Slap in the face: Why Doctor Who’s domestic violence has got to stop

August 19, 2015

Picture the scene. The TARDIS’s lights glow eerily. Up at the console, the Doctor flicks switches, pulls a couple of levers in quiet desperation. Finally, with an anguished sigh, he gives up. “It’s gone,” he tells Clara. “Gallifrey. Completely gone. I’ll never see it again.”

Clara, who is feeling particularly mean this afternoon, gives a nonchalant shrug. “You were the one who lost it in the first place. Can’t leave you alone with anything, can they?” Whereupon the Doctor turns from the console, striding across the floor of the TARDIS and slapping her savagely across the face.

The inclusion of a moment like this is more or less unthinkable. Even if you could write the characters this way, the OFCOM fallout would be potentially catastrophic. The tabloids would have a field day. The Mail’s headline would be a smug “BBC GOES TOO FAR”. The forums would be clogged with debates about whether the Doctor has become irredeemably dark, irreversibly unpleasant, and whether we need to see violence against women represented at this scale – counter-balanced against the views of those who simply see it as a natural progression, a chance for the show to journey into uncharted waters.

You’ve probably already seen where I’m going with this, but just in case it needs pointing out, when the reverse happens – as it does, with increasing frequency – the net result is a string of animated GIFs and YouTube compilations and the sound of much laughter. Because slapping in Doctor Who is something that they seem to do a lot, and while it’s undoubtedly a source of much hilarity to most of the Tumblr brigade, I’m not one of them. And every time it happens, I get very uncomfortable.

There’s certainly been a history of Doctor-companion violence. Perhaps one of the most notable early stories was The Edge of Destruction, with its strangulation cliffhanger and the notorious scene where Susan attacks Barbara with a pair of scissors. It was a stage in the production history where they were still working out tone and it’s almost inconceivable that it would have happened even, say, a year later. Meanwhile, strangulation rears its ugly head again in The Twin Dilemma, as a paranoid, post-regeneration Doctor shouts poetry at Peri before trying to throttle her. I’ve had dates like this, but it’s a nasty scene in a largely ridiculous story, and we will not dwell on it.

Besides, such things seem to be anomalies in twenty-five years of comparatively chaste television, in which the relationship the companion has with their Doctor is seldom discussed openly. For better or worse, a companion-based intensity is central to the dynamic of New Who, and generally you either love it or hate it. The Ninth Doctor famously tells Rose that he doesn’t “do domestic”, but that almost feels like Eccleston himself protesting against the tide of relationship issues that clogged the show both during and after his stint in the leather jacket.

That’s a different debate, of course, but it has fallout. The Doctor is slapped by Jackie Tyler for taking away his daughter. Francine Jones slaps him because she believe he’s a threat. A bolshy, pre-enlightened Donna Noble slaps him because she thinks she’s been kidnapped (and then again when she thinks he’s making light of a serious situation). Martha slaps the Doctor to bring him out of his self-induced fugue.

Why even question the motives of the one doing the slapping, when the one being slapped is so obviously asking for it?

Some of these are understandable within the context of the narrative, even if we could question the writers’ decision to subsequently make light of them (the Doctor and Rose share a joke about Jackie on a rooftop, while a reeling Tennant remarks “Always the mothers” while he’s getting up). But that’s television. The comedy value of a good slap in the face is, apparently, worth its weight in gold, whether it’s Tasha Lem in Time of the Doctor, or Clara’s assault on the Cyberplanner Doctor in Nightmare in Silver. It would be churlish to single out Doctor Who for this sort of thing. It happened practically every week in Friends. It goes back to the golden age of television and beyond. Every short film Leon Errol ever made would end when his wife hit him over the head with a vase.

Perhaps comedy slapping has its place, given the right characters and context. But there’s been a shift over the years from a literal slapstick – the Eleventh Doctor hitting himself for his own stupidity – towards a darker, violence-as-reaction ethos, and perhaps that’s what makes me uncomfortable. I’ve mentioned the mothers, but the rot truly sets in when Matt Smith enters his second series: River’s reaction upon seeing an apparently resurrected (but actually two hundred years younger) Doctor is to slap him. She does it again when he fixes her broken wrist. Clara’s about the most violent of the lot, particularly when she’s working with Capaldi: thoughtless behaviour is punished with physical abuse in both Last Christmas and Into the Dalek, while she threatens, in Kill the Moon, to “smack you so hard you’ll regenerate”.

dw-s1-alienslondon-slap

“But surely,” I can hear people arguing, “It’s OK, because the Doctor’s an alien?” And yes, the Doctor’s not human. He’s already demonstrated amazing resistance to injuries. He’s probably got a healing factor. He’s like an abrasive, declawed Wolverine, so that makes it OK. Besides, thumping non-human life forms isn’t a problem: if Han Solo’s response to being captured by the Ewoks had been to punch one of them in the face, I’m sure that would have been entirely acceptable to most children. It’s a poor analogy, but it illustrates that the line’s very hard to draw. To what extent do we disavow the actions of a character on the grounds that the humanoid patriarch they’ve thumped has two hearts instead of just one?

“Or,” the argument continues, “he deserves it, right?” Well, yes, of course he does. The Twelfth Doctor’s an alienating (in a quite literal sense of the word), clinically detached sociopath, at least in his worst moments. He says the horrible things we’re all thinking, only the little switch inside his head that stops you saying them out loud doesn’t seem to be working. That’s a perfectly justifiable reason for casual domestic violence. He deserves it in the same way that provocatively dressed women presumably deserve to be raped.

Why even question the motives of the one doing the slapping, when the one being slapped is so obviously asking for it?

I watch quite a lot of Jeremy Kyle on the weekday mornings I’m folding laundry instead of writing, and a couple of months ago one particular guest recounted the time he was locked in his flat by a girlfriend who supposedly beat him. The authenticity of his narrative was ultimately disputed, of course, but long before that happened Kyle had taken the audience to task for laughing. “If this was the other way around,” he said, “and if a woman was sat here and a bloke had locked her in a flat and she’d been forced to jump out and injure herself you would not be laughing. You would be saying he is a complete nightmare, he should be locked up and that’s disgraceful, but somehow if it happens to a bloke that’s funny. That’s not funny.”

dw-s3-lazarus-slap

If I could say that the show were making a valid point about this sort of thing, I’d probably be more tolerant. But it doesn’t: moral debate is sandwiched into inappropriate contexts where it is dealt with poorly and rapidly (Kill the Moon again) or, more often, sidestepped entirely. So by turns we’re supposed to laugh, or shake our heads in dismay and mutter “Well, he was asking for it”. We laugh because it’s a powerful Time Lord being brought down off his pedestal by a weak and feeble human. And we shouldn’t, because when it’s supposed to be funny, it usually isn’t, and when it’s supposed to be angst-ridden, it just comes across as nasty. Besides, it’s not just the Doctor. In Asylum of the Daleks, Amy slaps Rory twice. At least that’s consistent. Amy spends most of that story being an absolute bitch, whether it’s the arrogant smugness that pervades the early scenes, or the tirade of fury directed at her ex-husband for considering himself the wronged party (“Plastic man standing outside in the rain for two millennia? Pah. I THREW YOU OUT OF THE HOUSE BECAUSE I CAN’T HAVE YOUR BABIES!”).

I’m not advocating a reduction of violence. I approach many of these situations – inevitably and unavoidably – from the perspective of a parent, but that doesn’t mean I think the show is too unpleasant. I recently showed The Deadly Assassin, arguably the peak of 1970s unpleasantness, to my eight-year-old (and was thrilled when, just last week, he remembered an obscure detail while forming an analogy). The most sensible response to stories that cross your own particular line of acceptable viewing is to simply not watch them.

But I am worried about the show I’m watching. Perhaps Series 8 was Capaldi’s Twin Dilemma moment, borne out across twelve weeks, and the lighter touch hinted at in series 9 will mean Clara no longer needs to react in anger. Or perhaps not. Perhaps this is the way Moffat and the producers choose to do things; a sort of counterbalance to the sexism charges thrown his way last year. But I know we live in a world where The Sun spearheads a campaign to highlight battered women with one hand and dismisses a marital assault charge against its (female) editor as “a silly argument” with the other. I know it’s a world where domestic violence against men is granted less credence than its (admittedly more common) antipode. Once again, that’s another debate for another day. But above all I know this: it’s not the sort of thing I want to see in Doctor Who.

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139 comments on “Slap in the face: Why Doctor Who’s domestic violence has got to stop

  1. Religion Sucks Aug 19, 2015

    Oh dear, a little bit precious.

    Of course genuine domestic violence is not pleasant or acceptable, but this hardly constitutes anything like that.
    In the real world, where most of us happen to live, this is seen as what it is, a highly tense and frustrated situation in a drama where one character reflects life in the raw.

    To suggest that you would not inflict pain on another person is laughable. If someone was hurting your child you would not stop to consider the legal or societal ramifications of your forthcoming physical assault, you would just dive in and inflict pain and suffering without conscious thought.

    The scenes highlighted, A Mother’s Concern, A Wife’s heartfelt betrayal and relief, and Clara knocking him back to his senses are not uncontrolled physical attacks, but the sort of realism that the cancer of political correctness wishes to eradicate from its consciousness, regardless of what happens in reality.

    Perhaps more concern should be spent on banning the Doctor entirely, as he is Male, White, Middle Aged and likes to travel around with (usually) much younger Earth girls who are not against showing a bit of flesh.

    O Tempora O Mores!

    • TimeChaser Aug 19, 2015

      I think you’ve anaylized it perfectly.

    • Simon Danes Aug 19, 2015

      With the greatest respect to your position, and I know it’s meant to be provocative, I think your pseudonym causes unnecessary offence. You’re in danger of hurting the feelings of those ‘Doctor Who’ fans who are religious — I write as a Catholic — be they Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, et al. Atheism is an intellectually justifiable position; so is theism. This isn’t, though, the place for a theological or philosophical discussion; it’s best to steer clear of causing unnecessary offence, surely? Thanks. Simon

      • Doctor Moo Aug 20, 2015

        Well said Simon, couldn’t agree more!

        • Simon Danes Aug 20, 2015

          Gawd bless you, guv! So often these days, if you say you’re a Christian, people look at you as though you’re a maniac or psycho. So, it’s nice to have your support: thank you!! Si

          • Doctor Moo Aug 20, 2015

            I can relate to that, I think we’ve all been there! It becomes more tolerable when you notice Jesus got it much worse than us, so if that helps… 🙂

      • Baron Benji of Fecal Matter Aug 23, 2015

        Theism is absolutely not intellectually justifiable, and that is why religion should be open to peaceful critical analysis. You are welcome to follow your religion of choice, but do not tell others that they should not question those beliefs when religion occupies an extremely powerful position in global society and impacts everyone’s lives, theist or atheist. He has as much right to say religion sucks as you have to praise God.

        Considering the centuries of blood that stains the hands of religion and continues to do so, if religious people get their “feelings hurt” by criticism of organised religion then all I can say to that is “tough”. If religion stood up to critical analysis then the concept of offence would not apply. “Religion sucks” is quite possible one of the most innocuous insults possible. If you find that offensive, then I feel a little sorry for you. At the very least it would need to have been “religious people suck” for it to be remotely prejudicial.

        • Simon Danes Aug 27, 2015

          Ouch. Sorry, old boy: theism remains intellectually justifiable, despite the modern myth that it is not so. I do not dispute people’s right to debate or argue; I do dispute people’s right to be rude or offensive. I am afraid you are mistaken: religion – some religion – does indeed stand up to argument, but that does not mean other positions are not intellectually defensible. To attack religion per se because of the enormities perpetrated by some religious people is as silly as attacking atheism per se because of the crimes of such atheists as Hitler or Pol Pot. Your comment ‘I feel a little sorry for you’ is most discourteous. BUT I do not think that a Doctor Who site is an appropriate place to air these matters; I merely do so in response to your rather intemperate post. Best wishes, and let’s stop arguing. Simon

    • James Lomond Aug 19, 2015

      Am curious: if political correctness is a cancer, how would you describe e.g. misogyny?

      Btw from an atheist point of view I second Simon Danes’s comment.

    • Lynda Aug 20, 2015

      This comment Still. Doesn’t. Get. It. If someone does you wrong, the answer is not violence. It’s just not. All violence does, generally, is create more violence. That’s not rocket science concept. I would bet my house this comment comes from an American, actually, where the attitudes are different to most other places in the world (where people are a wee bit more enlightened). Unfortunately, in the case of Doctor Who’s recent spate of domestic violence, it plays very well to an American audience which, now that I think about the pandering the show has been doing towards the US in recent times, to get into that market and make more $$$, it might actually be quite deliberate. I might have hit on something there, actually, quite unintentionally…

      • TimeChaser Aug 20, 2015

        Will. You. PLEASE. Stop insulting all Americans by whitewashing us as entertained and obsessed with violence? And why shouldn’t the show come to America sometimes? There’s more to the world than England and for the Doctor not to land in any other places makes little sense.

        • Lynda — The “recent spate of domestic violence” you see in the show is apparently invisible to others as such. For one thing, it’s not “domestic” — these characters are not a married couple sharing a domicile but a traveling partnership of indeterminate duration, no formal vows having been taken by either of them. S8 is all about whether, under such changed circumstances, they can find enough common ground to continue traveling together at all. There are no kids around to be traumatized by a slap, or a “threat” that’s actually a joke with an undertone of “Don’t treat me like a child”, which hardly even qualifies as verbal abuse: the Doctor is not a child either, and shows no signs of being wounded by such off-hand mock-aggressive humor. Exaggerating these moments of dramatic friction does not convince anyone; it just puts people off. And I’m speaking as someone who found the ItD smack well over the line, even though I do understand (I think) the fears and tensions it springs from.

          I’m also speaking (about abusive behavior) from personal experience in my own childhood, not from a nearly complete informational void about a very large foreign nation and its various sub-cultures, as you seem to be speaking when you complain about America’s (imaginary) influence on Doctor Who.

          • Lynda Aug 22, 2015

            1) You don’t have to be married to be in a domestic relationship with someone. Indeed, for a definition: “A domestic partnership is an interpersonal relationship between two individuals who live together and share a common domestic life but are not married.” So let’s get that squared away first, shall we? The Doctor, living on the TARDIS with a companion, is indeed in a domestic partnership/relationship with them. So I used the term correctly, thanks. 2) Whether kids are present in the scenes Clara slaps the Doctor is totally and utterly irrelevant. We’re talking about the kids, at home, watching the show because this is… surprise… a show! I mean, by your logic, it’s OK to slap someone in real life, so long as a kid’s not watching? That’s… bizarre to me. I really can’t get my head around that defence. 3) Don’t try and get hung up on the fact I nominated the US influence on Doctor Who as a bad thing. Because, yes, while it is a bad thing — and taken to the extremes would actually ruin the show — it’s barely 1/10 of the argument I have put forward across this whole thread. At the end of the day, slapping someone because you have an issue with them is stupid. It’s not what to teach children. I mean, go and send your kid to school with the idea it’s OK to slap their freinds; see how far they get with that, eh? All of you finding ways to defend it — presumably because you see me attacking a show you like — need to stop and think what you’re actually defending here. Because it’s not actually the show. Give it some thought.

          • Well, no, “the US influence on Doctor Who” is neither a good thing nor a bad thing, but a thing that exists entirely in the eye of the beholder — your eye, not mine, as it happens. And what on earth are you arguing about? I didn’t say, and wouldn’t say, that slapping some one is a *good* way to express anger and upset. I did say that it’s one all-too-recognizably human way of expressing being angry and badly upset, and that even given extenuating circumstances, i want to see such an outburst further addressed by the characters themselves so that it’s clear that slapping is not a *good* way to make your feelings known.

            I’ve written this here before, and now I’ve written it again; and I’m not going to write it again, because judging by your responses you are yourself so angry and upset that you’re incapable of understanding what I’m saying (“It’s just not gettin’ in”, to quote the Doctor). I suggest that *you* do some thinking yourself, when you’ve cooled down a bit, about what people countering your ranting here have actually been saying. That’s it. Over and out.

          • Lynda Aug 22, 2015

            So you ignored my first point, having been completely wrong on what you said to me and, I assume, hoping that it can be swept under the carpet? Then suddenly you take a swing into agreeing with me that slapping is not a good way to make your feelings known, yet still make it sound like you’re at loggerheads with me. Weird. And, for a finale, start banging on about how I’m angry when, all along, I’ve been a portrait of restraint, just making my points?

      • Baron Benji of Fecal Matter Aug 23, 2015

        More disgusting xenophobia. Dear oh dear.

  2. Doctor Moo Aug 19, 2015

    This is a tricky issue because it’s not plain black & white. Sometimes when we watch this show we agree that the Doctor getting slapped is not undeserved, or at least not unwarranted such as when Jackie Tyler is scared of her daughter going missing, Francine Jones is protective of her daughter falling in with the wrong crowd, Rory is angry and upset at the same time with his wife dying and having insults hurled his way. How else would you expect them to react?! The issue is when there’s not a reasonable enough motivation, most recently was Clara in ‘Kill the Moon’ when she could have simply said her piece and then stormed off in the absence of an apology but there had to be a threat of violence thrown in which added nothing but controversy to the episode and only made a poor episode even worse. As I’ve elaborated above, it’s not a simple issue as sometimes it has a reasonable context to it. It’s easy to make an issue where there isn’t one but where do you draw the line? To keep the drama real we cannot simply get rid of it, can we?

    • FrancoPabloDiablo Aug 19, 2015

      Interesting points Dr Moo. I also wonder how the pro-female-Doctor brigade would react if a (hypothetical) female Doctor started getting slapped about by fathers of their young male companions because of similar paternal instincts that Jackie and Francine had.

      • doctHERwho Aug 19, 2015

        We no longer care because Moffat is an idiot and should be fired because he writes badly but last season especially had Carla slap doc14 which is abuse and he’s an abusive sexist man who should be stopped immediately

        • TheLazyWomble Aug 19, 2015

          That’s a surprising approach from you, doctHERwho. Care you back it up?

          • doctHERwho Aug 19, 2015

            Moffat had Carla slap the 14th doccor in last session and so he’s now abusive too booth headers and should be gone form television before it’s too last to Dave the shoe

          • TheLazyWomble Aug 19, 2015

            what does “booth headers” mean? And “Dave the shoe”?
            Yes, Clara slapped the Doctor. What is it, specifically, that makes the Doctor either abusive or sexist?
            You stand a much better chance of being taken seriously, if you provide some examples.

          • Doctor Moo Aug 19, 2015

            Dave the shoe = sand shoes?

          • FrancoPabloDiablo Aug 19, 2015

            Am actually quite enjoying this. It’s like a cryptic crossword or something 🙂

          • Doctor Moo Aug 19, 2015

            Troll Translation – could it be my new career?

            Actually I’m quite happy with staying the professional physicist I am at the moment! But if I ever get bored…

          • Gord, LazyWomble, who knows? Maybe simply that the Doctor is (as long as we’ve known him) male (see a show called “Sanctuary”, if you can find it, for a female lead in a somewhat similar role — I liked it, but maybe it was, er, too sexist to last more than a few seasons)? Or that the Doctor doesn’t slug Clara back after that roundhouse she gives him in ItD, which suggests — ah — old fashioned gallantry, which is variably unacceptable according to one’s mood on a given day?

          • TimeChaser Aug 19, 2015

            Are you even remotely sober right now? What did any of that mean?

          • FrancoPabloDiablo Aug 19, 2015

            They are a troll. Indeed, maybe a drunk one.

          • TimeChaser Aug 19, 2015

            I do realize that. Doesn’t mean I can’t have a bit of fun now, does it.

          • FrancoPabloDiablo Aug 19, 2015

            True, let us all have fun at their expense 🙂

          • doctHERwho Aug 19, 2015

            Your all the real trolls!

          • Doctor Moo Aug 19, 2015

            …no.

          • Doctor Moo Aug 19, 2015

            It looks like a series of typos to me. At a guess, going by context…
            Carla = Clara
            14th = 12th (see War and Meta10)
            Doccor = Doctor
            Session = season
            Booth headers = both genders
            Last to Dave the shoe = ?

          • TimeChaser Aug 19, 2015

            Too late to save the show, I think. See, I’m learning!

          • Doctor Moo Aug 19, 2015

            The usual nonsense then! More of the same old, same old.

        • TimeChaser Aug 19, 2015

          You do realize RTD had people slap the Doctor as well. Your argument has as much stability as a 3-legged table.

          • TheLazyWomble Aug 19, 2015

            Oh a bad choice there. A three legged table is very stable (provided of course it was meant to have three legs).

          • TimeChaser Aug 19, 2015

            I could have said 1-legged chair, but then I thought of stools. Just pretend it makes sense. 😛

          • Doctor Moo Aug 19, 2015

            Nothing makes sense when there’s a troll about!

          • doctHERwho Aug 19, 2015

            IM NOY A TROL TOURE ALL TROLLS

          • Doctor Moo Aug 19, 2015

            …nope.

          • TimeChaser Aug 19, 2015

            All you do here is rant about Moffat. Literally just rant, you never calmly offer any reasoned argument behind your dislike of him.

          • FrancoPabloDiablo Aug 19, 2015

            Rants are usually coherent at least. Our troll has obviously missed his/her meds today so no chance of a reasoned opinion. Still, fun for the rest of us 🙂

          • FrancoPabloDiablo Aug 19, 2015

            You’re funny 🙂 You do realise we are all laughing at you don’t you?

          • doctHERwho Aug 19, 2015

            RTD needs to retain and fend Moffat away fgok the shown four it’d two let to Dave it form desrg

          • Doctor Moo Aug 19, 2015

            I’ve got nothing. Anyone else want to try translating this one?

          • TimeChaser Aug 19, 2015

            I don’t even know if this one has a translation. You’d have better luck with the Dead Sea Scrolls.

          • Doctor Moo Aug 19, 2015

            At least there’s a consensus on how those translate! Here goodness knows what’s been said.

          • FrancoPabloDiablo Aug 19, 2015

            I think it may be Klingon or something.

        • FrancoPabloDiablo Aug 19, 2015

          Oh jeez, you’re back sprouting trolling rubbish again. You calling Moff an idiot is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black is it not?

      • Doctor Moo Aug 19, 2015

        Good point, one that only serves to highlight the issue’s double standards. In a similar manner I doubt it would have been aired if the Doctor had slapped Clara but apparently she’s allowed to slap him?!

  3. FrancoPabloDiablo Aug 19, 2015

    I regularly get beat up by my 8-year-old daughter. Am going to make her read this article!

  4. TimeChaser Aug 19, 2015

    With all due respect to the author, this article is more than a little overreaction to moments of drama where characters are in the emotional moment. Now, if these people had continued to attack the Doctor, perhaps you might have a case, but one slap per scene is hardly what I would categorize domestic abuse. You want to watch a show that has more than it’s fair amount of abusive scenes, go watch Walker, Texas Ranger. I long ago lost count of the number of times powerful men abused women in that series.

  5. Namnoot Aug 19, 2015

    Once while visiting the lovely country of Great Britain I saw a man beating the hell out of a woman on a street corner after she talked back to him. This was in 1991 and to this day I feel guilty that I didn’t do anything to stop it. I couldn’t: I was separated by traffic barriers and what could I have done? And I had no idea where to go to find a cop or anything.

    I have interviewed women who have been hospitalized after being beaten by their spouses.

    In my city there are usually at least 10 murders that are domestic violence related.

    In Ottawa this past May there was a trial of a man who was accused to beating his wife over the head with a baseball bat.

    If Doctor Who ever gets to the point where we’re seeing this then I think there will be cause for concern. Otherwise slaps to the face or the occasional headsmack are not going to upset me. I’ve seen real domestic violence in action. What is described in this article ain’t domestic violence. (The strangling in Twin Dilemma is the only incident that comes close and I think one reason why that story failed is because they didn’t follow it up. Or maybe they did – whether intentional or not, Peri NEVER appeared completely comfortable with the Doctor again. In fact I recall one moment in a later episode (maybe Timelash? I can’t recall) where she reacts with momentary fear when the Doctor makes some sort of outburst. I don’t think they ignored it, but given the nature of the series at the time and its image as a kid’s show I don’t think they were allowed to “go there”.)

    • TimeChaser Aug 19, 2015

      I think the author is mistaking what is intended more as slapstick comedy with intentional abuse.

      And if there was anyone in the series perpetrating actual abuse, the Doctor would be the first to stop it. I keep thinking of The Idiot’s Lantern and Eddie Connolly, who is obviously an abusive person, at least verbally abusive to his family, and when the Doctor sees what kind of man he is he turns the tables on Eddie and shouts him down with his own catch phrase. Or even in Warriors’ Gate when the Doctor is at the Tharil banquet and one of them slaps the servant, the Doctor immediately goes to her then gives the Tharil a death glare that basically says “Go on, I dare you to try it on me.”

      • Grumpy The Unicorn Aug 19, 2015

        yeh, lol. That’s what I do now (because I have nowhere to escape it) to my parents when they’re fighting, in case they look like they might start smacking or slamming things. Try it. I’ll call the cops on ya. yeah. good call, TimeChaser! 😉 unfortunately, then my mother accuses me of attacking her and calls the cops on ME. (just an example to back up my agreement with your statement! ;)) O.o Poor Doctor, LOL. We need to see more of htose Doctor Awesome moments, him standing up to abusers- very satisfying, those. I would really like ot see that. I feel physical pain sometimes when I see the Doctor get slapped. Oh, I know he’s an actor in a show, but still. I’m just that way. 😉 there is rarely a thing more wondrous to me then a character who protects children.

  6. Rick714 Aug 19, 2015

    I think some peoples’ dislike of “kill the moon” is coloring the execution of Claras’ threat, either that, or they just didn’t understand why she was angry—seems like a LOT of folks misunderstood the episode if that’s the case, but I digress.

    All the slaps worked perfectly within the context of the stories they appeared in. To think otherwise tells me that one has to observe the motivations behind the characters more closely.

    In Kill the moon, Clara felt scared, betrayed and abandoned–literally, by someone she considers her best friend in the world. Up until that point, we’d never seen her character so angry, so REAL. The only other time she got that close before that was Deep breathe. But consider….even then, she didn’t strike him, just threatened to.

    So no, at no point has the show gone quite over the line, with *possible* exception of maybe Twin Dilemma and even then, there WAS a valid reason. A regeneration gone wildly wrong but it was a very brave move and a worthwhile one–one of the very few good ideas JNT had during the ’80’s, I felt. Once in a while, it must be pointed out that the Doctor IS an alien life form and he can’t always be an affable, bland bloke in cricket attire festooned with celery.

    • TimeChaser Aug 19, 2015

      That’s probably the one thing about Kill the Moon that made any sense. 😛

      • Doctor Moo Aug 19, 2015

        Kill the Mo(r)on was a mess in all respects except for the last few minutes. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pHOnGSFzd3Y I mean seriously?! Who let that go ahead???

        • Rick714 Aug 19, 2015

          Yeah, still not seeing how the concept is any less believable than any one of a couple hundred other stories in DW. If it’s the effects, I didn’t think they were bad. If the complaint was the moral dilemma, also thought that was brilliantly played out as well….

          • James Lomond Aug 19, 2015

            I think the concept is perfect Who, it just needed a bit more fleshing out and a bit more detail.

          • TimeChaser Aug 19, 2015

            Believable has nothing to do with it. My beef with the episode is that it makes no sense in the context of anything else we’ve seen about the Moon in the rest of the series.

          • Rick714 Aug 19, 2015

            I’m not sure, but I think all the moon stories of the past were set around this time, no? I would think with all the die hard geeks working on the show, they helped pick a year set after said adventures. And really, if there were other ones set even farther into the future, well, they do have the new egg. A lot more ways around this than the old Destruction of Atlantis contradiction! 🙂

          • TimeChaser Aug 19, 2015

            Sorry, it still doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s just one step too far for me to accept. And that’s besides the fact that it’s structurally a terrible episode to begin with. Too rushed, saddled with an annoying and un-needed extra companion… It just doesn’t work.

          • Rick714 Aug 19, 2015

            Ah yes, Courtney. she didn’t bother me that much. I contrast her with those two monsters Clara looked after in Nightmare in Silver or even Adric, and she’s not that bad. Could be worse–she could have stayed.

          • ThePurpleFrockCoat Aug 20, 2015

            I’m glad she didn’t stay. I never liked Courtney Woods.

          • Doctor Moo Aug 20, 2015

            Plus, her inclusion removes all threat from the episode.

            Who+Child–Empty=Rubbish

      • IMO, you’re looking for the wrong kind of “sense” here. For a good presentation of counter arguments, see Philip Sandifer’s review of KtM, among some other reviews on the net by people who either loved that episode right off the bat, or came around to liking it much better after re-watching. There is another side to this story, and I think it’s the stronger one.

    • James Lomond Aug 19, 2015

      Don’t agree – it’s entirely possible to show women being angry and hurt without making them slap people. I think it’s a sadly unimaginative thing to resort to and plays into the male gaze that seems present in how women are often written in the show. Clara’s slap in Into the Dalek (and another one – can’t remember where it was) were inconsistent with the situation and Clara’s character and a mistake.

      Otherwise I think most of the punches/ slaps in the montage above made narrative/ character sense. Clara and to a degree River Song slapped too much and too seriously for a show intended to be seen by children. I’m not bothered about children being *scarred* by seeing that kind of violence – I think it’s a problem that they might think that casual violence in women is a normal way to behave.

      • Rick714 Aug 19, 2015

        Not sure what you’re referring to—I never said women have to slap people when they’re angry. I was pointing out that Clara *didn’t* slap in KTM, didn’t need to , that was the point. I do disagree about the slap in Into the Dalek, though—Clara has been a different woman–of a necessity–since Deep Breathe. she’s had to up the intensity, and keep a close eye on this radically new Doctor and in that moment in ITD, The Doctor was getting all happy/excited and she needed –in that case—to get him back on point due to the severity of the circumstance. their relationship has really transformed itself even further as the season went on, which I also loved.

        • James Lomond Aug 19, 2015

          Personally I think the writing/ directorial choice to make Clara into someone that hits people rather than talk was wrong and both the slap in ItD and the threat in KtM were unnecessary. It’s the choices made by the production team that I think are concerning – everything ends up on screen because of a decision one or more people have made and I think they were wrong in those instances.

          • Rick714 Aug 19, 2015

            I’m not sure I’d classify Clara as “someone who hits people now” just because of that scene. Did she ever slap him again? If anything, she’s been established as a rabid hugger of him if anything.

          • James Lomond Aug 19, 2015

            I’d say she was an inconsistently written character. Pretty sure she’s hit him twice and made the “so hard you’ll regenerate” threat. Though could be wrong.

          • Rick714 Aug 19, 2015

            Yeah, I only remember the one slap and the threat but you’re right, she has been written inconsistently, but I’d counter that that’s because the writers made a mess of it in 7B. I didn’t really care for her in 7B and she was pretty aimless in the modern day incarnation. Between Moffat focusing too much on sherlock and he and the writers seemingly being unsure as to who and what she really is, I think they really dropped the ball that year.

            But as of series 8, I’d say she’s been *very* consistently written in regards to her chemistry with Capaldi. For the first time ever, this year, I thought the writers have really hit the sweet spot with the character. During 7B, I was ready for her to leave and never come back. After series 8, I bemoan the day when she finally leaves. I’ve never had this much of a turnaround on a character in my 35 years of watching the show.

          • James Lomond Aug 19, 2015

            She has been more consistently written in S8 but -to my mind- became far less likable. And I really don’t think slaps should be the order of the day. ItD and the threat came across as frankly nasty and there’s a big difference between slapping someone to make them feel something (pain and humiliation) compared to striking them to escape from danger etc. Seeing women hit people o make a point is imho a really negative way to portray them onscreen, especially when it’s a lead and role model.

          • Yes, she’s less likable — but for me, that’s part of the point: she was a definite Mary Sue in S7, and boring, IMO. In S8, they wrote her as a full-on human being, with strong desires, goals, and reactions of her own. We needed a sense that she did have a real human life going on that could rival the adventurous and dangerous life of further travel with the (more than usually difficult) Doctor. I liked her much more when she became less likable, and more like a person with a passionate — and sometimes passionately wrong-headed — inner life. I cared about what she did because *she* cared about what she did. A lot of the backlash against Clara in S8 seems to me to be based on a sexist preference (among both male and female viewers) for a much more stereotypical “female sidekick”, Tonto to a Lone Ranger instead of a full-fledged person.

            As for the slaps — I understood the Last Xmas slap as an emotional reaction justified by her bereaved state, and in the normal course of things, I would expect her to drop back into normality and apologize for hitting him. But the two of them were at such a weird point of estrangement/re-engagement here that it made sense for them to both turn away and simply not address the incident while their feelings were so confused. I *did* feel, though, that she should have come back to it later on and attempted an apology — maybe during the sleigh ride.

            The ItD slap was way out of line in its violence, and I posted a protest about it at the time. Yes, the Doctor needed to be shaken out of his self-absorbed mood, and yes, Clara could be excused, in a situation that saw people killed, for over-reacting; but a roundhouse blow like that was startling enough to yank me out of the story — and *that’s* a story-telling crime.

          • James Lomond Aug 21, 2015

            Hey SMC – agree she was characterless in S7B and that improved a lot in S8… but, frankly, I think Dalek Asylum and Snowmen versions of Clara had SO much character and were SO believable (even if they did fit the wise-cracking format that’s so often seen and the period Cockney was, well, period Cockney…) and then they rebooted her AGAIN as this inconsistently adventure-seeking stay-at-home parental type who was part half-realised character and part plot-device. It just seemed confused and I’d love to have had either of the preceding Clara’s in place of the one we got.

            And that’s where my problem lies – even coming from a *slappier* point in history, I can’t really picture Victorian Clara KA-POWING the Doctor in the face. It was the choice to make her start hitting him at all that I didn’t like.

            I do also think that the lady we were introduced to in Bells of St John seemed to *end up becoming* the key-throwing master-manipulator we saw in Dark Water – there didn’t feel to be any overarching narrative intent until later on. Hmm. Hoping I’ll like her AND she’ll feel like a properly realised character in S9.

            End of the day Coleman has delivered a stunning performance every episode regardless of how it was written.

          • James — yes, Coleman is damned good; good enough, I think, to find a convincing through line for her character from S7B to S8. I’ve come around to thinking that just as the Doctor came reeling out of the Tardis in DB in a state of wild-eyed discombobulation and a fragmented and contradictory understanding of his own nature (let alone the identity of others), Clara’s state of mind at that point hasn’t gotten enough attention. He’s been through a massive regeneration (new set of lives instead of plain old Death, and an older body as well, all compressed into literally an *instant* of change that would knock even a piano-sized brain for a loop. But what has Clara just been through?

            A regeneration that ripped away her beloved 11, with whom she’d shared so much extreme experience, and replaced him with this seemingly crazy old man who just doesn’t respond predictably to any of the cues she learned to use with 11, sets here completely adrift and faced with having to *decide* whether or not she can stand this old/new guy — and is he ever going to be worth it? And can she ever get enough of a grip on his character to be useful to him (and to control him, for his own good of course — if she can even figure out what his “good” is in any given situation)?

            He’s been completely uprooted from his old life, and she’s been uprooted from hers too. They meet with mutual incomprehension that flares into mutual exasperation, too. 11’s youth and charm, burned away; Clara’s self-confidence and Victorian values, burned away. When she loses control of their relationship, she explodes — and a lot of that explosiveness is *fear*, because what the hell can she do if this guy won’t listen, if he’s absorbed in the voices in himself vying for a hearing, but still hangs onto her for help in dealing with his situation — but what if she *can’t help him* because he’s this different, more volatile person? He’s not the only one under tremendous stress and tension: so is she, so much so that she grabs onto Danny as an alternative, needing *something* stable, *something* she knows she can deal with (a young guy who loves her).

            It’s a two-hander, the whole S8 and its arcs: he wants her to *see* him, but we need to *see* her, too, disheveled, upset, all her assumptions thrown up into the air — her violence is desperation in ItD — why won’t he react like 11, for god’s sake, what’s WRONG with him, what will it take to get him back on track? Argh, *slap*! Snap! Tearful harangue! Makes sense to me, if we’re willing to accept *her* as a real person going through a very rough patch — the way we accept *him* as that too.

          • Planet of the Deaf Aug 21, 2015

            Clara wasn’t characterless in S7B, she has many of the same attributes, but a much more amenable Doctor, so less reason to show them.
            And, in JTTCOTT she got angry and did punch 11!

          • James Lomond Aug 19, 2015

            Yeah there’s the slap in ItD (which I found really jarring), Last Christmas when the Doctor says Danny Pink could be texting women of low moral character (*possibly* makes more character sense but still) and the threat in ItD. We saw what a controlling person she is when she threatened to throw all the TARDIS keys in to lava (brilliantly written) but then minutes later after the Doctor does the most incredible bit of forgiveness she threatens (jokingly but still- it’s not meant as a joke, its bitter and nasty) to remove limbs if he speaks for her again.

            I think the writers are making the mistake that a woman who is independent and self-sufficient and *modern* must be one that threatens/ uses violence. I’m not keen.

          • Rick714 Aug 19, 2015

            Oh, that’s right, the Christmas slap–yeah forgot about that. Well, on one hand, honest mistake as the Doctor had no idea that Danny was still dead, but on the other hand, she was obviously still really really really heart broken, barely hanging on–and he was being an oblivious, total ass. So in that case, I totally understand the slap. but I still don’t think it paints her as a violent person. again, far more hugs than slaps.

      • TimeChaser Aug 19, 2015

        Other than The Impossible Astronaut, when else did River ever slap the Doctor or anyone? You make it sound like she was slapping left and right. It was just the one time and she was shocked and angry, or at least acting like it since she already knew what was going on.

        • James Lomond Aug 19, 2015

          When he healed her hand in Angels take Manhattan. I don’t think River was a huge problem slap-wise, more Clara, but there is that general suggestion that women are often portrayed very much through-a-man’s-eyes in recent Who.
          Thing is – would it be OK for the Doctor to slap her or Clara or Tasha Lem like that? Or for Rory to slap Amy? If not why not? Plays into gender norms that imho are pretty unhealthy. If it’s not OK to hurt people it shouldn’t matter who you are.

      • I think it’s also legitimate to show women getting angry enough to abandon their social constraints and give in to an emotionally founded impulse to violence, because showing women *only* avoiding that kind of behavior leaves us with a sort of “Well, but *boys* will be boys, won’t they? Violence is *their* way of reacting.” I’d much rather see a female character unleash her full anger in violence too — and then comment on feeling bad because of how ugly and nasty it was, *no matter who behaves that way*, male or female. That’s what was missing here for me: showing this up as a form of human behavior that anyone might occasionally indulge in, but that is embarrassingly primitive and repellent no matter who does it. Because that’s what it is, *unless* it’s really and truly done in self defense.

        • James Lomond Aug 22, 2015

          Well yeah… except there are a whole load of dramas where I’d expect to see that kind of thing portrayed- DW isn’t near the top of the list :/

          I think it just rode too close to portraying slapping -causing physical pain without injury or impairment- as a female activity. Just seemed unpleasant and a bit dated.

          • Understood. It did stir memories of people exchanging slaps in those old movies with Hepburn and Tracy, or Cary Grant and whoever . . . it was part of comedy, then. But those were different times, and I’m glad of it I must say. We don’t see it as comic now, and that’s all to the good. On the other hand, that change also requires us, I think, to look more deeply at such things as dramatic devices, now that there are serious real-world meanings and implications involved.

    • Lynda Aug 20, 2015

      “All the slaps worked perfectly within the context of the stories they appeared in.” — And here’s the problem in a nutshell. Fans who don’t want to delve too deep beneath the surface (maybe because they don’t want to criticise the show?), decide that they can understand *why* the companion would physically abuse the Doctor, so that apparently makes it OK. The deeper issue is that it shouldn’t be done in the first place. What sort of message is it sending the younger fans? If you have a problem with your pal… slap ’em? It’s nonsense. It’s precisely the opposite to the message we are trying to raise young people with in real life. Yet fans still find excuses for it.

      • TimeChaser Aug 20, 2015

        So you’re advocating whitewashing all drama in the misguided name of child safety? What’s best is to talk to the kids, teach them this is just fiction and in real life it’s not OK to react by slapping someone. It’s the same thing with violence in any medium. Yes, you don’t want to be gratuitous about it, but at the same time a knee-jerk reaction to the other extreme is just as unreasonable. That’s when you become the next Mary Whitehouse.

        • Lynda Aug 20, 2015

          Why take a perfectly valid comment from me, in relation to a CHILDREN’S PROGRAM and extrapolate that to “all drama” on TV? Once you figure that out, get back to me.

          • TimeChaser Aug 20, 2015

            My comment is still valid. Make it an educational point rather than just shielding kids from it by pretending it doesn’t exist. And frankly, the classic series was often dogged by its fair share of protests at the level of violence, so this is nothing new. It’s all in how you react to it.

          • Lynda Aug 20, 2015

            Sorry, but that just doesn’t wash. There’s no educational component to watching Coleman smash Capaldi across the face, unless it’s a simple, “Hey kids! If someone annoys you! Just smash ’em!” There’s certainly no deep and meaningful domestic violence message sitting behind any of it for a child to latch onto and learn from… just a tired old 1970s-esque, “Ho, ho, ho… the lady hit the man! Isn’t that FUNNY? Isn’t that CRAZY?” I find it quite stupid, myself. Pathetic, even.

          • TimeChaser Aug 20, 2015

            I’m not saying it’s not stupid, but I am saying I think you are having an extreme overreaction to the situation. But then it seems we will never agree on this so I don’t want to waste a lot of energy going back and forth right now.

          • Rick714 Aug 20, 2015

            I think you’re spot-on, TimeChaser and I agree with you. Doctor Who has always been aimed at the whole family and I think intelligently so, for the most part. Way too many over-reactions these days.

          • Lynda Aug 21, 2015

            It’s a series that has always been written for children. The rest of the family can watch it, but the average age it’s being written for is children. I know some adults get defensive about that point — especially those who never grew up on the series and don’t want to admit they’re watching children’s entertainment — but it doesn’t make it any less true. It’s a kids show. And in a kids show we shouldn’t be saying, “Hey kids! Got a problem with your pal? Don’t talk it through! Just smash ’em!” At the end of the day, Rick, you and TimeChaser are defending the indefensible. I wonder what else in real life you put down to, “Oh, that’s just political correctness…” as a catch-all to not wanting to deal with actual issues?

          • Lynda Aug 21, 2015

            Er… WHAT overreaction? These characters are hitting another character in the face if they don’t agree with him. That’s patently stupid. How can I be overreacting to that? The more important question is why are you overlooking something so wrong in order to defend the series? Stop saying it’s an overreaction and actually think for a moment about what’s happening up there on the screen and the message it sends to kids.

      • Rick714 Aug 20, 2015

        I’d like to think to think the fans are intelligent enough to understand what’s going on and not imagine controversy where there is none. That way lies PC madness, which is already past the tipping point. Over-reactions to anything and everything.

        • Lynda Aug 20, 2015

          What is there to imagine? The slaps are happening. The message, clearly, is that if someone annoys you, the answer is to smash them across the face. And I’m saying that’s not cool… yet a few of you here are acting like I’ve just said something utterly bizarre. That’s weird to me!

          • TimeChaser Aug 21, 2015

            I don’t find the reaction unreasonable in the few circumstances it’s happened so far. We’re talking about characters in emotional duress. Jackie thought the Doctor was a predator who’d abducted her daughter. Martha’s mother was a control freak over her family anyway and had just listened to some mysterious stranger tell her lies about the Doctor. River had just seen him die and then suddenly he’s standing there and she resented being put through that. Given those circumstances, I find a slap a naturalistic reaction. To hold that kind of emotion back would feel unrealistic to me, and I don’t think having it in is teaching kids that it’s OK. Kids are smarter than people often give them credit for,

          • Lynda Aug 21, 2015

            Well, in my life there are multiple times, every shift, that someone does something to me, while I’m under duress, and the greatest release in the world might well be to slap them, but I restrain myself. And I doubt I’m the Lone Ranger in doing that. So while you say it’s “unrealistic” to do that… I’m telling you, quite seriously, I have to do that quite regularly. As do many other people. To me, it’s not unrealistic in the slightest… it’s more along the lines of being an adult. Which is what these Doctor Who characters should really be acting like, in my opinion.

          • TimeChaser Aug 21, 2015

            Believe me, I can relate. I see a lot of negative behavior glorified on TV and it annoys me that other people find it entertaining. I wish those shows would vanish and TV could be the way it used to be before all the sex and violence crept in. But it also illustrates the fact that just because someone is an adult doesn’t mean they will always act like it. I can certainly see that in a character like Jackie Tyler, for instance. Her slap reaction seems the most natural to me to her character. So yes, everyone should act like adults, but we’re all still human and emotions override judgement quite often.

          • Lynda Aug 21, 2015

            I’m understanding your POV, but I think where the car starts to go off the rails is in the way this has become a “thing” for the Doctor to be getting slapped, with the subtext being, “Haha, he got slapped again, he always gets slapped doesn’t he? Haha…” Because when that’s the subtext, it’s like, are these characters ALL out of control and needing to slap people? Or are they doing it because the production team wants/needs the Doctor to be slapped?

          • TimeChaser Aug 21, 2015

            When you put it that way, I fully understand your POV as well.

          • Baron Benji of Fecal Matter Aug 23, 2015

            People like you treat the audience like mindless idiots. The extension of your argument is that we should not show killing depicted in fiction because people will believe it is okay to murder.

            Give the audience the benefit of the doubt that on screen slapstick is not a lesson that real life abuse is permissible.

            If people really think that Doctor Who is contributing to domestic violence then they are being dishonest. It is the perpetrator of violence that is responsible. It is his or her actions that are the crime and his or her choice to act in that manner. Basic common sense should be enough in this day and age. If you can document on case where TV has inspired female on male violence then there might be a debate to be had. But I think the reality is that there are people out there that are prone to violence and moralising on sci-fi shows isn’t likely to change that.

  7. Grumpy The Unicorn Aug 19, 2015

    he’s not a sociopath. He’s a very introverted, self-involved traumatized person. Sociopathy is completely different! Why do people keep making this mistake and disseminating it as information? Or, does all my years of people-watching and careful observation through psychologically proven self-taught technique mean nothing? bah. He is not a sociopath.

  8. Grumpy The Unicorn Aug 19, 2015

    ARGH I thought I locked that dang touchpad but it ate my post. anyway…
    The Doctor, as a character shown as deeply traumatized, exceptionally private and very brusque, is obviously NOt a sociopath. He’s a psychopath. The Master is a sociopath, he/she is a classic sociopath, as far as my limited pedant knowledge on the subject goes. In all my years of people watching.. honestly. how could anyone confuse the two? If,and this is indeed a rather big if, I am remembering my research correctly, psychopaths are fixated in their emotions and feel one or two very strongly, fixating beyond the point of hyperfocus, and often misattributing responses from other people as pieces in their delusional fantasies. Fits the Doctor to a tee. Sociopaths use everyone around them as set pieces and chess pieces in a grand obnoxious game, when they are criminal about it. And the author of this should perhaps consult the sociopath site, sociopathworlddotcom. some of them routinely talk about how they manipulate psychopaths on there. all. the. time. it’s creepy. I found that site while doing some research for a fanfic. O.o wow. such a rich mine of information! It was a pleasurable experience, except for the ones posting about gypping all their relatives and workfellows with their act. eek.

    • Grumpy — I thought I had this worked out on a practical basis, having had some small experience: the psychopath is the person who actually hears voices, has hallucinations, and may have grandiose ideas of what he or she is supposed to accomplish in the world (“I am Napoleon”). Emotions are just emotions, but are hitched to imaginary happenings as much as or more than events as they occur in reality. The “psyche” is disrupted and prey to “crazy” perceptions and paranoia (“aliens are sending messages into my brain”).

      The sociopath, on the other hand, is *not* operating on the basis of delusions, but as a social unit without the connections and empathic capacities that normal (for purposes of this discussion) people use to function in relation to (real) others around them (that’s the “socio-” of the tag). Other people don’t really exist for them as individuals with subjective reality, but rather as counters in various games and plans and maneuvers that sociopaths amuse themselves with. Their own emotional subjectivity may be stunted or absent (“Dexter” made this quite explicit), so they literally can’t put themselves in another’s place in terms of feeling some semblance of another’s pain or joy. So we become toys they play with, as they manipulate our social structures and inter connections to entertain themselves by seeing what happens when you do X to someone. These are the ones who might start out by killing pets, and end up either murdering a series of “socially disposable” people, or running a ruthlessly and destructively predatory corporate entity, where empathy is a weakness and strategizing life as if it were a war game with plastic pieces is a strength.

      Sociopaths often develop great personal charm as a means of winning over others to their plans and holding themselves above suspicion. It’s difficult to be that kind of charming while wearing a tinfoil hat to block those fearsome transmissions from Jupiter or the CIA. A psychopath is more likely to become a street person than a Captain of Industry, but with medication can manage normal life because his or her delusions are suppressed by medication. There is no “medicine” for “sociopathy”.

      That, at least, is how the terminology makes sense to me, though I’ve certainly seen these two words used interchangeably, as if they meant the same thing.

  9. Michael Aug 19, 2015

    Mountain? Molehill?

  10. Lynda Aug 20, 2015

    It’s amazing when fans feel the need to explain away stuff like this when, in the cold, hard light of day, it shouldn’t be done in the first place. What sort of message is it sending the younger fans? If you have a problem with your pal… slap ’em? It’s nonsense. It’s like something that was “funny” in the 60s or 70s still lingering in our show and precisely the opposite to the message we are trying to raise young people with in real life. Yet fans still find excuses.

    • TimeChaser Aug 20, 2015

      As an American, I take offense to that sentiment. We’re not all gun obsessed violence fiends.

      • We know you’re not, but so much of your popular TV and big action movie franchises misrepresent you as such. just as much of ours misrepresents us as all mockney, or mummerset, or dysfunctional soap families. Thankfully something like Who makes us meet one another and experience the real people, not the tv stereotypes.

        Just out of interest, what did you think of the way America was represented in the Nixon one? I liked Delaware, and maybe all those guns were explained by the security situation, but even the writers seemed to be happy joking about it… Do British shows always resort to short-cut caricatures of America and we often accuse American shows of representing Britain as a sort of last-century theme park…?

        • Doctor Moo Aug 20, 2015

          I was watching The Impossible Astronaut yesterday and picked up on (for the first time, having never really thought about it properly before) how they play it for laughs in this scene: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Zs0qpASAtCA&autoplay=1
          It’s a bit jarring. I think it’s a great scene but I don’t think joking about that sort of thing has a place in it and feels in stark contrast to the scene. They can get away with it because of where the scene is set but is that really an excuse to take an important issue and play it for laughs? (See also jokes about Scottish Nationalism in The Beast Below, A Good Man Goes To War and Deep Breath)

        • TimeChaser Aug 20, 2015

          One reason I would love to take over the world. I would work hard at cleaning up a lot of garbage in film and on TV, for one thing. I personally prefer to watch older movies these days. The endless franchises, reboots, remakes, sequels, prequels and the like shows an extreme lack of imagination.

    • Baron Benji of Fecal Matter Aug 23, 2015

      “A bit too American”?

      Well, I’m not American, but I think that’s an utterly disgusting comment to make in a post in which you’re soapboxing about social behaviour.

  11. Thank you for putting this together James, but most people still seem to be avoiding one of your main points, which is the sexism of it, the fact that it’s ONLY women who do ‘slapstick’ violence; women hitting men is ‘funny,’ when men hitting women would be unthinkable.
    Why should the writers think female to male violence is the ‘go to’ reaction to any of these situations?
    One of the reasons I identify with the alien Doctor rather than the female companion is that there hasn’t been a female character I can identify with since Sarah Jane. The strong female characters of the past would not have slapped the Doctor; they had other ways of expressing themselves or demonstrating their argument. The master hasn’t become a real woman yet, just another example of the charicature that encourages the ‘Stephen Moffat can’t write real women’ brigade.
    OK, I accept that not all the male characters are three-dimensional either, though Rory was, and I look forward to seeing how the new UNIT family develops. After all, I’m not sure how much the wonderful Brig, Benton or Mike Yates count as ‘realistic’ men!

    • Lynda Aug 22, 2015

      Correct. I would bet quite a lot of money that the people out there who are all, “Yeah! She hit him! Awesome!” are people who discovered the series post 2005 and just don’t get the bigger picture when it comes to Doctor/Companion relationships, nor do they get the bit where you don’t hit your friends when you disagree.

    • TimesFool Aug 22, 2015

      Once again the writers of Doctor Who reveal that their idea of comedy and sexism go hand in hand: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DoubleStandardAbuseFemaleOnMale

      • Substantiate, please. I’m sure there are some obvious instances of this sexism in DW — we do live in a sexist culture, still — you’ve got that, right? A program supposedly for kids and “family viewing”, broadcast by a publicly funded channel isn’t likely to get away with mounting too many obvious challenges to a prevailing cultural current in that kind of setting, even if that were its stated purpose (which it is not). N.B. Offered not as an excuse, but as an explanation, real world style.

        • TimesFool Aug 23, 2015

          “Substantiate”? My reply is a response to the article above, which outlines a number of instances, to the comment by ‘bar’ which also makes a number of statements on the topic, and is given with an attached link to the ‘tv tropes’ that outlines the forms of this type of sexism as it appears in popular culture. My assumption is that people have read those and thus understand my small contribution to the wider discussion, where the “substantial” examples are already given. btw – I read your argument that “we live in a sexist culture” and that a family viewing show on a public funded channel shouldn’t “challenge” that. I may have misunderstood but it appears that’s the argument you put forward. Yes, it is true, there have been many ‘family shows’ that don’t only see no need to challenge the status quo, but actively tap into it. In the past, family comedies have used blackface, “slap and tickle”, and parodied religious people and homosexual people, when such was part of the prevailing culture, both justifying and perpetuating it. Yes it’s true that over the decades, Doctor Who itself has also done those things at times, but there are also times it HAS challenged some of the prevailing cultural attitudes, one of the things I love about sci-fi as a genre. Doctor Who itself has challenged the “I don’t question it” approach, and suggested that saying “I don’t ask” is the same thing as
          sanctioning something negative (eg in Planet of the Ood and in The Long Game). In praise of Peter Capaldi, the Twelfth Doctor’s reaction to being slapped by Clara is not only
          shocked but appalled. In
          “Into the Dalek” his delivery of the simple exclamation “Clara!” sounds almost rebuking, certainly his shock at the violence offers no humour. Maybe a family show doesn’t have to
          challenge stereotypes – but there’s still the option of not playing into them. Does a stereotype have to be included to make a funny scene
          funny, or even dramatic? Even in “Tomb of the Cybermen” where the racism of the time was paid into by the representation of Toberman as an unintelligent servant, at least the Doctor spoke to him as a person, even if he didn’t challenge his treatment. The characters of Liz Shaw and Sarah Jane Smith were reasonably strong female characters. But yes, in the 1960s, in keeping with the culture there was a lot of sexist humour in Doctor Who, particularly in Troughton’s era. Those who spoke up about the sexist culture in life and art were probably as scoffed at then as many comments here are being scoffed at now. So I agree that you are right – the culture we live in is still very sexist. Here we are, in the 21st century still discussing female representative stereotypes “Oh look, how funny, the woman hit the man” and people are still excusing it and saying anyone who argues otherwise is some kind of party pooper. Yep, it’s part of the culture. Well put. (PS the argument about the pros and cons of “slap-schtick” humour which dates a long way back – Shakespeare made use of it – are available for another day. I realise this slapping on DW is drawing on that tradition as well, but it’s the context that needs to be examined. Someone else can please debate that one. I’m done.)

        • no; Humans manages not to succumb to that sexist/humour link, as did most of Joss Whedon’s stuff, as did Doctor Who for most of its time, and still does for much of the time. So though I can see where you’re coming from as an explanation, it seems that Who’s current era’s fixation with stroppy females slapping men around is more than can be explained away by culture. If every show did it I’d accept your argument, but it bothers me that Who plays along with it as though it’s funny, when it has usually been better than that, and ahead of its rivals.

          • bar — thanks for explaining. I see your point, and I have to admit that I don’t watch enough regular (?) TV to know how much slapping of this kind still goes on in the rest of that world — last time I was a heavy watcher, I recall a surprising amount of “funny”-slapping to be seen. I may be reaching back too far, here. I still am a bit mystified by the interpretation of a couple of those slaps in DW S8 as “humorous”, or intended as humor. The smack in ItD certainly is not — he’s really being callous and self-absorbed, and she’s really angry and ready to do whatever it takes to re-connect him with human reality (which I still think was over-reach, but not funny in any way).

            As for the slap in Last Xmas, what on Earth could be taken as “humorous” about a grieving woman reacting harshly against what sounds to her like a dismissive gibe at her dead boyfriend — which his needling remark most certainly was not, since he had no idea Danny was dead. This “we shouldn’t be expected to laugh” at violence objection just isn’t working for me.

          • Yes, I accept that it’s not always supposed to be funny, but when it’s supposed to be serious I cannot condone it as an appropriate way to behave, nor in keeping with the way strong companions of either sex have helped the Doctor to connect to humanity before. Stephen didn’t slap the Doctor when he walked out after Massacre, nor Leela at any time despite considerable provocation, nor Tegan the stroppy Aussie. Let alone Sarah Jane or either Romana.
            So maybe it is a cultural shift, but I don’t have to accept it, nor feel happy that Who accepts it without question.

  12. Cassandra Atticum Aug 20, 2015

    The only slaps that didn’t bother me were Martha’s mom, who thought her daughter was in danger, and Donna’s to snap him out of his out of control gleeful rant at her expense. The one by Clara in Into the Dalek really bugged me because she just simply didn’t like what he said. It was jarring.

    • Not that she didn’t like what he said so much as that she was outraged that he was nattering on about Daleks when in fact two human lives (by my count) had been lost so that he could stand around grumping about his failure to turn a Dalek good-by-nature. It was more what he *didn’t* say — like, “For this, we got two people killed? What was I *thinking*?” or something along those lines; except that at this stage, CapDoc simply wasn’t connected enough to human individuals to think that way, and it’s Clara’s frustration with this (as opposed to 11’s “Sorry, sorry!” at least), that makes her lash out. But I still think it was made too violent for the scene, without a follow-up of some comment between them later, to the effect that she’d let her emotions shove her over the line here.

      • Cassandra Atticum Aug 24, 2015

        I did look at it again and agree. At the time it appeared to me that her reaction was uncalled for and I had a seriously negative reaction to it that stayed with me. It made me really dislike Clara.

      • GentleGiant Sep 3, 2015

        I’m a little late with this comment, but contrast that scene with the end of Flatline where Clara is the one who is insensitive to the loss of life and the Doctor brings her back to reality with words rather than a slap.

        • Good contrast — reminding us that Clara, her Impossible Girl role fulfilled (?), is something of a loose canon in S8, impulsive and driven by her emotions, while the Doctor has to step up and be the adult that he looks to be now, to help steady her as she’s done some steadying for him.

  13. Cynical Classicist Aug 21, 2015

    Good article. Of course, I feel that this issue is beyond DW, being a cultural problem. It is right that this sort of attitude that it’s funny if women abuse men is criticised.

    • Baron Benji of Fecal Matter Aug 23, 2015

      Of course the cultural attitude must change in respect of real abuse. But fictional, on screen slapstick is no more abuse than fictional deaths are murder.

  14. Dyn@mo Aug 21, 2015

    The writer of this article needs a slap in the face.
    The natural progression of this conversation is that nobody should ever tell anyone to shut up, because it’s rude and defies free speech, and no one should ever call anyone names or poke fun at them because that’s bullying.
    It’s a good job the doctor isn’t a hugger; wouldn’t want anyone’s personal boundaries broken, right?

    The slap is a theatrical device. It’s a double take; an eyelid flutter; a Three Stoogers nose tweak.

    Articles like this are great examples of how to overthink something. I know DW news is usually thin on the ground, but I’d rather see NO articles than vacuous filler.

    And speaking of overthinking it: here’s an article topic that should be right up your alley:

    ‘Is The Doctor in defiance of Strange Danger protocols?’
    He’s a creepy, dangerous old alien in humanoid form; luring schoolgirls into his spaceship and snatching them away to other planets to satisfy his own mysterious whims.

    See how that works? You’re probably okay with that idea, right?

    • K Doctor Who News Aug 21, 2015

      Intriguing: when did the Doctor lure a schoolgirl into his spaceship?

      • Uh — Courtney, in KtM? Sort of? Only he couldn’t wait to get rid of her?

      • Dyn@mo Aug 22, 2015

        Kill the Moon.

        The Doctor also trespassed on school property disguised as a caretaker. Somewhat dubious, no?
        Point is: it’s fiction, and because of this we let certain theatrical elements slide.
        If we remove dramatic slaps, which according to you promote violence, then we must also remove any sort of physical violence, maiming or death, regardless of whether or not the victim is human, alien or somewhere in between.
        And what a tepid, toothless show we’d have.

        • K Doctor Who News Aug 22, 2015

          The term “lure” is quite a misrepresentation of what happened.

          “…according to you promote violence…”

          Again, a misrepresentation, or somesort of beginner’s error. This is an opinion piece by James Baldock, as clearly stated above, not a site editorial.

  15. Baron Benji of Fecal Matter Aug 23, 2015

    My views are mixed. I do get the writer’s argument (although I would encourage him to cite better example than the crass hypocrite that is Jeremy Kyle). I think that domestic violence against men is very real and is larging criminally ignored as an issue.

    However, the fact is that male on female acts of violence outnumber female on male a hundred to one. By and large men are physically stronger than women. To abuse that physical reality is to abuse a woman’s trust. If you depict a man hitting a woman on screen you are depicting the abuse of that strength. The beating scenes in The Godfather come to mind.

    But there is also the consideration for slapstick. A smaller women hitting a bigger man does have comedy value and it has the effect of bringing down the man a peg or two. I think that is very different from systematic physical violence from a woman to a man in a domestic situation.

    Really, we need to stop treating people like low brow idiots who need to be mollycoddled through life. If I see Arnie gun down 200 people in an action movie it doesn’t mean I’m being taught to buy some guns and hit the streets as a one man army ready to hunt down wrongdoers. It insults women to assume that bulk of the female audience watching Doctor Who doesn’t have the capacity for critical thinking that enables them to tell the difference between on screen slapstick and a sustained domestic campaign of abuse and that therefore the former is giving them permission to commit crimes.

  16. Cris Welti Aug 24, 2015

    Your bio says not to take you “too seriously”. Where do you draw the line then? Just want to know where you really stand on the topic(s) you write about. Thanks!

  17. Pinky's Mom Aug 24, 2015

    The slapping thing seems to be a cliched cultural mode of expression (showing disgust or contempt, usually) that I think has seen its time on earth and needs to depart now—if not yesterday. It is apparently based on the mostly unstated cultural “law” that says, Real Men Aren’t Supposed To Hit Women, Even If Women Hit Men. Hmmm. (And we wonder why people have anger issues?)

    It would appear to be the time-honored way of the less (physically or socially) powerful shocking the more (physically or socially) powerful into sudden recognition of unmet needs and ignored standards. It is crashingly nonverbal (nowadays nearly always coming from the sex that claims the highest emotional IQ and greatest verbal ability). How did it survive into today’s world? It seems to make sense only in an artificially dramatic context—and that is where I think it must have originated. At least its widespread usage must have come from that origin point.

    {Sometimes, admittedly, it is used by old-fashioned mothers to slap sassy daughters or sons. Its purpose is always the same—to shock and deliver instant disrespect.}

    I frankly don’t know whether the female-on-male slap thing started with the movies as a form of emotional shorthand or it actually predated them and descends from the archaic “insult-delivery” language of two men looking for a duel, but it has no place in today’s world. I don’t understand why, in this frantically PC world, it persists. It would seem to be the type of thing that would be totally unacceptable everywhere—and yet it still shows up in movies, on TV, and even in Doctor Who—FREQUENTLY. I think better scriptwriting is called for—let the “slapping” thing pass into the mists of time. APPALLING WRITER LAZINESS.

    And the idea, nowadays, that men are supposed to keep their hands off women and yet women are OK to smack men into wakefulness of their needs is totally peculiar to me. Shouldn’t a show like Doctor Who, especially, aim to be a cut above?

    Let’s keep the slapping to people trying to shock someone into breathing, if we have to slap them at all.

  18. Gary Murden Aug 26, 2015

    I remember the uproar when the 6th Doctor tried strangling Peri.

    It made sense within the story, but it had people up in arms.

    Not the only problem The Twin Dilemma had, man it was bad, I mean Last Christmas/Time-Flight bad.

    Bad scripts have been used with every Doctor, but luckily the good ones back up for them.

    Honestly, I think that image of Colin choking his assistant was a bigger problem than his coat.

    Can you imagine the backlash if Tennant or Smith slapped a woman back?

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