Jenny ain’t got time for your random kissing Doctor
Let’s talk about how fucking awful this was for the main character of a family show which children watch to do. So the Doctor, who may I add is already in a committed relationship with River Song, presumably due to great joy, somehow believes that it’s totally acceptable to force himself onto a woman. If that wasn’t bad enough, a lesbian woman who is already in a committed relationship. If that wasn’t bad enough, not only is it a spur of the moment kiss, but he actually literally grabs her into a fucking swan lake dance dive so she can’t escape or repulse him and kisses her. And then, if things weren’t bad enough already, the slap afterwards is implied as comedic and not a fucking right to Jenny, who had just had herself forced upon by the Doctor. Are we really going to sit here and say “oh that was funny, I’d let my kids watch that and think it’s acceptable to do in everyday life”, are we really going to do that?
In an episode I really liked overall, this was just plain nonsense. It’s almost like Steven Moffat looked at the script and said, “This really doesn’t have anything overtly sexist in it, and that pisses me right the hell off. Add a scene of the Doctor kissing Jenny pronto!”
Beyond clearly playing to the Moff’s aggravating delight in seeing the Doctor getting hit in the face by his friends, I was narked about this too. Then they mad it worse by throwing in the whole erection sight gag with the sonic and Jenny in leather. That last one could have directorial choice — maybe the decision was made to foreground what had been scripted as a background shot or maybe Smith completely improvised it and the director liked it — but I doubt it.
The tragic thing is that this is probably one of Gatiss’ best scripts for the series and one of the best stories of the whole of season 7. It’s like he and Moffat can’t help throwing objectively terrible stuff at the screen as part of an ongoing campaign of trolling fans.
To a degree however, I absolutely blame Davies. He was the one who started new Who with the idea of overtly (hetero)sexualising the Doctor — something Moffat gleefully participated in with The Doctor Dances (which was at least subtle) and Girl in the Fireplace (which wasn’t), then forever changing the playing field with River — and I will never ever understand why. I can’t think of any other way to say it: He’s gay, and should know better. The 80s and 90s spawned a lot of scholarly interest from within, both amateur and academic, in the culture of the fandom. What became clear was that apart from the general sense of campness to which the original series often lent itself, arguably a primary reason its significant queer audience was that the Doctor — unlike pretty much every other main character of a series ever — wasn’t particularly coded as heterosexual or even particularly sexual. This came up in Davies’ own Queer as Folk, which contained so much of his fondness of the series in the hugely Who-geeky main character.
Basically, the Beeb’s desire to keep what they considered overt sexuality out of the series — a consideration existing as far back as the pilot where Susan was made the Doctor’s granddaughter because it neutered him, thereby removing the possibility of him being seen as a dirty old man with a young sex toy in tow — turned the Doctor into a safe ∇ space. He became a canvas that fans of any orientation could project a sexuality (or absence there of) onto if they felt the desire or need to do so. Despite being a mysterious powerful and sometimes coldly judgemental alien, the text of the series left you with the feeling that the perhaps biggest most human aspect of you — the people, if any, you were attracted to and wanted to fuck — was something he’d have no interest in beyond whether or not they made you happy and if you were safe. Unlike, you know, all the other people in your life saying it was a phase or you were made wrong or you should know better or were so very tolerant. Certainly, he’d never become a sexual aggressor or competetor.
To this day, I can’t forgive Davies for the ending of Rose and how he turned the Doctor into that terrible cliched figure of the beach jock who kicks sand into the weedy guy’s face and steals his girl who’s only interested in the most manly of men. I could have described it in other ways, but it’s the imposition of that sort of distinctly heterosexual trope that I’m talking about. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never forgiven Rose herself for that either. And by that I don’t mean she should have stayed in a relationship with Mickey — series 1 made it abundantly clear she’d been marking time with him until someone more tasty came along so they were both better out of it — but that rather she simply abandons someone she’s nominally meant to have positive feelings for in a back street just after they’ve been abducted and traumatised by aliens. It’s at least as objectively bad as the 4th Doctor summarily booting Sarah-Jane out of the TARDIS at the end of Hand of Fear without even bothering to check he’d gotten her home (though nothing beats the sheer bastardry of his ‘well-intentioned’ ditching of Susan in post-apocalypse London with absolutely nothing to support herself with beyond the clothes she was wearing).
I’ve encountered opinions that Davies was deliberately targeting shippers with his Doctor/Rose endgame, but decades of fanfiction have shown us the lack of a canon pairing is absolutely no barrier to romantically and sexually ship the characters we want to see together. The closest I’ve come to making sense of it is that Rose — a common name he gives his characters — was Davies’s authorial self-insert, allowing him the hubristic freedom to safely bag the Doctor in front of everyone.
Again, to be fair, it can’t be all laid at his door either. The McGann telemovie holds its share of blame for giving us a Byronic hottie who snogged Grace every chance he got, in doing so following his dear old dad’s footsteps in bagging an Earthling. In the final Virgin New Adventures story before they lost the licence, and the only one to feature the 8th Doctor, the story ends with the inference that the companion Bernice Summerfield has sex with the Doctor after he establishes her in the setting in which she’d continue as the main character of the novels. And I’m fine with that — and have read an absolutely gorgeous erotic story spun out of that inference that to this day remains one of my favourite pieces of Doctor Who fiction — because that’s all it was: subtext.
When the books moved over to the auspices of the BBC, some of the authors embraced this more… humanly motivated… aspect of the character, and some of them could be occasionally quite condescending about, saying it was time to stop being fettered by Christian prudery and grow up. At first it really bugged me: they were taking what was and still sadly is a fairly unique character trait and throwing it away. I suppose people could say that it’s not dissimilar to people who go “Rugrats was just all a delusion in Angelica’s head” and adults “reclaiming” childrens’ series, but I disagree. The Doctor’s ambiguity is something I think was and remains important to viewers of all ages for the reasons already stated. But as the series progressed, I found myself, though still bothered, minding it just that bit less for 1 important reason: he wasn’t coded as exclusively straight.
Which brings us back to the new series and its relentless heterosexualisation of the Doctor. The 9th Doctor flirts with Jack once in Boomtown, then shares a brief goodbye kiss where he is unmoving and his face unseen two eps later, and that’s it. Well, there’s that bit where he exuberantly kisses Rory for being a clever boy in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, but Rory’s trying to get the taste out of another man out of his mouth followed almost immediately by the Doctor’s scowling take-backsies wiping of Rory’s face rather robs the moment of everything except the cheap laugh it was intended as. Otherwise it’s all about the ladiez, even when he’s kinda clueless about it. And it’s even worse when he isn’t: remember, the Doctor specifically married River — someone already deeply fucked up and fucked over because of him — to take away her agency.