Oh look spoilers. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The latest season of DW has treated Bill shittily, both as a WOC and as a lesbian, and The Doctor Falls was just the diarrhea sauce on a crap sundae of disappointment.
If you think it’s a “happy ending” that Bill, the first lesbian COC [companion of color] on Doctor Who, suffered medical violation for ten years by the Cyber conversion team and ten years of mental violation by Eyeliner Master, then ended up condemned to the equivalent of TOTAL NARRATIVE DEATH, flying off into the universe with a personalityless dead wet white chick with whom she had no substantive relationship just because the DWWC had been stalking her for a decade, go read something else.
If you feel like partaking of my rage, stay with me. Other people, I’m sure, will direct their rage, frustration, and sense of betrayal into far more eloquent and exhaustive essays than mine about how this entire season failed Bill. I’m only going to focus on two moments from the beginning of The Doctor Falls that epitomized for me just how racist, sexist, and anti-Black women the narrative has been.
Note: I’m quoting from memory here because I have better things to do than to go back and watch the show torture Bill.
Both moments of quintessential misogynoir occur early on in the episode when the Doctor is telling Bill about her Cyber conversion and its consequences.
1) The Doctor says to her something like, “You’re so strong,” then lists examples of Bill’s mental strength, including her survival of physical and mental rape for ten years. He then adds something to the effect of her having to resist her programming.
So the Doctor blows off Bill’s stated fears of both dying and of Missy [see World Enough and Time], then proceeds to get her thoroughly perforated and DEAD, tells her to wait for him, doesn’t come for her, leaves her to a decade of medical torture and mind-fucks from Eyeliner Master, then has the audacity to say that she’s so strong for having survived despite the fact that he failed her on multiple levels.
This is the equivalent of straight and/or cis and/or white and/or dude-type persons treating queer and/or Black women like subhuman objects for years and then saying that they’re so impressed by how the queer and/or Black women handle adversity. It’s the Strong Black Woman stereotype: the idea that Black women’s fortitude is an individual choice of personal responsibility, rather than a trait often developed out of the necessity of surviving in an oppressive society.
2) The Doctor also says to her in this conversation, “You’re a Cyberman now. You cannot get angry.” Of course, Bill, having been raped and tortured for a decade, then pulled out of hell too late by the Doctor, does become angry, so her blaster fires and something burns. “Because of that,” the Doctor says.
Right…so…here we have a straight cis white dude lecturing a queer woman of color. The QWOC has just spent a decade of her life being abused, raped, and tortured in ways that queer and/or Black women have been particularly vulnerable to now and throughout history. The QWOC is full of rage, pain, and sadness. The straight cis white dude tells her not to feel her entirely understandable emotions.
This is playing directly into the stereotype of the Angry Black Woman whose wrath scares white people [especially dudes] so shitless that they must prohibit it. This also plays directly into the tendency of straight people to do tone policing on queer people, claiming that, if queer people weren’t so loud/flamboyant/outraged/“openly gay,” they would attain their goals of equal rights more effectively.
Bill deserved so much better than all the objectification, humiliation, and cancellation she suffered, but she was doomed from the start. The story tied up her arc and identity in losing and then ultimately finding that dead wet white chick with no personality. However, there’s a stronger case to be made that Bill’s arc and identity may more accurately be linked to an anxiety about her identity, her parentage, and being seen for who she truly is. [I am indebted to irascible bogtrotter’s thoughts on the subject.]
But the narrative didn’t give a shit about that, so it deprived the character of a significant chance for true development and flourishing. Add to that all the flaming racism, sexism, and homophobia that the showrunners et al. heaped on Bill, and you can see why the way in which she was constructed as a character gave her no hope of any satisfaction or satisfactory development in-universe.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m never watching the new DW again. I’m going back to play in my Shalkaverse sandbox, where it is quite possible that Alison Cheney, the Master, and the Doctor will vworp over to an alternative timeline and extract Bill from that shitshow to help her achieve the dignity, respect, and happiness that she was never able to in her season.