Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

It’s fair to say that, after the debacle that was last weeks episode, I didn’t exactly have high hopes for Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. The episode did manage to exceed my expectations though. That being said, there were still some incredibly problematic moments. 

Amy Pond

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

Queen Nefertiti

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. 

Soloman

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. 

Asylum of the Daleks

There have been so many excellent reviews of Asylum of the Daleks floating around tumblr since it aired, so instead of trying to cover all the issues in the latest episode, this post is just going to be concentrating on the two most prominent female characters in Asylum of the Daleks. The current companion: Amy Pond and new character: Oswin Oswald. 

Amy Pond

We first see Amy when she’s interrupted during the middle of a photoshoot. Her, soon to be ex, husband Rory is delivering divorce papers for her to sign. Shortly after this, their failing relationship is the last thing on their minds as they suddenly find themselves surrounded by Daleks.

Their separation isn’t mentioned again until much later in the episode. As Amy lies dying, or more accurately about to be turned into a Dalek/human hybrid, Rory decides he and Amy should swap places. Rory believes that his loving nature will mean he can hold onto his humanity longer than Amy.

Finally, we get the scene I’ve been dreading. Rory has always had an element of the Nice Guy™ about him, however this is the first time it becomes explicit. 

Amy, basic fact of our relationship is that I love you more than you love me…Two thousand years, waiting for you outside a box. Say this isn’t true. 

The fact that Rory brings this up is problematic because it guilts Amy into feeling bad for ending their relationship and for, supposedly, not loving Rory enough. No man is ever owed a relationship or love from a women just because he loves her. Though this is never explicitly stated by Rory, making Amy the one who is in the wrong for having kicked him out, validates this belief.

When Rory makes this statement Amy reveals that she only asked him to move out because she couldn’t have his children, and she knew this was something Rory wanted. She was “setting him free”.

Finally, I think, Amy is getting some character development. Finally, it is being acknowledged that what happened to her at Demons Run was incredibly traumatic and has left scars. Finally we are getting some insight into what Amy has been trying to deal with. 

Except none of this is about her. It’s about her relationship with Rory. The trauma she has been through can only be acknowledged when it prevents Rory from having the children he has, apparently, always wanted. Even then, Amy’s feelings and emotions are barely mentioned. It’s all about Rory’s desire to have children and Amy not being able to fulfill that role for him.

Once again, Steven Moffat is glorifying motherhood. Not only that, but he has made Amy infertile to provide a plot twist. This is disgusting. 

Though it’s conceivable that this is the beginning of some actual character development for Amy, given how quickly all the relationship drama was resolved, this seems to be just another case of quick, lazy resolution. I would be over the moon if it is actually be explored further, however I doubt it will be given Moffat’s track record. 

Oswin Oswald 

This episode also introduced us to Oswin, a computer hacking genius who was aboard Starship Alaska when it crashed into the Asylum of the Daleks. When The Doctor, Amy, and Rory are also thrown onto the planet Oswin helps them to survive: leading them away from dangerous areas, giving them advice, and…flirting?

As my a friend of mine put it, “I see Moffat’s been using his Strong Female Character cookie cutter again”.

Now, there is nothing inherently bad about having a flirtatious character. It could even be a really awesome character trait. After all it’s not often we see female characters who are sure and confident of their sexuality. However, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen these traits. In fact, every significant female character written by Moffat on the show shares this trait. Unlike past companions, who each got their own distinct personalities, Moffat’s women all seem to be carbon copies of each other. 

We do, however, get some insights into Oswin’s life during all her cute, flirtatious banter. Oswin mentions she once had a crush on a girl named Nina. But wait, it was just a phase.

First boy I ever fancied was called Rory. Actually, she was called Nina. I was going through a phase. 

Hurrah! Perpetuating the idea that sexual orientations which deviate from the perceived heterosexual norm are just phases, and not legitimate and valid identities, because that’s not problematic at all. 

Now, before you all jump down my throat, yes some people question their sexuality and come to the conclusion that they’re straight. Yes, for a lot of people sexuality is fluid. But that is not what this line was attempting to illustrate. 

To be perfectly honest I’m still not sure if this line was an attempt at a joke, because apparently queerness is inherently funny. Or if it was an attempt to make Oswin seem sexy and to appeal to the straight male gaze. Either way, it’s offensive and it invalidates the real lives of real queer people. It also reinforces incredibly harmful attitudes which are used to invalidate real queer folk’s identities. 

Despite these moments, which were less than great, there were some shining moments for this new character. She is genuinely smart, and not afraid to acknowledge this fact.

Is there a word for total screaming genius that sounds modest and a tiny bit sexy?

Considering we live in a world which all too often encourages girls to ‘dumb themselves down’ in an effort to appeal to men, seeing someone so self assured, quite frankly, fills me with glee. 

There is some debate about Oswin and if she is the new companion or is different character played by the same actress. Regardless, I’m looking forward to see Jenna-Louise Coleman again in a few months. Call me an optimist, but I’m choosing to ignore the fact that all Moffat’s women have begun in a similar way, only to loose all autonomy and agency. 

"In fact, Amy’s a frustrating character all round. Season 5 saw her memory repeatedly wiped, killing off any possibility of development. She forgot her entire childhood, forgot Rory’s death, then she forgets the Doctor, then she remembers her childhood and the Doctor and the world goes onto a new timeline. Amy can’t change in response to earlier episodes because she can’t remember them. And frustratingly, she doesn’t change in response to her memory wipes either. I would be different if I couldn’t remember my parents, or my friends, or my loves. Very different indeed. Wouldn’t you? I’ve stopped trying to pretend that Amy is a consistent character who develops from episode to episode – she only makes sense with a crack in her mind which wipes her experience every time the credits roll."

Five Things I Want To See In Doctor Who Series 7

By Emily Monaghan on Squarise.com

Anonymous: Hi! So, this has probably been said before, but I (respectfully) disagree with what you have said about Amy not being a strong character. She's independent, she's smart, and she's such a good friend to the Doctor. Yes, she can come across as sexy or showy, but if that's how she CHOOSES to be, then why is it a problem? Just because she wears short skirts, spent years waiting for the Doctor, and had a baby doesn't make her less awesome. (Also, sorry for being anon; I don't have a tumblr.)

It’s not exactly that those things make Amy Pond a weak character. A key part of what makes Amy a problematic character is less to do with the way she behaves and more to do with how she’s treated by the narrative. 

Take, for instance, Amy’s tendency to dress in a “sexy” manner. There is nothing wrong with wearing skimpy clothing but we see Amy though the lens of the male gaze.

Her choices have little to do with what she wants and what she gets pleasure from, but rather she is sexualized because that is what keeps the dads and teenage boys watching, don’t ya know?

The problem with the waiting, again, isn’t anything to do with Amy. She, after all, isn’t the only companion who has had to spend time waiting for The Doctor. Donna waited a year before she got her turn to travel in the TARDIS. The problem is that Amy is defined by this  waiting. We know nothing about her life, her experiences, her passions. All we know is she is “The Girl Who Waited”.

Compare this with Donna who we know actively seeks adventure and The Doctor out. I mean, we know stuff happened in Amy’s life but none of that is explored in the show. Amy is only important in relation to The Doctor. 

Lastly, Amy having a baby. Again there is nothing inherently wrong with having a female character give birth. The biggest problem with Amy’s pregnancy was that it was a mystical one. I’ve written more on why this is problematic here. What it basically comes down to is Amy had no autonomy throughout this whole arc. She has no choice, she has no ability to speak out about what’s happening to her and she has no opportunity to deal with the emotional impact these experiences would of had on her. 

It’s not that Amy isn’t awesome (personally I love her, particularly in early series 5), it’s just that she is continually shit upon by the narrative. 

angryjewishknitter: In response to your recent conversation about Companion titles, in my head, Amy is "the one who chooses" or "the one who remembers." The first is a reference to "Amy's Choice," when it is up to her to choose which reality is the real one, and the second is about her being able to recreate the universe after it seeping into her head through the crack in the wall. I know that the whole idea of companion titles isn't really your cup of tea, but I just thought I'd share how I view them. I think that

Both of these would, in my opinion, be preferable to "The Girl Who Waited" as they both give Amy an active role in the story. I also really appreciate that you’ve not used “girl”, but rather “the one”, as the infantilisation is another big problem with The Girl Who Waited.

I’d still have issues with The One Who Remembers as, even though Amy is saving the universe, she’s doing so in just about the most passive way possible. She’s a pawn who is manipulated by The Doctor. It also doesn’t have anything of her in it. Her uniqueness, her individual strengths and skills aren’t being brought into focus. It’s just that she happened to grow up in the right place, really this could be applied to anyone, it just happens to be Amy who grew up with the crack.

As for The One Who Chooses I actually really like it. It not only paints Amy as someone who has an active part to play, someone who makes things happen rather than someone who things happen to, but it also gives her power and agency. It fits her in a lot of my favourite stories, such as The Beast Below and The Girl Who Waited. I think this is probably the title I’ll relate to Amy in my mind from now on. 

Though, I do think trying to find a suitable companion title for Amy really gets to the heart of many of the problems I, and other feminists, have with her. She had so much potential to be a really amazing character, however she ultimately ends up being controlled and manipulated by those around her. At the end of the day, most titles we could conceive for Amy, would have that underlying issue of passivity. Sure we can improve on The Girl Who Waited, but she is always going to have a lack of agency, and that’s something that we can’t change, however we interpret her character. 

So I just saw this post on tumblr (http://blaine-anderson-stark.tumblr.com/post/19670961523)

And it made me so angry! Not the graphic itself (which is lovely) but just the titles. Rose Tyler, Defender of the Earth (really awesome title). Martha Jones, You Saved the World (also awesome). The Most Important Woman In The Whole Wide Universe (okay, not as good as the other two, but overall, pretty awesome). And then Amy’s. The Girl Who Waited.

I think it definitely says something about Moffat, that his female companion is not only infantilized in her title, but also made to seem… I can’t think of the right word, but passive is probably a good one. Definitely taking a background role. Whilst the other companions have titles that denote what they did, or who they were, Amy is simply the Girl Who Waited. All the other amazing things she did are ignored (Star Whale anyone), and all she is, is the Girl Who Waited. The Girl Who Waited for her Doctor to swoop in and save her from life. The Girl Who Waited for Rory to save her. The Girl Who Waited, and let other people do stuff for her.
It’s such a bad description of Amy’s character. Moffat’s gotten rid of all the other amazing things she’s done, which would make similar BAMF titles to the old companions, and replaced it with…. waiting. 

I think one of my main issues is, people look up to the companions. In my mind, Rose, Donna, and Martha, are all role models, and their titles reflect that. They went out, and actually did stuff. They helped. They show young girls that women can do stuff, by themselves, because Martha and Rose, and in a way Donna, certainly didn’t have the Doctor around to help them when they did the things that earned their titles. But all Amy did was wait. Waited for a man, a man that would define her, and help her, and make her more normal.

Sorry, that was badly written, and I know you’ve discussed this before, but I just thought I’d throw that in.

submitted by moveslikefinnick

I certainly agree. There are many issues with Amy’s title, “The Girl Who Waited” and these become quite clear when we compare it to previous companions titles. 

It’s certainly not as though Amy is the only one who spent time waiting. Donna has a line where she tells her Grandfather she’s “not drifting, she’s waiting” but to have waiting be Amy’s defining characteristic, well, it leaves a sour taste in one’s mouth for sure. 

planetaire: I kind of disagree that Amy saving the universe in Season 5 was passive. The whole story-line kind of actively set her up as a character who had her life grounded in 'stories' and I think her remembering the doctor back into existence had a very 'full-circle' sort of feel to it. Then again, I am very fond of fairy-tale motifs so there's that. Idk, I think I find more issues with the fact that Donna and Rose needed to be possessed by entities to save the universe in their respective finales tbh.

Firstly, the motifs, symbols and themes in Amy’s story have absolutely no bearing on whether or not her actions were passive or assertive. 

Also, I think it’s misleading to say that Rose and Donna were possessed. Rose choose to look into the heart of the TARDIS and, although she didn’t know exactly what would happen, she knew that would have big consequences. Donna didn’t choose what happened but she wasn’t possessed, she was changed. She became a different person but that person was still her. 

When we compare the various instances in which companions have saved the universe, it becomes clear just how passive Amy’s was. Rose, pulled apart the TARDIS and forced her way back to the game station. Martha walked the earth which was being torn down by The Master, for a whole year. Donna used her intelligence and creativity to defeat Davros. They all used their skills and actively did things to save the day. Amy, on the other hand, thought about things. 

I don’t think you can really deny that what Amy did was incredibly passive. I’m not saying, you know, that we must hate the end of series 5 for all eternity because it’s evil.

It’s hardly the only problematic “companion saving the day” storyline there has been. I’m just stating that Amy wasn’t actively doing anything to save the universe and The Doctor. 

planetaire: I was also wondering what you thought about Amy's story line in Season 5 and Season 5 in general? Personally, I thought it was a great season and despite some problematic instances, Amy had a lot of agency and was well-developed. What do you think about it compared to other seasons?

Personally I have many issues with Series 5, though when it’s compared to what came next with the general clusterfuck which was Series 6, it can seem like a godsend. 

In the first few episodes I really like Amy. She’s very much in keeping with the previous companions, she’s independent, vocal about her opinions and unafraid to challenge The Doctor. The only issues I have is her psychological issues not being taken seriously and just being played for cheap laughs. 

Amy: Twelve years and four psychiatrists!
The Doctor: Four?
AmyI kept biting them.

However, as the series goes on and Rory’s introduced as a companion, it suddenly becomes about The Doctor “fixing Amy” by getting her and Rory married. He does this by sending them on a date to Venice, because that’ll totally solve everything and it’s not like maybe Amy and Rory should talk about their problems because just ignoring them is a totally healthy way of dealing with their issues. 

I also dislike Series 5 for other, ~non-feminist~ reasons such as my burning hatred of love triangle storylines. They have been done to death, a million times over, and if I never see another love triangle story on my television again it will be too soon. 

There are moments I truly adore, for example Amy’s general BAMF-ness in The Eleventh Hour and The Beast Below, or Amy and River meeting and there being no hostility, just immediate friendship. (bear in mind Amy, and the audience, didn’t know who River was at that point). But there is an equal amount of moments which I greatly dislike, such as the most passive saving of the universe ever by The Girl (hello infantilisation) Who Waited (nice and passive).

All told, Series 5 is really a mixed bag for me. 

jamais-view: Are there any qualities in Amy Pond that you, as a feminist, approve of/like?

Yes, there are loads of things I love about Amy. She’s independent and confident and self-assured. She kept her own name after marriage. When we were first introduced to her, in The Eleventh Hour, she had so much potential to be an amazing character. 

The problems I, and many others, have with Amy aren’t to do with her as a character (or person, depending on how much you invest in dorky TV shows) but with the storylines she is given, the way other characters relate to her and the fact she has been given very little development and none which is separate from her relationships with men. 

This article on Tiger Beatdown sums up, really well, how I feel about Amy Pond. 

Amy Pond is a fierce-as-fuck ginger who is too grown to be waiting around all the fucking timeLook at these fucking companions

(via lastofthetimeladies)