With the lingering subtext now all out in the open for everyone to see, joint editor Annette Pryce gives a heartfelt response to The Eve of the Daleks episode of Doctor Who, and the ongoing saga between the 13th Doctor and her female companion Yasmin Khan.
I’ve spent the last few weeks feeling giddy, and joyful over the most recent episode of Eve of the Daleks. The fan art on Twitter and Facebook has been amazing and uplifting, and now we have a Comic Con coming to London in only a few weeks with Jodie Whittaker as the headliner guest, as you can imagine #Thasmin, ( femslash name for those shipping Yaz and Thirteen), fans have gone wild with the prospect of meeting an icon.
But more importantly they’ve gone hysterically wild, myself included , with the idea that at last the BBC has given us what we want, and acknowledged the relationship between Yaz and the Doctor. Even with 3 episodes left, it still feels as though something hopeful has happened in a world that ,frankly at this moment, could do with a bit of hope.
All too often the lesbian/bi women storylines go nowhere meanwhile gay male parts seem to thrive, and although we know that the 13th Doctor is due to regenerate soon, the sheer possibility of having even a female queer Doctor/companion moment on such an iconic show will raise visibility and hopes for hordes of fans.
I’ve read the reviews endlessly about this ongoing slow burn storyline, and it is a slow burn storyline, and really the vast majority of criticism has been from men, which has been a tad irritating. The endless comments about Chibnall’s writing, about shoe horning a romance into the last three episodes, about anything really from this era, is simply masking a underlying misogyny we knew was already there, and not just from cis straight men either.
I mean, c’mon boys, The Day of the Doctor had the three men comparing the size of their.. err…. sonics… *side eye* , while the Doctor in The woman who fell to earth builds her own sonic in a not-too-subtle parallel about how men get everything handed to them while women have to work harder; or alternately it’s about how men have their own phallic object they like to show off, and the first female doctor has to make one/buy one/ build her own, (cue a thousand ‘strap on’ jokes) .
This brings me to the critics. I was thrust out of my slumber this morning enraged by a monotonous podcast by two gay men who are avid critics of the show and while they haven’t always been critical of everything, their review of Eve of the Daleks left much to be desired. As a lesbian I felt like I was being laughed at a little, and I don’t begrudge them their space to be a critic, but it’s funny how non screenwriters have the most vocal opinions about something they have no idea how to do.
They rambled on endlessly about the writing, about every male character, the other side character for a solid 40 minutes, so much so I nearly nodded off again, and when it came time to address and review the most fundamental part of that episode they just sidestepped it, and diminished it like it wasn’t that important. Men diminishing women, surprise surprise. Maybe we need to admit that gay men don’t really understand women.
I began to realise that perhaps this annoyance they have is not as intellectual as they make out with the writing, but something much more basic. You only have to look at the podcaster’s twitter timeline, to realise they ‘thirst-post’ pictures of Kylo-Ren in Star Wars to know where they are coming from. This doctor, our Doctor, they can’t fancy, as she’s a woman. Cue the ‘thirst-posts for Jodie Whittaker’ below *swoon*.
It’s ‘not all men’ as they say, there are plenty of male fans of Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, and while this is great, the ones who criticise probably do the franchise a huge disservice, almost as if they haven’t gotten the message yet about what it means to be The Doctor.
From my perspective, this era hasn’t really been written entirely for them, that’s why they don’t like it, that’s why they don’t get it . Of course a female doctor was going to be different, she was going to be a woman, with all the heightened sense of empathy that brings, with emotional sensitivity, with worry and concern, with fear but bad-ass strength in an awesome package; and a whole load of men throwing themselves at her while she sidesteps it, in favour of her female companion whom she dotes on more than the others.
Meanwhile both of those characters are going through a form of identity crisis, the doctor realising she’s been ‘adopted’ and parts of her life are missing; which would throw anyone in real life into a bit of confusion; while Yaz is coming to terms with her own identity and wrapped up in her feelings for her ‘enigmatic person’ who happens to be a timelord.
It’s all a bit too real life for science fiction, but I think this era has touched on a whole lot more real life than people think and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Yes Bill Potts was great representation for LGBTQ+ people, she was vibrant, happy, flirty, but to imagine that every LGBTQ+ person has the same experience is to diminish the real lived experiences of those who still struggle, and who maybe don’t get that.
I teach in a secondary school and I see kids of this generation who are happy with being LGBTQ+ , who are OUT, and I see kids who are not, who are miserable, whose parents don’t know, whose peers still bully them, the hope and tragedy still exists, and pretending like it doesn’t exist; by pretending that sometimes just being yourself and being OUT isn’t a huge privilege that some millennials and Gen Z critics have forgotten, is wrong. Being able to be openly queer today is easier, but its not simple. Internal struggles played out onscreen have the ability to speak to something inside of us all. We all cried at Love Simon’s mother telling him: “you can exhale now Simon”; we all wanted that from our parents, and more often than not, didn’t receive it.
Yaz’s burgeoning sexuality is a place we have all been, and pretending that we haven’t diminishes us. The realness of that ongoing struggle, and Jack Harkness well and truly called her out on this, more than a year before the latest episode in Revolution of the Daleks, is that the fear of loss of that relationship she wants to keep hold of; while battling with the deeper feelings she has for the Doctor is all too real for a lot of people in real life. You don’t want to ruin things, but you are overwhelmed by feelings, and feelings are messy, love is messy and gets complicated.
Maybe feelings are too nuanced for some men, maybe writing something that makes people want to see what happens next is just too annoying for some millennials who have to have everything right now, but from what I can see of the more open minded fandom, we are here for it. In all its’ really messy and painful pieces, that’s what love and loss is like. It’s yearning and heart breaking, hopeful yet sad at times.
The last two episodes will no doubt be picked over at length by everyone, and I truly hope that we as fans get the closure we need from Yaz and the Doctor, there have been enough hints that it may very well be going that way from the official BBC Doctor who social media accounts. (They are driving me insane)
Everyone has their own interpretation of what the Doctor might be feeling for Yaz, but unless you are an idiot who thinks that those looks she gave after Dan confronted her and the gaze she let fall on Yaz were incidental, may just have to look again. She probably does love her, Dan probably did do her a favour, and she has to face her feelings, but she already knows it won’t end well, her time is coming, and that brings us back to love and loss; scary, heart breaking and very very real.
The ability of these actors to take us to a place that finally feels real for us, even in science fiction world, is a testament to their skills as actors, and while the era may not have been universally liked, the fandom love and adore her and her companions, truly the 13th Doctor, will always be ours.
With thanks to all the fandom, including @13stardisfam for the video linked above and @wretcheddyke for the breath taking fan art at the beginning of this article and to all those , who provide their excellent art and videos to the world, it keeps us all going. If we’ve missed a credit, please contact us via Twitter. @TheQueerness