Six Smart Women Discussing Doctor Who

It’s time to wrap up our first mini-arc of 2018! Join Deb, Erika, Liz, and Liz as we talk about the history of competent women in Doctor Who. We discuss some favorites, some common threads, and have a jolly good time doing it!

There’s no way we could cover them all, so let us know who you think of when you think of competent women in our favorite show–the comments are open!


Also covered:

Download or listen now (runtime 1:26:26) 


Comments on: "Ep 158 – Competent Women" (8)

  1. Reblogged this on Confessions of a Curator, Editor, Geek and commented:

    New Verity!

  2. You all are so right about more OTT competent characters (particularly women, and especially in New Who) getting characterized as “too competent”. Doctor Who has always had ridiculously competent companions, dating all the way back to Ian and Barbara. While I prefer quiet competence (Rory is my favorite companion and I also love Bill, Jo, and Nyssa), you can’t have them all the time and I see no problem with having more outspoken characters like River and Clara.

    I think a lot of people that grew up with the show still haven’t gotten used to the show giving the companions so much attention and not having it be about the Doctor the whole time.

  3. You may plan on talking about them later, but I haven’t heard these names come up yet: Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner.

    I think it could be argued successfully that without them, we would not have New Who. Look up Julie’s name in “The Writer’s Tale” and count the number of times she saves Russell’s ass by finding money or juggling the schedule (or forbidding him from traveling to conventions because he has a deadline). Russell had the vision but Julie was one of the skilled producers who made it a physical reality. Much as we dreamers hate to think so, we do need folks to raise the money, schedule the work, monitor the spreadsheets, and say no when necessary.

    (Steven Moffat’s recent interviews show that Sue Vertue also has to keep him locked in a room — or at least book him an extra hotel room — to make sure he gets his writing done.)

    It reminds me of what Janet Fielding said in the panel, that feminism wasn’t just about female characters in the show, it’s about hiring more women to produce, write, direct, edit, etc.

    And for those who don’t know, Jane and Julie founded their own production company, Bad Wolf (, which got its name from you know where.


  4. David Thiel said:

    I was not immediately enamored with River Song, but it took a while for me to strongly dislike her.

    In retrospect, part of the problem may have been the manner of her introduction. She’s at the end of her character arc. Her intimate relationship with the Doctor is a fait accompli. She knows all of his secrets and openly carries a diary full of “spoilers.” She flies the TARDIS better than he does. From the moment we meet her, she’s not just competent, she’s the best in the room. To borrow a “Simpsons” reference, she’s the “Poochie” of “Doctor Who.”

    And it’s not that she’s a sociopath, it’s that the Doctor admires her for it. He tells the Silence, “And unlike me she doesn’t really mind shooting people. I shouldn’t like that. Kinda do a bit.” Really? The Doctor’s use of violence has always been a contradiction, but this is the first time he’s *turned on* by it.

    Ultimately, what frustrated me about River Song most of all was not really her fault. My wife, who notoriously hated “Doctor Who,” had declared an interest in sitting down to watch the new season with me. Unfortunately, it was Season Six, the year that River Song’s timey-wimey storyline consumed the show. It was confusing as hell to *me*, and even more so to a person with only a passing knowledge of the series.

  5. Madelyn said:

    I loved Lady Jennifer Buckingham in the War Games as a competent woman character. She is the one who initially rescues the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe, she’s a world war 1 ambulance driver, she overcomes mind control and memory loss, and she manages to drive through the fog from one time zone to another. I was so excited she got to do so much cool stuff, and I was bummed she sort of disappeared half way through the story. Six episodes is still a pretty good run, though.

    I’m really looking forward to the Verity meet up at Gallifrey this weekend!! I’ll either be the one with a lime green bob, or the lady dressed as the Brig (I don’t know if I want to wear my costume two days in a row yet). ^____^

    • Kirsten said:

      Excellent example in Lady Jennifer. I’m so glad to see that someone brought her up!

  6. The comparison between Zoe and Liz was intriguing, but I had a thought about how they are different that probably goes a long way towards explaining just why they are different. Zoe is not only trying to learn more about her emotional side, but she’s also traveling around space and time having adventures, doing things she’d never have the chance to do otherwise. Liz Shaw, on the other hand, is staying on Earth being a scientist, and so she doesn’t have quite the same experiences that Zoe does (although admittedly having some extraordinary experiences that most Earth-based scientists will never have). Liz is also an adult with an established career and identity, while Zoe is still young and trying to figure herself out. And finally, the second Doctor and Jamie would be a lot different influence on Zoe than the third Doctor and the Brigadier would be on Liz.

  7. Kyle Miller said:

    Watching Doctor who episodes for specific viewpoint or character is like why the Doctor chooses different people to travel with and to associate with. The Doctor has seen much of time and space many times and she enjoys experiencing through other’s perspectives. Rewatching episodes and looking for something different can lead to experiencing the episodes from another perspective. That is one reason I listen to podcasters talking about the show.

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