Way back in 1997, when I was but a rather geeky high school student, I wrote an epic essay as part of my A-Level coursework analysing the somewhat dubious history of female representation in the television series Doctor Who. Although it was written in a mere 60 minutes the night before it was due, my rather rampant knowledge of the subject matter combined with the passionate voice with which I wrote, earned my essay an A+ and helped me scrape a pass in Media Studies.
Today, this essay exists only in the cobweb gathering files of the British Educational System, but the gist of the essay was basically: female representation in Doctor Who, with a few minor exceptions, has been pretty abhorrent since the shows innception. This needs to change!
Fortunately, since the shows revival in 2005, females characters have had a much better time than they did twenty to fifty years ago. Although far from perfect, it is a plesant change to have female character who actually do something beyond flashing a bit of leg or fuelling a variety of ‘spot the knickers’ drinking games.
Unfortunately, this change has not extended behind the scenes, as Mathilda Gregory recently wrote about in The Guardian:
“On Saturday, Doctor Who returns, kicking off the second part of the seventh series with a James-Bond inspired episode that sees the Doctor and Clara whizzing round London on a motorbike. Which is exciting if you like interesting drama with witty banter and thoughtful concepts. But less exciting if you like interesting dramas that include women on their writing teams.
Because season seven of Doctor Who will feature no female scribes at all. Not in the bombastic dinosaurs and cowboys episodes that aired last year, and not in any of the new episodes we’re about to receive. In fact, Doctor Who hasn’t aired an episode written by a woman since 2008, 60 episodes ago. There hasn’t been a single female-penned episode in the Moffat era, and in all the time since the show was rebooted in 2005 only one, Helen Raynor, has ever written for the show.
Isn’t that is a pretty terrible record for a flagship TV programme?”
One female writer in the last seven years. ONE!? There are no words to properly describe how disgraceful this is, especially given the vast array of tremendous female writers working within the television and film industry. Given that the writers seem to have difficulty writing three-dimensional female characters, it’s time to shatter the current sexism and let women take control of the TARDIS…but who?
In this first of two Doctor Who inspired Thursday Thirteen posts, I look at some of the female writers I believe should be writing for this television institution.
Thirteen female writers I’d like to see work on ‘Doctor Who‘
~ in no particular order ~
1. Felicia Day
Although best known as an actress (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Eureka, Supernatural, Dollhouse), Felicia Day is also the creator, writer and star of the magnificent Web TV show The Guild – for which she has won numerous awards for writing. This writing talent, coupled with her apparent love of genre television, makes her the perfect fit for a writing job on Doctor Who.
2. Jane Espenson
I have long admired Jane Espenson as one of the best writers in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. She wrote some of my favourite episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Earshot, Triangle, Superstar, Conversations with Dead People) and one of my favourite episodes of Angel (Guise will be Guise). She co-created the Syfy series Warehouse 13 and has written for other seminal genre series, such as: Battlestar Galactica, Dollhouse, Once Upon a Time and Game of Thrones. All of this – in addition to her work on Doctor Who’s sister series Torchwood – means the question isn’t should she write for Doctor Who but why hasn’t she written for Doctor Who?
3. Lena Dunham
Okay, this is the first of two odd choices on this list, but bare with me. Whatever your feeling toward the television show Girls (personally, I think it’s brilliant) you cannot deny what an exceptional writer Lena Dunham is. Although the genre of Girls is about as far removed from Doctor Who as you can get, she has already proved her ability to write terrific dialogue and characters, earning an Emmy nomination along the way, which is all I need to one-day hope to see a Lena Dunham scripted episode of my favourite television series.
4. Isobelle Carmody
Isobelle Carmody is one of the leading names in fantasy writing. She began work on the Obernewtyn Chronicles at the age of fourteen and since then has won numerous awards and international acclaim for her writing. As Neil Gaiman – another prolific writer of fantasy – has been given the opportunity to write for Doctor Who, I see no reason (unless she doesn’t want to, of course) why a writer of Carmody’s calibre shouldn’t be given the same opportunity. I for one, would cherish the chance to have her write for the show.
5. Abi Morgan
Doctor Who would be lucky to have a writer of Abi Morgan’s calibre working for the show. Over the last fifteen years, Abi Morgan has proven herself time-and-again to be one of the greatest writers currently working in British stage and screen. Her credits include the screenplays for the television dramas Sex Traffic, Tsunami: The Aftermath, Royal Wedding and Birdsong. For film, she wrote the screenplay for Brick Lane (adapted from the novel by Monica Ali) as well as multi-award winning films The Iron Lady and Shame. Most recently, she has earned acclaim for her BBC television series The Hour, set in the world of 1950s current affairs television.
6. Lucy Watkins
Although you may not immediately recognise the name, Lucy Watkins has been a considerable force in genre television writing for many years. Since co-creating and writing the cult classic Hex in 2004, Lucy Watkins has gone on to write for Merlin, Demons and Sugar Rush, consistently proving her writing skills within the medium of television.
8. Amber Benson
Although perhaps best known for her role as Tara Maclay in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Amber Benson is also the acclaimed author of several novels and graphic novels as well as the writer and director of two feature films; Chance and Loves, Liars and Lunatics. A resume that reveals her to be more-than-capable of writing for Doctor Who.
9. Tina Fey
This is the second of my ‘odd choices’ on this list. Despite her critical acclaim, Tina Fey’s writing work has never strayed into the genre of science-fiction and fantasy. However, as with Lena Dunham (above), I see no reason why this would be a hinderance. She has a perfect grasp of character, dialogue and plot which, when all is said and done, is all one needs to write in any genre. Personally, I think I would have some form of aneurism if Tina Fey were ever to write for Doctor Who. So perhaps it’s best that it will likely never happen! :p
10. Alice Bell
When Alice Bell was twenty-one she wrote the screenplay for acclaimed Australian film Suburban Mayhem. Since then, she has gone on to write for such critically praised television series as The Slap (the adaptation of the Christos Tsiolkas novel), Puberty Blues (the 2012 adaptation of the quintessential coming-of-age novel of the same name) and Spirited (starring British actor/comedian Matt King). With such an impressive body of work, I would be more than happy to see her join Doctor Who’s writing team.
11. Anne Cofell Saunders
began her career in television as assistant to the producers of the show 24. She wrote her first episode for this series in 2005 (Day 4: 7pm-8pm) before going on to write for such genre mainstays as Eureka, Battlestar Galactica, Smallville and Chuck, consistently proving her knowledge of both the genre and masterful storytelling; the latter being something Doctor Who is (in my opinion) currently lacking.
12. Allison Adler
The fact that she wrote my personal favourite of Chuck is by-the-by, for over the last twenty years Allison Adler has worked extensively in the arena of television, writing and producing for shows ranging from Chuck and Family Guy to Beverly Hills 90210 and Glee. An exceedingly talented and more-than-qualified writer/producer for a show of Doctor Who’s calibre.
13. Dawn French
Before you furrow your eyebrows and proclaim you can’t imagine Dawn French writing for a science-fiction show, may I ask if you ever expected Richard Curtis (writer of comedic fare Love Actually, Notting Hill, The Vicar of Dibley and Four Weddings and a Funeral) to write one of the best Doctor Who episodes since its return in 2005? If a writer can write multi-layered characters, engaging dialogue and interesting stories – as Dawn French can definitely do – they are more than capable of writing for Doctor Who, regardless of what ‘genre’ they are most known for.
What do you think? Should the producers of Doctor Who employ more female writers?
If so, who would you like to see write for the show?
- Why Doctor Who needs more female writers (guardian.co.uk)
- Doctor Who really does need more female writers (io9.com)
- David Tennant Doctor Who Anniversary (contactmusic.com)
- Writer Wednesday – Isobelle Carmody (writerinplay.wordpress.com)
- How Did Clara Not Spill Her Drink & Other Observations (weminoredinfilm.com)
- Doctor Who: The Bells of Saint John (BBC1) (takingtheshortview.wordpress.com)
- 5 on Friday: Nicole’s 5 Favorite Doctor Who Episodes (puregeekery.net)
- Screenwriting 101: Lena Dunham (gointothestory.blcklst.com)