Friday, July 06, 2012

Imagining Social Justice Through Sci-Fi TV: From "Trek" to "Torchwood" (Part Five: The Doctor Who Universe 1)

Previous installments:
Part One: Introduction
Part Two: Reviewing the Literature
Part Three: The Star Trek Universe (part one)
Part Four: The Star Trek Universe (part two)


“I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that [The Doctor] is a man who always leaves. And when The Doctor does go, it’s the people who are left behind who have to pick up the pieces”
Russel T. Davies (Frankel 56)

In this chapter I move from the United States-based Star Trek of the late 20th century into the new millennium with United Kingdom-based Doctor Who.  As I said in my introduction, this is a document looking at the past as well as toward the future.  The Next Generation of my childhood is clearly in the past, science fiction television has become darker in both aesthetic and in storyline; it has become more morally ambiguous than TNG or even the “grayer” DS9.   But Doctor Who is still on the air, and Torchwood was recently able to produce a fourth season through a collaboration between the BBC and the US network Starz!.  What this means is that this universe is the dominant producer of new science fiction television stories, and thus the narratives produced by it are particularly meaningful for those who, like myself, desire to use them in our work (whether that be using specific episodes as teaching tools, or using them as an opening for critical political discussions within geek communities). 
Doctor Who and Torchwood also serve as good examples for utilizing contemporary hegemonic narratives in a “negotiated” (Chandler) way for fans to question, discuss and resist kyriarchal norms.  As I have stressed throughout, these spaces of imagination are ones wherein we (those engaged with such stories) can begin to envision what other worlds may look like.  While this universe is not, strictly, located in the future, it is a space of alternate presents, which serves a similar purpose in the social imaginary.  The question thus serving as the foundation for the work in this chapter is: “what stories is sci-fi TV imagining today?” and further, “what, then, is the world we are building towards through them?”  To answer these questions I attempt to thoroughly investigate the tropes, narratives and political meta-narratives of Doctor Who and Torchwood.  As with the last chapter, I take the perspective that these shows both reinforce and challenge kyriarchal norms.  In this case, I argue that they do so in a way reminiscent of Muñoz’ disidentification: working both on and against norms.
In the present day, ideologies of neoliberalism (Reaganism in the US, Thatcherism in the UK) have saturated our ways of seeing ourselves and our world.  In the US, the dominant rhetoric holds up ideas like “personal responsibility” and “colorblindness” as the epitome of what makes for a good person/citizen.  Critiques of representation on television are met with the dismissive assignment of “political correctness gone mad” (as if the worst racism/sexism etc., are guilty of is mere impoliteness).  We are supposedly “post-race” and “post-feminism.” But if you are reading this thesis, you probably already know these ideas aren’t accurate.  The work of Angela Davis, Naomi Klein, Lisa Duggan, Cynthia Enloe, Winona LaDuke, Ella Shohat, and the INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence collective, just to name a few, all attest to the various dynamics of continuing systemic oppression that are at work in our prisons, economic systems, militaries/militarism, food systems, foreign policy and even within social justice activist circles. 
It is within the context of these dominant neoliberal narratives that science fiction television of today is being written, and changes in representation from Trek to Torchwood reflect that, as we will see below.  During the years in question in this work, Doctor Who aired on BBC 1 (the BBC’s flagship/most popular channel) in the UK, CBC (Canada’s domestic version of the BBC, both are public access channels) in Canada and the Sci-Fi Channel (a cable channel) starting with season two in the US.  Torchwood aired on BBC 3 for its first season, BBC 2 for its second and BBC 1 for Children of Earth, with ratings going up each season.  In the US, Torchwood was “BBC America’s biggest hit” during these years (Levin, Bowles and Gardner), with its latest season airing on Starz.  Additional viewership came via internet services like Netflix (which offers all of the seasons since 2005 after they have finished airing) that offer memberships for DVD and internet based viewing, and torrent (illegal download) services such as The Pirate Bay.  Through these various means, Doctor Who has achieved a loyal viewership and active fanbase pulling membership from around the world. 
It is this incarnation that I will engage with in this chapter because this project is about looking to both the past and the future, and given its popularity with both viewers and the company that produces it, Doctor Who and Torchwood are the future (or at least the present) of sci-fi television.  I am limiting the discussion solely to the Davies years to maintain symmetry with the Gene Roddenberry-headed Star Trek/Star Trek: TNG and because Davies has expressed consciousness of the politics of his work (Davies).  While political narratives are present whether producers self-consciously include them or not, this figure of the politically conscious man behind the show examined provides a neat theoretical parallel between the franchises.  
The first section of this chapter will tackle the political narratives of the “new” Doctor Who, that is, Doctor Who circa 2005.  I will argue here that the diegetic parameters of Davies’ stories necessitate a re-centering of these stories onto The Doctor’s companions.  Through this re-centering the implicit messages of these stories changes dramatically, moving away from the tokenistic representations of marginalized bodies on Trek to fully actualized hero-characters on Doctor Who; culminating in a meta-narrative that it is the everyday person (those from marginalized communities and not those from powerful sectors of society) who change/save the world.  Finally, I consider the limitations of this model: that although in making every day people his heroes, Davies’ stories are able to, at their best, resist ideologies of racism, classism, sexism and ageism, they also feed into a neoliberal logic that ignores the power of structures and institutions.
In the second section I examine the way in which Torchwood deploys similar story-telling techniques as Doctor Who to perform a disidentificatory practice and queer an otherwise normative masculine hero (Captain Jack Harkness).  Through this queering of the normative hero and genre tropes, I argue Torchwood can be conceived of as the anti-24, 24 being a US-based drama whose narratives uniformly defend the neoliberal/neoconservative-nationalist-kyriarchal order.  Finally, I contend that the powerful structural critique lacking on Doctor Who is deployed on Torchwood: Children of Earth.  In all these ways, I argue Davies manages to utilize neoliberal tropes in a way that critiques and partially resists the neoliberal kyriarchal order.

Section One: The Ordinary Becomes Extraordinary

“He's like fire and ice and rage. He's like the night and the storm in the heart of the sun. He's ancient and forever” (Cornell).

Supposedly Doctor Who is about The Doctor.  On the one hand this assumption makes a lot of sense, because The Doctor is the title character of Doctor Who.  But The Doctor is a fixture, a permanent thing.  He is a 900 year old Time Lord who gets his kicks from saving the Universe and traveling about it in a time machine/star ship that looks like a 1960s English police box.   When one incarnation is dying, he regenerates into another.  The franchise continues, and so does his story.  It was a formula that worked for over twenty years, from 1963-1989, but eventually the BBC pulled the plug.  Fast forward to 2005 where one already-successful showrunner (Russell T. Davies) believes he can reinvigorate the series, and "New Who" is born.
Davies made many changes in style and aesthetics in the transition from classic Doctor Who to the new Doctor Who, and none was so fundamental as the easily missed re-centering of the narrative itself; a shift from stories about The Doctor, to stories about his companions.  This shift is easy to miss, because of course The Doctor is still the “main character” and as such the events and resolution of each episode seemingly hinge on his decisions and actions.  But in actuality The Doctor in Davies' Who functions more as a backdrop on which the stories of his companions can be told.  Ultimately, Davies’ stories usually revolve around the question of what regular people do when they come into contact with a force like The Doctor: an eternal and chaotic force of nature.   While the vast majority of books and scholarly articles on Doctor Who are dedicated to the classic series there are a growing number of books and scholarly articles on both Doctor Who and Torchwood being produced in the last two years, and it is to this burgeoning archive that I submit my own analysis.   
As far as I have read, the argument I make in this section is unique.  In fact, the author of one of the few full length books discussing, in large part, Doctor Who circa 2005 has argued that “the series lapsed into unreconstructed patriarchy” during Davies era and that “female protagonists were either denied agency or else their defining moments of autonomy were acts of self-sacrifice or obedience to institutional expectation” (Britton 129).  Without denying the truth in elements of this critique, other writers have pointed to the large role of the companions on Doctor Who.  For example, Lynnette Porter dedicates an entire chapter of her book to “The Rise of Sidekicks” in 21st century sci-fi TV wherein she argues, in part, that the companions are good examples of sidekicks who are now able to become “a hero in [their] own right” (with self-sacrifice coded as an important, and frequent, heroic act across genres) (85). 
Specifically, Porter says that the “companions who travel with the Doctor often develop enough confidence and special knowledge that they become lead characters” (85).  While maintaining the perspective that companions are still sidekicks, she also points to the way in which they are also lead characters (or can become so in their own spin-off programs, such as Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures).  This perspective is shared by Courtney Stoker of the blog “Doctor Her” who argues that many fans do not watch Doctor Who for The Doctor, but for the companions (Why do we watch Doctor Who?).  She says, “even though the companions are definitionally sidekicks to the Doctor, plenty of women will still read those companions as the hero” (Stoker).  These writers go farther than most in illuminating the importance of The Doctor’s companions (though even Britton admits “Rose’s personal concerns and growth were more central to the drama than was ever true for companions in the classic series” (130)).  I concur with Porter and Stoker’s interpretations however, both maintain a view of The Doctor as center and the companion as sidekick.  I take the argument further, suggesting that the companions are in fact the center of the story.
This is an important distinction because if we assume that The Doctor is the center of the story, then ultimately the companions’ stories only matter insofar as they impact him.  But if the companions are at the center of the stories they become the hero(es) and their experiences are important for their own sake.  The companions-at-the-center potentially pulls the viewer to the center as well, and very specific bodies, through their representation are pulled to the center of narrative as well: marginalized bodies.  Queer bodies, women’s bodies, people of color’s bodies, working class bodies, aged bodies, fat bodies; bodies that are marginalized and variously oppressed within kyriarchy.  This is a very different model to the one practiced by the Star Trek universe, which has been an “add-on” approach: one that takes an existing framework and throws marginalized bodies into it.  Such an approach does not challenge the discursive norms the over-arching framework is based one, but leaves these frameworks in place and demands the adjustment of the marginalized to that framework. 
In contrast to this, the re-centering approach (as pioneered by feminists of color such as in the anthology This Bridge Called My Back and more recently embodied in the work of women of color feminists such as Andrea Smith and the INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence collective) points to the way in which re-centering a movement, ideology or narrative drastically changes the framework of that which is then re-centered.  For example, in her essay “Without Bureaucracy, Beyond Inclusion” Andrea Smith re-centers feminism by deconstructing the historical narrative of the “waves” of feminism.  The “waves” framework serves to put White women at the center of feminism, whereas “if one were to develop a feminist history centering Native women, feminist history in this country would start in 1492 with the resistance to patriarchal colonization” (Smith).  This history is completely different from the one tracing the “waves” of feminism, and shows clearly the stakes of a re-centering model. 
If applied to Doctor Who, this idea means that instead of the program being about The Doctor’s journeys and adventures, it is instead a series of “short stories” about various people coming into contact with something extraordinary, and how they deal with that experience.  Instead of a fantastical imaginary about time travel and power over time that humans cannot currently attain, it becomes about how we, everyday people, will face the frightening, the beautiful, the incredible and the seemingly overwhelming.  And ultimately, as a re-centered text, Doctor Who tells us we will rise to the challenge, that we can accomplish more than we might believe.  This interpretive model goes against traditional cinematic and televisual story-telling, and as such, my argument might be read as “uncovering” what Davies did on this series without even realizing it or moreso as enacting a kind of bell hooks-ian oppositional gaze on Doctor Who.  I think there is truth to both interpretations of my argument, and gladly accept either reading of my work.  What is most important to me in writing this particular chapter is what assuming the-companions-are-at-the-center actually produces discursively through the series.
The inaugural episode of the new Doctor Who is entitled, simply, "Rose" (Davies and Holmes).  The title refers to Rose Tyler, "just an ordinary shop worker living an ordinary life" in present-day London, who is about to become The (new) Doctor's first companion (IMDB).   The episode opens on what appears to be a typical day in her life: waking up, saying goodbye to her Mum, going to work, having lunch with her boyfriend and then more work; all performed against a soundtrack of fast paced sort-of techno-style music.  Shots of the city are interspersed, sometimes at fast-forward speed, matching the almost frantic tempo of the music.  These elements combine to suggest that time is moving by quickly, that the rhythm of modern life is accelerated, and, for the most part, boring.  I choose the word “boring” specifically because (with the exception of her lunch with her boyfriend Mickey) during this sort-of montage Rose consistently exudes facial and body expressions of boredom.  Such body language would be recognizable to anyone who has ever had to work a “dead-end” job, and in this way, her life undoubtedly reflects many of the audience's own.
Enter The Doctor, who shows Rose a whole different side to life that she has always been oblivious to and predictably Rose's day-to-day (and what life means to her) changes dramatically.  Over the next two seasons her character sees incredible beauty and experiences devastating heart break, and through these experiences (and more off-screen) Rose is transformed.  At the end of season four, when she returns from her exile in a parallel universe, it is hard to identify the Rose we meet in this episode in the person we are presented with.  In her place is a Rose who wields an enormous gun capable of killing Daleks, a Rose who works with the Torchwood Institute of her universe in a clear position of authority, a Rose whose eyes no longer reflect boredom but wonder, sadness, and determination.  And to draw us back to the original point: while The Doctor has regenerated once already (and is thus literally wearing a new face) he is still easily recognizable, he is unchanged; it is Rose who has transformed. 
Furthermore, Rose has transformed into a character who, quite honestly, does not need The Doctor anymore.  That she started out performing the everyday tasks many people in the audience would recognize from their own routines, and then journeys over the seasons to this point, creates a meta-narrative that suggests we too might be capable of being the heroes in our own stories, that we do not need a “savior” (such as The Doctor) to play that role for us.  Further, the sense of urgency that comes from Doctor Who’s stories (created by the dire consequences faced by the human race from all manner of threats) urges us not to wait for a “white knight” figure, but to take the initiative and save ourselves.  Unfortunately, what we need saving from remains ambiguous and often “alien,” with “alien” all too often a not-so-subtle corollary for the “ethnic (read: “illegal”)[1] alien,” or “colonial others” that have “slipped through” our borders and “other displaced fears of multicultural contamination” (Kydd 194).  Here we see, once again, that the politics of these stories enacts both a progressive and hegemonic discourse.
The everyday person who becomes a hero in their own right is a story-telling model that repeats over and over again during Davies' tenure as showrunner of Doctor Who.  Captain Jack Harkness is transformed from a con-man to a hero and leader of his own team with the Torchwood Institute (as I will discuss later on in this chapter).  Martha Jones is already a quite brilliant medical student when The Doctor comes across her, but she pushes herself far beyond this to become a resourceful warrior as well.  Donna Noble starts out as a rather unhappy temp, and ultimately is proved to be "the most important woman in the universe.”  Davies even re-writes classic Who history to incorporate Sarah Jane Smith (companion to the third and fourth incarnations of The Doctor) into this framework; as she tells Davros at the end of season four she "has learned how to fight since then."  This revision makes for a particularly pointed transformation, as companions on the classic Doctor Who were almost invariably portrayed as helpless and incompetent.  Even characters who do not travel long, or ever, with The Doctor are shown to be changed simply by interacting with him (such as Mickey Smith, Jackie Tyler, Pete Tyler and Wilfred Mott).
In line with my reading of Doctor Who as centralizing the companions in its stories, it must be noted that none of these characters are changed directly by The Doctor.  He does not lay his hands on them and create new and powerful warriors out of these everyday people.  They change by coming to understand themselves in new ways, to see what they are capable of achieving in sometimes impossible-seeming situations.  While The Doctor is a catalyst for these journeys, while interactions with him surely influence the development of the companions and while circumstances can indicate that following his lead might be the only option available for survival, in the end these “sidekick” characters always ultimately do what they think is right, even when it contradicts The Doctor’s wishes or instructions. 
Further, many of them go through some of their biggest growth when he is not even around.  In particular, Rose Tyler, Martha Jones and Sarah Jane Smith fall under this classification, all of whom become fully fledged heroes during their time independent of The Doctor and, largely, his influence.  While much of this development happens off-screen (although Martha’s “year alone” from the season three finale was turned into a novel (Abnett, Roden and Lockley)) we can see it through the changes in these characters on their return to the screen.  And while The Doctor carries on as before, it is clear that the characters he leaves behind are changed forever; into capable, ass-kicking heroes of their own stories.

From the Margins to the Center

Because of the eternal nature of The Doctor, true growth and change in a story can only be told through the companions: if The Doctor changed as dramatically as the companions did over Davies’ four seasons, Doctor Who would be a completely different show.  Particularly interesting, Davies chose to put companions representing various marginalized classes at the center of his narratives.  As with Roddenberry (discussed in Chapter Two: The Star Trek Universe), Davies has stated that the politics of his writing are purposeful: "I've put myself in a situation of having to engage with politics, just by being alive as a gay man in the 20th century… But I think that's just good writing – I can't imagine writing and not including what you think about the world" (Davies, “Doctor Who Interview”).  Clearly, Davies is self-conscious of the politics of his work.  When one looks at the choices made by Davies around representation (as we will be doing here), a unique political form becomes apparent.  It is for these reasons that I classify the new Doctor Who as social justice television alongside and on par with Star Trek.  And, as with Star Trek, these choices are not unequivocally positive.  But let's start with the positive and work towards the critique.
As discussed in the first section of chapter two ("Race Matters"), Star Trek's social justice mission was produced through a very rudimentary form of representational politics: put people of color and women into the picture and let that picture speak for itself.  While certainly groundbreaking in many ways, this “add-on” method of representation is tokenistic, and as such did not ultimately contest kyriarchal norms.  This method challenges hegemonic codes only through an assimilationist mode that may put a foot in the door for further action but by itself does not greatly undermine the foundations of kyriarchy.  In fact, this sort of representation can and often does uphold the beliefs undergirding the racism and sexism (as in Trek) that it consciously set out to undermine.  The lack of a radical ("at the root") approach to dismantling racism and sexism in televisual representation became particularly evident when Star Trek was revitalized through Next Generation and Whiteness as a construct asserted itself on the new series in some ways more strongly than in the original.
The new Doctor Who approached representation in a different way, at once more subtle and effective, while still reinforcing elements of kyriarchal hegemony.  As I mentioned above, Davies chose to put people from various marginalized classes at the forefront of what I have argued are his true stories.  First, we have Rose Tyler: a shop girl clearly from a working class background.  Next to be introduced is Captain Jack Harkness, the "omnisexual"[2] criminal-turned-hero.  Then we have Martha Jones, a brilliant medical student from a middle class, Black British family.  Next, the companion for season four: Donna Noble, a loud-mouth, ginger-haired, working class, "over-weight," middle-aged woman.  Even The Doctor's companions-by-association come from marginalized classes and backgrounds, such as Black, working class Mickey Smith or working class senior Wilfred Mott.  By putting these characters at the center of his stories Davies' Doctor Who to was able to transcend the tokenization demonstrated by the Star Trek universe.  Nor are any of these characters relegated to performing a stereotype.  Everyone I have listed has anywhere from several episodes to two full seasons during which they are shown to grow, to fail, to succeed, and to be multi-faceted and complicated characters. 
In addition to the fearless, dimension jumping, gun toting Rose Tyler discussed previously, let us take a moment to examine season four companion Donna Noble.  Donna was played by well-known comic actress Catherine Tate.  Overweight, middle-aged, ginger-haired, loud and rather rude, Donna Noble was a quite different companion from bubbly and eager Rose or bold and refined Martha Jones, she was not willing to simply follow The Doctor wherever or in whatever he wanted to do, and often put her foot down in disagreement with him.  In keeping with the portrayals of the other companions, however, she was a complex character; both self-assured and also quite vulnerable.  Two moments in particular stick out regarding this point:
Wilf (Donna’s grandfather): “Sweetheart, come on. You're not going to make the world any better by shouting at it.”
Donna: “I can try” (Davies, Turn Left).
This is the Donna fans came to love, one who never gave up and never stopped yelling at the world, trying to make it better, more just; who constrained The Doctor as he let his white male (Time Lord) privilege and arrogance go to his head.  But the other side of Donna was her vulnerability, her lack of faith in herself, that contradicted and yet coexisted with the self-assured, always trying Donna:
The Doctor:[3] “I can see, Donna... what you're thinking. All that attitude, all that lip, 'cos all this time... you think you're not worth it… Shouting at the world 'cos no-one's listening. Well... why should they?” (Davies, Journey’s End).
Both of these moments are particularly significant because they both occur at times that reveal plots that quite literally revolve around Donna.  “Turn Left” shows that without her influence on and interactions with The Doctor, the world would be a horrible place: The Doctor would be dead, something equivalent to a nuclear explosion would have devastated London, civil war would be rampaging through the United States; in short the world would have become a dystopia.  Two episodes later, in “Journey’s End” Donna quite literally saves the entire universe from the Daleks through a “biological metacrisis” that melds her mind and The Doctor’s together, creating the DoctorDonna.  In both of these instances The Doctor is helpless and unable to save the day: Donna does it instead.  These are moments of stories that explicitly center the experiences and actions of The Doctor’s companions, while in general the move towards such a model has been more subtle, or contained in over-arching storylines covering multiple seasons.
If we consider the re-framing work re-centering does, as discussed in Andrea Smith’s article on re-centering feminism, we might think about the implications of these narratives that put marginalized bodies into the role of hero in their own stories.  While Doctor Who under Davies was not an unproblematic experiment in this model, by thinking through the implications of such a model the ability of social justice minded fan-scholars in all our permutations to consider critically the work done by science fiction television is expanded exponentially.  It can help us understand where, why, and how stories achieve progressive ends, and where, why and how they fall short.  This is an important step forward from the representational politics of Star Trek recounted in the last chapter because one of the ways kyriarchal ideologies of oppression work is through the tokenization and stereotyping of oppressed/marginalized classes of people.  
I have already discussed at some length how tokenization does not undermine kyriarchal power.  Along parallel lines, stereotyping reduces the humanity of the person being stereotyped.  Such reductions in humanity excuses oppression and violence against those dehumanized people (Rojas).  This is part of why Lieutenant Uhura's not being a maid was so meaningful to Whoopi Goldberg: mammy or maid had previously been shown to be the only things Black women could grow up to be, limiting real Black women’s role models and relegating them to being always only worthy of serving Whiteness.  Indeed, it is no coincidence that both maid and mammy characters happily served wealthy/upper middle class white people and were not allowed to demonstrate emotional or intellectual depth for their own needs or simply enjoyment.  
Like Lieutenant Uhura, Martha Jones is a ground-breaking character.  And, as with Lieutenant Uhura, the stories produced through this experiment in the representation of a black woman on science fiction television showed also the contemporary limitations of the white imagination.  The writing on season three is considered by many fans to be some of the least interesting of the four major Davies seasons (Wilson).[4]  Regarding his representation of Martha specifically, there are some good ideas about her characterization that are actualized (she, like all the companions, becomes a hero in her own right, and she is shown to be smart and strong enough to leave an unhealthy situation when she chooses to depart from the TARDIS and The Doctor's company (Oshiro)).  Like Donna Noble, Martha also saves the world while The Doctor is helpless, at the hands of old nemesis the Master (her accomplishments detailed in The Story of Martha).  But in other respects hers is some of the least satisfying character development of Davies' tenure, particularly in the way that she is relegated to the role of “rebound companion” while The Doctor mourns the loss of Rose Tyler (Anders).  Frankly, with a few exceptions, it often seemed that after putting a talented black woman into a prominent role, Davies, like Roddenberry before him, wasn't quite sure what else to do with her.  
Furthermore, it is no secret within the Doctor Who fandom that Martha Jones is the most hated of all the new Who companions.  It is The Doctor who treats Martha horribly and yet it is her who many in the Doctor Who fandom hates with a passion (Neo-Prodigy and RVCBard).  The pure vitriol aimed at this character (and the actress who played her) recalls the “subtle” “color-blind” racism of so-called polite society today (Bonilla-Silva): never taking aim at her race for their dislike of her character, simply “coincidentally” holding her to an entirely different standard than the other, white, characters (Nea).  Clearly, this is a problem, and we have a long way to go to expunge this kind of racism from the science fiction community.  Yet this also illustrates why a re-centering model used in science fiction television is so important.  Through the re-centering of Martha and the other companions the audience can begin to image together what science fiction stories could look like if the marginalized were not pushed to the periphery as tokens and/or stereotypes.  Drawing out the ugly as well as the beautiful in stories and fandom is a potentially useful by-product of that representational choice, as, to reiterate an argument from Chapter Two, it opens up space for those who have viewed these shows to talk with each other about difficult real world topics (such as the intersection of racism, classism and sexism).
This model also suffers from several flaws.  In particular, that which makes the model possible in the first place: the use of The Doctor as a backdrop.  The-Doctor-as-backdrop only works because of his position in the narrative as a kyriarchally normative body.  Because his identity does not cause an interruption to kyriarchal distributions of power he is able to exist unobtrusively in the background, as an unmarked body (Grabham).  Audiences are pre-disposed to seeing normative bodies in positions of power and thus do not have to be "sold" on the idea, which otherwise would require episodes set aside to prove The Doctor's "worthiness" to stand in the position he occupies.  Further, against this normative body the Otherness of the companions' various identities is all the more apparent.  Without this specific structuring, Davies’s model would not work as is, and the disruption produced would be something altogether different.  This is an issue we will return to again when we talk about a queer body becoming the heroic lead on Torchwood later in this chapter.
In keeping with Porter's theory of "grayness" in 21st century science fiction television, the use of the normative body as backdrop is somewhat difficult to pick apart and label as "good" or "bad" because even as it reifies the normative body as "default" and marginalized bodies as Other it does so in a way that enables a re-working of normative modes of story-telling and identity.  As a space of at once subversive and normative, I read this as a mainstream example of the process theorized by José Esteban Muñoz as "disidentification.”  By taking on some norms of kyriarchal culture and deploying them in new ways, Davies manages to create ruptures in which he (and the audience) can imagine new possibilities for representation, story-telling, and our real world futures.  His reliance on the normative body to act as backdrop for these stories is at once a troubling capitulation to kyriarchal norms, as well as a deft manipulation of mainstream expectations about what Doctor Who as a television show “is” and is about; by feeding those expectations this sometimes elusive re-centering is not the in-your-face morality of Star Trek but a more subtle infiltration of hegemonic discourse.  However, there is one element that Davies work on Doctor Who consistently avoids; one that is crucial to imagining a socially just world, and that is some kind of a structural critique.  Without it, this work is too easily interpreted as simply being about exceptional examples of extraordinary individuals feeding into a “pull-yourselves-up-by-your-bootstraps” narrative.  For this structural critique (and more), I turn, finally, to a successful spin-off from Doctor WhoTorchwood.  

[1] I do not use this word lightly, but purposefully mean to invoke the kyriarchal narratives of “illegal immigration” as implicated in many of the “alien threat” stories saturating science fiction.  In general, I eschew the use of “illegal” to describe undocumented immigrants and workers, as it is dehumanizing.
[2] “Omnisexual” is an in-universe term for Captain Jack’s sexuality, which can be summed up best in Torchwood character Toshiko Sato’s words: “he’ll shag anything that’s beautiful enough.”
[3] Strictly speaking, this is not The Doctor’s line but the Time Lord/human hybrid clone made from The Doctor’s hand combined with Donna’s own energy/DNA, however, for the sake of clarity let us leave that plot point aside for the moment.
[4] There also was one year under his tenure without a full season but instead four one-hour specials.