Okay, it is not easy being a kickass Victorian lesbian genius private detective, so Victorian femlock saves every single letter of gratitude she ever receives. She gets them out and looks at them when things seem impossible. She knows how important it is to remind yourself how resilient you are. And how unique. And how your impact on the world is priceless to so many people, though there are those who will doubt and hate you and would have you doubt and hate yourself. She keeps every thank you note she gets, and she saves all of John’s stories from The Strand. Sometimes she needs to remind herself that she’s Sherlock Fucking Holmes, and she can do whatever she sets out to do.
So many of the
layered, important characters of the Moffat era are women and so many are woman above the age
Whether Moffat writes religious leaders of
huge futuristic churches, royalty at the heart of a mystery of a
Starship, the Doctor’s re-occurring childhood best friend/over-the-top egomaniac villain, or a military leader with
a vendetta against the Doctor and not an ounce of scruples - he chooses to put women in power. He’ll
also write a lesbian Victorian detective, a mother coping with the loss
of her husband, a seemingly cold-hearted business women working for
the Great Intelligence, a physically disabled grandmother dreaming
herself into a science base on the north pole, and the woman in charge of all of UNIT’s operations.
And that’s just his own episodes. And ever forget about River Song herself! River is series 6′s foremost heroine. She grows from a
kidnapped, abused child to someone who fights to shape her own destiny,
and even when she is pure chaos as in Let’s Kill Hitler, we are never
asked to do anything but love her. And to have a woman of Alex Kingston’s age play a heroine, confident in
herself and her sexuality, intelligent, undaunted, mischievous means so much to people.. “Melody
Pond is a superhero” and this is so, so important (as the reactions show here).
It matters that every single one of them exist, but it is even more important that all of them exist.
That is true for Moffat’s female characters in general. Unless you merely list companion-typical characteristics -
intelligence, bravery, compassion, beauty (assuming we do not care about
the ways in which these are expressed and experienced differently) - it
is not actually possible to push Amy and Clara into one category, never
mind what happens when you rightfully add River as one of Moffat’s
heroines. Or Madame Vastra, Jenny, Sally, Madge, Nancy, Osgood or all
the other female characters who are not companions but certainly take on
Of course, his villains, antagonists or characters who face difficult moral challenges are different as well. Tasha may often be grouped with the darker spectrum of Moffat’s characters, but she is truly just a peacekeeper who finds herself in
the middle of a war, who sets the “Silence” in
motion, but is truly trying to do
the best for the universe. She’s a
friend to the Doctor, to the end. Miss Kizlet may seem like TBoSJ’s antagonist, but it becomes a terrifying story of victimhood. In contrast, there is a genuine streak of sadism to Madame Kovarian’s behaviour and the Mistress… well, she is a regneration of the Master, after all. There is such a wide range of motivations and moral positions to be found here.
That is not to say that there isn’t still work to be done. Casting Sophie Okonedo as Liz 10 was brilliant, Lorna Bucket is one of the few examples of women of Chinese descent on the show, Courtney and Angie had very strong moments, but there’s still plenty of room for WOC on the show. I will forever adore Jenny and Vastra and I know how important it is to people that the Mistress’s gender (and time lord’s in general) is fluid, but queer representation doesn’t stop being important after a handful of characters.
But there should be so much room for praise too. These characters are varied and diverse, they are powerful or they are being used, they can be scary or scared or both. They are smart
and courageous, they shape the fate of nations, the universe, or their
family, they are good-hearted, complex and evil. Often they are telling stories which mean so much, about surviving abuse and reclaiming agency, about being outsiders, about not being neurotypical and finding your own way, about sexuality and friendship. They are woven into the
very foundations of this show - and genuinely one of Moffat’s very best
contributions to it.
Attention, all Victorian Silurian adventuresses, and spouses and admirers thereof! I’ve added a new design to my Redbubble shop: you can now buy mini-Madame Vastra and Jenny as a t-shirt, sticker or card.
However, despite what your Sontaran valet may tell you, novelty cartoon grenades are NOT available…