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The Idiot's Lantern

Doctor Who Hasn’t Had a Single Female Writer Since 2008, And It’s Making Me Angry


In advance of Doctor Who‘s return to our TVs this weekend, The Guardian has an excellent article on how the show hasn’t aired an episode written by a woman since 2008. That’s 60 episodes, not-a-one of which was written by a woman. Even before then, Who‘s only had one female writer, Helen Raynor, since the dawn of the New Who era. And the number of episodes in season seven written by a women is, you guessed it, zero.

Doctor Who, I’m disappointed in you.

Asked by the Guardian’s Mathilda Gregory about the show’s plans to hire more female writers (something then-executive producer Caroline Skinner said last year that she planned to do, but which hasn’t happened yet), producer Marcus Wilson explained:

“Due to schedules and other projects, both male and female writers whom we have wanted to join the team simply haven’t been able to.”

Well… OK. While not exactly reassuring, that response at least leaves the door open to the possibility that Doctor Who has been pursuing female writers. They just haven’t been able to get the ones they wanted. I’m sure they’ll keep trying. It’s not great, but it could be wor—

“For us it’s about who can write good Doctor Who stories, regardless of gender.”

STOP.

RIGHT.

THERE.

I am so sick of that cop-out, BS argument. Marcus Wilson, let me explain you a thing.

If a show has zero female writers, it’s not because there are somehow zero female writers who are qualified to do that job. In the Guardian article Jenny Colgan, who wrote a Doctor Who tie-in novel, points out just a few female writers with a “proven track record” in sci-fi, among them Margaret Atwood, J.K. Rowling, Ursula le Guin, and Suzanne Collins. If your response is “But they’re novelists, they wouldn’t write for a TV show!,” I invite you to check out CultBox’s (excellent) list of five female writers we’d like on Doctor Who.

Gender inequality in the writer’s rooms of sci-fi and fantasy shows is particularly severe; for example, The Sarah Jane Adventures had no female writers, and of the 65 episodes of Merlin only four of them were written by women. That 65-to-4 ratio [Edit: Aaaand that woud be 61-to-4, actually] is not because women aren’t able to, or don’t want to, write for genre TV shows.

Rather, it’s due in large part to the fact that the TV and film industries, more than just having a long history of being male-dominated, were built upon the idea that men hold leadership positions, whether it’s being a director or a writer or a studio exec. With few exceptions, that’s how things were in the formative years of the industry, and that’s how they’ve continued to be, even though few(er) people think (or would admit to thinking, at least) that women can’t do the job.

Back me up, Doctor Who and Primeval writer Paul Cornell:

“A lot of it is down to mere tradition. TV writing itself, and then geekdom, have both, historically, been seen as male pursuits. But in both cases, that stereotype is over. OK, it persists as a joke about geekdom, but the reality of it is vanishing.”

Cornell notes that TV writing is catching up to reality, albeit slowly, citing a growing number of female executives and noting that “those executives are genuinely searching for new female talent, [so] perhaps we’re just living during a couple of decades of that talent slowly arriving.” There’s been a growing number of genre shows with female writers in recent years, too, among them Game of Thrones (still just one female writer, but that’s better than none), True Blood, and Once Upon a Time.

That’s a start. But I dont’ want to wait another few decades while the industry catches up. If genre shows want more gender-balanced writing staffs (and they should), they need to stop hiding behind the old “Well, would you look at that. All the writers we’ve hired have penises! Whaddaya gonna do?” excuse and make the conscious decision to hire some female writers.

We’re looking at an imbalance that’s been around—been nurtured and encouraged—for decades. It’s not going to magically go away by itself.  Please, Doctor Who. Take the triceratops by the horns here.

(via: The Guardian)

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  • Dan Wohl

    I can barely express how frustrated I am with the “we are totally gender-blind, 100% of the qualified candidates JUST HAPPENED to be male!” excuse. Especially because it always feels to me like there is a subtext of “actually it is us who are more progressive because, unlike you, we don’t think about gender as an issue at all” to it.

  • http://melancholywise.tumblr.com/ Sophie

    ‘We’re not sexist. We just happen to think that male writers write better stories than female writers.’

  • Anonymous

    This is what I’m getting from this:

    “Doctor Who hasn’t had a female writer in a long time. That makes them willing participants in a sexist agenda. Doctor Who, hire a female writer and make sure we know there’s a female writer getting work to prove you’re not sexist. If you’re not with us, you’re against us. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

    Whenever someone calls out that there’s not enough of any demographic in something, the immediate reaction is to just put them there by force. That doesn’t make it genuine, and that doesn’t fix the problem. I know that’s not what you intend, but that’s the solution to the problem you are perceiving.

    “What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Now! Or else you’re confirming you’re sexist.”

    And guess what? Women aren’t the only demographic not getting attention. Guess how many people of color and ethnic backgrounds have been involved in Doctor Who? There was definitely Freema Agyeman, and even Noel Clarke, but what about since? Does not having any people of color make them racist too? They better put some black people in there just so no one can call them out on it, because that’s how you say, “See? We’re not racist!” It’s like you want the Power Rangers equal opportunity cast, which wasn’t pandering at all.

    There’s a fine line between achieving equality, and forcing equality though unequal treatment. This kind of attitude following the Adria Richards fallout is disappointing. I would have thought our culture would have learned something from the passive aggressive public shaming tactic to achieve equality and respect.

    “Hah! I caught you being not diverse enough! Now the world will see you for what you really are and the public pressure will force you to cave and immediately hire the people you need to be diverse! That’ll teach you!”

    There’s nothing wrong with wanting gender, in addition to racial/ethnic and otherwise, diversity and equality in all fields. But seeking it out through some ill conceived righteousness and vilifying the thing you are trying to improve is not the way to do it. Want to be constructive? Host a fan fiction contest. Winner gets sent to BBC with your support and a POSITIVE public pressure to address the issue. Fix the problem by fixing it, not by wanting someone else to fix it. Gandhi wasn’t remembered for saying, “Call people out for not seeing the change you want to see in the world.”

  • Anonymous

    I went to check this out and discovered that there are also only 4 female directors in all of new Who. The first female director was Hettie MacDonald who directed Blink in the 3rd series. The greatest number of female directors is 2, Catherine Morshead and Ashley Way, in series 5. There do not appear to be any female directors slated for the forthcoming 7th series.

  • http://elisabethflaum.wordpress.com/ Elwyne

    Thanks for addressing this. It’s been on my mind.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    Right?! A+ for you, you don’t think gender is an issue. IT STILL IS, JUST NOT IN THE WAY YOU MEAN. ARRRGH.

  • Burritomadness

    You know, and that might be a valid argument if the scripts were blind selected. But they’re not. So it’s not some sort of magical meritocracy that would be messed up and be made less ‘genuine’ by questioning why there haven’t been any female writers on a show that has a lot of writers in around five whole years.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I don’t care who writes it as long as it doesn’t suck.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    The beginning of this article does sound an awful lot like, “Hire ANY female writers, regardless of quality.”

    And I’d never use Suzanne Collins or J.K. Rowling as a defense of how to write well.

  • Anonymous

    Your argument only works up to a point. 2008 is a long time ago and “there wasn’t any good female candidates available this year” is easier to defend than “there hasn’t been any good female candidates available for the last 5 years”. I don’t want diversity to be too forced either but there’s a point when it’s obvious you’re not giving everybody a fair chance.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    No one’s trying to force Doctor Who to hire female writers, if only because that’s an impossible thing to do. If they’re going to hire female writers, it’ll have to be their choice, not ours. I, for one, don’t have any delusions about fans being able to FORCE the showrunners to do anything.

    The show’s doing something we don’t like. We’re expressing our opinions on it. What’s wrong with that? How does that equal “shaming”? (And yes, I do think there should be more POC on Doctor Who, too.)

    Your fanfic contest scenario is great, and I’d love it if we had more opportunities to express our wishes directly to the BBC and know we were being listened to. We should take advantage of opportunities like that as they arrive, absolutely. But there aren’t many of them. There aren’t any CHANCES for us to directly step in and “fix the problem,” because the decision to hire more women, to hire more POC, isn’t up to us.

    All we can do is let the BBC, the people who make the ACTUAL decisions, know what we’d like to see instead of what they’re doing now. As fans, that’s what’s in our power. If we want to keep watching the show, that’s really all we can do.

    So what’s wrong with doing it?

  • John Templeton

    Yeah, forget if the writing is good, the characters compelling, etc. We have to have a female quota!

    I’m with the commenter below: I don’t care who writes it as long as it doesn’t suck.

    BTW: “That 65-to-4 ratio” would be 61-to-4. Was that sexist of me to point out the mistake? Probably going to claim it was anyway.

    But let’s take your bait: what is the precise quota level that a show would need to fill in order to get your Betty Friedan feminist seal of approval? The population in general (~50%)? How about the viewing population in general? How about the viewing population of the show already (which I will bet dollars to donuts is skewing heavily, heavily male).

    Come on, what’s the magic number? Percentage? Ratio?

  • John Templeton

    Exactly. Next up: threats of lawsuits (since BBC America is headquartered in NYC, thus giving US courts jurisdiction, I expect to see threats of gender discrimination suits flying soon).

    DIVERSITY! DIVERSITY! YOU WILL BE EXTERMIN…er…DIVERSE!

  • John Templeton

    “No one’s trying to force Doctor Who to hire female writers” yet, but it seems clear from your post that you demand some female names or else…what? Lawsuit? Go right ahead, please. Try.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    Nope, not sexist to point that out. Could’ve been less rude about it, though.

  • Anonymous

    You realize that such an argument is really disingenuous don’t you? We don’t know how much more or less appealing to you the stories on Doctor Who would be if they had a writing staff that more accurately reflected the number of quality genre writers of each gender. “Well what they are giving us right now doesn’t suck” is not an argument against trying something different because something different could very well be BETTER than more of the same. And it’s not about a quota it’s about a show not making an effort to have a diverse writing staff. When they can’t find even a single female writer in FOUR YEARS, it looks an awful lot like they haven’t even been looking.

  • http://twitter.com/Super_Widget Joanna

    Stop being a patronizing ass. If you go to any fanfic site you will see that there is a huge female fan base for Dr. Who. All we’re saying is we’d like to see more female writers in our favorite shows because it would be nice. Mk?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alissa-Knyazeva/100000197242034 Alissa Knyazeva

    Yeah, really. I’m taking writing classes (for the visual media) in my university right now. You know what the demographics are? 50% female, 50% male. And I doubt we’re so unique and special that this hasn’t been the case in every writing classroom for at least a decade or two now. Don’t fucking bullshit me and tell me that there are “so few women writers to choose from, so we totally by chance ended up with an all-male writer team”. It’s statistically not possible unless you purposely select for male writers.

    And here’s the REALLY insidious thing. The people who read and select these scripts are for the most part male. So, when presented with a script written by a woman who does not tailor her scripts it to fit the male gaze, they will automatically reject it because it’s “not as good”, while in reality it’s actually REALLY good, it just doesn’t, y’know, focus on the validation of a [white] dude’s existence. I remember a screen-writer acquaintance of mine was telling me how she kept trying to put dialogue between female characters into her script to at least match the Bechdel Test approval levels, and kept being asked to take it out because, as one fine gentleman put it, “no audience wants to hear these dumb broads yap”.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    All I’m saying is that I think Doctor Who should have more female writers. THAT’S IT. No one is suggesting suing anyone. I don’t know what article you read, but it’s not the one I wrote.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I’m going to take the 4 dislikes to mean, “We’d rather if it sucked!” Weirdos.

  • http://twitter.com/mkmaster78 Benjamin Meis

    I come to this site and while I don’t always agree with your views, I rarely comment.
    However:
    When you choose to hire anybody because they are female (or black or Hispanic or whatever) you are exactly as sexist/racist as anyone who refuses to hire based on gender/race. You are just as wrong, period. Affirmative action policies for gender or race are immoral. Hire for talent, skill, dedication, hard work, etc. If physical characteristics are part of what you’re making your decision on (for or against), you are wrong.
    Sorry for the rant.

  • Burritomadness

    Well, it’s always more fun to burn a straw feminist.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Since he was quoting me, I didn’t intend for it to mean “what they are giving us right now doesn’t suck.” Moffat’s been an incredibly disappointment regardless of who has been working with him and I think the only saving grace of season seven has been the Christmas episode, Jenna-Louise Coleman, and Matt Smith.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    BETTER writers, yes? Or does it matter?

  • http://twitter.com/GiveUntoMeStuff GiveUntoMeStuff

    And you think banning me and deleting the post because I called you out on your quest for a quota helps your position at all?

  • http://twitter.com/GiveUntoMeStuff GiveUntoMeStuff

    Just say no to the feminist quota system! Hire best best writers, not the ones who happen to be women.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=178002540 Danielle Stanard

    This action in the comments is exactly the reason I don’t participate in the Dr. Who fandom, self-righteous priviledged white dudes who will always just jump on the show’s side when it’s clearly swinging back toward catering to their priviledge. Does it surprise me that Moffatt doesn’t employ any female writers? No, I think they’re either too smart to want to work with him based on the ignorant themes of his work, or it’s simply the fact that Moffatt has a track record of misogyny. I shouldn’t even have to link the articles in which that’s painfully apparent, but in case anyone cares enough to read the evidence, here’s a link to a list: http://feministwhoniverse.tumblr.com/post/25598314408/steven-moffat-is-a-douchebag-the-masterlist

  • http://twitter.com/illusClaire Claire

    why are you even on this site?

  • http://twitter.com/Deggsy Deggsy

    Bull.
    If there wasn’t already an active if (usually) subliminal bias towards straight white able-bodied males in our society, then affirmative action, officially or not, wouldn’t be needed. But it is needed. Because all establishments, whether they’re governments or businesses or military organisations or clubs or production companies or whatever, are resistant to change. Give them a choice between two people of equal talent, skill, dedication, hard work etc. and they will choose the person they’re accustomed to seeing and working with: the straight white able-bodied male. They need to be nudged into change. Or kicked.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I think the general argument you’re going to get with this is, “That’s assuming that writers’ scripts are accepted without knowledge of their reputation, sex, age, political agenda, height, weight, species, nationality, race, gender, eye color, or favorite food, and that’s not the way the world is, so battle lands have to be drawn, ground has to be taken, and sometimes you have to do a bad thing in order to make a good change.”

    I just wanted to be the first one to make that argument. Also, since I’m rarely on this side of the fence, I get to say the thing I generally pretend I hear:

    Shame on you for being altruistic. Get back down in the mud with the rest of us.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    BETTER writers, yes? Or does it matter?

    I’m actually asking rather than trying to start a fresh argument. I’d like to know where you stand.

  • http://twitter.com/GiveUntoMeStuff GiveUntoMeStuff

    So give us the number: what is the % of women who have to be on staff for you to be happy? Give us the quota number.

  • Anonymous

    Well, I’ll take this one.

    I see this is a pet peeve close to your heart. I usually enjoy Doctor Who – I have since the Tom Baker rereuns I watched as a tot. It’s campy fun. Despite this, I think a lot of the writing is not great, and many of the characters are strangely flat. I’ve noticed that the Doctor’s companions are almost always women, and generally written poorly.

    So: problems with the writing, and a plethora of flat characters. By your own reasoning, then, there’s a need for some new blood on the writing team. I don’t think it’s a question of finding some magical ratio of men-to-women writers. Hiring women just to fill a quota is stupid and insulting. It’s a question of finding GOOD writers – something which Doctor Who has been failing to do, lately. I yawned my way through the last season with 10, and caught a couple of eps with 11 that were just dreadful.

    What’s troubling about this news is the strong implication that female candidates have been excluded from the pool of DW writers, for whatever reason. For I call “shenanigans” on anyone who claims 1) there aren’t enough good female writers vying for the job, 2) they won’t write engaging, three-dimensional characters, or 3) Male writers should write sci-fi, because men are the main audience. My sense of fairness, which insists that all qualified candidates be given a fair shake, is concerned.

    In closing, I encourage you to read some of Betty Friedan’s work. ‘The Feminine Mystique’, her best-known work, speaks against the archaic notion of defining women through their ability to keep house and mother. Women are as capable as their male counterparts to enter and succeed in the workplace. I’m certain your use of the phrase “Betty Friedan feminist” didn’t mean to imply the inverse.

  • http://twitter.com/mkmaster78 Benjamin Meis

    I’m going to have to disagree, not only are those policies not needed, they are more damaging than helpful. They create resentment and lead to hiring of ill-suited people because they fulfill a quota rather than the best available person. What is needed is more education to remove focus on perceived differences gender/race/creed/etc. and increase focus on suitability.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Most of my writing classes were diversified roughly the same way and most of the male writers turned in Reservoir Dogs as written by a six-year-old, but with more swearing, so I am inclined to think women are better writers, based on my own experience.

  • Anonymous

    People get angry when others don’t take a moral stand where they do, which is silly. Moral stands are all around us but people only have the time to give a damn about a few. The food we eat, the shows we watch, the games we play, the furniture we buy, the coffee we drink, and so much more. If you look at an industry then you will find businesses in it doing dirty things. How many people are going to get angry at you though for not knowing about the poor working conditions used to manufacture your coffee?

  • Elisabeth Day

    “Well, would you look at that. All the writers we’ve hired have penises! Whaddaya gonna do?”

    FOR FUCK’S SAKE! How many times do we have to go through this? Penises DO NOT EQUAL men. Men DO NOT EQUAL penises.

    I know several trans women who are currently trying to break into science fiction/fantasy writing, and let me tell you, their anatomy has not been a boon in securing work. In fact, I can say with 100% certainty, the barriers they face are much higher than those of cis women.

    Men dominate the areas of society that they do thanks to the centuries of institutionalized privilege awarded to men, not people with penises, MEN. Pretending otherwise is extremely demeaning to the trans women struggling to overcome the prejudice they face due to their gender AND their anatomy.

    And before anyone says it, being trans* supportive most of the time does not give you the right to be cissexist. Cissexism, both morally and factually, is always wrong.

  • http://twitter.com/Deggsy Deggsy

    Infinity percent. And you should hire one yourself, your continued arguments about feminist quotas is beginning to make you look a bit hack.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    GOOD writers. I don’t think “better” is the issue, because… better than what? Better than the writers we already have? Since female writers AREN’T being hired, there’s no way to know whether or not they’re “better” than the guys who currently have the jobs. They’re not given a chance.

    I think saying “better” is a deflection, honestly. Because “better” is subjective. And, as mere fans, we’re not privy to the decision-making process. We don’t know what options Moffat has in terms of the writers he can hire, the stories that they wrote, the scripts he has sitting on his desk.

    The issue is this: When someone says “Well, they just went for the best stories, regardless of gender,” what you’re asking me to believe is that in FIVE YEARS there wasn’t ONE woman with a script up to Doctor Who’s standards.

    Not one year. Five years. Sixty episodes. And not one woman was good enough? Really?

    I call BS on that. Sorry.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Oh, man. I want some coffee.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nicolas.peterson1 Nicolas Peterson

    File this under who gives a shit.

  • Anonymous

    No I wasn’t quoting you, you’ll notice that I did not reproduce exact words which you typed. I was paraphrasing John Templeton’s argument and accidentally put it in double quotes rather than single quotes (after I post this I intend to correct that error). My intention was for it to be read as a sarcastic summarization of Templeton’s position. Also you may wish to be aware that person’s on the internet are not automatically male.

  • Anonymous

    A show with regular female sidekicks, a diverse supporting cast and a huge female audience, and “Doctor Who” didn’t hire a single woman to write any of the 40 (give or take depending on the webisodes) episodes since roughly 2008. And considering how often New “Who” would have special guest writers for episodes, that’s more than just not finding any good writers.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    To say, “Since female writers AREN’T being hired, there’s no way to know whether or not they’re “better” than the guys who currently have the jobs” doesn’t make any sense at all to me. You linked to that article with the list of writers that could conceivably do the job, yes? So, there are people that pay closer attention than I do to who is writing the good episodes of our favorite shows. Surely there’s a selection of female writers that could write a better script than the shittier Who episodes. So, you CAN qualify them by asking for better writers and preferable female ones. I don’t think it’s a deflection at all to ask for, for example, a better written female companion, preferably written by a female writer. And with a selection of proven writers, all female, to choose from, why not?

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    “Since he was quoting me,” I meant John Templeton. And I assumed he was male because…his name is John.

  • http://twitter.com/johncfarrier John Farrier

    Just curious: how many male writers does The Mary Sue employ?

  • Rebecca Pahle

    I think the “good” vs “better” disagreement we’re having here is mostly just semantics.

    Like you say, we know that there are female writers who can do the job. So if not one female writer’s been hired in five years… why is that? They’re there. They’re working. The fact that all of the eps in the last five years have been written by guys can’t be explained by “oh, well, of all the scripts we could’ve chosen, the best 60 just happened to be written by men.”

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Okay, yes, I agree, I just didn’t like the idea that ANY female writer would be better, regardless of calibre, so I wanted to know if it mattered to you or not whether the hired writer (regardless of sex) was right for the job.

    But, yeah. Of course. They’re obviously being sexist. I agree.

  • Anonymous

    And this is why disqus’s variable comment sorting (oldest, newest, or best) is annoying. I sort by oldest which also has nested commenting and as you were replying to me and had reproduced my words I presumed you were addressing me. Misunderstandings all around.

  • Anonymous

    Or they’re disliking because they don’t see your comment as contributing to the discourse, because, well it really doesn’t.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    It’s cool. For the record, I have a much less extreme point of view than J.T., I do NOT assume that this article is toting a militant feminist agenda, I DO assume that it is calling attention to an obvious sexism amongst the writing community that work for the BBC, I just hope that when and if a female writer does take to the pedestal she’s capable and not there to drum up interest or prove “SEE?! WE HIRE WIMMEN”. There are obviously proven female writers out there and I’d love to see them take a shot…I’m just not too aware of television writers in general, so I can’t call out specific names.

  • Anonymous

    Whats even MORE problematic to the situation is Moffat has stated that he tends to hire other showrunners for Who as they “understand the scope/ weight” or some bullshit like that. If you think its hard to be a female writer, I can’t even imagine how hard it is to be a female showrunner so they are gonna be an even RARER breed. So while I dont think Moffat is intentionally sexist here (Sorry, I really don’t. Yes I’m a feminist. I’m even a WGS grad student) he’s not making an effort to NOT be sexist… which is where our problem lies.

    If you are going to be so selective that “Oh ho, one must be a part of the club to be a part of my club” then of course you’re not going to hire women. But he’s not thinking that way.

    I wonder if he thinks about our demographic at all? The women who might want to be the Doctor rather than just run away with him?

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Maybe, maybe. If you believe in the two party system.

  • http://rightcrafttool.blogspot.com/ Sign Ahead

    I frequently get to build teams from a pool of product designers, engineers and business people. Every time we build a new team, I am amazed at how easy it is to stock that team entirely with men (especially white men).

    But once we recognize the problem, tear the team down and rebuild it with an eye toward diversity, I’m also amazed at how good the new teams are. Their work is consistently excellent, and those diverse viewpoints frequently lead to surprising and innovative ideas.

    At some point in the future, we may be able to create diverse teams without having to stop and think about it. But for now, an informal quota system is a very useful tool. I don’t have any experience writing for TV, but I bet that Dr. Who would benefit from the same approach.

  • Anonymous

    I’ll pretend for a moment that this question is relevant, even though this article concerns a science fiction show intended for all audiences with no particular focus on masculinity or femininity, while The Mary Sue is a website that openly focuses on providing a female perspective on a perceived to be male dominated niche in popular culture.

    We currently have one occasional male contributing writer. We have had at least one other in the past, though I may be forgetting someone as I’m a bit brain-dead today. We have also had male writers from our sister site Geekosystem pitch in with a post here and there in the past. But, as I outlined above: this is not actually relevant information to this post. It is possible that you did not mean to imply discrimination on our part and if I come off as witheringly sarcastic in that case, then I apologize. Otherwise, please, do me a favor, and get withered.

  • Anonymous

    If one of your white male writers is resentful of the black woman who has joined the writing staff of your show because he thinks that the job should have gone to another white guy then there certainly is a suitability problem. The problem is that the first white guy is not suitable to work in your writing room.

  • Anonymous

    OP wrote: “If genre shows want more gender-balanced writing staffs (and they should), they need to…make the conscious decision to hire some female writers.”

    I’d be 100% with you if you changed that to read, “If genre shows want more equality of opportunity among writers of all genders (and they should), they need to…make the conscious decision to implement things like gender-blind script reviews to prevent unconscious biases from skewing decisions toward sexist results. Specifically and intentionally hiring people of a particular gender though? Not so much.

  • Katy

    The lack of female writers for shows like Doctor Who and Merlin is having an affect on the storylines of these shows. Mainly I find the male dominance in their writing rooms is leading to the use of common tropes in their stories. In all fairness though, it could be repetitive or lazy story writing. Merlin in particular always used the evil seductress trope in their stories. While Doctor Who isn’t as bad, the writers are definitely using the same storyline over and over again when it comes to choosing companions. The companion is ALWAYS a young, intelligent, human female. The companion ALWAYS feels an attraction to the Doctor (in their defense, who could blame them). Donna Noble was the exception to this trend and her series was one of the best (in my opinion, feel free to disagree). Likewise, Amy Pond’s storylines got better once Rory was brought into the equation and Amy’s romantic feelings for the Doctor were set aside. I don’t know if these patterns would disappear if there were more female writers on these shows, but perhaps the would be viewed differently, which would be a step in the right direction.

  • http://twitter.com/mkmaster78 Benjamin Meis

    Actually the resentment I’m talking about is built on both sides, where the coworkers or person who didn’t get hired constantly have to wonder whether person was hired because they’re skilled or because they were born a certain way. Conversely, the hiree has to wonder if they themselves were hired because they are skilled or not (even if they are, the question will raise itself as long as such policies exist) and whether their coworkers will think less of them because that possibility exists. Both sides feel resentment from the situation. And both sides suffer from psychological harm from it, harm that wouldn’t exist if employment was purely merit based (and known to be so). This, of course, doesn’t begin to cover the damage caused by hiring somebody who may not be suited for it, but fulfills a quota, to a company or service as a whole. There is no way that these policies can build good from bad. They’re not even a Band-Aid solution, they are simply a knee-jerk reaction, poorly thought out and with disastrous results.

  • http://twitter.com/johncfarrier John Farrier

    Oh, I’m not implying anything. I’m just curious. And since the post is about gender balance or lack thereof among employers, it strikes me as a relevant question. But if you regard it as off-topic, well, I’ll leave it at that.

  • Benj Hamilton

    I think an important sets of statistics to include on this would be: How many new writers were hired since 2005, and how many applicants were women? I can’t imagine that they go through writers like tissues, and there’s a ton of positions opening all of the time. I’m not suggesting that they are acting appropriately, just that if they’ve only had one or two positions open in the last 5 years, its reasonable that a male candidate was more qualified than the field of female candidates in those two discrete incidents.
    Statistically speaking, if 20% of the applicants are female, then 20% of the positions would be filled by females assuming that all applicants are of equal skill and suitability. Is it possible, even likely that we are looking at a statistical anomaly rather than a conspiracy?

  • http://twitter.com/rainsodden Rainsodden

    Make that only three.

    Ashley Way is, in fact, a man. (‘Ashley’ is still in use as a male name in the UK. I have a guy friend there by that name, actually. You get used to it.)

  • http://twitter.com/johncfarrier John Farrier

    I wouldn’t refer to them as weirdos, but yes, I’m not concerned about who’s writing so as long as the writing is good.

  • http://twitter.com/mkmaster78 Benjamin Meis

    The terms racism and sexism have nothing in and of themselves to do with societal imbalance or privilege. The are terms to distinguish beliefs and doctrines held up solely on the factors of ethnicity or gender without or in contradiction to supporting facts.
    Racism-
    a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/racism
    Sexism
    prejudice or discrimination based on sex
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sexism

  • Anonymous

    Frankly I’m shocked that “The Marty Stu: A Manly Male Guide To Dudebro Geek Culture” is practically dudeless. Shocked. What kind of false advertising is that?

  • Anonymous

    You realize that the solution to the problem of resentment of ‘diversity hires’ is the same as the solution to the problem of white male dominated workplaces right? More diversity means that there is less belief that a woman, person from a racial or ethnic minority, or person of a minority sexual orientation was hired solely for those ‘minority’ characteristics. And I would continue to assert that an individual who thinks less of his or her coworkers because of their race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation is not someone that a person in a managerial position (in the case of television largely showrunners) should consider suitable for continued employment. Your talk of quotas assumes that qualified writers of various diverse types do not exist to be hired so that a showrunner who wished to have a diverse staff would end up hiring a bunch of non-writers and thus not being able to create a television show. This is patently false.

  • http://twitter.com/Deggsy Deggsy

    Who says it has to be a knee-jerk, poorly thought out reaction? Many people have spent many years perfecting affirmative action policies throughout the world, and without examining each and every one of them, I can confidently assume that none of them will recommend hiring an unqualified person over a qualified person just because of their gender/colour/whatever.
    And we’re not talking about hiring surgeons or pilots here, we’re talking about writing for a damn sci-fi TV show! A show that’s been criticised in recent times for its poor portrayal of female characters, and so maybe could use a fresh, different point of view.

  • Anonymous

    I was worried about that possibility but couldn’t find any information beyond the name and (apparently incorrectly) thought that the transition from male name to female name had taken place in the UK as well. Thanks for the correction. That means that there has never been more than one female director in any series.

  • Anonymous

    They’ve had Neil Gaiman on board, and he’s a novelist. It wouldn’t be ridiculous to petition Rowling, or Collins (heck, the latter did the Hunger Games script).

    And let’s be honest here: Doctor Who isn’t exactly the pinnacle of literary achievement. Finding female writers that can write a good episode of a classic genre show shouldn’t require the same standards as Lady Shakespeare.

  • http://twitter.com/Deggsy Deggsy

    Instead of conspiracy, how about complacency? How do TV producers determine the suitability of a writer? More often than not they go for the ones with experience, not because they’re better, but because they’re *proven*. Someone else went through the “trouble” of taking a risk on them in the past. This is why we end up with hack, lazy, derivative writing. And when someone different is brought in, and their initial efforts are not as successful or well-received, then the Powers That Be can say, “See? We tried.” and drop them, giving them fewer second chances than the hacks.

  • Canisa

    Bear in mind that some of us don’t have the luxury of being able to not care about social issues, and that we’re also simultaneously experiencing the exact same problems as you, only exacerbated because of our artificially low societal status and maybe you’ll understand why I think you’re ever so slightly arrogant, and that your opinion is more than a little bit worthless.

  • Anonymous

    If we’re doing rhetoric-based-on-the-dictionary (the best kind of argument!), I might point you to the Cambridge dictionary, and even the second definition of that Merriam-Webster page you cite. Both of which mention institutional racism.

    Nice try though.

  • Anonymous

    For a show like Doctor Who which has an established world, feel, and characters it actually wouldn’t be all that difficult to staff your writing room with a sort of blind audition. You solicit scripts which are associated with their writers based on a number which strips away the obvious markers of gender, race, and ethnicity and pick out the ones which seem to have the most promising writers, interview with those in the top 10 or something. Seriously it doesn’t seem like it would be that complicated.

  • Canisa

    I doubt that would work. If you put that method in place they’d just deliberately hire white men and then claim (lie) that they used the blind method and that’s just how it turned out. If you have a quota, there’s no wiggle room. Either you made it or you didn’t, and you can’t assign responsibility for that to chance.

  • http://twitter.com/Deggsy Deggsy

    If I can drag in another sci-fi show reference here, I am reminded of a passage in a Star Trek novel (whose name escapes me at the moment), where a character was asked why the Klingons hadn’t defeated the Federation despite their military superiority. The character replied that Klingon starship commanders all come from the same warrior class, and thus think and act the same way, and therefore become staid and predictable after a time. But Starfleet recruits its commanders from Security divisions, Sciences, Engineering, Medical, etc. and with this diversity comes different ways of commanding, of seeing the universe, and therefore staying fresh, untraditional and unpredictable.
    Not that I want to completely eliminate Klingons from writing for Doctor Who…

  • Anonymous

    Given that there generally isn’t a tradition of transparency in hiring decisions I see your point. I still, perhaps with an unrealistic amount of optimism, think that a true merit based system could be implemented. At least part of the problem today is that people assume that hires are ALREADY merit based and thus any variation in hiring practices which would result in more minority representation in the writers room would mean making the process LESS merit based.

  • http://twitter.com/rainsodden Rainsodden

    I would have assumed it was a female name there, too, if I hadn’t had experience otherwise. Interestingly, the British Ashley I know is also from Cardiff, so I wonder if there’s a regional element there. It’s strange how the name seems much less girly when you associate it with a man!

    That said, for someone who’s done a lot of work on the Doctor Who/Torchwood/SJA franchises, there seems to be very very little biographical information out there on Mr Way. I did manage to dig up this interview with him on the Torchwood set, just to confirm: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPwhsHtTct8.

    Sadly, the reason I thought he was a man was because he’d done so much work for the franchise–I assumed in this day and age a woman couldn’t have directed that many episodes of a sci-fi show without comment on it. And, sadly, I was correct.

  • http://twitter.com/Deggsy Deggsy

    You’re right, it isn’t complicated – many employers, including my own, use a similar process. And because of it, we have a diverse of people who bring a wide variety of experiences and perspectives.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I’m arrogant but you think my opinion is “more than a little bit worthless.” So, hello, Kettle.

  • Anonymous

    So I went through the writing staff for series 1-7 excluding the specials to see what the patterns of gain and loss of writers were.

    Series 1 had a writing staff of 5.

    Series 2 had a writing staff of 7. 3 s1 writers returned and 4 new writers were added.

    Series 3 had a writing staff of 8. 3 s2 writers returned, 1 s1 writer returned, and 4 new writers were added.

    Series 4 had a writing staff of 7. 5 s3 writers returned and 2 new writers were added.
    Series 5 had a writing staff of 7. 2 s4 writers returned, 2 s3 writers returned, 1 s2 writer returned, and 2 new writers were added.

    Series 6 had a writing staff of 8. 4 s5 writers returned, 2 s2 writers returned, and 2 new writers were added.

    Series 7 has a writing staff of 7. 5 s6 writers returned, 1 s5 writer returned, and 1 new writer has been added.

    These numbers show that lately the number of new writers hired has gone down as the pool of writers for the show has stabilized. The tendency to draw on writers who have already worked for the show reinforces the gender homogeneity of the group. The pool of writers who have never written for new Who is large and includes plenty of women, but the pool of writers who have already written for new Who is only 20 people and includes only 1 woman so following the pattern of hiring people who have already worked on the show effectively locks out women.

  • Anonymous

    I have a question for the people (all guys it seems…how very not surprising) who believe that diversity in the writing room of Dr. Who is unnecessary: How would you feel if every single role on the show was played by a white male?

    You’d eventually lose interest, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t matter how good the writing was or how well the actors performed. The simple truth is that every single aspect of our lives is better when there is diversity within it. Despite what some on this thread are implying, there has never been an example of the artistic quality of a show being compromised because of an increase in creative diversity.

    Unless you only read one author, listen to one musician, watch only one actor, and play only one video game character over and over again, you value diversity in your entertainment. So why are you so threatened by the idea of more women in the writing room? Let me answer that, White Male Privilege and the fear of having to accept the idea that if you are white and male you have an ingrained advantage in western society from the day you are born. Now, the proper response is not to get all super-duper defensive about this well-documented reality (go ahead, research it, you’ll be smarter, better people for having done so), but instead to invite more people that love the things that you do – but who don’t necessarily look like you – to add to the greatness of those things.

  • Anonymous

    Doctor who hasn’t had a female writer since 2008. Also, she wrote two episodes and was the first female writer on the show in about thirty years. The one before her wrote one episode.

    Tell me again about how the show is suddenly taking a down-turn because there aren’t any women writing for it anymore.

  • http://www.facebook.com/leahshoffman Leah Hoffman

    Here’s another female author who has experience in both literature and television, AND inserted a Doctor Who cameo into one of her novels–DIANE DUANE. Thank you for writing this article–gender shouldn’t be an issue, but when diversity is lacking and the balance is off, you know a show is headed into dire straits. If Once, Buffy, Star Trek, and a shit ton of other popular TV shows can diversify, Doctor Who, with its messages/themes of gender neutrality, sexual preference rights, and people/species equality, should be able to accomplish the same thing!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dessa-Brewington/721495970 Dessa Brewington

    BUT WHERE ARE THEY GOING TO FIND WOMEN WHO LIKE DOCTOR WHO!??!?!?!??!

  • OdinsEye

    Thank you, all jobs should be based on talent, not on gender or race. Having a quota just means more qualified candidates get shafted because of gender or race..

    Not to say that there are not women who are qualified, because of course there is. But to say that the writing will suffer because only men are writing it seems pretty sexist. This seems more like lazy producers going with people they know, than “lets not hire any lady writers”

  • Anonymous

    “So while I dont think Moffat is intentionally sexist here…”
    Intention is not the point; the sexism is. Intention is not magical. Otherwise, definitely agree with you.

  • Anonymous

    That’s not the point, Adam.

  • Anonymous

    Fascinatingly privileged response.

  • Anonymous

    What Doctor Who really needs, in my opinion, is strong female characters. NOT Sassy Hot Chicks who are in love with the Doctor. NOT Bouncy Fangirls who spend a majority of their Companionship pining away and/or making brazen overtures of sexual interest. We need variety. We need practicality. We need more Donna Nobles.

  • Anonymous

    Agree, Canisa. Well said.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for pointing this out. I hope The Mary Sue corrects this.

  • Anonymous

    *sigh* Adam…when we’re asking to be included in a space, to have our gender represented (and YES, I wholeheartidly agree for more people of color, disabilities both physical and mental, transgender, all sexual orientations, etc! All of it!), it does NOT mean we’re asking for “Oh just any token woman will do!” No. If you find that frustrating, then don’t you think we do as well?

  • Anonymous

    Nope! Might try, I don’t know, ASKING what it is we’re saying instead of your projection, dude.

  • Travis Fischer

    At least 60% of the people in any writing class I’ve taken have been female.

    On the other hand, 90% of the people in any writing class I’ve taken have been terrible writers, so I’m not sure if that’s a particularly good comparison anyway.

  • Anonymous

    Good question…

  • Anonymous

    Why do you think that? That is not what was stated.

  • Travis Fischer

    Didn’t you hear? Equality takes a backseat to arbitrary ratio standards.

  • Anonymous

    I am amazed how many people are getting this wrong. Oh wait, we live in the Patriarchy-no I’m not.

  • Anonymous

    It would be to your benefit to actually take a look at your own privilege, rather then continue to blame what is necessary.

  • Travis Fischer

    Nobody is trying to force Doctor Who to hire female writers?

    You might want to tell that to one… oh what’s her name… Rebecca Phale. You may know her. She recently wrote an article for the specific purpose of putting pressure on the BBC to hire female writers.

  • Anonymous

    Seriously!! And…I’m honestly asking…who the hell thinks “Oh all white male writers, they deserve to be there” with no irony, turn around and say “OMG u hired them because they are Minority!” Projection much?!

  • Anonymous

    Nope, nope nope and….No. Just no, Adam. No.

  • Travis Fischer

    Diane Duane is awesome. Her Spider-Man novelizations were my first introduction to the character.

  • Anonymous

    No, of course you’re not! Such an innocent question, also a logical fallacy. If you want to see your gender be more represented, there is a whole internet out there that will support and validate you (how privileged of you!) Not that The Mary Sue needs defending (obviously with Susana’s response), but this is their space. Regardless of what you may believe, excluding the most privileged is not a type of hatred, but rather creating a safe place for minorities to be heard.

  • Anonymous

    I’m waiting for your contribution to be relevant………probably gonna be here a while.

  • Anonymous

    If you mean to be even more inclusive then just hiring another gender, then HELL to the yes. I am all for that.

  • Anonymous

    Preach!!

  • Travis Fischer

    “Like you say, we know that there are female writers who can do the job. So if not one female writer’s been hired in five years… why is that?”

    Here’s the thing. You. Don’t. Know.

    According to somebody else’s research, Dr. Who has only brought in 15 writers since 2008. That is FAR too small a sample size to come to any conclusions about the BBC’s hiring practices.

    It’s possible that RTD and Stephen Moffett are secretly members of the He-Man Woman Hater Club. It’s also possible that’s just how things happened to work out. But you don’t know and until you do, stories like this are downright irresponsible.

    Yellow Journalism, even in the name of a good cause, is still Yellow Journalism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nicolas.peterson1 Nicolas Peterson

    Please dont cyber bully me

  • lanibgoode

    God, I *loved* Donna. When they took her memory away in Journey’s End I sobbed, threw the remote at my husband and told him I hated him for ever convincing me to watch Who. After Tate and Tennant, Smith is just….lame. I can’t get behind him as the Doctor, especially with Amy mooning over him all the time, and Rory mooning over her. Don’t get me wrong, I love romance. But Donna and the Doctor showed that you don’t need romance to have an amazing storyline. I’ve been dragging my feet watching series 7 because I’m sure it’ll be more of the same bull in 5 and 6. Amy constantly being the Damsel in Distress, Rory feeling like a third wheel even though he’s got the girl, etc. Blech.

  • Anonymous

    WOW. You really believe that?

  • Anonymous

    LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!!

  • Anonymous

    “It’s also possible that’s just how things happened to work out.”
    Again, you REALLY believe that? Really?!

  • http://twitter.com/pourru Amanda Saffer

    Would love to see Jane Espenson write for the show.

  • Anonymous

    I disagree. Intent is everything and is the key to combating it. If someone isn’t intentionally doing ANYTHING they can be educated a whole lot easier than someone who knows and doesn’t care.
    In combating sexism, I’d rather have a thousand whose intent was pure than one whose was malicious. I can’t change that persons mind, the thousand I can work with.

  • Travis Fischer

    I believe that this isn’t enough information about this matter to draw ANY conclusions.

    Show me evidence that Jane Espenson got passed on so that Mark Gatis could continue to work on the show or that Stephen Moffett actually has a “No Girls Allowed” policy and I’ll be right there with you to pass around the pitchforks and torches.

    But getting a single piece of information, speculating about its context, and then getting outraged over your own speculations while at the same time ignoring or dismissing evidence that contradicts your imaginary conclusion? That is the way of Fox News.

    It gives my profession a bad name, so yeah, it irks me.

  • Travis Fischer

    I forget, were you the one that said that you wouldn’t be happy until Hollywood directors had a 50:50 gender ratio, regardless of the actual demographics of people trying to get into the industry?

  • Anonymous

    It sounds like the author is saying that they want more women writers on the show, just for the sake of there being more women writers. They’re not commenting that the storyline is bad, sexist, or anything like that. They’re saying they want to be included for the sake of being included.

  • http://twitter.com/aagb1884 Andrew Blair

    If Wilson is saying:

    “For us it’s about who can write good Doctor Who stories, regardless of gender.”, then coupled with his other statement about trying to find female writers (FWIW, I believe RTD asked JK Rowling), then I don’t interpret the above as saying:

    “If a show has zero female writers, it’s not because there are somehow zero female writers who are qualified to do that job.”

    Instead its advocating a system based on ability, irrespective of gender. This is surely the correct approach, one of equality. The problem with this is, as Paul Cornell says, that TV writing is dominated by men and that trend is only changing slowly, so when the relatively low number of female writers are asked they cannot make it. A theoretically equal stance does not work in the practicalities of an inequal culture, It is the latter that needs to change.

    Oh, and Rona Munro please, if she’s free.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    It’s not YOUR point. Look, what I see here is this odd strife between entertainment (I’d say art, but…it’s Doctor Who) and cause. If your cause is the most important factor to you, then you want to see representation amongst the creators regardless of their performance. If the entertainment is more important, than the best possible outcome is that the show would be handed over to skilled hands.

    There’s a list attached to this article of women that might do a good job of writing a Doctor Who episode. I’m sure there are plenty of shows I’ve seen that have had their best episodes written by women. Unfortunately, I’m not aware of them because I always imagined television as being written by committee and Joss Whedon was pretty much the only television writer to take center stage when I was watching episode television on an obsessive basis. Lately, my excuse is that I’m simply negligent and haven’t noticed. Doctor Who makes it nice and clear by jamming the writer’s name in right below the title of the episode.

    Anyway, off my tangent: those women, other women, with proven histories of creating good television…should definitely be given the chance to write for Doctor Who because of the blatantly sexist bias that Moffat and others have taken with the show. I, for one, would be very interested to know how Clara would be written differently by a woman. I’m sick of the damsel and the fawn and we’ve gotten plenty of both in the last few companions.

    So, I’m in agreement. But the most important factor to me is whether the show is written well…and I posted what I posted mostly because I take issue with the “Any woman writing for Who would be better than no woman!” which I’d agree with if it were written by committee. But since the episodes seem to be generally written by one person…then, no. A female bus driver, civil engineer, paediatrician police officer, pilot, lawyer, or superhero (unless their power is awesome writing) would not be my first choice to write Who and I’d hope that whomever is given the task has cut their teeth on a show that I give less of a shit about.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Well, I’m not surprised by that. Am I as bad as Fox News, though?

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I’d hope so…which is pretty much the point I was trying to make in another thread, so now we’re kind of having the same talk in two places. My bad for that.

    But there was frustration in the above article that sounded ready for practically anyone else to take over as long as it isn’t another man. And while I can understand that frustration, I was hoping for standards.

    …but I neglected the link that Rebecca attached, which lists a few good examples of writers that SHOULD be given the show. So, while the article started in a place I wasn’t entirely thrilled with…well, I should have clicked the link. Entirely my fault. Sorry.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Oh, god, they are terrible, aren’t they? I read one story that was blatant M.A.S.H. fanfiction. I had no idea such a thing even existed. It was sort of wonderful.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I’ve recanted that presumption elsewhere, though I still stand by my Collins/Rowling bitching.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    THIS.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    LOL, I didn’t give you the Dislike…in fact, I gave you just the opposite. I felt the newspaper hitting my nose and everything. Alright. I apologize.

    I seem to apologize quite a lot in the morning.

    On here, I mean.

  • http://twitter.com/fried_madness Mo Stewart

    Jane Espenson *drops mic, walks away*

  • http://booooomstrawberries.tumblr.com/ Natalie Sharp

    Here here!

  • Katy

    So true! I’ve posted about this already. Donna Noble and the Doctor proved that a Doctor/Companion relationship can exist without romantic feelings. If anything, I always felt that the Doctor’s bond with Donna was stronger than the other companions in the new series because they bonded through friendship and not a one sided love affair. As well, Catharine Tate and David Tennant just had amazing chemistry. I saw there performance in Much Ado About Nothing and it was amazing. The Ponds were a close second for this type of companion/Doctor relationship because once Amy and Rory chose each other over the Doctor, the bond between the three became more family based. I have a strong feeling I will not like Clara, as she fits into the stereotypical companion mode, but I’m going to try. However, it would be nice and refreshing to see more diversity in the companion role instead of pretty, white woman. Yes I know that Martha Jones was black, but in general the companions are pretty cookie cutter. Why not a male companion like in the old series? Or try something risky like a gay or bi companion? Bring back Captain Jack!

  • Katy

    I found that eventually Amy stopped mooning over the Doctor or at least lessened the mooning near the end of series 6 and definitely in series 7 part 1. Donna and the Doctor are my favourite though. I loved how whenever there was romantic tension Donna broke it by telling the Doctor not to get any ideas.

  • http://rightcrafttool.blogspot.com/ Sign Ahead

    I’ve only seen a two of Donna Nobles’ episodes. They were part of a holiday Dr. Who marathon that (I think) tried to hit all of the highlights of David Tennant’s Doctor in one day. For a new Dr. Who watcher (which I was) it was difficult to figure out the overall story.

    In both episodes she wasn’t happy to be there and was very vocal about it. I came away thinking that the Doctor had kidnapped her. That was kind of creepy, so I never went back and watched the rest of her story.

    Since then, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Donna. I think I need to start at the beginning of her story (“Doomsday”, according to Wikipedia) and see who she really is.

  • http://melancholywise.tumblr.com/ Sophie

    It’s really worth it. ‘Doomsday’ is not the episode to begin with. I’d start from series 4 ‘Partners in Crime’ if you’ve already seen ‘The Runaway Bride’. She has a change of heart about travelling with the Doctor between those two episodes and tracks him down again in order to travel with him (and he never kidnapped her, she sort of ended up on his ship by accident).

    Honestly though, if I were you I’d just start at the beginning of the 9th Doctor’s run. Russel T. Davies had a knack for long form characterisation so it’s really worth watching from the beginning to understand the characters and stories. I also think series 1 has the tightest story arc of any of the series, and Christopher Eccleston is wonderful.

  • Anonymous

    I think one of the reasons the Doctor was able to bond so well with Donna is because he knew he could be chummy with her without her trying to read anything into it. Well, other than the whole “mate” argument. LOL! He didn’t have to shield himself against embarrassing fangirling with Donna, he just had to shield himself against her insults. Which is a lot more fun for me to watch.

    Part of me would love to see a gay/bi character, but I have a deep suspicion that it would manifest as a guy being in lust with the Doctor and that isn’t really an improvement to me. I love Captain Jack to bits, but I’ve had enough of lovesick Companions in general and I really wish the show would get past the idea that there HAS to be a romantic angle to the Doctor/Companion relationship. It always makes me feel vaguely insulted; as if TPTB don’t trust me, as a woman, to keep watching if there isn’t some lovey-dovey stuff built in. Which could tie in to the need for more feminine perspectives in the writers’ room.

    Classic Who didn’t need to force this angle down our throats, right? So why does Modern Who feel compelled to do it?

  • Anonymous

    And again………..that’s not the point. I seriously do not understand where this “we want ANY woman!!11 Eleventy!” is coming from.

  • Anonymous

    “regardless of the actual demographics of people trying to get into the industry?”
    And again…………………..you really believe that?

  • Anonymous

    “I believe that this isn’t enough information about this matter to draw ANY conclusions.”
    Then why are you?! Privilege does not allow those who have it the most to be critical of their surroundings; they simply hire those that are like them, ie straight, white, male, able-bodied, etc. We swim through sexism, racism, ablism, etc ALL the time; this is nothing new. You are wanting evidence for something that is literally ALL AROUND YOU, ALL THE TIME. All you have to do is LOOK, and LISTEN to those that are oppressed. So no, I don’t have to provide you with “evidence”; this is Feminism 101. Go learn you some.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I was just voicing my concern.

  • Anonymous

    There you go. Also, I realize we’re having the same convo in the replies; just the way these comments work out here.

  • Anonymous

    That’s fine, though I’m not fond of the term “bitching” being used as a synonym for complaining.

  • Anonymous

    But it’s not relevant to this conversation, because that isn’t the point, it hasn’t been part of the discussion since the author posted this. It stinks more of concern trolling, rather then a valid point.

  • Anonymous

    What an adorable troll! Can we keep it?

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Dually noted. I’ll resist the word’s tantalizing pull next time I’m complaining while in conversation with you. You make me very gripey.

  • Anonymous

    The point is, if you step on someone’s foot, regardless of whether you intended to or not, you still hurt that person’s foot. THAT’S the point; the hurt is still there. And yes, it may be easier to speak to people who “do not mean” to be sexist, then again they may pearl clutch those beliefs more tightly, since they are more concerned with Not Being a Bad Person to themselves rather then actually change anything (as evidence by some people I know personally).

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    It is a valid concern since one of the possible responses to this type of article (and the type of campaign it promotes) is for the BBC to stick ANYONE female in the chair to shut the masses up. I’d rather if that didn’t happen

  • Anonymous

    But the only ones who have responded this way are the ones who’s privileges we are challenging.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Right. So, we’re not arguing. I was only concerned that some of the language in the article could be construed to to mean precisely that. It’s why I asked Rebecca directly about her intention or hope for the future writers of the show and was totally satisfied…and didn’t continue belaboring.

  • Life Lessons

    Now I’m Pissed.

  • Katy

    I can see that happening as well. Honestly, when I found out the Ponds were leaving the show, I was really hoping Madame Vastra and Jenny would take over as companions for a little while. Just to switch things up.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JamesMauriceAlexander James Alexander

    I hear that complaint a lot and I only really feel like it’s viable with Rose Tyler. There is never any sexual tension with Donna, Martha had a crush on him she gets over, Amy makes one stupid post life and death situation pass at him, and it would be reductive to bring River into it because that’s a relationship of equals and not an arbitrary one.

    Clara could get really irritating from a feminist perspective from what I’ve seen so far. But we haven’t seen the version of her that will travel with the Doctor yet have we.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JamesMauriceAlexander James Alexander

    I don’t get the big deal with Donna. People seem to gravitate to her for no other reason than the fact that there was never a romance between her and the Doctor. If we want to judge her from that perspective let’s remember how the show introduced her, as she was so desperate to get married she got tricked into that alien scheme?

  • http://www.facebook.com/JamesMauriceAlexander James Alexander

    No one is advocating hiring bad female writers. Just that it might be a bad thing that there is such a massive discrepancy.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Although it would be fantastic of the press release said, “BBC Seeks Bad Family Writers,” I don’t thing that will likely happen. However, I could see that sort of thing (not the press release aspect) happening in response to this sort of outcry.

  • Anonymous

    It’s probably that my viewpoint is a biased- and got more biased with each progressive Companion (other than Donna), but I felt that Martha pined after the Doctor right up until the finale. Yes, she did “get over it” but then she wasn’t on the show anymore. Or not on a regular basis. And Amy… I found her awkward and embarrassing to watch. I couldn’t shake the feeling that her attraction to the Doctor was a constant undercurrent and persisted even after she was supposed to be with Rory. Heck, that’s been used as a plot point before. More than once. It was bad enough when she was single, but when she was supposed to have a boyfriend and was still doing it? I lost what little respect I had for her. I’ll assume that she did get better about it, eventually, but I stopped watching regularly near the end of S5 and only caught a handful of S6 eps so can’t comment beyond that.

    I know virtually nothing of Clara beyond rumors and hints, but if it turns out that she’s going to be more of a Donna-type character I may give the show a try again. And then again, maybe not. Lovesick fangirling isn’t my only complaint with the show, just the one most relevant to the discussion.

  • Anonymous

    Hence the label, concern trolling.

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad I’m challenging you. Also, join the club, as Expecting More of you is also very challenging work, and can make me gripey as well :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/JamesMauriceAlexander James Alexander

    In the version of Doctor Who I watched there was an episode in the middle of season 5 that shut the door on any possible Doctor/Amy romance (the one where they were trapped in the dream world and she kills herself not knowing if it would reunite them or not). When you take into account that the Doctor is marries River and all the other times Amy chooses Rory over the Doctor, it’s hard for me to read sexual tension as an undercurrent in their relationship. Hell, there was a whole arc of episodes where all of Amy’s memories of Rory where erased and still nothing happened between those two. And can you imagine Rose doing what Amy does in Angels Take Manhattan for friggin’ Mickey and Jackie? Wait, there is empirical evidence that she would not.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Cuz if you label, then you don’t have to bother going any further.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Were you born condescending or did you have to take a class?

  • Anonymous

    She was also obnoxious and opinionated and didn’t buy the line of bull the Doctor kept trying to feed her. She spoke up, asked questions, and figured things out. She didn’t go swanning about thinking she was Little Miss Hot Stuff, she suffered from feelings of inferiority, and she generally learned from her mistakes. She didn’t act like the Doctor was her personal property. Or at least not in terms of getting sulky if he had the gall to talk to someone other than herself.

    If you can’t see the appeal of the character for yourself it can be hard to explain. Yes, she WAS desperate to get married and I can think of a lot of reasons why she might have been, but that little fiasco really opened her eyes and she didn’t fall for that trick again. I feel like she did some growing up in general after that and I liked the result.

  • Anonymous

    In the version of Doctor Who you watched? There was probably a less insulting way you could have worded that, but at least it gives me an idea of what I’m dealing with, now. Thanks for sharing your opinion and please enjoy the rest of the show!

  • Anonymous

    I have the privilege of not dedicating my time to the issue or gender equality but I don’t have the moral privilege to ignore the issue, anyone with a working moral compass is the same. My presence here is to remain knowledgeable about the issues that women are facing and to share this knowledge with others when I am able to.

    While you may not find my dedication adequate, you should not be alienating others by a criteria that you keep behind three word comments. Not that you have done any service or disservice. I find your comments often snide and without content.

  • http://rightcrafttool.blogspot.com/ Sign Ahead

    Thank you, Sophie!

  • Anonymous

    Your dedication to an issue is not the problem, nor is your beliefs (whatever they might be). I take issue with what you stated, and I stand by what I said. And really, I’m tired of the “respond to oppression with niceness” routine that is so easily flaunted by the privileged (I’m assuming, such as yourself) to silence others. No, I don’t have to be nice. No, I don’t have to smile. No, I don’t have to do x, y and z to “help people understand”.

    ” I find your comments often snide and without content.”
    Okay :)

  • Anonymous

    You’re right. Done. Whatever. Breakdown in communication, and I’m done.

  • Anonymous

    Is that an actual question, or is this more projection?

  • Anonymous

    I can see how it came off that way, so I’ll stop, unless you’re interested to know what I meant.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ben.marchant.94 Ben Marchant

    “Excellent” article? Please. It’s poor. It doesn’t even address the question in the title. It lays out no real argument other than reporting on a few programmes with a lack of female writers and proclaiming it a problem. Go and read it properly rather just cheering because someone is writing about your cause. Mathilda Gregory is embarrassing female writers with the lack of substance in her piece.

    I invite you all to read the comments written on the original piece on the Guardian website, if you can do so without assuming every one that disagrees with you was written by some horribly sexist man. You’re not really getting a very balanced discussion here.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Hah, I guess it was a bit of both. Sorry. Kind of a useless thing to say.

  • Anonymous

    Man…I thought I editted this last night. *sigh* Anyway, I can see how it came off condescending; I was joking, but…there you go. Intention and all that. And thanks for the apology; all in all, no problem. In all honesty I do enjoy replying to you.

  • Anonymous

    Here’s the thing; what you missed in your first comment was we’re not angry. I’m frustrated. I’m disappointed. I’m tired of being mocked when I have a valid emotional reaction to our gender not being represented in society because Reasons (which are not valid). The idea of “looking for things to Get Mad About” has been used, time and time again. It is a silencing technique; consequently, so is the “I will alienate people with three worded responses”, which I assume means, “If I was Just Nicer, People Will Listen,”
    I don’t care about your dedication, or lack thereof; that’s your business. What I beef with is when you flaunt your privilege around with silencing techniques. THAT’S what I mocked. Kindly knock it off.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JamesMauriceAlexander James Alexander

    You’ll get no arguments from me on her being less possessive than Rose friggin’ Tyler who was like the Doctor’s psycho stalker fan girl. Just how lonely was this guy that he thought she was a good idea? But I guess I just didn’t fall in love with her. Although Catherine Tate has been really good in other roles.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JamesMauriceAlexander James Alexander

    Sarcasm is not always easily detected in text. I just don’t understand this idea that there was still the possibility of a Doctor/Amy hookup after how far the writers swung in the opposite direction (the Doctor was pre-destined to marry River before Amy was ever introduced) Harry Potter and Tonks had more sexual tension than those two. I just don’t understand this.

  • Anonymous

    I did a bit of a numerical analysis in this thread, but I’m unsure if you are referencing me because the number of new writers (new as in never wrote for the series before) since 2008 (that is s5 onwards) is 5 not 15. If you exclude the 5 writers who wrote the first season of new Who only 15 new people have been hired, but that is since 2006 (s2) not since 2008 (s4).

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I never quite understood how the road to Hell could be paved with good intentions until I started posting here…kidding. Sort of. But thank you, really. I agree and feel pretty much the same way.

  • Travis Fischer

    Ahhh, I wasn’t paying that much attention to the dates.

  • http://melancholywise.tumblr.com/ Sophie

    You’re welcome. Hope you enjoy!

  • Anonymous

    Your dedication is not my concern. I see no need for you to comment on it, other then to proclaim that you are a “True Ally”. And then you go on in an elaborate way to silence me. And what I mean by that is when you police my tone by stating: “you should not be alienating others by a criteria that you kee behind three word comments.” I will let Shakesville’s Melissa speak for me, since she tends to put things so well: “I don’t know how many times in how many different ways I can say this: Lecturing marginalized people on the ways in which they need to make privileged people more comfortable is not just failing to be a good ally; it is deeply hostile behavior that centers the comfort of the already-privileged. Maintaining one’s comfort cannot be an objective of someone keen to shed hir privilege.”

    (linky-poo): http://www.shakesville.com/2013/04/and-then-this-happened.html

    In short, take your tone-policing comments and shove it.

  • Anonymous

    I think you have me confused with someone else. I have never mocked you and I haven’t put down anyone. Perhaps you are reading more into Adam’s comment than my own. I pointed out that we all can’t take the same moral stand, but to be more clear what I am trying to say is that not all of us can dedicate the same amount of time an effort to gender equality. I personally can not, so I frequent websites that do and try to say something nice every so often.

    I do apply what I learn as well. Between anarchism and feminism, two months ago I stopped seeing my best friend since childhood. He had started to put down women, saying things I won’t repeat. I watched it escalate despite my attempts to show him how wrong he was. I believe that ostracization is the best cure for most things. I realize you don’t care about my dedication but I do otherwise I wouldn’t be here.

    I haven’t silence you or attempted to. You have already made three separate replies to me days apart from each other. I am lead to believe that you are just an angry person and I just so happened to be the latest target. Do something other than use quotes out of context. There is a difference in asking someone to comfort the privileged and asking someone to not be a jerk.

    I don’t regret suggesting that you should not be alienating people because your comment was clearly meant to illicit a response and responding to a three word comment is likely just what you wanted. An excuse to shoot back a mountain of replies like you have with no accuracy. It can best be described as hunting for ducks in wabbit season while using an elephant gun.

  • Anonymous

    I think this is touched on somewhere in this thread, but the biggest problem any program like this has usually involves the control issues of the showrunner(s) and something rather pathetic but ‘normal’ to the industry: cronyism. If women aren’t a part of this particular club it is likely because the door is closed to outsiders in general, regardless of gender. Moffat is going to work with writers he picks out personally, who will follow his ‘vision’ for show. Let’s not forget, Moffat is a childhood fan of the series (as many of us are, I hope) and he’s ‘living the dream’ of determining what the series looks like, how the Doctor is portrayed and adding romantic complications to the storyline because that’s what the Big Geeks do: they get the girl, or, if they don’t, the girl at least wants them and that might even be better.

    I love reading all the comments about how companions like Amy, River and Clara ‘irk,’ – these are Moffat’s creations, of course and they play to a stereotype he has in his head of, let’s call her ‘the perfect girl.’ In ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ she was Madame Du Pompadour, a woman who sees through him, sees the ‘lonely angel’ (because the Doctor has to be better than everyone around him), and loves him though she’s only known him ten minutes. She is also the first of what I like to call Moffat’s ‘child brides’ – something borrowed from The Time Traveler’s Wife, perhaps. In ‘Blink’ the perfect girl is Sally Sparrow, who is also a bit uncanny and clever and, of course, ‘hot.’ River Song, when we first meet her, is full of mystery, a woman who ‘got’ to the Doctor at some point, a very clever and daring woman who is also unabashedly flirty.

    These women were introduced during Davies’ tenure as producer and it shows: each character is mature and well-rounded, fascinating and audiences are easily drawn to them and care about what happens to them. By the time Moffat takes over as producer, River Song will be reduced to a reformed wayward psychopath and the most unlikely child of two other companions. Madame Du Pompadour will merge with Sally Sparrow to create Amy, only without the emotional payoffs. Amy (and Rory) will be treated so clumsily that by season six, whatever we might have cared about will be lost. That both Amy and Rory were ‘dismissed’ in the abysmal The Angels Take Manhattan with one phony ‘death’ after another (and the absurd consequence of the Doctor never being able to see them again – huh??) speaks volumes for how little ability Moffat has to manage character development or fill plot holes a mile long.

    I found my last straw bent with ‘A Christmas Carol’ – one of the most scathingly sexists pieces of writing, ever. The Doctor, going against his own grain, makes no attempt to save the life of poor Abigail – a woman confined to a frozen crypt out of cruelty, only to be released from it one day a year to keep the man who imprisoned her (and the Doctor, not forgetting him) company (and whom she subsequently falls in love with! Ugh!). How insulting is this? Oh, and she’s a divine angel, of course. Worse, still, the Doctor’s attitude toward women in this episode is outrageous – he ‘marries’ one of the most tragic figures of male abuse in Hollywood history – Marilyn Monroe – as a joke?? Of course, the entire story is ridiculous (he could have just popped back BEFORE the starliner ever took off and saved the day before it began) and did not bode well for series six.

    Moffat has repeated this theme, of course, with River Song – a woman who willingly goes to prison for a crime that never happened and is occasionally rewarded with a visit from her beloved (whom she fell for after only knowing him ten minutes – sound familiar?) who lets her out at night for the odd visit to a frost fair and free concert. How nice of him.

    Now Moffat is giving us another one of his Perfect Girls – Clara Oswald – pretty, clever, as aimless as Amy was, as strict as River or Reinette, only she’s a ‘mystery.’ Well, since she’s written by Moffat, not really.

    There’s no need to argue that Moffat is a talented writer – he is. The Empty Child, The Silence in the Library, Blink – all represent the best of Doctor Who. RTD’s experience as a producer ensured these stories would have proper weight – and consequences. Since Moffat introduced the idea that ‘time can be rewritten’ and ‘time-wimey,’ the consequences of behavior went out the window. Where is the real threat or drama if no one actually dies or suffers a bit? What is love to the Doctor?

    The best companions tend to be the Doctor’s conscience and his – yes, partner in crime. Donna Noble certainly personified this and it’s no surprise the support she gets from, especially, female fans. She even ‘became’ the Doctor for a bit and this only added to her appeal: a woman as the Doctor. There have been some of us, little girls we were, who watched the show and dreamed of being the Doctor, not just his sidekick. While there have been female Time Lords, they are not quite the same thing: after all, this show is called Doctor Who, not Random Lady Time Lord Why Not.

    Anyone who is a fan of anything, at one time or other, wishes that thing represented them better. Why is the Doctor always a white male with a British accent? Couldn’t he be a black male with an American accent? What about a Russian accent? What about an androgynous Tilda Swinton-type alien in men’s clothes?

    This show has the ability to be ANYTHING. It is a shame that it has been in the hands of some who are too limited to see it as anything but their own fantasy – but it is understandable. If any one of us were in charge, would we be so quick to compromise on our ‘vision?’

    Personally, I’d love to see this show have a strong, diverse writing staff who actually understand science fiction and character development. It would wonderful if they were led by someone willing to look beyond his – or her – own limitations. Isn’t that would the Doctor would do?

    A great way to open it up would be to invite spec scripts to the development office. ‘Inviting’ certain writers (especially famous ones) is a way to enhance your own reputation, not necessarily that of the show. Get writers who care about the show, not just a paycheck or a cool association. Writers of every stripe – including women – would be happy to show what they can do.

    Moffat and Co. couldn’t shrug off that ‘no one was available’ then, could they?

    Open the doors – isn’t it supposed to be bigger on the inside?

  • Anonymous

    Hmm…you’ve got a point, there. I’m sorry. And amazed that Disque decided to post all of my responses…aside from being embarrassing, that’s actually kind of funny. There are my garbage responses, for all the world to see, except me. It doesn’t show up on my space.

    I do take issue with what you said. I also don’t regret my first response, though handling your’s with three different reactions, instead of thoughtful communication, I do. Though I am glad you clarified what you were saying.

    I’m sorry I reacted; though my frustration is valid, the way I expressed it isn’t progressive. I am in fact projecting and doing the very things I claim you are doing. Angry? No, not all the time. Frustrated, tired, contemptuous. As I said, I still have issue with your original comment. If you’d like to communicate further as to why, I’d love to. Otherwise, I will back off.

  • Roger Jollie

    Doctor Who Rocks with an all male writing staff; leave it alone.
    Star Wars I, II, and III sucked with George Lucas at helm. CHANGE THAT

  • Anonymous

    I know this is way old, but I’ve only just recently discovered this site and this article. And this really has nothing to do with the article but after reading the comments, I have to ask. Why do all the Donna fans have to bash Rose? Yeah, she fell in love with the Doctor and yeah she was a bit selfish, but so what. That was part of her personality and not a major or debilitating one either. We can all be selfish at one point and you Donna fans seems to be blowing it out of proportion. Not only that but, had I not seen a few Donna episodes myself or Doctor Who in general, I would believe that Donna was not at all a great character. Because what you’re all doing is tearing one character down to make another one look good. And that doesn’t reflect well on the character you support at all and lends one to believe that the only way she *can* look great is by saying how ‘awful’ her predecessors were.