The grave is a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace.
Have you ever seen an episode of TV and watched it break your heart? Watched it, and known in a few short hours you will go on Twitter and watch it break a lot more hearts?
Have you ever watched an episode of TV and realized that there may be no coming back from it, despite the knowledge that it will completely reboot in only a few short months?
The Doctor: Go tell a pig about your moral high ground.
It took me awhile to get into Doctor Who, properly get into Doctor Who. When I was little, on PBS there were reruns of old episodes of the program. I saw them all out of order. When the show rebooted in 2005, I was in the UK after it aired, while it was airing in the US. I saw season 2 before season 1, but at least, since most episodes were stand-alones, watching out of order wasn’t a bad thing.
In 2007, just after the second season ended, I enthused about the new Who to my father, a first generation UK immigrant who’d grown up with the show on TV (His were the Second & Third Doctors.) When I told him how Rose had just left, closed off in a different dimension never to return, he looked shocked. “That’s not how companions go. In my day, they left the TARDIS. They just stepped off and went back to their lives. In my day, they did not *kill* the companion.”
I tried to argue Rose wasn’t killed, she was shut off to a different dimension. Dad shook his head. “All wrong.”
Bill: Promise me one thing. Promise you won’t get me killed.
The Doctor: I can’t promise you that
I’m never forgotten that. Martha did indeed step off the TARDIS. So did Donna (even with her memory wiped.) Rose wound up with her one-hearted Doctor. Amy & Rory left and told the Doctor not to try to bring them back from the 1920s. Clara was killed for a half a minute, but they made it up to her by giving her a TARDIS of her own, Arya Stark as a companion, and Big Finish license to do an entire spin-off series. In the end, my father was right. They step off the TARDIS and go on with their lives. And if they do die, like Adric (or Clara for half a minute), they make that choice themselves, as a sacrifice. A heroic death.
Tonight, Doctor Who killed a companion, and, for the first time, not by her own choice. There was nothing heroic about this. She was killed, mindlessly, a random shot to the chest, followed by handing her a fate worse than that, by “upgrading” her into a cyberman. In a tone-deaf, insanely stupid, foolish, incomprehensible move, they chose to kill the first openly gay companion.
“Bury your gays” is a cliché, they say.
Let me leave this here: at the end of 2016, GLAAD put out their annual report on the state of representation in television.
According to GLAAD’s analysis, “25 lesbian and bisexual female-identifying characters have died on scripted broadcast and cable television and streaming series since the beginning of 2016. Most of these deaths served no other purpose than to further the narrative of a more central (and often straight, cisgender) character. When there are so few lesbian and bisexual women on television, the decision to kill these characters in droves sends a toxic message about the worth of queer female stories. When the most repeated ending for a queer woman is violent death, producers must do better to question the reason for a character’s demise and what they are really communicating to the audience.”
I wanted to believe this year that Steven Moffat would leave Doctor Who better than he found it. The first few episodes this season were excellent. Instead, he has just committed the kind of blunder that will cause an uproar in the nerd community.
I don’t know what’s going to happen next week. Perhaps the Doctor will find some insane magical way to turn back time, to stop this from happening, to change the course of history so that Bill does indeed step off the TARDIS and go on with her life behind the fryer. Maybe he’ll pull a Clara twice. But in truth, I doubt it. The Master is here, and Missy is with him, and as we saw in the prologue, by the end of 50 minutes next week, the Doctor won’t be in any shape to save anyone, as we head towards the Christmas special.
Bill: I’ll take the good tea.
The Master: Excellent. Positive attitude. Will help with the horror to come.
I’ve never been so disappointed in how a companion’s time on the show ended. This is the opposite of when Clara died last year, sent off with an emotional resonance so good I actually kind of hoped Moffat wouldn’t screw with it. (He did anyway.) But just as devastating: Bill was game changing for the show. This season I’ve seen an entire new set of fans minted for Doctor Who–which I haven’t seen happen since 2013. (Capaldi is great, don’t get me wrong, but in terms of bringing new fans to the show, that’s not a thing he’s done. All he did was stop the hemorrhaging of fans the show was undergoing post Amy & Rory.) An entire new set of gay and lesbian and nerds of color have flocked to this show for her.
They won’t forget this. If the show thought they were fixing things, this wasn’t it. If Moffat thought he was going to go out a Doctor Who hero, he’s dived right off a cliff instead. And when the BBC brings the show back next season with a young white male handsome Doctor and a young white straight girl as his companion in 2018, it will be very hard for me to consider making that transition with them.
Doctor Who and Steven Moffat did something unforgivable tonight, and I’m not sure they know it yet. Perhaps they do? Perhaps somehow they will fix it next week. But perhaps they just don’t care.