Thursday, August 12, 2010

There's Nothing ONLY About Being a Girl...

Women's liberation was a good thing.  Admit it.  

Nearly two generations have endured under the iron fist of women in the workforce and we're better for it. Now we have more energy to complain about immigrants taking the REST of the jobs.

One job women do very well is be the Doctor's traveling companion. 
 If it wasn't for women, all the Doctor's assistants in the seventies would've been like these blokes:

Good old UNIT tommies like Captain Yates, Sgt. Benson, and Dr. Harry Sullivan. 
 The cheery lads that followed orders, firing "five rounds rapid" into space gargoyles, locking the Master up every other week, & occasionally losing their clothing in time anomalies for humorous effect. (You don't get to see any of the goods, it was the seventies.)  After their adventures with UNIT, Yates infiltrated a cult, Benson sold used cars, and Sullivan was doing something hush-hush or pip-pip or tally-ho at the UN.  All encountered various later versions of the Doctor.

Thankfully, most of the Doctor's assistants (Oi! Say companions, luv, it's the seventies) were of the lady persuasion, and liberated.  They included, but were not limited (like men) to...

EMMA PEEL- Whip smart, crack shot, fastest moves around, this sexy super-spy turned heads and broke hearts... No, I'm sorry.  NOT true.  But that would've rocked.  Instead, 1970's 'Spearhead from Space' introduced us to...

ELIZABETH 'LIZ' SHAW- "Emma No-Appeal" OH, I'm not being FAIR!  You can't follow Diana Rigg like that!  Poor Liz rarely gets the fan love.  Blame the writing or the chemistry or the writing but this PhD assigned to the Third Doctor with all her smarts and wry sarcasm was less an Emma Peel and more a Barbara for the new decade: kind of a buzz-kill.  To paraphrase the Brigadier, the Doctor didn't WANT to work with someone smarter than him: he wanted someone to polish his test tubes and tell him how brilliant he was.  Enter...

JOSEPHINE 'JO' GRANT- "The Ditzy Liz" It's true, kids, don't blame me.  Assigned to the Doctor in 1971 when Liz left in a huff, Jo's claim to fame was having a family influence get her a UNIT science job when she hadn't passed science.  There is still no denying Jo was a sweetheart, a Beatles fan, and got to go to space and stuff.  In 1972 or 1974 (depending on how many giant maggots people happened to be smoking) she left UNIT for a hunky environmentalist from Wales named Clifford Jones.  The Third Doctor gave her a blue sapphire from Metebelis 3, sipped his drink, and drove sadly away in Bessie.  I assure you, it was a bit sad.  For a companion leaving in those days, it was a tour de force.

SARAH JANE SMITH- "Space Lois Lane & Beyond" Born 1951, orphaned same year, and raised by her Aunt Lavinia, Sarah Jane was a crack reporter big into women's lib at 23 when she investigated UNIT in what was clearly and irrevocably therefore 1974. Probably.  She had a year of mad adventures with the kindly and paternal Third Doctor.  Then she and the Brig were the first humans since Ben & Polly to witness the Doctor's regeneration.  (Which was pretty sad, but amazing, too.  "A tear, Sarah Jane?  While there's life... there's...") She and the Fourth Doctor got on famously and did crazy things everywhere and everywhen together until he was summoned to Gallifrey, and dumped her back in 1980 in Aberdeen.  Instead of her home in Croyden.  Sarah Jane retained her connections with UNIT, journalism, and space stuff, made a life for herself, and later received a tin dog in the mail.  She met other incarnations of the Doctor, but for more than 20 years, she believed the Fourth had died. Which of course he HAD. 
Which was NOT his reason for not coming back for her.  It was that he was TOO attached to her and couldn't bear to watch her growing old while he lived forever.  Which is admittedly kind of a bummer. (Jerk.)

LEELA OF THE SEVATEEM- "Eliza of the Jungle" A clever but savage human descended from a futuristic 'survey team' who lost the use of their technology and fell back into barbarism on an unnamed planet in what could have been 20,000 AD, if you like.  Nobody ever said when, but it's a nice, round figure.  Ahem. Yeah.  Nice figure.  So, loincloth, then.  I'm not complaining or anything.  Sarah Jane's 1970's garb just can't compare... (Jerk.)  
Leela is quick to kill with poison darts called Janus thorns. Her people worshipped an insane computer which used the Fourth's Voice: for the longest time Leela figured the Doctor was the devil and did his every bidding.  Ahem.  He trained her (ahem) to be a civilized young lady, wherupon she left him for a very civilized Time Lord Lad called Andred the Bland.  Or just Andred.  (I liked Leela.  I am a boy.  Tom Baker is a boy, too, but seemingly the vapid incomprehension of this particular companion caused the actor once to comment that his next companion should be a talking cabbage perched upon his shoulder.)

K-9 "A Talking Cabbage...ERROR, Talking Tin Dog"  In the year 5000, a wacky (germanish) professor called Marius living in the asteroid belt built a computer dog, and gifted it to the Doctor when he saved everybody from a sentient macrovirus.  Reminiscent of a cross between that cute robot and that prissy robot from that movie that came out earlier in 1977 by a total coincidence.  The logical, laser-nosed robot dog trundled and grinded his gears across time and space, eventually choosing to settle on Gallifrey with Leela and Andred. So the Doctor built an identical K-9 (Mark II) for himself, and K-9 (Mark III) which he mailed to Sarah Jane.  There are two types of people in this world: those who love K-9, and those who are WRONG.

ROMANADVORATRELUDAR I "Triple-First" A recent Academy graduate, barely 140 years old, this Time Lady was assigned to the Doctor to assist him on his quest for the Key To Time. 
Dripping with condescension and book-smarts, 'Romana' took great delight in correcting the Doctor's every statement of fact.  As did K-9.  Everybody got a little bit prissy and hissy and snippy and snappy and a LITTLE bit bite-y.

ROMANADVORATRELUDAR II "Call ME Fred" Having regenerated apparently on a whim and intentionally taken the shape of a girl called Astra she and the Doctor had recently met, this incarnation liked to dress as a schoolgirl
 and MOST DEFINITELY (maybe) had a thing for the Doctor. Apart from condescension, I mean.  Here, at last, was the Peel to his Steed.  I mean, they flirt, they go on wild adventures, they are the same species so they're not going to wear out at different rates... she's perfect for him.  Right? Or are they just friends? Whatever their deal may have been, the two Time Lords and their tin dog seemingly had many decades of fun together (while, by contrast, the actors who played them were married only very briefly).  Finding a worthy cause that needed her attention, Romana and K-9 Mark II eventually left the Doctor.  As he put it at the time: 'You were the noblest Romana of them all." 

Best Companion of the 1970s: Sarah Jane Smith & K-9 (Not only a tie, but a TWO SPIN-OFF moneymaker. Cha-ching!)
Seriously. My wife bought me a K-9 and I love it so!  Also I love my wife and I hope that wasn't an indicator that she'd soon fly off in her TARDIS and leave me to get old alone. With a tin dog, I mean.  Oh, well. That's a liberated woman for you!  And a lonely, lonely man.  (And his tin dog!  Yay!  Aww...)

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