Before spring break our Doctor Who ExCo discussed the responsibility of the author, that is, what responsibility, if any, a writer or director has on making sure his or her works are socially responsible. In light of the news that Jenna-Louise Coleman had just been announced as Eleven’s newest companion to join next season, we assigned a little thought experiment in which students were given a few minutes to come up with characteristics which their “ideal companion” would have, those which they felt were underrepresented among the companions on Doctor Who. Below is the list of characteristics they came up with. Some are Doctor Who-specific but many are more general and speak for themselves in terms of the need for more diversity on television both in the types of actors cast as well as the characters they play.
From the past
Flirty; a female version of Captain Jack Harkness
Familial relationship with the Doctor as opposed to a sexual or romantic one
Have a pet — after class, Jonas and I discussed how awesome it would be for a companion to bring her pet parrot along for the ride and how heart wrenching it would be for, on the last trip with the Doctor, for said bird to mimic the TARDIS noise or perhaps the Doctor’s catchphrase
Regeneration of Jenny
More intelligent and able to challenge things the Doctor suggests
Roma/Traveller — this potentially has significant social value among European audiences where discrimination against these communities is high
More proactive, aggressive
Writes down, photographs, paints or otherwise documents his or her travels with the Doctor
More willing to call the Doctor out when he’s wrong
Travels with the Doctor for reasons other than 1) he’s hot, witty, and brilliant or 2) to “see all of time and space”
The class also suggested that some additional diversity could be a good thing in the next regeneration of the Doctor. They’d like to see the writers move away from a young Doctor and back to older actors who could play a more parental role.
If you’re a Whovian, what do you think? Is there anything you’d add to this list? Do you think Jenna-Louise Coleman seems likely to be what you hoped for in the next companion?
The first preview for Series Seven is up on the BBC.
Jenna-Louise Coleman has beaten hundreds of hopefuls to become the new companion to Doctor Who, it was announced today by Steven Moffat.
Twenty-five year old Jenna from Blackpool, England will star alongside the 11th Time Lord, Matt Smith, to mark the biggest year in the show’s history.
Best known for her roles in Emmerdale (Jasmine Thomas) and Waterloo Road(Lindsay James), Jenna will replace Karen Gillan when she and Arthur Darvillbow out of the show in a heartbreaking departure after one final series of rollercoaster voyages later this year on BBC AMERICA.
Lead writer and Executive Producer, Steven Moffat, says: “It always seems impossible when you start casting these parts, but when we saw Matt and Jenna together we knew we had our girl. She’s funny and clever and exactly mad enough to step on board the TARDIS.
“It’s not often the Doctor meets someone who can talk even faster than he does, but it’s about to happen. Jenna is going to lead him his merriest dance yet. And that’s all you’re getting for now. Who she’s playing, how the Doctor meets her, and even where he finds her, are all part of one of the biggest mysteries the Time Lord ever encounters. Even by the Doctor’s standards, this isn’t your usual boy meets girl.”
Doctor Who writer Steven Moffat has said he got who he “wanted” to play the timelord’s new companion but stayed tight-lipped about their identity ahead of Wednesday’s announcement.
He refused to “blow the gaff” on who will replace Karen Gillan and screen husband Arthur Darvill, who play Amy Pond and Rory, in the new series.
The new character - and the actor playing them - is expected to be unveiled at a press conference.
It’s just like Steven Moffat to announce a new companion on a day when we have a lot to accomplish in class.
“…And in those days, everybody had a tea party to go to. Have you ever had those little cakes, with the crunchy ball bearings on top… ever had those… those things? Nobody else in the entire galaxy has ever even bothered to make edible ball bearings! Genius!” —The Doctor, Fear Her
These are the TARDIS-blue cupcakes I baked for an earlier session of the Doctor Who ExCo complete with shiny silver dust and “stars” (or ball bearings). Despite the blue teeth and tongues afterward, I think they were a hit.
An open letter to our students, written by Jacquelynn:
Through a series of fortuitous events, I have the great pleasure of teaching another ExCo. As my class list finally settles down, students who intend to drop my class do, and we approach our first real discussion this week, I wanted to take a moment to write a letter—equal parts love letter and list of dos and don’ts—to you, my students.
You should read it if you’re one of our students. You should also read it if you would be interested in submitting an article on Doctor Who and religion for publication or baking cupcakes shaped like Daleks.
It’s almost time. New monsters are becoming real, old friends are returning to Cardiff and somewhere in Wales, a tweed jacket is being taken from its hanger and lovingly dusted off. It can only mean one thing… Filming on the new series of Doctor Who begins on 20 February, 2012!
The filming of the 50th Anniversary series of Doctor Who starts a week from today.
Bleeding Cool has squirrelled out news of an upcoming crossover that might send certain minds reeling. That in May, IDW are to publish a Doctor Who/Star Trek: The Next Generation crossover series. Featuring The Doctor, Rory, Amy, Captain Picard, Worf, Data, Geordi LaForge, Deanna Troi, Will Riker and the rest. And that this art, featuring the Doctor, Rory and Amy on the bridge of the Enterprise is a cover that will be used in the series.
Alternate titles for this post included “Run!” and “I’m the Doctor—run for your life!”, but since this blog, at least, will start from the very beginning, this title seemed more appropriate.
Let’s start with some introductions: I’m Jonas Wisser, a 2009 alumnus of Oberlin College, and my fellow instructor for this course is Jacquelynn Hongosh. We had the opportunity to teach a Firefly ExCo last year, and it was a deeply gratifying and educational experience (hopefully just as much for our students as it was for us). So when Jacquelynn suggested that we teach a Doctor Who ExCo this year, it was an easy decision to make: absolutely yes.
A quick definition for non-Obies: ExCo is a term generally applied to any course taught under the aegis of the Experimental College, a student-run department at Oberlin College that allows students, staff, faculty, and Oberlin residents to teach courses on subjects not normally offered by the College.
Our goal with the Doctor Who ExCo, as with the Firefly ExCo, is to move beyond examining just the narrative of the show itself, and to use it as a window on larger issues that affect modern society. For example, the Firefly ExCo included discussions about terrorism and fear (Bushwhacked) as well as class and gender roles (Shindig). Similarly, the Doctor Who ExCo will discuss everything from the written word and the responsibility of the author (The Shakespeare Code) to religion and mythology (The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit). As a result, we can be certain that our students will take away more from the course than just—as one teacher of a previous Doctor Who ExCo put it—”Doctor Who-themed chillin’.”
The ExCo Fair
Jacquelynn and I have been working on the syllabus for some time now, but this Wednesday was the moment of truth: the ExCo Fair. Each semester, the ExCo Committee organises an open house where the instructors of each ExCo being taught the coming semester are required to attend and trawl for students among a thronging crowd.
For the Firefly ExCo last year, we received eighteen applications. The resulting class was brilliant, but after several last-minute drops, smaller than we had originally hoped. We were determined to get more applicants this year, so we made sure our table would be easily visible and immediately obvious to students already familiar with Doctor Who by the clever expedient of having a giant TARDIS-blue poster.
In addition to the poster, we hoped students drawing closer to the table would be attracted by the siren song of the Tenth Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, several official BBC Doctor Who guidebooks, and a rigorous yet attractive syllabus—designed, like the poster, by Jacquelynn.
The piece de resistance was our application. Based on our experience with the Firefly ExCo last year, we had learned to keep our application brief, witty, and—most importantly—immediately engaging. Last year that meant asking our students who the hero of Firefly was, a question that got applicants emotionally invested in our class while they were still filling out their applications and started a discussion that lasted all semester. This year… well, see for yourself:
We were proudest of the question that asked which of the main female companions was “objectively the best”. It was designed from the ground up to stop people in their tracks and make them think. We weren’t just asking who their favourite companion was; that would have been easy. This question was intended to make our applicants question their own personal preference—and hopefully get them a little riled up. Judging by the number of pained expressions we saw as people filled out their applications, it did exactly what it was designed to do.
I mentioned earlier that we were hoping to attract more applicants this year than we had last year for the Firefly ExCo. I can now say that in regard to that goal, we met with unqualified success.
The ExCo Fair runs from 6pm-8pm. By 7pm, we had run through the forty printed applications we had brought with us, and had to ask a friend to make some additional copies for us. In all, we received forty-nine applications for a seminar-style class designed to have a maximum of fifteen seats.
While I’m not going to go into the criteria we used to make our decisions, receiving nearly fifty applications did provide us with an opportunity to make some statistical observations about a group of people largely composed of self-identifying Doctor Who fans.
I. Of the Doctors from New Who, which is your favourite?
Among our applicants, David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor (29) was more than twice as popular as Nine (6) and Eleven (5) put together. Just as interestingly, Nine beat out Eleven for a distant second by one vote. We suspect that given a larger sample size featuring similar respondents, the difference in their popularity would be negligible. It’s also likely, however, that a wider age range of respondents would give Nine the edge thanks to older Doctor Who fans who dislike the young face of the newest Doctor.
(It’s worth noting that some of our applicants were unfamiliar with Doctor Who, and provided no answer to this question or the next.)
II. Of the main female companions, which is objectively the best?
Once again, we had a clear winner. Donna Noble beat out the listed competition, receiving almost as many votes (18) as the other three companions put together (20). Rose Tyler, with 10 votes, was in turn twice as popular as either Amelia Pond or Martha Jones, who each got 5. Perhaps more surprisingly, our “Other” field got us solitary votes for both Susan (the First Doctor’s granddaughter) and Wilfred Mott, Donna’s grandfather. Several people also wrote in votes for unlisted companions in addition to voting for one of the listed ones; as a result, there are unlisted half-votes for Jack, Rory, K9, and the ever-popular Not Mickey.
III. Of which of the following fandoms do you consider yourself a part?
This question was not intended to be all-inclusive or non-leading. The results were not quite what we expected, either, although in retrospect we might have expected them: Harry Potter’s breakout popularity makes it a close second with 35 votes (after only Doctor Who and its spinoffs with 36) despite what we anticipated would be a heavy scifi slant among our applicants. Sherlock, another project by Doctor Who’s current show runner Stephen Moffat, was a more distant third with 25 votes, and of the other answers provided, only Firefly broke 20. Supernatural, despite an intense presence in certain corners of Tumblr, only received 3 votes.
The Doctor Who ExCo’s first class will be tomorrow. For now, we’re still in the middle of Add/Drop, the period during which students can freely add or drop ExCos they’ve been consented for and instructors can freely tear their hair out as their carefully constructed class lists fall apart.
Nevertheless, we feel confident that the Doctor Who ExCo will have a class full of insightful students who will each come to the course with their own background and their own set of interests and concerns—all the better to shed light on aspects of the narrative that the rest of us have missed and find even greater resonance with issues important in our daily lives.