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.
*SPOILERS AFTER THE CUT*
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