Last night my husband and I enjoyed the 2008 Christmas special, starring David Tennant and David Morrissey, previously of Blackpool fame. It’s at least the third time I’ve watched it, and it’s still a great story and a fun romp. (The cyber-shades are still ridiculous, but that’s beside the point.) The Doctor, Victorian London, and Cybermen: what’s not to like?
This time, though, I really noticed how much of a man’s story this is. Two men, suffering from the loss of their women, partner to the near-exclusion of women, in order to battle a woman. This is not in itself a problem; it’s a perfectly valid story choice, and it is a good story, well told, about these two men, their shared pain, and their shared adventure. It got me thinking again, though, about the long-term dearth of women writers. We have two choices before us: men’s stories, and women’s stories told by men. I don’t personally believe that men can’t write women, or can’t tell women’s stories, or vice versa. I simply wonder what we’re missing by not having women’s stories, and men’s stories told by women. Fifty percent of the perspective of the entire world is missing.
I’m also given to contemplate the stories currently out there. Women’s stories are told within the format of Doctor Who; they are not excluded. ‘Rose’ is a prime example. The title character opens and closes the episode, and follows an arc of change across the story. The Doctor is supporting cast here. Russell T. Davies tells the story beautifully.
‘Rose’ is not the only example, either. ‘The Runaway Bride’ is Donna’s story: her arc forms the backbone of the episode. ‘Partners in Crime,’ too, features Donna’s growth and change. ‘Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords’ is Martha’s quest, from her first inkling of who Rose really is for the Doctor, to her final act of leaving him behind to look after her family. ‘Amy’s Choice’ is about Amy realizing what makes her life worth living. ‘Blink’ is about Sally Sparrow finding her courage and figuring out the mystery. All of these are at least decently told women’s stories written by men, and there are others besides.
Just out of curiosity, what kinds of stories do DW’s rare female writers tell? Barbara Clegg’s ‘Enlightenment’ is part of the Black Guardian trilogy, and as a result, primarily Turlough’s story. I haven’t seen Rona Munroe’s ‘Survival.’ Helen Raynor wrote two two-part stories for the new series: ‘Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks,’ which is a Doctor story, and ‘The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky’ which is mainly Luke’s story – he is the character who grows and changes the most. All men’s stories told effectively by women.
(Of the other women writers credited on the show, one – Jane Baker – wrote exclusively in partnership with her husband, so it’s difficult to distinguish her individual contribution, and the other two – Lesley Scott and Paula Moore – likely didn’t write anything at all.) (source)
‘The Next Doctor’ being a man’s story is not a bad thing. Men telling women’s stories – and men’s stories – is not a bad thing. But it can only improve the show, and the types of stories told, to include as many women writers as men. Only then will we be getting the best range of stories we can get.
It will be a long time coming, but it will undoubtedly be worth it.