The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and not necessarily those of The New Agenda.
Doctor Who is the biggest British import in the United States. It is about a space- and time-traveling alien called The Doctor who adores Earth and often takes with him a human to be his companion on many adventures. These companions are often female but have been male. Recently, there has been some controversy over whether the treatment of Amy Pond in the series has been sexist. I refuse to take any side in this debate. After all, Amy Pond does have a decent-sized fanbase who adore her character and who consider her a strong woman. While I considered the controversy and its origins, I looked pragmatically at Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, and Donna Noble and compared their situations with that of Amy Pond. The ultimate problem is a matter of situational quantity, not personal quality. My suggestions for improvement should therefore should satisfy both the fans of Amy Pond and the viewers disliked her portrayal. I have placed the types of danger into three categories “Equal Danger,” “Damsel-in-Distress” and “Prince-in-Distress” By comparing the episodes and quantifying the situations, I have found a solution that will satisfy both sides of the fandom. The following are summaries of each episode along with the types of dangers present in each one.
When Doctor Who resumed in 2005, his first new companion was Rose Tyler, a 19-year-old with no college education and who recently lost her job due to an alien attack. The Doctor blew it up to save her from aliens.
Episode 1: Rose – although The Doctor attempts to negotiate with the aliens and wants to help them, the Nestene reject his help and attack him. Rose saves both the Doctor, her boyfriend Mickey, and the Earth. She also destroys the aliens.
Episode 2: The End of the World – Doctor takes Rose to the year 5 Billion AD to watch the Earth be destroyed by the sun. The Tardis arrives inside a spaceship of that time period, and someone onboard is sabotaging it to kill everyone. In this episode, Rose is essentially a damsel-in-distress cowering from lethal sun radiation. The Doctor saves her life and everyone else.
Episode 3: The Unquiet Dead – Rose and Doctor are both trapped by disembodied aliens who want to kill them and use their bodies. Both characters face equally serious danger.
Episode 4: Aliens of London – equal danger with the Doctor being zapped by the Slitheen and with Rose and Harriet trapped in that same building.
Episode 5: World War Three – Doctor, Rose, and Harriet are all trapped inside 10 Downing Street. Their situation is equal danger.
Episode 6: Dalek – When Doctor and Rose discover a Dalek in 2012 Utah, Doctor expects the worst and indeed the worst does start to happen. However, at the end, Dalek develops feelings of remorse and isolation; the creature wants to die in sorrow while Doctor wants to kill it in a vengeful fury. The story concludes with Rose shielding the Dalek as the Doctor points a gun at them. Dalek pleads with Rose to let it self-destruct.
Episode 7: The Long Game – after the events of that episode, Doctor and Rose decide to vacation in a 200,000 AD space station. Again, they experience equal danger, both trapped by the massive creature controlling humanity. This is the fourth episode that they experience equal danger. A contemporary woman who realizes humanity had been controlled then sacrifices herself to kill the alien.
Episode 8: Father’s Day – Doctor and Rose are again thrust into equal danger, trapped within a church as humanity, time, and the universe are systematically torn apart.
Episode 9: The Empty Child – Doctor, Rose, and Jack Harkness are trapped inside a WW2 building by creatures that are bizarre even according to the Doctor’s standards. Equal danger, yet again.
Episode 10: The Doctor Dances – yup, still same type of danger.
Episode 11: Boomtown – This was a good episode, but I did not get a sense of any threat throughout the whole thing until the very end. No one seemed to be in any serious danger.
Episode 12: Bad Wolf – starts out Doctor and his two companions are in equal danger. At the end, Doctor learns that Rose is being held hostage, a damsel-in-distress.
Episode 13: The Parting of the Ways – Doctor and Rose alternate. Although their situation is equal, Doctor sends Rose back to her own time to protect her from danger. Rose absorbs the heart of the Tardis and travels back to the Doctor’s time. She uses the powers to annihilate all the genocidal aliens. She saves Earth and the Doctor’s life. However, absorbing the heart of the Tardis begins to fry her brain, so the Doctor hurriedly saves her life.
Rose Tyler had the role of Damsel-in-Distress twice out of thirteen episodes. Doctor had the role of Prince-in-Distress once out of thirteen. Alternations such as the finale do not count. For the remaining ten, they were in equal danger.
The Doctor’s next companion was Martha Jones, the exact opposite of Rose Tyler. Martha was a medical student with a massive infatuation with the Doctor. When he showed no interest in her, she developed an inferiority complex. Here are their situations in Martha’s round of episodes.
Episode 1: Smith and Jones – Martha and Doctor along with everyone else are trapped in a hospital that was taken to the moon. The Judoon arrive and begin scanning everyone in search of a fugitive alien. Humans are left alone, but oxygen is being depleted. Both Doctor and the alien have methods of fooling the scanners. Not realizing he is also extraterrestrial, the fugitive sucks some of the Doctor’s blood for the scanners to register her as human. Doctor falls unconscious. Martha knows the Doctor isn’t human, so the fugitive’s trick won’t work this time. She aims a scanner at the fugitive, registering it as non-human. The Judoon kill the alien and return the hospital to Earth. Martha revives the Doctor, and they agree to travel together.
Episode 2: The Shakespeare Code – in the middle of the episode, an alien-witch kills one of the Doctor’s hearts. Martha revives it.
Episode 3: Gridlock – Doctor takes Martha to a planet in 5 Billion AD. In a parody of traffic congestion and commutes, a young couple kidnaps Martha for special driving privileges, but they really mean her no harm. Doctor pursues her. Should she really be considered a damsel-in-distress if her captors were a young, innocent couple and all three were in equal danger?
Episode 4: Daleks in Manhattan – Martha and a 1930s American named Frank are both captured by the Dalek’s pig-slaves. Doctor, Tallulah and Lazlo attempt to pursue them but are also captured.
Episode 5: Evolution of the Daleks – Doctor and Martha experience equal danger as they work to save Manhattan from the Daleks.
Episode 6: The Lazarus Experiment – Doctor, Martha, and Martha’s sister are in equal danger at the beginning, neither seem to be in direct danger near the end as they strategize how to defeat the evil experiment.
Episode 7: 42 – Doctor and Martha appear in a spaceship preparing to crash into the sun. Doctor is possessed by fire/sun-aliens, rendering him a Prince-in-Distress.
Episode 8: Human Nature – Doctor loses his memory and becomes John Smith in Britain a few years prior to WW1. Near the end, aliens searching for the Doctor aim their weaponry at both John Smith, Joan Redfern and Martha Jones. Equal danger.
Episode 9: The Family of Blood – John Smith is very much the Prince-in-Distress as the aliens wreak havoc in the countryside.
Episode 10: Blink – eh, an awesome episode but neither Doctor nor Martha were in it that much.
Episode 11: Utopia – equal danger as Doctor, Martha, and Jack flee from humanoid creatures who want to eat them both at the beginning and at the end of the episode.
Episode 12: The Sound of Drums – Doctor, Jack, and Martha’s family are imprisoned by the Doctor’s arch-nemesis. Martha must fend for herself as interstellar violence descends upon Earth.
Episode 13: The Last of the Time Lords – Martha Jones has become the leader of a global resistance and has spent a year gathering strength.
Even though Martha was deeply infatuated and had an inferiority complex, Russell T. Davies adjusted the situations by having the Doctor be in distress at some point for six out of thirteen episodes. Martha Jones was in distress once or twice. For the remainder, they were in equal danger.
And last but not least is Donna Noble.
Episode 1: Partners in Crime – Donna and Doctor protect Earth from an alien supernanny who wants to transform humanity into baby fat for prospective parents.
Episode 2: The Fires of Pompeii – equal danger when they are surrounded by aliens. Near the end, the Doctor must make a drastic decision to save humanity. Donna lends him the emotional strength needed to follow through.
Episode 3: Planet of the Ood – there is really no danger at all. Doctor and Donna want to free the Ood from slavery, but the Ood had developed ingenious ways to free themselves.
Episode 4: The Sontaran Stratagem – Donna’s grandfather is suffocating from poisonous air inside his car. Doctor’s sonic technology cannot open the car. Donna’s mother saves him by throwing a rock at a car window.
Episode 5: The Poison Sky – equal danger as Earth’s atmosphere turns toxic.
Episode 6: The Doctor’s Daughter – equal danger.
Episode 7: The Unicorn and the Wasp – somewhat of a silly murder mystery done in the legacy of Agatha Christie. Lots of people dying. Equal danger for Donna and Doctor.
Episode 8: Silence in the Library – equal danger until the end of the episode when Donna suddenly disappears.
Episode 9: Forest of the Dead – a conclusion to the previous episode. Donna is NOT a damsel-in-distress because the library’s security systems saving her actually led to her disappearance. equal danger for the Doctor and archeologists until Doctor scares off the creatures.
Episode 10: Midnight – Donna is hardly in this episode. While vacationing on an exotic planet, they temporarily part ways. Doctor becomes the prince-in-distress until the Stewardess decides who the real intruder is and kills it.
Episode 11: Turn Left – Doctor is barely in this episode. Donna finds herself in an alternate universe where the Doctor died before they met. As Earth falls to shambles, Donna meets a strange young woman who tells her that she (Donna) is the universe’s only hope for salvation. Donna saves the universe and awakens in the original one.
Episode 12: The Stolen Earth – Doctor and Donna need to restore the Earth back to its proper place, but they cannot find it. All of the Doctor’s former companions meet and plan a way to contact him. Near the end of the episode, the Doctor is shot.
Episode 13: Journey’s End – Doctor and Donna alternate. Donna is almost burned alive, but she survives miraculously. Doctor is trapped. Donna saves everyone, etc.
So… oy, I have looked at quite a lot of episodes… With Donna as a companion… Donna was a damsel-in-stress maybe once out of thirteen episodes? Actually, she does not seem to be in distress at all. Doctor was a prince-in-distress twice out of thirteen episodes. For the remainder, they were either in equal danger or no danger at all. Before I discuss Amy Pond who has been a source of contention and debate among the Doctor Who fandom, I will summarize the situations.
Doctor and Rose: equal danger ten out of thirteen episodes
Rose as Damsel-in-Distress: two out of thirteen episodes
Doctor as Prince-in-Distress: one out of thirteen episodes
Doctor and Martha: equal danger six or seven out of thirteen episodes
Martha as Damsel-in-Distress: one or two out of thirteen episodes
Doctor as Prince-in-Distress: six out of thirteen episodes
Doctor and Donna: equal danger or non-danger ten or eleven out of thirteen episodes
Donna as Damsel-in-Distress: maybe once?
Doctor as Prince-in-Distress: two out of thirteen episodes
Now, we can finally take a look at Amy Pond who has been decried as a sexist portrayal by some fans but cherished woman-positive by other fans. The ultimate problem with Amy Pond is a of situational quantity, not personal quality. My suggestions for improvement should therefore should satisfy both the fans of Amy Pond and the viewers disliked her portrayal.
Episode 1: The Eleventh Hour – there does seem to be equal danger until the end when Amy Pond collapses and falls unconscious. Even though she manages to remember and conjure up the true image of the escaped prisoner, thus saving everyone, she is nonetheless unconscious throughout the whole thing.
Episode 2: The Beast Below – in the middle of the episode, Amy Pond is captured and held prisoner by evil government robots. She becomes thus a Damsel-in-Distress.
Episode 3: Victory of the Daleks – equal danger.
Episode 4: The Time of Angels – Amy Pond becomes a Damsel-in-Distress twice in this episode, once when she is trapped inside a spaceship chamber with a Weeping Angel, and the second time when she believes her arm to be turning into stone.
Episode 5: Flesh and Stone – again Amy Pond is a Damsel-in-Distress when the Doctor discovers that a Weeping Angel is actually inside her optic nerves. Although the Doctor is also in danger, Amy Pond is in considerably greater danger both in this episode and in the previous episode.
Episode 6: The Vampires of Venice – Amy Pond is captured by aliens who want to drain her blood and transform her into one of them. Although they later experience danger together, this is the fourth or fifth time that Amy Pond has been a damsel.
Episode 7: Amy’s Choice – this has been my favorite episode of this round. Everyone is in completely equal danger. They must decide which world is a dream and which is reality. If they die in a dream, they wake up. If they die in reality, they die for real. Amy Pond takes direct action and decides which is the dream.
Episode 8: The Hungry Earth – Amy Pond is captured by reptilian humanoids, making her a damsel-in-distress.
Episode 9: Cold Blood – Amy Pond escapes, attempts to rescue the Doctor and is captured by the same reptilian humanoids.
Episode 10: Vincent and the Doctor – there is equal danger.
Episode 11: The Lodger – overall a very silly and fun episode. Something is causing trouble with time, which forces the Doctor out of the Tardis and leaves Amy Pond trapped inside the Tardis. There is not much danger throughout the whole thing, but if the Doctor does not solve the time-trouble, Amy Pond will be lost forever in the vortex.
Episode 12: The Pandorica Opens – Amy Pond becomes a damsel-in-distress in the middle of the episode when cyberman knocks her unconscious. She is saved by a Roman Solider. Near the end, everyone is in equal danger.
Episode 13: The Big Bang – quite a lot of running danger, but Amy Pond does save the Doctor at the end. Doctor sacrificed himself to save the universe and was erased from time. However, at her wedding, Amy used an old saying of “something barrowed, something blue” and the power of her memory to restore him.
Counting it all up, I have realized that Amy Pond has been a Damsel-in-Distress once in Ep2, three times in the Weeping Angels 2-parter, once in Ep6, once in Ep8, and once again in Ep9. Also, a damsel once in Ep12.
Doctor and Amy: equal danger five out of thirteen episodes.
Amy as Damsel-in-Distress: eight out of thirteen episodes, but nine if you count Ep1.
Doctor as Prince-in-Distress: once out of thirteen episodes.
This is in stark contrast to the situations of the previous seasons (see graph below):
The round of episodes with Amy Pond has cut the number of equal-danger episodes by half and has dramatically increased the situations in which she is in distress. How many Doctor Who Fans became really excited at the episode “Amy’s Choice” or when Amy while awake and conscious used the power of her memory to save the Doctor? Amy Pond and her husband Rory Williams will be present in a second round of episodes. My solution that should satisfy both Amy Pond fans and her critics will be to change the amount and types of situations she finds herself in. Have Amy Pond be the damsel once or twice. Also have Rory and Doctor each be princes-in-distress once or twice. For the remainder of the episodes, they should have only equal danger.
So if you wish to contact BBC or the people involved in the production of Doctor Who, you may contact BBC here:
According to BBC’s website:
we are able to forward any fan mail to them on your behalf. If you wish for us to do this for you, they can be reached at the following address:
(Name of celebrity)
c/o Artists’ Mail
PO Box 1922
Please write ‘Private and Personal – Please Forward’ at the top of the envelope.
The names of the actors for this upcoming round are Matt Smith as the Doctor, Karen Gillian as Amy Pond, and Arthur Darvill as Rory Williams. Unfortunately, I could not find the addresses for the writers or producers, but the main writers is Stephen Moffat. The executive producers are Stephen Moffat and Beth Willis.
Also, one last thing, Matt Smith is absolutely correct: bowties are very cool.