Six Smart Women Discussing Doctor Who


Deadly divas, anyone? This week our villainous discussion centers on the ladies. For a change, we have a jumping off point–and it’s VAM! (That’s “value-added material”, as in DVD extras.) Join Deb, Erika, Lynne, and Tansy as we discuss one of the extras on the Shada DVD set. (Spoiler: We’re much more excited about this one than the last one we talked about.) What does it mean to be a diva? Do all the female baddies on the show (and included the extra) qualify? Our discussion ranges beyond “Those Deadly Divas”, so if you haven’t seen it, don’t fear, there’s plenty here for you too. Add our “happy-Who-things”, plus a special announcement, and you’ve got yourself a rollicking episode of Verity!

Oh, and shout-out to the iTunes review that inspired this week’s title.


Also covered:
Lynne has a wee little Capaldi fig with an arched eyebrow and an “Other Doctor“!
Erika guested (with Kat) on TARDIS Tavern!
Tansy spotted Osgood from “The Day of the Doctor” on Watson and Oliver!
Deb squees over Doctor Puppet’s special release for Peter Capaldi’s birthday!

Bonus links:
Our discussion of “Being a Girl”
Our review of Queers Dig Time Lords
Labels Against Women – #ShineStrong Pantene

Download or listen now (runtime 1:11:50) 

Comments on: "Verity! Episode 40 – Doctor Who Villains: The Estrogen Adventures" (18)

  1. Congratulations on your Hugo nomination! I think you really deserve it, as Verity! is consistently the best podcast I listen to 🙂

    BTW, listening to ‘Cobwebs’ and ‘The Whispering Forest’ made me think about another villain trope, the sentient machine. From WOTAN to Xoanon to Drathro, the Doctor keeps encountering sentient machines gone rogue. I’ve really liked a lot of these stories, and I hope you are planning an episode discussing them.

    • Deborah Stanish said:

      Thank you! That is high praise, indeed.

      >>>>I hope you are planning an episode discussing them.

      As a matter of fact… 😉

  2. James C said:

    Cracking episode. Fun, incisive, thoughtful, Hugo-worthy.

  3. Thanks for another lovely podcast, and congratulations on your Hugo nomination(s)! 🙂

    Having female companions “possessed” and becoming more overtly sexual as a result is a device straight out of Dracula, and I think is one of the main reasons for that story’s enduring appeal. The fact that this sort of thing can still cause such distress among fandom suggests that certain attitudes haven’t changed much since 1897! I think Tansy is right that this is a very juicy topic for discussion and I hope you’ll get into it on a future podcast.

  4. Rodney said:

    Another wonderfully brilliant episode from you (and lovely to hear Tanzy after all this time). I’d love to hear which VAM you ladies really like (possibly a Verity! Extra episode).

    It probably never occured to you, but in some regions the “Shada” release was a two-disc one coupled with a separate release for “More Than 30 Years In The TARDIS” (although they were in a boxset together) so I was really confused for a while as to where this documentary was (it’s also on DailyMotion if you search).

  5. As always, good listening, and congratulations on your Hugo Nomination

  6. Laurissy said:

    So I think my favourite diva from the new series is madam Kovarian she’s just so deliciously evil but she does have this sense of why does this guy keep getting in my way. I’ve got a job to do. She has purpose and agency and is also thoroughly evil.

    Old series I haven’t watched a lot of 80’s who so I’m going mostly from the 60’s and 70’s Firstly honourable mention for Barbara from the aztecs who if we look at what she’s trying to do who’s trying to force her way of life onto a culture that is resistant to her and Tltoxl has to fight to maintain his way of life. I could discuss the morality of the aztecs all day long but I think that whilst Barbara has good intentions what she is doing is ultimately wrong anyway I’d actually love to see you guys do a whole review of the aztecs because it’s the only episode which I can think of that we really have a woman be the centre of the whole story. Also the aztecs is interesting to look in terms of the doctor romance debate. Please review the aztecs. I’ll love you all forever. Also Barbara does have the hair of a diva with her bouffant of doom.

    Another special mention for Janley from Power of the daleks who like everyone in the power of the daleks seems to think the episode is about them and their own minute power struggles. To me she comes across as very cold and calculating and willing to use anyone to get her own way and gain power. The ways she manipulates Lesterson, the way she tries to in vain to control the daleks and her slow realisation about how much of a monster Bragen truly is. Thinking about it power of the daleks is probably the closest we’ll get to game of thrones on doctor who.

    But my number one pick has to be miss Winters from Robot depending on the mood I’m in Miss Winters beats the master for best humanoid villain. I love how over the top she goes, how convinced she is that she’s right, I also love how she criticises Sarah Jane. To this day I have no idea why she’s working for such a sexist cult. My personal theory is she’s using these idiots to help her take over and was quickly going to dispose of them all once she ran out of use of them like all good villainous divas.

    Well I hope that gives you food for thought and congrats on the Hugo nomination.

  7. Willow said:

    Congratulations on the nomination!

    I think the best example of a New Who diva is Cassandra, she has the required quantity of camp truly required for the title. Interestingly, even though she places a lot of value in her “beauty” she cares far more about her blood purity, and staying alive. Her motivations aren’t gendered either: In The End of the World, if I remember correctly her motivation is money? and in New Earth she wants revenge on the Doctor. Neither of which are innately “female” motivations.

    • Good example, Willow! I agree Cassandra is a great New Who villain and diva (and the fact that she’s played by such a major British actress helps too) but while her motivations are not gendered in themselves, the portrayal of her as the ultimate example of the “nip and tuck’ older woman who is obsessed with her beauty and constantly having plastic surgery is highly gendered. Survival, avarice and revenge are all her motivations, but her “beauty” is the thing she is most defined by, right up until her death.

  8. Mandy said:

    Happy 40th and congratulations on the Hugo nods!

    A few years back, BBC Radio 3 had a series called _Stage And Screen_, presented by Edward Seckerson. He often interviewed great sopranos and was want to describe them as divas. Most of them immediately denied being anything of the sort…and then spent fifty-five minutes proving that absolutely they were divas (in both senses).

    The Master and many of Old Who’s male villains are like that. The Master would vehemently deny any such description…and then spend four episodes being the ultimate Who diva (excepting the Third Doctor, of course).

    Just occasionally, though, Seckerson would interview a true diva; a soprano who really owned the word. She’d worked blooming hard to get where she was and if she’d had to be demanding or difficult to do so, that was the price she and others had to pay for her art.

    The Rani and the (Old Who) Sisterhood Of The Deadly Divas are like that. They know what they’re doing and woe betide any piddling little Time Lord who gets in their way. Two piddling little Time Lords in the Rani’s case.

    (Though, male or female, they’d all zap you into next week for your insolence so it would be best to avoid the D-word altogether.)

    RTD and Moffat have tried to create that sort of Deadly Diva but Doctor Who is a very different beast now. So much of the show revolves directly around the Doctor, rather than the Doctor dropping into someone else’s story as he always used to. That means that the characters (especially characters like River Song and Tasha Lem*) have to revolve around him too; they have to give a damn about the piddling little Time Lord.

    * One and the same?

    • Kathryn said:

      I’d suggest the Third Doctor and the original Master as Dueling Divas.

  9. A question on Madame Kovarian: Where does she fit in terms of the categories that Tansy describe? Girlfriend/Wife or Mother? She interacted with the child version of Melody Pond, but she’s not really her mother, nor is she particularly motherly. Is she one of the few new who female villains that falls outside of those categories?

    • I’d say that A) Madame Kovarian is a great example–especially using Lynne’s definition. And B) I think if she has any stereotypically-feminine motivations, we don’t see them. She’s a religious zealot (or possibly just power-crazy). Definitely an equal-opportunity motivation. 🙂

      • Laurissy said:

        I’d say mother as the only category she really fits in because she does raise melody pond but it’s such a small part of her character that no one really remarks on. But I have to admit the reason I like her is you could easily put a man into that role and you wouldn’t have to change any of her lines.I don’t think I could say that about any other female doctor who villain. She’s still undoubtedly a diva, she’s arrogant, she’d condescending and she’s having so much fun.

    • I think she’s definitely an example of the bad bad mother trope (look she’s a bad mother AND a villain, so you know she’s especially evil), even if that isn’t her primary motivation. But otherwise she is a career villain. I know a lot of people were frustrated by the “Amy gets kidnapped” arc of Season 6, but actually they did a lot better with that one than they could have done – she still got to be active and participate in the Doctor’s adventures while kidnapped (Rory was taken out of the narrative much more substantially in Season 5 with his “death”) AND how much creepier would it all have been if it was Mister Kovarian who kidnapped Amy, leaned over her unconscious body, and murmured sweet nothings to her through labour? It would have been as nasty as all the Peri-lusting male villains of the 1980’s.

      I don’t think that all New Who female villains can be divided into girlfriend/wife or mother, but I do think it’s notable how many of them are motivated by very traditional female ideas, even (especially) the monsters. Can’t we have a male monster protecting his brood, and a female one just out to conquer and destroy? I did like that we got a tragic romantic male monster in Season 7 with Hide…

      I long to get a good, proper Rani who would rather die than flirt with the Doctor. (that after all is what the Master is for)

  10. Kathryn said:

    Congrats on the Hugo nomination(s), Ladies!

    I very much enjoyed the discussion of Doctor Who Devilish Deadly Divas, but wanted to take just a little issue with one point early on.

    Deb, you describe this time between seasons as “wilderness months.” There’s so much out there these days, and it’s much easier to get ahold of than it used to be (even for those technologically inept as myself)! Yes, it’s not the TV show, but for me, there are still so many avenues to explore. I’m still finding new podcasts, working my way through the Eighth Doctor Adventure books (I’m a slow reader, much prefer audio books), and delighting in Big Finish. Surely there is still new-to-you-Who out there somewhere? 😉

    That said, if anyone were to ask my opinion, I’d advocate for continuing split seasons, as season 6 was split. A couple of months to wait between episodes is easier to deal with than 8 or 9 (they’re still saying Autumn, aren’t they?). The way they split season 7 was a cheat, we missed out on a season there.

  11. The thing I most wish I had said during the episode itself: the word “diva” in Latin means goddess. Specifically, it means a woman who has been raised in status from human to goddess (such as the imperial wives/daughters who were named goddesses after death).

    I think we need more female villains who just want to be worshipped 😀

  12. […] links: Verity! ep 40 (our year-of-villains ep about women) Joanna Russ’ We Who Are About […]

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