Now that I have had time to concentrate my rage into the long-smoldering core of righteous fury that burns within my core, fueling both activism and fixit fics, I would like to mention two more ways in which Season 10 of Doctor Who was horribly wretched.
It’s especially shitty, particularly in in World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls.
Think of the Cyber people as people with disabilities: difficulties in communicating, in gross motor control, in feeling/connecting with their emotions, and/or people with chronic pain. You will soon understand how disgustingly they are portrayed.
A. They look dead. They are shown at first as motionless figures in wheelchairs. Their white costumes and head masks recall either body bags or bags over people’s heads when they’re going to a firing squad; either way, they carry connotations of death.
B. Their voices are silenced and treated as irrelevant. The first Cyber person who does have a voice, saying, “Pain, pain,” with their communications device, is treated as an annoyance; the nurse deals with them brusquely. Even further, Bill turns down the device’s volume so she doesn’t have to hear the disabled person speak. Her action suggests that the disabled person’s voice as scary and objectionable.
C. They do not want to live; they all want to die. After the pain Cyber person, we hear two other Cyber voices in the hospital. One person says, “Die me.” The other says, “Kill me.” Viewers are expected to take this death wish as applicable for all Cyber people; even Bill, in The Doctor Falls, says something like “If I can’t be me, I don’t want to go on living.” In this case, “me” means the entirely organic, able-bodied person that she was before. These statements from Cyber people imply that life with a disability is so hopeless and miserable that even those with disabilities don’t want to continue living.
D. They’re treated as cannon fodder. The Cyber people look dead, have no voices [according to able-bodied people], and say that they want to die. It’s very easy to jump from these observations to the conclusion that they are not people, but mere objects. Their deaths don’t count as deaths of people because they’re subhuman and…well…they were essentially dead already, right? As a result of this dehumanization, we get torture porn of the people at the orphanage blowing up Cyber people because killing nonpersons isn’t really killing, so it’s not a real problem or anything. It’s so kind, brave, noble, compassionate, admirable, and heroic for the Doctor to indiscriminately slaughter crowds of disabled people. This show really sends the message that we should respect all people’s worth, dignity, and integrity. I love it in shows and movies and books when all the disabled people die. I find it inspirational and uplifting.
For another ableist treatment, refer to the depiction of Eyeliner Master, as played by John Simm. Last time we saw the dude in the End of Time, he was insane on account of the Drums. Yup, that counts as being disabled. When he reappears in the Season 10 finale, he acts more like Roger Delgado’s Master: mentally disturbed and disordered, but much more restrained in speech and action. He presents as being sane[r]. Notably, he makes no reference to the Drums that so deranged his earlier life and plot arcs. What’s going on here? The character gives no explanation for the change, and all supporting media portray Eyeliner Master as a return of EoT Master, which leads us to conclude that they’re the same person. So EoT Master = Eyeliner Master – disability.
What the hell, fuckos? You can’t just wave a Magical Wand of Disability Deletion! After years and years of making the Master’s Drums and consequent Insanity a key part of his character, you can’t just remove them because you feel like it. The cheating is especially transparent because there’s no in-story explanation for his reappearance, his changed behavior, or indeed what the hell he was doing circling the drain in a Mondasian colony ship in the first place. An in-story explanation could have made his personality change more plausible and acceptable. For example, maybe he’s still insane, but he has learned how, at great mental and physical cost, present as “sane.” Or maybe he adapted some Cyber technology to partially inhibit his explosive rages and so restore some measure of his beloved self-control. However, without an in-story explanation, we are left with a deus ex machina Magical Disability Deletion. The form of the character remains, but not the content. In a way, disabled EoT Master was dehumanized and discarded just like the disabled Cyber people. The character is lost, and so is his [highly problematic] representation.
BILL POTTS DIED FOR YOUR SINS
Those squealing with unalloyed joy over Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor should note that a white woman came on as the Doctor just as Pearl Mackie, a woman of color, departed.
@stardust-rain points out that the timing is no coincidence:
also everyone ignores the fact that we are getting a female doctor in the expanse of getting rid of an amazing black lesbian character. that’s right, this is the reason why Bill Potts isn’t coming back, bc having a female doctor AND a black lesbian would have given a heart attack to the bigoted fans all at once. they had to make a sacrifice and Bill was it.
When I say BILL POTTS DIED FOR YOUR SINS, this is what I mean. The show has had an overall craptacular history of representing women and/or queer people and/or Black people and/or disabled people. Attempts to make the show more accurately reflect the demographics and identities of the viewers have been piecemeal and insultingly small. Bill, as a queer Black woman, had the potential to significantly improve the show and make it more relevant, interesting, nuanced, and overall better. But she was done in by a poorly organized conception [seriously, what’s her backstory beyond chips, Moira, and a mum about which we know nothing, not even her fucking name?] and horrible, stereotypical writing.
Bill became a liability to the show, not because of her underdevelopment and shitty lines, but because she was a queer Black woman. Here’s the thought process at the BBC: “Whoa there! That’s just way too much representation; the straight cis white dudes won’t stand for it! If we stick a white female Doctor in the mix along with a queer Black female character, the straight white cis dudes will pitch shit fits. We need to think strategically and make it look like we’re actually representing our audience when we’re not. So Bill’s gotta go. There aren’t that many queer and/or Black people who watch this show, so it won’t be a big deal. We can just turn her into LITERAL SLIME and send her off with her space stalker and call it a happy ending. THEN we’ll have a female Doctor. We can’t have a queer Black female Doctor because that would be too much representation. But we can have a straight white female Doctor. Yeah, that’s just enough representation. We’ll look edgy without really making substantive change. [Plz fanboys don’t hurt us. D: ].”
Bill Potts was too real for the BBC to handle. Thus they killed her off, making her the scapegoat for their cowardice.