Some of the most widely disputed debates within our society today include elements of class, race, and/or gender. These issues retain their controversiality due to the fact that the logic used to construct either side of argument is viewed as equally valid. What’s more important, however, is the way these types of issues are presented within our daily lives. Consciously or unconsciously, TV viewers tend watch programming that feeds into their confirmation bias; that is, observing what they want to see in order to confirm their outlooks and beliefs. With the rise in debate of these controversial issues and the predominance of confirmation bias, almost anything we see can be understood in a way that is aligned with or without our beliefs.
A less obvious example would be the BBC program Doctor Who. Due to its broadcasting longevity spanning 50 years, the science fiction show has had its fair share of statements on controversial issues. Notable mentions include a minor, yet significant (especially within the timing of the airdate), reference to US president Donald Trump. However, a more in-depth analysis of the show would produce a statement about race and gender.
Within Doctor Who’s third series, the young medical student Martha Jones fills the role of companionship to the Doctor. One characteristic that distinguishes her from the rest of the Doctor’s companions: she’s black. Of all the other companions, she’s the only person of color in the lineup (until the introduction of Bill Potts). “Utopia” seems to revolve around a wonderful story of hope as well as betrayal, however analyzing the plot through a race and gender perspective leads to alternative prevailing themes of superiority and male empowerment/female stereotype that lead to an overall spreading of intersectionality within Doctor Who.
There were various repetitions throughout the plot. Among these were such details like the mention of the Doctor as a character, or the number of male and female characters mentioned throughout the episode respectively. However, the most prominent repetitions were references to Time Lord culture and male empowerment due to the frequency of their occurrences. It makes sense that the Doctor would be referred to by name the most throughout the episode (as he is the main protagonist), however it is critical to realize that because he is of a different species, intersectionality comes in as a factor to the analysis. The only other aliens we see, besides the two titular Time Lords and Humans, are the Malmooth (Chan-Tho’s species) and the Futurekind. Chan-Tho is the only Malmooth we see throughout the episode, heck, even throughout the series; the latter is the same with regards to the Futurekind. On the other hand, there are plentiful references to the Time Lords and what the Doctor has done in his past. In a way, there is a system of stratification of species within the episode, differing in levels of relevance to the plot. At the top, the Doctor and the Time Lords; next, the Futurekind; and finally, Chan-Tho and the Malmooth. The reasoning for this classification relative to the Malmooth and the Futurekind is because at least the Futurekind have a bit more involvement with the plot. They act as the savages, the uncivilized; they have the purpose of providing problems for the protagonists in the episode. Chan-Tho is just a lab assistant with a minimal role, and it cannot be stressed enough how she experiences intersectionality. Now although the difference in number of male to female characters only relates specifically to the gender aspect of the analysis, it still remains significant. The only women seen throughout the episode are Chan-Tho, Martha, Rose, and maybe one or two background characters. This is a very small number compared to the larger amount of men that are seen in “Utopia.” The Doctor is always leading Martha and Jack through setting throughout the episode. Not once do we ever see Martha’s curiosity get the best of her and allow her to explore the planet on her own. After all, she is a woman of science. Furthermore, when they are being chased by the Futurekind, Martha seems to be the slowest of the trio. Certainly, Martha should be the fastest; she’s slim and younger than the Doctor and Jack. When the Master is forced to regenerate, he talks about how it is inappropriate to be “killed by an insect; a girl,” referencing the bullet wound he received by Chan-Tho, his former assistant. It is through these examples that we understand that the portrayal of women as weak and independent, in addition to the number of male characters and female characters, that we see inequality in favor of men.
One of the two strands throughout the episode centers around the theme of hope, due to the frequent mentioning of words like hope, dreams, and a utopia; or simply the Doctor’s choice of the word “indomitable” may stand out. Though inconspicuous, this clearly suggests that the Doctor has superior knowledge compared to others because, realistically, not many people normally use the word (other than bookworms, maybe). Since superior knowledge is superiority in itself, it contributes to the proposed analysis. No other character is as eccentric and smart as the Doctor, other than the Master. However, both characters are Time Lords. At various points in the episode, there are references to the Doctor’s advanced level of intelligence. Professor Yana praises the Doctor for making the rocket work; and at another point in the episode, the Doctor describes how he would call Yana a genius, nonetheless he can’t because of his superior knowledge. Here, it is shown that the Doctor is egotistical. He asserts himself over others through the use of higher intelligence. What makes this an example of intersectionality is that he’s the one of the two only Time Lords in the episode. Even the Master uses his higher intelligence to demean others. In short, both Time Lords believe that they are superior than other races through their consistent reference to their higher intelligence. Another strand was made to encompass the unfocused theme of supremacy. A person viewing the episode through a lens of race and gender may likely come across hints of stereotypes, rudeness, and male empowerment as well as superiority in terms of both race and culture. In fact, viewers may find themselves reevaluating the relationships explored within the episode, such as that of the Doctor and his companions Martha and Captain Jack or Prof. Yana and his lab assistant Chan-Tho. If looked at carefully, one may notice two prominent roles throughout the episode: those who act in leadership and know what they’re doing; and those who follow the leader. Yana and the Doctors easily fit the former, while Martha and Chan-Tho fit the latter. It’s interesting to note that Jack can be either as well, given that the writer has constructed his character in a way that demonstrates that Jack likes to take charge, but will follow the Doctor when he is required to. Jack tends to act like somewhat of a leader, especially around Martha. However, the second he’s put in a room with the Doctor, he’s “the Doctor’s responsibility,” (“Utopia”). It’s another piece of evidence that relates to intersectionality because, unfortunately, it just so happens that the only American white male in the show must act more assertive and militant to the only black female character. This may be seen as a reference to the antebellum South, where white slave owners were always seen as superior to black slaves and women were often confined to more submissive gender roles than men. Additionally, the thing about Jack is that some of his dialogue is actually based on stereotypes. One negative stereotype of the American people is that they have highly overt military zeal, given that the United States often fills the role as the world’s “policeman.” The way this connects to Jack is that, in some instances, he talks in a way that presents him like a military leader. He says things like “… as fast as you can… but quicker!” like he’s always in a hurry to get things done. Martha comments “Yes sir” in reply to one of the times Jack exerts his American stereotype, so it’s not like the characters in the plot don’t notice. What can be concluded from this is the notion that the British are the only peoples that act normal. It seems that Americans are very aggressive and the aliens are very socially awkward yet it’s the British-accented characters are the only regular people in the episode, so there seems to be a system of .
Some binaries worth pointing out in this episode are salvation vs. destruction, and domination vs. submission. While salvation vs. destruction is merely mentioned to list an example of a binary outside the scope of the analysis, domination vs. submission is significant. Throughout the episode, we’ve seen elements of domination and submission. For instance, the Master’s name is Master; Chan-Tho allows herself to be bossed around by Professor Yana; Captain Jack temporarily assumed superiority when he stereotypically ordered Martha to help get the rocket fixed. In this case, both women are women of color who submit to white men. All the same, it’s the white men who are dominating over these women. However, the more consequential binaries involve the relationships between one group and another, which essentially involves all but the two aforementioned binaries. To name them all, the idea of supremacy behind Time Lords vs. Humans (and in a similar manner, Humans vs. the Futurekind); men vs. women; caucasian vs. other races, which then involves the number of British actors vs. the number of actors with different cultural backgrounds. As we have seen throughout the essay, the episode constantly puts Time Lords on the pedestal. Even their species name is just as conceited as the two Time Lords in this episode (Time Lords). This level of supremacy is amplified especially when there’s a Time Lord next to a bunch of Humans in a refugee camp. In a certain scene, the Doctor and friends are investigating “the Silo,” the aforementioned refugee camp. But visually, the Doctor and his companions seem to be in better shape than the Human refugees. The supremacy is figuratively screaming at the viewer: the Doctor is in good shape and has good quality clothes; alternatively, all the refugees have dirty skin and wear unsuitable clothes. It’s as if the universe just happened to give all the good luck to the Time Lords, and left the Humans to fend for themselves. On the binary of caucasian vs. other races, we’ve said that characters that sound British tend to act the most normal. However, there is much more to talk about when exploring the behind-the-scenes of “Utopia.” The cast is mainly composed of British actors with the exception of Jack’s actor, John Barrowman. However, the cast is also mainly caucasian, with the exception of Freema Agyeman and Chipo Chung, the two black actresses that portray Martha Jones and Chan-Tho. So while John Barrowman was the only American to play a role in “Utopia,” his flirty male character has become very popular. The caucasian actor was able to profit even further when the character spawned a spin-off show. As for the two people of color, they’ve only had the opportunity of portraying minor characters and villains in future series of the show. Chan-Tho and Martha are one of the more forgettable supporting characters of the show, which doesn’t do any good to these great actresses.
From The Perspective of Andersen and Collins. “Race, class, and gender still matter because they continue to structure society in ways that value some lives more than others… Race, class, and gender matter because they remain the foundations for systems of power and inequality…” (Andersen 1). It is crucial to understand how race and gender compoundedly affect the life of a person, or in this case character.
From Hooks’ Perspective. Hooks’ gender analysis can be used to address the gender aspect of the analysis. Throughout the episode, we’ve seen systems of stratification based on sex. Men like the Doctor, Captain Jack, and Professor Yana are all able to fill the dominant role. It’s clearly visible how each of these characters have additional titles given to them to increase their level of importance, thus stratifying the character roster. On the other hand, the women presented throughout the episode are subject to the submissive role, as mentioned previously. The way in which there can be any resolution whatsoever is by eliminating the stratification and elitism overall. Simply introducing powerful female characters would only change the favorability of the inequality. This would lead to an endless act of introducing stronger characters of one gender to counteract those of the other gender, thus not really fixing the problem. But getting rid of the system as a whole would be most beneficial. In doing so, no one character would truly be above the other on the basis of gender or race. This would be presented within the show as perhaps toning down the character traits that produced inequality.
Again, Doctor Who has been around for more than 50 years. It’s creativity has allowed for numerous unique stories for entertainment and leisure. As a result, various interpretations about central themes have emerged from these stories. The use of analytical techniques have allowed for the exciting intersectionality interpretation of the episode “Utopia” and offers a new, theoretical approach to the episode, making the episode’s story ever so refreshing. With that said, analyzing “Utopia” through a lens of race and gender has produced themes that wouldn’t usually be associated to the story: superiority; male empowerment; and female stereotype. These motifs are significant in that they demonstrate how the episode subjects intersectionality upon the character in a disadvantageous manner, depending on who or what we’re talking about.