Doctor Whoseries 11’s eighth episode The Witchfinders touches on the plight of women in the UK’s past, with the story’s 17th-century setting allowing for all sorts of commentary on gender roles, stereotypes and discrimination as the Tardis team try to protect the women of Bilehurst Cragg from a local witch hunt.
But as the story goes on it’s the Doctor herself who begins to feel the sting of sexism, with her experience and ideas belittled by King James I (Alan Cumming) due to her gender, much to her frustration.
And when this all boils over into the Doctor herself being accused of witchcraft, well, she snaps, and acknowledges the series’ recent big change – the Doctor being portrayed as a woman, instead of a man – in the most significant way we’ve seen her do onscreen so far.
“Honestly, if I were still a bloke, I could get on with the job and not have to waste time defending myself!” she shouts, admitting that the fact of her gender is causing more trouble (especially in historical adventures) than she’d expected.
And while it may have been intended to refer specifically to her current situation (it was usually women suspected of being witches, so the Doctor might have been talking about how this wouldn’t have happened if she was still a man), it’s hard not to see the Doctor’s outburst as a nod to the unequal treatment many women still face today.
How many times are prominent women treated more harshly than their male counterparts, put under more scrutiny, or just forced to explain themselves more?
It’s not the first time the Thirteenth Doctor has acknowledged her gender change by any means – but it definitely packs a bigger punch this time.
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This article was originally published on 25 November 2018