Utopia

(Saturday’s Doctor Who episode, that is.)

Not bad, in parts, but I can’t help feeling that doing an end-of-time episode and not getting Stephen Baxter to write it is rather missing an opportunity.

EDIT: I have to admit, this is not an objection I’ve seen about new Who before.

it seems like the premise has always been about someone who is, by choice or by chance, the perpetual outsider. Now that seems like a superficial aspect of the show, a way to increase a character’s social status rather than increase understanding. It seems to no longer be an inclusive universe; certainly it feels like one where I’m not particularly welcome, simply for being female.

Posted in TV. 13 Comments »

13 Responses to “Utopia”

  1. Alison Says:

    Gosh, as you know I was a big fan of this series, well the last few episodes anyway, but I’ve definitely come across the idea that the female viewpoint has been sidelined in a few blogs now. I thought that sidelining was fairly blatant in Utopia, which I did love a lot.

    here is a 160-comment thread just on the scene of the policeman picking up the girl.

  2. Niall Says:

    The HTML seems to have gone wrong, so I can’t follow your link, but I admit I have difficuly seeing how an episode told from the point of view of a regular human woman, and that involves her saving the Doctor, sidelines the female point of view. (The policeman scene struck me as odd within the context of the episode, because Sally suddenly went so girly about it and, you know, it’s not a terribly appropriate thing for a policeman to be doing. But it didn’t strike me as a fatal flaw.) Utopia was more of a male story, certainly.

    Mind you, I don’t want to exert too much energy defending Who because, you know, I don’t like it that much. (Although the past four episodes have probably been the most consistently worth watching the show has been in the last three years.) But the problems with Who have mostly seemed to me to be technical. I was just intrigued that I hadn’t seen a more political critique of the show before — in fact, mostly just the opposite.

  3. Ina MaCallan Says:

    I didn’t notice it so much in ‘Utopia’ (possibly because I wasn’t watching it that closely), but this series in particular has had a very high proportion of female villains – especially in the first few episodes (and even the Angels of ‘Blink’ appear to be female. This has a culminative effect of alienating half the potential audience.

    But then, I started my addiction by falling for the super-efficient Barbara rather than the doddering Doctor.

  4. Niall Says:

    but this series in particular has had a very high proportion of female villains

    Hmm. The old lady in “Smith and Jones” and the witches in “The Shakespeare Code” does make two in a row, and I suppose if we count “The Runaway Bride”in this series that’s three in a row, but after that? “Gridlock” didn’t really have a villain, the dalek episodes had, well, daleks (and human Sek was male), “The Lazarus Experiment” had Lazarus, “42” had a non-gendered creature from the sun (that possessed mostly males), “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood” had two of each, “Blink” had non-gendered creatures from the dawn of time (that appeared as predominantly female statues), and Utopia had the Master (and a motley band of futurekind). Which to be honest seems a fairly even split. Who am I forgetting?

  5. Nick Says:

    There was the woman from Coronation Street who played a ‘Lady Macbeth’ type character in “The Lazarus Experiment”, and there have been brief scenes with the girl from Hollyoaks working for Saxon (evesdropping when Martha was phoning her mum in “42”, if I recall rightly). Other than that, I think you covered them all.

  6. Kalorlo Says:

    42 had the female captain whose fault it all ultimately was.

  7. Niall Says:

    I’m reluctant to call a character who makes an understandable mistake a villain, particularly when they spend as much time dealing with the consequences of that mistake as the captain did.

    I’d forgotten about Lady McLazarus, though.

  8. Alison Says:

    Sorry about messing up the HTML. It’s a long URL, but it’s about 3 posts down in the ‘ampersand’ blog if anyone is interested.

    Sally suddenly went so girly… and it’s not a terribly appropriate thing for a policeman to be doing

    I think those were precisely the issues, indicating that the writer hadn’t tried to imagine the female perspective.

    Blink didn’t strike me as misogynistic, but I did find in Utopia that there was this idea that the men are having the real lives, and the women are suitably resigned to not being seen as existing by their more important peers.

  9. Niall Says:

    I assume you mean this post, which links to this post? Which seem to leave actual discussion of Doctor Who behind fairly rapidly. The name “Sally” doesn’t appear anywhere outside the initial post on Alas, nor does the name “Moffat”, nor so far as I can see do any comments on the merits of the writing. In fact, the general tone of the discussion seems to be that the scene is an accurate depiction of a problematic situation that still occurs in real life.

    Now, I agree that the episode doesn’t treat it as problematic — we’re meant to like Billy, I’m pretty sure. I would actually say it’s a more general failure of characterisation than a failure to imagine a female perspective per se, because it seemed a fairly shallow, stock exchange on both sides (and in contrast to, say, Sally’s subsequent scene with old Billy). But either way, that doesn’t actually seem to be the discussion anyone over there is having.

    I strongly suspect that Martha’s thread in “Utopia” is set-up that will lead to her choosing to do something (possibly something foolish, though I hope not) that will force the Doctor to acknowledge her existence, and set up a more equal relationship for season 4. But I could be wrong.

  10. grahamsleight Says:

    I strongly suspect that Martha’s thread in “Utopia” is set-up that will lead to her choosing to do something (possibly something foolish, though I hope not) that will force the Doctor to acknowledge her existence, and set up a more equal relationship for season 4. But I could be wrong.

    This makes a lot of sense. You can imagine the Doctor being so hung up on the Master being back that he more or less ignores Martha (note how unkeen he’s been to talk Time War/Master with her before), gets himself into some cliffhangery scrape, and can only be got out with her help. The net result of the season finale, in other words, may be that he finally gets over Rose. (It’s a good/bad thing that NewWho can so easily be parsed in terms of/reduced to what a given episode does to the personal relationships inside the TARDIS.) And if I was an actuary I wouldn’t be placing any bets on the longevity of Martha’s family members.

  11. Niall Says:

    (It’s a good/bad thing that NewWho can so easily be parsed in terms of/reduced to what a given episode does to the personal relationships inside the TARDIS.)

    I actually think you can reduce what a given season does to what happens to the personal relationships inside the TARDIS over the course of it. We don’t seem to get arcs, we get transitions. The Doctor getting over Rose isn’t a process — he’s just in one state until he flips over into the next state.

    I dislike the fact that this season’s character stuff feels like it’s driven by what fandom expects — it feels like they’ve put Martha’s character development into a holding pattern because (and I’m guessing again here, obviously) they wanted to have her get over the Doctor at the same time as the Doctor gets over Rose, and the Doctor can’t possibly take anything less than a season to get over Rose! — but that’s an entirely separate issue. And I say this despite having enjoyed S3 more than either S1 or S2.

  12. grahamsleight Says:

    And I say this despite having enjoyed S3 more than either S1 or S2.

    None of the other seasons have had a clunker as bad as “Daleks in Manhattan” – at worst we’ve had weak stories well directed, or vice versa; this is the first time both bits have been week. But it’s certainly an improvement on S2.

    I think that the show is actually discovering for itself the limitations of emotions available if you do Doctor + 1 female companion. UST reigns until you get to the end of an arc. Now if, instead, the Doctor travelled with Josh Lyman, CJ Cregg, and Toby Ziegler…

  13. The Sound of Drums « Torque Control Says:

    […] Last week I hazarded a guess that Martha was being set up to do something that would force the Doctor to notice her, setting up […]


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