

jack 2 years, 10 months ago

Interesting that the most prevalent voices here, in a discussion largely concerning feminism, seem to be men.

It really should be women deciding whether Moffat's female characters are ''relatable'' or not. Since, you know, they're more experienced with being women then men are.

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 2 years, 10 months ago

The most prevalent voices in blog comments seem to be men. Depresses the hell out of me. And my comments section is better than most, which is frankly even more depressing given that it's not nearly good enough.

Link | Reply

jack 2 years, 10 months ago

Well, why did you give a voice to another man then? Why not ask women to guest post on this particular topic, since it directly concerns them?

I'm very, very wary of men who take issue with powerful female characters [as Jack Graham has] under the guise of feminist critique. They don't know what it's like to be raised female. Why on Earth should I listen to what they have to say about a female character's humanity?

Lynda Day, Nancy, and River are three of my favourite Moffat characters, precisely because they're tough /and/ human. [I realise I have a male gendered name here, btw, but I'm not male].

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 2 years, 10 months ago

I did, actually, but she declined, which was wholly understandable, as this piece had a very tight turnaround - I ran it largely because something went wrong with another piece and I didn't have time to draft a replacement post myself. Jack was willing and able, which, with the time crunch, was pretty much what I needed. And, perhaps more to the point, I knew Jack would bring a fresh take on the material and offer a post that was about more than just Moffat's female characters.

Link | Reply

Rob M 2 years, 10 months ago

"... it seems fair, before we go in, to give the opposition a chance to state the case against. So here's Jack Graham doing what he does best: being loud, angry, and leftist about Doctor Who."

What doesn't seem fair is instantly dismissing this challenging essay before it even stars. Right off the bat Philip undermines the entire endeavor by essentially calling it an incoherent politicized screed...

"...Phil specifically asked me for a polemic, so what follows will be an angry screed."

See what I mean? Jack says right off the bat that he's putting on an exaggerated act. How can anyone take what he says seriously after that kind of introduction? Phil is saying this is by design an overreaction, and Jack's agreement to play along distances him from the ideas he raises and opinions given.

Philip, how about asking for another article by someone with views that differ from yours who A) You do *not* push to be unnecessarily heated and therefore less rational-sounding, and B) Is a woman and/or a person of color?

Yes, I'm another white man weighing in on the subject of sexism in a TV show about a superhuman white man. But my point is if you genuinely want to discuss these subjects, you shouldn't ask someone to volunteer to be a straw man (or woman). And if you don't want to have an honest debate, at the very least you shouldn't announce up front that your guest is a straw man.

And Jack, I'd love to read what your genuine thoughts are without the goal of being someone's punching bag.

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 2 years, 10 months ago

As I've said to previous versions of this, because I trusted Jack to write something interesting and worth reading. And he could do it under time pressure.

If someone wants to pitch me a guest article, I have been known to take them. One like what you describe could in theory interest me, although equally, it could fail to. Dunno until I read it.

Link | Reply

ambela robeson 2 years, 8 months ago

My name is Ambela Robeson from USA My boyfriend and I were happy as far as I could tell and I never thought that we would break up. When his cousin died in a tragic car accident he went back to Russia for a week to be with his family. I could not go because I was in the middle of entertaining out of town clients for work. He did not seem to be upset that I could not go so I let him be. The next thing that I know, he reconnected with an old friend from high school that he had a crush on years ago and they started to have an affair! I had no clue what was going on until a month after he came back from Russia.He proceeded to see both her and I until I caught him testing her one night. I confronted him and he told me the truth about what happened. We broke up and went our separate ways. Neither of us fought for our relationship. I was angry and decided not to be upset about it and just keep it moving. Then after about a month of not speaking to him I became sad. I wanted him to tell me that he wanted to be with me and not her. I contacted Dr.Ajagbo for a love spell and he totally helped me! he was able to get him to miss me to where he wanted to get back together again. He had a lot of regrets and felt bad for not fighting to keep me and for cheating in general. He values our relationship so much more, now and we are together now! You can also get your lover back with the help of Dr. Ajagbo contact
Call; +2348156759423.also through his email: Ajagbospelltemple@gmail.com

Link | Reply

encyclops 2 years, 8 months ago

I blame this irrational belief in magic on David Whitaker.

Link | Reply

hyperninja 2 years, 7 months ago

Knowing your thoughts on Moffat and Clara what's your thought on bringing Coal Hill school back and Clara having to do that? great article btw

Link | Reply

Ero Lovespell 2 years, 5 months ago

Hi My name is 'Bruno Rico' just want to share my experience with the world on how i got my love back and saved my marriage... I was married for 7years with 2kids and we lived happily until things started getting ugly and we had fights and arguments almost every time... it got worse at a point that she filed for divorce... I tried my best to make her change her mind & stay with me cause i loved her with all my heart and didn't want to loose her but everything just didn't work out... she moved out of the house and still went ahead to file for divorce... I pleaded and tried everything but still nothing worked. The breakthrough came when someone introduced me to this wonderful, great spell caster who eventually helped me out... I have never been a fan of things like this but just decided to try reluctantly cause I was desperate and left with no choice... He did special prayers and used roots and herbs... Within 7 days she called me and was sorry for all the emotional trauma she had cost me, moved back to the house and we continue to live happily, the kids are happy too and we are expecting our third child. I have introduced him to a lot of couples with problems across the world and they have had good news... Just thought I should share my experience cause I strongly believe someone out there need's it... You can email his email him with eromosalspiritualtemple@gmail.com or thought his website http://eromosalspiritualtemple.webs.com or call him with +2348161850195Don't give up just yet, the different between 'Ordinary' & 'Extra-Ordinary' is the 'Extra' so make extra effort to save your marriage/relationship if it's truly worth it.

Link | Reply

Lysander Wayland 2 years, 2 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

Link | Reply

Lillie M. Garcia 1 year, 6 months ago

I like Moffat's era. His plots have changed a bit with time and the atmosphere in the tv show has changed. But he even inspires me and not only me. When i read reviews of term paper writing services, have found there several about Moffat.

Link | Reply

New Comment

required

required (not published)

optional

Recent Posts

Archive