Today I’m going to discuss gender and sexual politics on British TV in a rather roundabout way.
Last Saturday the BBC showed the Doctor Who mid-series finale, “A good Man goes to War”. I have to say that while not perfect, it was easily one of the best bits of TV I’ve seen in a long while. It also introduced two new characters to the Doctor Who universe who really should get their own spin-off series. I’m referring here to Madame Vastra, the Victorian Silurian (a sort of lizard person), who seems to spend her time hunting down serial killers with katanas. She’s aided in this endeavor by her human assistant Jenny, who’s also handy with a sword. It’s strongly implied that the two are in some sort of romantic relationship, despite the obvious species and class barriers that separate them.
Doctor Who itself is no stranger to spin-off series, having spawned both Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Smith Adventures in recent years (the less said about K9 and Company the better). There is also a long history of possible spin-off series that never made it to screen, including the Daleks, UNIT and Jago and Litefoot. Most of these have appeared at some point or another as Big Finish audio stories.
Here then are five reasons why Madame Vastra and Jenny should get a spin-off series of their own:
1) There should be more female fronted adventure series
Since 2006 we’ve seen a huge boom in family friendly adventure shows, largely based on the popularity of Doctor Who and the discovery by TV executives that people do still watch television on a Saturday night. As well as Doctor Who we’ve had Merlin, Robin Hood, Demons and Primeval, and I’m sure more are in the pipeline. However all of these have male leads with women as sidekicks or as the romantic interest. Is it too much to ask for a British adventure series with a female lead character?
2) There should be more female fronted adventure series where the lead character isn’t a teenager or there as eye-candy
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is often cited as a landmark TV series for promoting strong female characters. This is true up to a point, but as many critics have noted, the female empowerment on display here only seem to feature young women who look like they should be models. Dark Angel, Dollhouse and Alias have the same problem of featuring stunning looking women under the age of thirty who have a habit of running around while not wearing very much. It would be great to see a female character who is a proper grown-up (the lizard bit is kind of optional).
3) There aren’t enough homosexual characters on television
We live in a tolerant, diverse and multicultural society (well at least I hope we do). However you wouldn’t immediately guess this by watching British TV, which is still largely dominated by white male heterosexual characters. When homosexual characters do appear from time to time they’re often represented as being either tortured by their sexuality or full of angst. It would be nice for once to have a family show where you had a homosexual couple in a loving relationship where their sexuality was in the background rather than driving the story.