One thing I particularly liked about this weeks episode was Amy Pond. At the beginning of the episode we see The Doctor putting together a bit of a gang but, no sooner than they are all assemble they are separated. The Doctor, Rory, and Rory’s father are teleported to the spaceships engine room leaving Amy, Queen Nefertiti, and Riddell with no clue what’s going on.
What does Amy do? She immediately starts fiddling with the nearest computer to try and find out what is going on. This leads her to discover that they are on a Silurian ship, intended to preserve and protect the Silurians, Dinosaurs, and various plant life from extinction. With Nefertiti’s help, she also discovers there is another ship on board the Silurian ark.
The reason I loved this part is that Amy is actively participating in the story. She is moving the plot forward and taking part in the action. This is such a change from Asylum of the Daleks which had Amy fainting just so we could get a cool shot of The Doctor carrying her limp body away from an explosion.
Amy and Nefertiti
Another part I loved was the relationship between Amy and Nefertiti. The moment Amy realises The Doctor has brought Nefertiti along for the ride she is quick to tell her just how brilliant she is:
Oh my god. Queen Nefertiti? I learned all about you at school, you’re awesome. Big fan. High five.
Later on, when Riddell doubts Amy’s conclusions about the ark, Nefertiti is quick to come to her defense:
If The Doctor trusts Amy, so do I. Stop doubting her.
I found the relationship which forms between these two so refreshing. It’s such a rarity to see two women on television who respect each other. Not only was there no ‘girl hate’ or jealously in sight, but the two women were building each other up whilst tearing down a man’s sexist comments. Their conversations also meant that the episode easily passed the Bechdel Test, something which many recent episodes have not been doing.
Aside from the brilliance of her relationship with Amy, there was also some really great stuff about the portrayal of Queen Nefertiti individually. For example, she was played by a woman of colour. There is a long history of Ancient Egyptian characters being played by white actors, despite the fact Ancient Egyptians were black. It is wonderful to see that this wasn’t the case here.
That being said, I still had quite a few problems with Nefertiti’s role in the episode. To begin with she was highly sexualised. The first time we see her she is shoving The Doctor up against the TARDIS and kissing him, whilst he is attempting to leave. Not only does this immediately sexualise Nefertiti but the scene also shows the sexual assault of a man being played for laughs.
Nefertiti’s clothing is very sexualised as well; she wears an incredibly low cut dress which places a lot of emphasis on her cleavage. She also follows the Moffat era standard pattern for Strong Female Characters™, spending a large amount of the episode flirting with whichever male character happens to be around at the time. Generally this means Riddell, which is quite problematic because he spends a fair amount of time making incredibly sexist and demeaning comments towards her.
Egyptian Queen or not, I shall put you across my knee and spank you.
Though these comments were framed as wrong, with both Amy and Nefertiti making it clear that what he was saying was unacceptable. Though this iskind of undermined by the scene at the end of the episode which shows Nefertiti emerging from Riddell’s tent, strongly implying that they’ve slept together. As well as this sexualisation there is also some really, really awful objectification going on in this episode.
The main antagonist of the episode is Soloman, a trader who is planning to sell the dinosaurs on the spaceship. When he realises the Indian Space Agency is targeting the spaceship with missiles he decides to cut his losses and leave, taking Queen Nefertiti with him to sell instead.
Soloman: I don’t know where you found it, or how you got it here, but I want it.
The Doctor: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Soloman: Earth Queen Nefertiti of Egypt.
This is so unbelievably problematic. What we have here is a powerful Ancient Egyptian Queen, a woman of colour, being reduced to an object to be brought and sold. I really, really hope I don’t need to explain why this is fucked up.
Nefertiti, having witnessed the above exchange on the ships CCTV, makes the decision to go with Soloman. It was really great to see a women asserting her right to make decisions and refusing to allow The Doctor and Riddell to undermine her choice. The scene which follows, however, gets even more creepy and problematic.
After she has made the decision to go with Soloman, Nefertiti still refuses to allow him to touch her. His response is to use one of his crutches to pin her against the wall and leer at her, saying:
I like my possessions to have spirit, means I can have fun breaking them, and I will break you in with immense pleasure.
Nefertiti has already been objectified, being referred to several times, as a possession, but the makers of this episode felt the need to take it further by having Soloman threaten to rape her. This is absolutely vile and is not something I would ever expect to see on a television show primarily aimed at children.
Seeing this kind of behavior, and seeing no one call him out on this particular comment, is exactly the kind of thing which perpetuates rape culture. Ask yourself, what is a young girl watching this going to take away from seeing a powerful women being threatened and physically held down by a man, whilst her friends stand by and do nothing?
I’m sure there are those who are of the opinion that this was not a threat of rape. Even if that is your view Soloman was still threatening to hurt and abuse Nefertiti. It still sends the same message to all those watching.
Nefertiti does get her moment of triumph over Soloman a little later in the episode. When Soloman threatens to kill her she immediately kicks him to the ground, pins him down using one of his crutches, mirroring the earlier scene where he pinned her to the wall, and telling him in no uncertain terms that she not his possession.
Yet More Queerbaiting
There was one other issue I had with this episode. Whilst The Doctor is trying to find away to save the ship from the missiles Rory suggests using the ships defense systems. The Doctor’s reaction is to grab Rory’s face and plant a massive kiss on his lips. There are two big problems I have with this.
Firstly, it brings the total number of sexual assaults in last nights program to two. Rory did not consent to having The Doctor kiss him and it is clear from his reaction that the he did not enjoy it.
Secondly, this moment was some of the most blatant and unabashed queerbaiting I’ve seen in a long time. It was completely unnecessary and served no purpose. Given the record Moffat’s era has when is comes to queer characters this scene really stung.
Personally, I found this episode was a real mixed bag. There were many moments I loved but there was also a fair amount which I found problematic. It was definitely an improvement on the big ball of fail that was Asylum of the Daleks. If series 7 can keep this up and continue improving each episode, I, for one, will be a very happy blogger.