"Female companions in the original show were just there to look pretty, ask questions, and scream." I hear statements like this from time to time. And they are an instant tip-off to me that the person saying them has – to put it bluntly – no idea what the hell they're talking about when it comes to Classic Who. The thing is, people who say things like this usually have good intentions. Feminist critiques of popular media are valuable and necessary. By no means do I think that Classic Who was free of sexism – of course it wasn't, and that shouldn't be swept under the rug. But at the same time, it could be pretty damn feminist, even back in the sixties…
…and statements such as the above are terribly simplistic and ignore a lot of nuance. Not only are they absolutely untrue, they're very unfair to some amazing characters.
The women of Classic Who showed intelligence and bravery on a regular basis. They were sometimes done a disservice by sexist writing, but not a one deserves to be outright dismissed in such a way.
So, I have decided to write a series of posts as a rebuttal to this idea. While I could probably write a separate post for every single Classic female companion, I've chosen four specific ones to highlight: Zoe Heriot, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, Romana(dvoratrelundar*), and Nyssa of Traken. I've chosen these four because they stand out as directly contradicting the "dumb female companion" myth – each one is a certifiable genius. They answered questions as often as they asked them, if not more. They solved problems. They should not be reduced to damsels in distress by sweeping statements that make assumptions about the incredibly wide variety of female characters that appeared over twenty-six years.
*I remembered the spelling of Romana's full name without having to check. I'm kind of proud of myself for that.
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Originally posted at Who PhD.