Just Written That Way

Recently, the BBC added another incarnation into Doctor Who’s expansion pack past. Shouldn’t be a worry, they did it with John Hurt’s “War Doctor” and nobody was tremendously upset.

Just Written That Way

Recently, the BBC added another incarnation into Doctor Who's expansion pack past. Shouldn't be a worry, they did it with John Hurt's "War Doctor" and nobody was tremendously upset. Therefore, the reaction to the new "Black Doctor" should be a resounding 'meh', right? Well... I'm kind of upset that my Beloved hated her after one episode's exposure. The rest of the internet doesn't hate her and for that I am grateful, but I feel like I have to sketch out how the Black Doctor was pretty much written to be unlikable.

Specifically, written to be unlikable by straight white males and fans of the continuity. Mostly because the existence of this doctor is like a log across the tracks of Who History.

Let's start with Ruth - the alter-ego of this Doctor. She's initially shown as either impatient or obsessive - watching the clock and making her breakfast. Which turns out to be stealing her SO's thunder. He was going to make her breakfast for her birthday. This can be handwaved off as Incompetent Husband Syndrome, a mainstay of tv comedy serials. It could be cute.

Ruth is shown as friendly and happy, greeting people and handing out flyers on her way to work, but... it's soon overwhelmed by showing her at work. Where she is shunned by everyone passing her by. Shortly after this is where the Racist Conditioning is handling the impressions.

Not only is Ruth shunned by the rest of society, when she talks to the first (white) person to even show interest, she's then painted as a know-it-all with the "test me" interchange, but... when her initial historical fact is met with disinterest, she scoffs and rolls her eyes and introduces the mainstream appeal of Harry Potter. How dare she distain the things everyone likes, blablabla [and every racist in the audience hates her for "not knowing her place" etc.]

Then, in the conversation with the (white) woman who's knitting, she's framed as being above and larger than the older lady on the bench. ["How dare she be superior" yadda yadda...]

She sneers at Coffee Guy [who is later framed as a "nice guy incel"] and his honest efforts at reform [he used to be a bartender, but he's gone straight... "dude deserves a break," cry the fellow Nice Guys] but he shifts very clearly into Creepy Dude turf with his dossier, but it can easily be seen as She's Too Stupid To Know A Good Thing. Y'know, by the type of people picking up on these prompts.

It just goes on from there. She doesn't do a thing to save the old lady, and doesn't seem very upset about it either. She runs from the conflict, following the "suspicious" husband... who she 'sometimes' trusts [not a stable relationship, oh dear] and thereafter, it's the Unanswered Questions Shuffle.

She has secrets, but apparently doesn't know them, and this one harkens all the way back to the Red Scare and fears of sleeper agents. I wouldn't at all be surprised if the Anti-Brown-People folks have the concept of Muslim Sleeper Agents or something similar working in their wainscotting. This all happens to be kerosine for that fire...

The chase leads to the secret base where Ruth stops being Ruth and becomes The Doctor (tadah!) and instantly takes on all the worst aspects of The Doctor - bossing people about, telling them to shut up, not answering questions, and constantly acting like they're in charge.

All excusable in white Doctors, and definitely excusable in white male Doctors, but not so much when it's a Black Woman. For bonus points, there's zero time for character moments, zero tears shed over presumed dead companions, and zero fucks given for (a) the fate of a fellow Time Lord, (b) the fate of Gallifrey, (c) any of the current Doctor's concerns.

There's no handy frame of reference to insert this Doctor into fifty-plus years of established continuity. There's no real way to tell where she fits, especially since the only gaps are either before William "the definite article" Hartnell or between Paul McGann and Christopher Eccleston. Where the War Doctor lives.

So we get zero feeling for this Doctor, zero feeling from this Doctor, and a whole bunch of violence that doesn't fit with the established character, so she might as well not be the Doctor at all.

Plus, as an introduced past, she can easily be written out just as easily as she was written in. Just like we casually ignore the existence of the "War Doctor", audiences can choose to ignore the "Black Doctor". And why not do so? They've made it easier to hate her.