Day 306: Dark Thoughts

When Doctor Who explores what happens to the sole… SPOILERS!!!!

November 2 main

So, here’s a pub quiz question for you: What do The Master, Godzilla, Curtis from Misfits, Marvel superhero Starhawk and Holly from Red Dwarf all have in common?

They’re all sci-fi characters who’ve changed sex.

Although with Godzilla, he only became a she in a US film (the Roland Emmerich one) in a film that most fans refuse to accept as canon. Though that has little to do with the sexuality of the giant lizard…

You get the feeling, though, reading through various forums last night, that some Doctor Who fans would like to deny “Dark Water” ever happened. A small but very vocal minority is up in arms at the Master becoming the Mistress, claiming it’s the thin end of a politically correct agenda which will result in the Doctor becoming a woman and all television becoming a matriarchy with Top Gear the only show aimed at men. Or someething.

To get this into proportion, the vast majority of fans seem to have embraced the idea of Michelle Gomez as the Master. The episode has – generally – been rapturously received. But the arguments and rationalisations of those who haven’t are highly amusing, and wonderfully overwrought. My favourites are the ones who go, “I would vote for a female Prime Minister but I wouldn’t want a female Doctor,” which is a bit lile saying that they’d be okay with a black man as manager of the England Football team, but they wouldn’t want one on their five-a-side team.

I’m also amused by the argument that a female Master is a cheap gimmick. Well, hey, it might turn out to be, but so far, we’ve known this revelation for about 30 seconds of screen time. What was Moffat supposed to do: reveal the big shock in the first five minutes then have 40 minutes of the Doctor and “Missy” talking about gender politics and exploring the difficulties of producing a Gallifreyan version of Who Do You Think You Are?

I actually think this audacious change has opened up a whole load of new dramatic opportunities that can be explored by the writers over the coming season, and I’d be surprised if they didn’t. The Mistress has breathed new life into a decades-old character.

But yeah, it is also a gimmick, a move to get people beyond fans talking about the show. And what’s wrong with that? Why is it different to David Tennant’s fake regeneration? It’s good to do something on the show every now and again that raises its profile. And because I can see no way inn which a Time Lord sex change* can affect the show badly, even if the writers never address that issues involved, I’m happy with it as a gimmick alone. It’s fun. TV should be fun.

(• Besides, the “moment has been prepared for” with reference to Time Lords changing sex in at least two stories previously.)

doctor who dark water missy


On a related but less controversial matter, I’m also annoyed by a lot of fans going, “But it was sooooooo obvious that Missy was the Master.” I’m not convinced it was. I “knew”. Well, no I didn’t. I “suspected”. But I suspected because I’d been on a forum weeks back when somebody suggested it. So the seed was sown.

And that’s how it works these days. One person on the internet can speculate the truth of the matter, and then the suspicion goes viral, and suddenly everybody is convinced that they’ve worked out Missy is the Master. But they’ve also read that Missy is Romana, or Missy is River Song, or Missy is Cyber-Thatcher or whatever, and so whatever the eventual reveal is, they can go, “Oh yeah, I guessed that.” When, actually, they never did.

I’m not saying that nobody guessed the truth without internet aid, but I bet those who did were in a teeny, tiny minority.

And finally… I LIKED the John Simm Master. I know that even John Simm doesn’t like the John Simm Master now, but he’s got a silly American accent in Intruders, so he doesn’t count any more. Okay, okay, I’m in a strop because no one agrees with me. I even loved the superpowered Master of Tennant’s final episodes. To me, the Simm Master may have been manic, but there was still an underlying edge of psychotic danger, like recent versions of the Joker in Batman. So far the Gomez Master has just been incredibly camp and arch. But it’s early days. I expect to see the ruthless, scary side of the Mistress next week.

See you tomorrow!

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