Thursday, May 14, 2015

Moffat vs Davies: The Doctor Who Face-Off

Doctor Who fandom is a very strange, varied, and fervent lot. You have your old-school fans who look upon the new series and its fandom as trendy knockoffs and posers. You have your new fans that started with Tennant or Smith, and have never seen so much as a single episode of the original series. You have fans that love both, and fans that viciously tear apart characters and creators aside from their own personal favourites. Myself, I'm aware of the flaws in the series, the sometimes stilted storytelling and cheap effects of the classics and the weird pacing and oft-too intense focus on romance in the new series, but love the show for all of its flaws and and successes. My favourite Doctor, for the record, is Sylvester McCoy (7), and my least-favourite is one I still have a great deal of respect for, Jon Pertwee (3).

Russell T. Davies was the man who launched the show again in 2005. He was the one who cast Eccleston and Tennant, the one who created Rose Tyler, and the man responsible for the show's rebirth. He's also the man who brought us the farting Slitheen, the blowjob paving stone, and season 2 Rose Tyler. But he was progressive in a good way, introducing a lot of diverse characters and giving them some depth. We wouldn't have Captain Jack Harkness (wink, smile) without him, and he was beloved by much of fandom for this.

About six months or so before it was even announced, there was a great disturbance in the force. Steven Moffat, who had brought us "Blink", "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances" (Everybody lives!), and "The Girl in the Fireplace" (sob) was to take over the show from RTD. Maybe it's hyperbole, maybe it's me mis-remembering, but I'm sure there were cries of misogyny before "The Eleventh Hour" even aired. According to a very vocal section of fandom, Moffat hates women. Moffat's female characters are terrible. But what's the truth?

Your combatants, picture courtesy
I seem to be making a habit of shittingon waifus lately, so let's dive in.
  • Rose Tyler: I like series 1 Rose Tyler. I do. She's a sweet, well-meaning girl from a rough neighbourhood who has a very small life. She's got a boyfriend she's not too serious about, and at this point in her life, they're good for each other. Then she starts traveling with the Ninth Doctor and her universe expands. She faces death without blinking. She saves the day a few times herself and points out the obvious when Nine overlooks it. But somewhere in the first 20 minutes or so of Series 2's "Tooth and Claw", she starts turning obnoxious and gobby, and her entire character devolves into fawning over the pretty 10th Doctor as she grows more and more detached from her roots.
  • Martha Jones: This one irritates me greatly. Martha is an accomplished young medical student, a doctor-in-training herself, ready to accept the fantastical and jump in with both feet. She maintains this greatness save for one flaw that destroys her character: she's got a crush on the 10th Doctor, and you can see the huffy sighs and irritated eye-rolling every time he mentions Rose. It isn't until she's forced to save the world herself that she finally realizes that she's got to get away from him, as it's unhealthy for her.
  • Donna Noble: Donna started off gobby and obnoxious, but in a relatable way. She's older than previous companions, but still working a shit job and living at home. She remains gobby and obnoxious, but grows into a more confident and capable person along the way. Then it's all undone with a tear-jerking slide back into mediocrity by the end with amnesia that will explode her head if she ever remembers and regains that confidence and competence.
  • Kylie Minogue: Kylie Minogue in a sexy cocktail waitress dress. 
  • The Lady Christina de Souza: GOD DAMMIT RTD YOU COCKTEASE
I weep for what could have been.
So that's RTD. I am unimpressed. Let's look at Moffat.
  • Amelia “Amy” Pond: Let's just overlook the fact that she's a nearly six foot tall Glaswegian redhead that seems genetically engineered to turn my head; Amy Pond is a mess. When we meet her she is working as a stripper (shut up, she's a stripper, it's a family show so they play it off as kiss-o-gram) and is emotionally unbalanced because of the promise of adventure that is ripped away from her as a child (YOU SAID FIVE MINUTES!!). She's got a boyfriend whose relationship with her she promptly denies in their first encounter with the Doctor, and then proceeds to walk all over him, pushing him around and generally giving him no say in their relationship, to the point of passive-aggressing him into divorce before a forced reconciliation. Amy Pond is complex. She's a properly human and fleshed-out character. She's not a very pleasant person, but she's interesting.
  • River Song: Controversial, this one. A lot of people can't stand River, and it's probably due to her first few appearances, coming onto the scene like a proper Mary Sue, with all the air of an established character with her 'sweeties' and her 'spoilers.' I've heard a lot of complaints thrown in Moffat's direction about how a 'strong female character' was brought low by being turned first into a lunatic and then into a simpering weak woman. The problem is, that's proper character development, but shown in reverse, because we're seeing most of her life in reverse order to the Doctor's timeline. River is born on Demon's Run, kidnapped as a baby by religious zealots and brainwashed into finding and murdering the Doctor before escaping, regenerating into a rebellious young child who grows up with Amy, then regenerating again when meeting the Doctor, attempting to murder him before breaking her programming, then kidnapped and re-programmed to kill him again. She then spends time in prison and the timeline is fuzzy, but by the time we meet her in her first appearance she's the capable and confident badass and has retroactively earned that sass she displays. An interesting experiment in character building that I enjoyed the more I watched.
  • Clara Oswald: Clara spent a year as a temporal construct, a person split into many people that existed for a short time long enough to save the Doctor from the Great Intelligence before he figured out the mystery that she was and retrieved her from the temporal winds of his own timeline. We don't meet  the real Clara Oswald until the 50th anniversary special, where she begins to grow as a character, free from her duty to protect the Doctor from an omnipresent enemy. By the first episode with Capaldi's 12th Doctor, we have a much clearer picture of her: She's a teacher. She's got a life outside the TARDIS, and uses the Doctor as a weekend getaway. She's got control issues, and doesn't entirely trust him. She's incredibly awkward around someone she's got a romantic interest in, and adorably he mirrors that. And after the tragic events of last series finale, she's got even more room to grow.
    Pictured: Control Issue.
In conclusion, I'm going to state very firmly that Steven Moffat writes better women than Russell T. Davies did. I say this for two reasons:
  1. Moffat's companions don't define themselves by a romantic interest in the Doctor.
  2. They're complex and relatable people. 
I will credit Davies with Donna Noble (until her last episode), but that's all he's getting from me.

“I'm not your boyfriend, Clara.”
“I never thought you were.”
“I never said it was your mistake...”

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