Blast You, Russell T Davies

I was just finishing up another one of my attempts to analyze Doctor Who, this time specifically about the role of women in the show, when I stopped to watch the final episode of Season 4. I was so pissed off after watching that, however, that I just wanted to chuck it all in the bin. My post about women and sexism in Doctor Who was going to be (guardedly) moderately positive but now I just want to yell at writer Russell T. Davies.


Right. Hopefully if you’re here you’ve already seen this episode and I don’t have to worry about telling you what happened to Donna Noble. In the post I was working on, which I still might post after I’m finished ranting, I talk about how much I love Donna. I’ve only seen the first three episodes of Season 1 and most of Season 4 (from The Sontaran Stratagem onwards) so there’s quite a bit of character development I’m missing. My feelings towards her are therefore informed by the final portion of her story arc as well as the wikipedia entry that I’ve just read.

Due to a small slip by eloriane (heh) I knew that Donna was going to be leaving. And, certainly, I’m not surprised; it does appear that in this show actors leave fairly regularly. So I was prepared to see her choose to leave, or be killed by doing something (most likely) heroic. However, I was not prepared to have Davies basically strip her of her strength and growth and insight and brilliance and plunk her back down on Earth, back into her old life. A life which, having watched Turn Left, looked to me to be really fucking depressing. Her mother is emotionally abusive and Donna herself believes her sneering and believes herself to be useless. She’s just a temp, and, in reading the wiki entry, a bit vacuous and self-involved (perhaps because she believes her mother’s constant criticism – if you’re constantly told you can’t do right you kind of give up trying). So the fact that her insight has saved so many already, that in the final episode she becomes, as the Doctor put it, “the most important woman in the universe” – to have her mind wiped and have her dumped back on Earth was just the most vile “putting her in her place” fucking bullshit ever. Oh she can be of vital importance, she can be brilliant, she can be brave, she can have saved the whole fucking universe, but, yanno, she’s got to be stripped way back down at the end. FUCK. It really, really pissed me off. It was downright cruel, in fact.

I’m finding it really hard to articulate why it’s made me so fucking mad. Something about how, growing up being considered less than, ineffectual, useless, being able to then go out into the universe and grow into your strengths to only have it stripped away from you in the end. It just- I don’t know. It all sounds so patriarchal, yanno? Here I was thinking that the writers of Doctor Who had created a female character that seemed rather equal to the Doctor, even though he had all this other knowledge and this enormous IQ. Donna knew things and saw things that he didn’t. He needed her; she saved his life. Yes she did look to him to figure out what’s wrong, but she also seemed to hold her own, as much as any human could. So I think a part of what has pissed me off about what happened to Donna was the cruelty of it. I think Turn Left showed us Donna without having had the experiences she had with the Doctor. She thinks herself as useless here. Inferior. But with the Doctor she grew, and her inner strength came out. Now she gets it all taken away. And she knows it’s going to happen. “I don’t want to go back. Don’t make me go back!” she cries. How cruel, how fucking cruel.

It also reminded me of that Dead/Crazy Lesbian trope: lesbian character? must be craaaazzy! Successful, non-crazy lesbian? must be deeaaaaad. Successful, strong, intelligent woman? Strip her right down, take her power away from her. And, in this case, in the most invasive, cruel way possible: strip her strength and her growing self-confidence from her very mind then say “it will kill her if she knows!”.

FUCK YOU Russell T Davies


10 Responses to Blast You, Russell T Davies

  1. eloriane says:

    Okay, I have so much to say about this, I have to write my own post.

    On the plus side, this is RTD’s last season writing for the show! The new guy is Steven Moffat, who did The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink, and Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead.

    Since The Girl in the Fireplace and Blink are two of my very favourite Who episodes ever, and since all four of these storylines featured fascinating female protagonists, I am VERY hopeful that things will improve. Moffat is just, well, a better writer. Lousy writing and sexist tropes tend to go hand-in-hand, and Russel T. Davies is plenty guilty of both. I forgive him because he was integral in getting the show re-launched, but I expect things to vastly improve without him.

    • Crowfoot says:

      So it isn’t just me? *phew* I wasn’t sure how much of my personal life was feeding into my bitter emotional response to the way they handled Donna’s leaving (plus, loving Donna as I did). Looking forward to your post!

      Does any one else have any thoughts? I was having a hard time expressing just what was so upsetting about it. Did anyone else have a similar reaction?

      Come on, comment! 😀 I know you’re out there!

  2. […] Who Companion Comparisons! So, the more I thought about this post (S4 SPOILERS!), the more I thought we needed to take a good look at the companions and their […]

  3. […] not sexed up. She really goes against that trend. And, you know, thinking on eloriane’s and my recent Doctor Who posts, this makes the way her character ends up all the more upsetting. […]

  4. Lynnette says:

    I was every bit as upset at you when I saw this episode…I think Katherine Tate’s utter terror as Tennant is one of the most wrenching moments in the series.

    Otoh, while it certainly could have been handled better (I would have liked to have seen her exit more like Rose or Romana), I think the purpose of having that scene was to get the emotion of a character death while still allowing Katherine Tate to come back later.

    That + Moffat in charge gives me hope.

    • Crowfoot says:

      that’s a very good point. I do think that’s what RTD was aiming for – the drama of emotional death without the actual death. I think that what cut me to the quick was how crappy her life was before she went traveling with the Doctor. If Davies had done the same thing to Rose it wouldn’t have bothered me really, because while Rose’s life was definitely uninteresting, it wasn’t this kind of slow living death that Donna’s seemed to be. Maybe I can’t be but triggered by it a little, as I know what it’s like to live like that, when you’re always told how you can’t do anything right. I also think that there’s a degree that women in a patriarchal culture are told that all the time as well. Doctor Who anecdote: Tom Baker knows. He has said that for some people a fate worse than death is life. I think it was also the cruelty of it. Death isn’t cruel necessarily, just tragic.

      Anyways, it certainly pissed me off! Much more so than if he had just killed the character off. I also have high hopes with Moffat in charge. Though I am rather disappointed to see what looks like Tennant 2.0 as the next Doctor. Of course, poor Matt hasn’t shown his metal yet I’m ready to be proved wrong.

      Man I’ve been thinking a lot about Doctor Who recently, but can’t ever seem to find the time and mental energy to write about it!

      • Lynnette says:

        I agree with you that it was a crappy thing to do to the character.

        It’s sorta like the Chinatown in Turn Left. The purpose of that was to recast the actress (who was also the bug girl in the season 3 finale). So in real life, RTD had good intentions.

        …but the result was he cast her first as a submissive assistant and then as a dragon lady *facepalm*

        What I also kind of find interesting is that he was a fan of the old series, especially the Troughton era, and Donna and Zoe’s ends are *very* similar.

        The funny thing about that though, is that Zoe’s end was supposed to be an illustration of the kind of BS that had made him escape his planet in the first place.

      • Crowfoot says:

        I just found out that the Giant Asian Stereotype of a psychic was played by the bug girl from Utopia! And yeah, that Dragon Lady *groan* The whole Mysterious Orient theme on that planet was pissing me off.

        Eloriane has a very good post about RTD’s good intentions going sideways, as well as a companion comparison (in case you haven’t read them yet 🙂 … which I imagine you have since you found mine?)

      • Lynnette says:

        Yeah, I did :p

        I figured replying to every post tagged doctor who was a little overzealous. 😀

      • Crowfoot says:

        ha! 😀 I would be sorely tempted too.

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