Doctor Who Feminist Review: The Bells of St. John

Doctor Who Feminist Review is BACK! Let’s just hop down to what is new with the Doctor and his new companion Clara in The Bells of St. John.


Doctor Who shirt? Check! Bowtie? Check! English Breakfast Tea in a Doctor Who mug? Check! We are officially set for new Doctor Who episodes!

And remember. Spoilers.

The last time we met up with the Doctor in The Snowmen, we learned that The Doctor has met Clara before, in Asylum of the Daleks. Intrigued by the girl who dies and comes back to life, the Doctor rushes to begin a mad quest to find out who is Clara.

We meet Clara in the present day continuing on with her nanny role, carrying for a family friend’s children. We see her interacting with both a young boy and young girl, though only in one scene. While this is a continuum from the Clara of The Snowman, it also reinforces the idea of women in the mothering nurturing role, an idea Moffat always reuses. This is just one of the stereotypes Moffat uses for creation of Clara. By the end of the episode we learn that Clara was the dutiful daughter who gave up her desire to travel after her mother died while she was out on her first adventure. Clara also was a damsel in distress not once, but twice in the episode. But the one stereotype which bothered me the most was the idea that Clara is horrible with computers, to the point where she couldn’t make the wi-fi work in her apartment. Now I understand that this is a plot device to have the Doctor discover both Clara and the Wi-fi issue, but why did Clara have to be bad at computers, rather than her discovering the problem using her own skills? Clara is not important because of her own skills, but for the magical/alien skills thrusted upon her.

Speaking of which, Clara gains super exciting computer skills, not of her own accord but because they were downloaded onto her. This is one of the things that make miss me the RTD era of Doctor Who, where the average is extraordinary. The Doctor is drawn to his companions because they have super powers, but for the bravery and compassion. They average-ness helped them save the day, not magic. But with Moffat it seems that making the companions bigger than life is the way to do things. Look at River Song, with TARDIS powers, or Amy who had the crack in her wall.

While Clara reminds me of Romana and it will be exciting to see the Doctor and Clara butt heads with their competing intelligence, I wish it was Clara’s natural intelligence not alien given that showcase her smarts. What was awesome about Rose, Martha and Donna was that the Doctor didn’t chose them as companions right away, but they proved themselves to him of their own accord. While you could argue that Clara proved herself in The Snowman, the fact that the fans knew she was something special because of Asylum of the Daleks, I say she was never average.

Another theme I am seeing is the Doctor as a father figure, which is a change from the Amy seasons, where he goes from father figure to child. He puts Clara to bed after being downloaded, and tells her flat out that he is “guarding her”  and takes care of the house while she is asleep. I am interested to see if this fatherhood role is continued and how it will interact with the idea that he is  “Savior and Hero to All.” However, this isn’t a new role. It makes me think of the Doctor as a protector of children which happens a lot with Moffat (look at Amy, and The Girl in the Fireplace) However, it is a role that usually ends fairly quickly.

It’s this weird woman/girl theme Moffat has that Ted Kissel describes in Doctor Who’s Girl-Women Weirdness in which the companions are passive creatures and lost of all agency. They identities totally revolve around and for the doctor.

The indirect sexualizing of little girls is a problem, especially in light of other messed-up views on gender that have surfaced in the Moffatverse. (Amy’s lack of agency, especially in the last two seasons, the Doctor growling out on two occasions that his problems were caused by “a woman,” among others.) But in addition, we now have three Moffat companions whose lives are in some way inextricably linked, since childhood, to the Doctor. Amy Pond is the Girl Who Waited. River Song is the Girl Who Killed the Doctor Only Not Really. And now, Clara Oswin Oswald is The Girl Who Died Twice.-Kissel.

and this which I love:

Girl meets doctor as a child.
Girl grows up to be a gorgeous woman.
Now-gorgeous woman throws herself at the Doctor and snogs him—usually with lots of Muppety arm-flailing on the Doctor’s part.
(The girls-who’ll-be-a-woman-soon are Reinette, Amy Pond, River Song and, thanks to last week’s webisode, the newest companion, Clara Oswin Oswald.)-Kissel

I like the bold and sassy identity of Clara, but because she is shrouded in mystery with no back story, doesn’t make it easy to connect with her. I like learning more about companions before they travel with the doctor because it makes them believable and human, basically everything Clara isn’t. She doesn’t connect with me the way the other companions did, but I am also still sad about Amy’s departure-even if she was a problematic character.

I can also tell Memory is going to be a big big theme this season. Partly because of 5oth anniversary  and all the illusion that Moffat made in the episode, with Jammy Dodgers, the Fez makes an appearance,  as well as UNIT. Also he tugged at our heartstrings by having a book written by Amy Williams.  With the next episode being about a little girl who is the keeper of memories, I bet memories are connected to Clara. I am really fond of the theory that Clara is somehow connected to the little girl in Silence of the Library.

Questions to be Answered Still (other than who or what is Clara)

*Who gave Clara the phone number to call the Doctor?

*What is going on with Simon (Actor: Richard E. Grant )? Why is he back and still evil?

One thought on “Doctor Who Feminist Review: The Bells of St. John

  1. Pingback: A Feminist Take on Doctor Who’s Clara Oswin Oswald (?) | kristinking's Blog

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