Many women have done a stint traveling through space and time during the 50 years Doctor Who has been on the air. A shop girl rose from retail monotony to being the big bad wolf of the time vortex. A medical student went from the moon and back to keep the Doctor in line. A temp became the most important person in the universe. A journalist became a fan favorite and a sci-fi feminist icon. The Doctor’s companions have demonstrated the strength and enduring sense of fairness and equality we all hope we have inside.
Yes, I said companions. There have been assistants, granddaughters, and friends traveling in the TARDIS, but the traditional title is companion. Personally, the term seems a little offensive, but that could just be the prostitute connotations left over from watching Firefly giving me the wiggins. Regardless of what you call them, the women of Doctor Who have always been badasses.
With the passing of the Ponds in last fall’s mid-season finale, we now have a new companion: Clara Oswin Oswald. We’re only a few episodes in, so details on Clara are sketchy at best, not surprising since who/what she is is being set up as the big question of the season. Still, it already looks like we have another feminist on our hands and here are the attributes that qualify her:
Just because he’s a time/space-traveling alien doesn’t mean Clara is going to take everything the Doctor says at face value. When it seemed like he was walking away from a child in trouble in The Rings of Akhaten, Clara called him on it and quickly learned of his “never walk away” philosophy. The Doctor can call the TARDIS anything he likes, but Clara will still question its real purpose. She even stood up to the TARDIS this week, calling the greatest ship in the universe a cow. And if the Doctor says it’s okay to be somewhere, Clara still wants confirmation.
Clara is not afraid to get a little bit sexy; in fact, some connected with the show have said that the recent episodes have gotten too sexy. But Clara doesn’t go out of her way to be sexy, she just happens to be.She may or may not have snogged the Doctor during the Christmas special, depending on if she’s really the same person or not. She was recently named as one of the top 10 hottest Doctor Who companions. She owns her sexuality; it does not define her.
Being courageous is not the lack of fear; it is acting despite fear, like Clara does in the most recent episode, Hide, when she pushes past her fears to hunt a ghost with the Doctor. Clara isn’t one to wait on the Doctor for adventure; she explored an alien marketplace on her own. She faced down a planet-sized parasite. She stood in for career soldiers and faced down an Ice Warrior on her own in a locked room. And she investigated disturbances in 1890’s England while wearing a bustle. Only a feminist could make Victorian undergarments work while fighting evil.
Clara’s compassion drives her character and gives her strength. When we meet up with her in The Bells of Saint John, she has stayed on as a nanny figure for a friend’s kids because she happened to be visiting when the mother died and she didn’t want to leave them in the lurch. She takes a child under her protection in the The Rings of Akhaten simply because the little girl seems afraid of her pursuers in the marketplace. Her compassion toward people and creatures she doesn’t know gives her the strength to stand down a giant, swirling mass of destruction.
Clara will not be pigeon-holed into any previously conceived companion role, even her own.