Doctor Who, especially the classic show, has a reputation for being a bit sexist. Which is hardly surprising, considering that it is a product of its time across so many different decades. We lucked out in the late sixties when a classic battle of the sexes episode (including a scene where Jamie spanks Zoe, Taming of the Shrew style) failed to be made. But with such a paternal structure, whereby the Doctor is male and also the character who knows most about everything most of the time, and the employment of such strategic companion costumes as the mini-skirt and, in the 80’s, the mini-skirt AND boob tube combination (not to mention poor Peri in her leotard and shorts) it certainly doesn’t escape that taint. Even the female characters allowed to be close to the Doctor’s intellectual equal, such as Liz and Romana, are regularly taken down a peg or two because the entire premise of the show is that the Doctor is more capable at what he does (even when being comedically bad at what he does) than anyone else.
There’s a reason that more action figures have been made of Leela in her leathers and Peri in her leotard-with-shorts than any other Doctor Who companions. And let’s not get into the recent revelations that Jon Pertwee insisted on a recast of the role of Sarah Jane Smith, because the actress cast before Elisabeth Sladen was too tall, and he liked to perform against a physically small woman, one he could be seen to physically protect. Ahem.
But there’s one sexist trope that, narratively, Doctor Who almost never used, and looking back over some of the rather dodgy decisions made by the show and its almost all-male writing tradition, it’s quite impressive that they didn’t. They almost never killed the girl.
[Spoilers follow for a bunch of Classic & New Who]
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