Doctor Who, What Are You Doing to Me?

Doctor Who S9

“Doctor Who,” that was just…cruel.

I started watching “Who” back in 2013. I needed something fun and lighthearted to watch after my mother’s death. (I’d been binge-watching “Homeland” before that–there’s nothing lighthearted about that.) Then I saw “Doomsday,” and my whole ‘fun and lighthearted’ theory was shot to hell.

You see, “Doctor Who” is a show that can tear your heart out sometimes. Not often–most of the time it is exactly that fun, lighthearted show I wanted: sometimes funny, sometimes creepy, often nonsensical. But sometimes, it’s a killer.

SPOILERS for anyone who hasn’t seen series 9, episode 10 yet…

So Clara Oswald is dead, felled by the raven. Actually, she was felled by her own increasing risk-taking behavior, and by Ashildr’s hubris. But whatever.

Clara has grown on me a lot over the last several season. As the companion to Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor, she was very underdeveloped as a character–more of a plot device as a person. But as the companion to Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor, she’s grown in leaps and bounds.

Her character arc put her front-and-center last season: the pull between the adventure the Doctor offers, and the love of Danny Pink (and the relatively safe, boring life that would have been). She tried to be both the companion and the lover, and she succeeded at neither–and the attempt indirectly cost Danny his life. I don’t think she ever got over that loss.

I just wish the show had made that a little more explicit. Clara’s growing sense of adventure turned into straight-up recklessness this season. It was as if, without Danny, Clara decided to wholeheartedly throw herself into her life as the Doctor’s companion, completely leaving her footprint on Earth behind. Yeah, she might have still had a job and an apartment there, but she always had one foot out the door–and on the TARDIS. And I think that was because she was running from her own grief.

But that’s my own assumption. Danny got nary a mention this season–until last night, when one of Clara’s last statements was, “If Danny Pink can do it [die with bravery], so can I.”

*Sniffle.*

(Also, one minor plot nitpick: why couldn’t Clara just pass the chrono-lock on to yet another person? Like, she was standing there surrounded by nearly-immortal people. If Ashildr/Mayor Me had taken it, her body would have likely healed itself anyway. If the Doctor had taken it, he might have been killed, but he would have just regenerated into a new Doctor, because that’s what he does. One line–just ONE FREAKING LINE–would have solved this: It can only be passed once. Yeah, it’s completely arbitrary, but so was everything else about this game Ashildr was playing.)

Although rumors have been flying that Clara would die for a while now, I had no idea how sad I would be when it happened. With that in mind, this next statement might come as a surprise…

I hope she stays dead.

One of my chief complaints about the Steven Moffat-era of the show is that things often don’t have lasting consequences. River Song dies? That was only her first episode. Osgood? Well, only one of her died, the other one is still fine–and now there are two of them, again, since her beloved sister is, apparently, replaceable. Rory Williams gets sucked into a crack in reality? He’ll be back a few episodes later as a robot, and then in another twist I still don’t understand, made real again. The Doctor is on the verge of death and on his final regeneration? Don’t worry, he’ll just get a whole new set of regenerations. Even the Time War–the catalyst for much of the Doctor’s actions in the reincarnated series–was negated by the 50th anniversary episode.

Hell, how many times has Clara herself died, in any of her timelines?

So yes, I want this death to stick. Like Clara, I want her death to mean something. The relationship between the Doctor and his companions has always been a tenuous one. Not all of the companions come out of their time on the TARDIS better for it. The 10th Doctor’s run explored this quite a bit. Rose got stuck in a parallel dimension. Donna had the memory of her time on the TARDIS erased completely, and if she ever remembers she will die. Martha Jones fared slightly better, but maybe because she realized she would forever be pining after the oblivious Doctor–and trying to live up to the ghost of Rose Tyler–and left on her own terms.

The Doctor takes his companions on grand adventures. But the Doctor will live indefinitely, and his human friends will die, so each of those friendships has to end. No matter what else the companions do or experience, it’ll never quite live up to their time with the Doctor. And humans–as the show often ignores–are so very breakable.

So Clara Oswald should stay dead, much as I hate it. Story-wise, it’s the bold choice, and it’ll give Peter Capaldi a chance to shine.

The Doctor endures, whatever his face. His companions don’t, because they can’t. This is one of the great tensions of “Doctor Who,” and I’m glad Moffat is addressing it head-on this time.

Jessica Jones and F*cked-Up Heroines

Photo source: Netflix

Photo source: Netflix

I’ve been hearing about the new Netflix series, “Jessica Jones,” for the last couple of months now. And I. Can’t. Wait. It kind of looks like “Veronica Mars” (which I also loved) meets Marvel. It can’t be a coincidence that Krysten Ritter, who plays Jessica, also played a supporting role on “Veronica Mars,” and returned in the movie last year? No, absolutely not.

But I think what really appeals to me about it is that, just from what I can glean from the trailers and the little bit I’ve read about the character’s backstory in the comics, Jessica seems…incredibly screwed up. Also, incredibly badass.

Exhibit A:

Did she just take out a bar full of huge, drunken men; turn on Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation”; and take a shot while her knuckles were still covered in blood??? Oh yeah, I think she did.

Exhibit B:

Note the whiskey bottle on the nightstand. Also, I kind of want to do that to my alarm clock every day. Of course, my alarm clock doesn’t go off at 3:00 in the afternoon. (I’m also loving the dissonance between the sickly sweet song and the clock smashing. Awesome.)

Of course, there’s also David Tennant, which always helps…

Yes, he’s the bad guy, but even in this voiceover he’s still almost unbearably sexy. And is it weird that I half expected him to offer to whisk Jessica off in the TARDIS to see all of time and space? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

But I think one of the biggest reasons this series appeals to me is because it seems, more often than not, that heroines have to be perfect and likeable all the time. I do believe that imperfect or unlikeable female characters have a harder time being accepted in our cultural landscape than male ones, and it bothered me.

The Demon Within is coming out in less than seven months now, and it has one of those imperfect heroines. Dale is, quite frankly, really screwed up, and I spend so much time in her head that I forget sometimes just how screwed up she is. She blacks out and kills people. And even if it’s people who, arguably, “deserve” it, normal, psychologically healthy people don’t do this, because we realize it’s not the way to live in a  functional society. And instead of facing the music the first time she killed–when she was still a minor and might have gotten off easier–she changed identities and went on the run, avoiding the law for more than a decade and killing six more people.

In spite of all this, I find Dale to be, at times, both likeable and sympathetic. She wants so badly to be a normal person, but her own mind is out of her control sometimes. On the other hand, she’s got a core of protectiveness for others that she can’t eliminate, and it’s seeing other people being hurt/victimized that trigger her blackouts.

But ever since I wrote the first draft, I worried that readers would have a hard time accepting a character like Dale.

But seeing the trailers for “Jessica Jones”–just the fact that this show exists–shows me that maybe there’s room for characters like Dale: fundamentally flawed, fucked-up, and female.

PS: Can I say that I’m absolutely loving the depiction of NYC shown in the below teaser. It reminds me a lot of Sin City, but a little more cartoon-y. Not quite realistic but totally atmospheric. It seems like the creators realize NYC can be a character in and of itself.

Just One of Those Weeks

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I’ve been pretty busy over the last week or so, and I’ve been exhausted. Some quick updates:

–“Doctor Who” series 9 is amazing, and I’m glad that many of my pre-season wishes have already started to come true. This looks like it’s going to be Capaldi’s season, and Michelle Gomez has, in the first two episodes, stolen every scene she’s in. With news of Jenna Coleman’s upcoming departure, I’m starting to read a lot more into her interactions with the Doctor. So Clara died, again. Foreshadowing, or just coincidence?

–Part of my hectic week was dealing with kitty illnesses. Our elder cat, Annabel, has had kidney disease for the last 2 1/2 years. Last week, she stopped eating, became lethargic, and was hiding under the bed. We took her to the vet and they found out her kidney values had spiked to double what they were a few months ago. After two days at the emergency vet/vet hospital, a day of fluids, and some appetite stimulant, she’s gotten back to normal. They discovered her blood pressure was high, and we have her on meds now, which has also seemed to help. But otherwise, they don’t know why her values spiked, or what caused her illness, whether it’s just a part of her disease or if something else triggered it. That’s the bitch of kidney disease: it’s degenerative, so you’re always just waiting for that other shoe to drop. But Annabel is doing much better now, so we’re just taking things day by day.

–Speaking of, one of the things that makes me happy is that my fiancé feels the same way about animals–and specifically, about our animals–as I do, that they are part of our family. Volunteering at the animal shelter teaches you very quickly that not everyone feels that way. But J. does, and I don’t think I could marry anyone who treated them otherwise.

–Had a very lively discussion on my Facebook author page the other day about what movies/TV shows/books should be “required viewing” to have more of a cultural consciousness/awareness. One I forgot to mention on the page: the Harry Potter series. Certainly they’re not my favorite books, but you’re really living in another universe if you don’t get all the Muggle references that you hear nowadays.

–Speaking of required viewing, I am very much looking forward to the “Jessica Jones” television series that will be debuting on Netflix in November. The premise reminds me of my beloved “Veronica Mars,” but it looks like it’ll be even more badass than that. And hey, I do know a thing or two about violent, eff-ed up heroines. Plus, David Tennant. Need I say more?

“Doctor Who” Series 9 Wish List

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“Doctor Who” is almost back!!! I can’t wait!

Last year, before the season started, I had a bit of an informal wish list, of sorts. I wanted Jenna Coleman’s Clara Oswald to be developed more as a character. (She was.) I wanted some romance that did not involve the Doctor. (It happened.) I was also feeling in the mood for a bit of a tragic ending for that romance. (That also happened.) Being the writer that I am, I imagined a plotline where said romance ended when the lover was turned into a Cyberman. The Cybermen have always seemed like some of the most tragic villains on the show: humans who retain some semblance of their former memory and identity, but lose everything that makes them human. So much fodder for tragedy there.

It didn’t go down exactly as I imagined it—in my mental fan fiction, the lover chose to be turned into a Cyberman, but that’s not how it worked out for poor Danny Pink. Also, in my mind, the Doctor’s companion with the tragic romance was…me. But whatever. It was close enough that I wondered if Steven Moffat was reading my mind, and I was quite happy with the season as a whole.

This time around, I wanted to put my wish list into writing just in case the telepathic link between me and Steven Moffat (hello, sweetie) isn’t as strong as it was last year. Plus, well, if I do turn out to be right, I can pretend to be psychic and start making some side money from reading tarot cards.

So without further ado, my wish list for “Doctor Who” season 9.

1) I want to find out why the Doctor chose that face. When the 12th Doctor emerged at the beginning of last season, we’re given some hints that there may have been a reason behind the Doctor coming out as Peter Capaldi. “Why have I chosen this face?” he asks himself at the beginning of his first episode. Sure, it could have just been post-regeneration disorientation talking, but good fans know that Peter Capaldi appeared on the show long before he was the 12th Doctor—as sculptor and family patriarch Lucius Caecillius Iucundus in “The Fires of Pompeii” during the 10th Doctor’s run. Coincidence? Maybe. But everything that we know about this Doctor leads me to believe that, on some subconscious level, the Doctor chose to be this man. (Tor.com has a theory about this. Unfortunately, the link to the updated article—which included the War Doctor and the 12th Doctor—doesn’t seem to be working anymore.)

2) I want this to be the Doctor’s season. After spending season 7 as a cipher/plot device, season 8 was really Clara’s time to shine—and Jenna Coleman rose to the occasion beautifully. But here we are, a year into the 12th Doctor’s reign, and I still don’t feel like I really know him. What makes him tick? Is he really as gruff as he seems, or is that a façade? How dark is he, really? Capaldi has played the hell out of the Doctor, and it’s time for him to get the spotlight.

3) I want the show to address the Clara quandary. Last season, we met Orson Pink, a man from the future who looked remarkably like Danny Pink and who mentioned one of his ancestors was a time traveler. At the time, it looked like Clara and Danny might have their happily ever after and have children in the future. But we know now this isn’t the case. So is Clara now pregnant with Danny’s baby? (A sidenote: there was speculation that Coleman would leave at the end of last season. She has, of course, decided to return, but in the NewWho life cycle of companions, she is likely reaching the end of her time on the TARDIS. Could a new baby mean an exit for Clara? And what will this mean for the already dark, broody Doctor?) Update: In the time since I originally wrote this, BBC has confirmed that Jenna Coleman will exit sometime this season.

4) I want River Song back! Fans have mixed feelings about Alex Kingston’s River Song. I was always pro-River, but anti-River and the 11th Doctor, mainly because Kingston and Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor had zero chemistry. (For the record, I thought Kingston had more chemistry with David Tennant in the one episode they spent together.) River’s story might have ended, but the nice thing about River’s character is that, as a partial Time Lord herself, she can show up anywhere in the Doctor’s timeline—and he in hers. I would love to see how Kingston would play off of the stoic, much older Capaldi. Update: Rumor has it that Kingston will be returning in the Christmas special.

5) I want Jack Harkness back. Because the show was always better when John Barrowman was strutting through the world, and we still need to find out whether he’s really the Face of Boe.

6) Going along with the last two, I want more callbacks to earlier Doctors/companions/etc. One of the most fascinating and compelling things about “Who” is that it has 50 years of history to reference itself to, a fact which Moffat’s predecessor, Russell T. Davies, took advantage of regularly. But since Moffat has taken over, he has avoided throwbacks—the 50th anniversary episode notwithstanding. You don’t want the show to be so self-referential that new fans are alienated, but throw something in for the longtime viewers as well. Matt Smith was not the beginning of “Doctor Who!”

6) I want Maisie Williams’ character to ROCK! She looks pretty badass in the previews. Who is she? Could she be someone from the Doctor’s past? She called him Old Man—the Doctor’s daughter, perhaps? Or maybe his long-absent granddaughter, Susan? Capaldi does seem to have a lot of affection for that character. Foreshadowing, maybe?

7) I want a new companion. Much as I’ve grown to love Jenna Coleman, I think her time on the show is coming to an end. I want to see someone new and compelling, someone who has a completely different dynamic with the Doctor. Maybe someone who isn’t a young, attractive female, for once? Update: See above.

8) I want the show to explore the sexual tension between the Doctor and the Master/Missy. Because, c’mon, you know there was always something there, long before the Master regenerated into a female form. Don’t believe me? Just watch the scenes between David Tennant and John Simm again. So. Much. Sexual. Tension. And if any character on television should be pansexual, it’s a 2,000-something year old Time Lord.

9) I want an amazing stand-alone episode. Some of the best episodes of the new series have been the stand-alone, often Doctor- or companion-lite episodes that used to pop up about once a season or so—“Blink” and “Midnight” come immediately to mind. During the 11th Doctor’s run, the series seemed to get away from this format. But last season, we returned to it in the episode “Listen.” Both Capaldi and Coleman are fantastic in the episode, and it’s what cemented, for me, the 12th Doctor as the real Doctor. These types of episodes are what the show—and Moffat—do best, so let’s keep doing it!

10) I want David Tennant back!!!! We already found out in the 50th anniversary episode that the Doctor will re-visit his favorite incarnations—and the 10th Doctor simply did not want to die. So bring him back! Or have the 10th Doctor and the 12th Doctor bump into one another somewhere in the time stream. These things happen when time is both wibbly and wobbly. Much as I love Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, David Tennant is, and remains, my Doctor.

Yeah, it’s probably not gonna happen. But a girl can always hope, right?

Game of Thrones Rant, Part 2: The Dance of Dragons edition

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“Game of Thrones,” what am I going to do with you?

SPOILERS!!!!!!

The last two episodes have had some of the best scenes in the show’s history. In last week’s “Hardhome,” Jon Snow and the Wildlings battle the White Walkers. It had some of the show’s coolest imagery—the four White Walker horsemen on the mountain, mirroring the four horsemen of the apocalypse, not to mention the Night’s King’s badass ‘bring it’ gesture when he resurrects the dead Wildlings as White Walkers.

And then there was Dany’s battle with the Sons of the Harpy in the fighting pits. Pretty much everything that happened from the point the Harpies showed up onward was perfect, but I didn’t think it would equal or potentially top last week’s Hardhome battle…until Drogon, Dany’s long-missing dragon, showed up. The final shot of Dany climbing onto Drogon’s back and taking off, with Tyrion and the others staring in awe, is going to go down as one of the most memorable images in the show’s history.

It’s not often that a show can have two of its best endings in its run two weeks in a row.

But before we got to see Dany fly off into the sunset with her dragon, we had to watch Stannis Baratheon burn his own daughter at the stake. Shireen has always been a memorable supporting character, the one thing that humanized the stiff, uncompromising Stannis. (Also, she’s still alive in the books, though in fairness, as the show is beginning to pass the timeline of George R.R. Martin’s novels we’re probably going to be seeing more and more of that.)

I’m not sure how I feel about it. The scene is horrifying, and it’s meant to be horrifying. That horror is not mitigated or downplayed, with even Stannis’s crazy wife Selyse begging for mercy. It also highlights just how unsuitable Stannis would be for kingship, in a season where he’s actually started to look like a reasonable contender. King Tommen is too young, too green, and too bendable to everyone else’s will. Dany has spent the season imploding in Meereen. And every other contender is dead. I won’t say Stannis was starting to look good, exactly, because Stannis always struck me as a drip. But with his firm command of his people, he was starting to look like a more seasoned, capable leader than Dany or Tommen. But this episode proves that he’s too much under the thumb of Melisandre—not to mention too selfish and cruel—to be an effective ruler.

But the problem is, I just don’t buy it. Shireen is the one character on the show that he’s ever shown any affection toward. He’s continually protected her from his wife’s cruelty, and just a few weeks ago refused to allow Melisandre to sacrifice her. The loss of their supplies at the hands of Ramsay Bolton was a significant one, and Stannis’s rationale in sacrificing Shireen is that it will save all his men—and he’s obviously torn up about it. That said, if he would just give up his claim to the throne, he wouldn’t have to worry about being attacked by the Boltons in the night. Furthermore, does he really think that burning his own child at the stake is going to endear his men to him?

Stannis may be a drip, and he may be a zealot, but nothing up until this point has shown me that he’s far enough gone to sacrifice his own child.

Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about this one yet. But at least I got a badass dragon flight as a consolation prize.

Why is “Game of Thrones” So Rapey?

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“Game of Thrones,” why do you have to be so rapey?

Way back in season 1, we had Daenerys and Khal Drogo. After Dany is forced into marriage with Drogo by her throne-seeking elder brother, Viserys, Dany and Drogo have a troubling first night together.

But hey, it’s okay, because those savages just don’t know any better. (Don’t even get me started on the racist implications of Dany’s plotlines throughout the series.) Once Dany and Drogo learn to communicate, and Dany shows Drogo the fine art of having sex face-to-face, they fall in love. Awww. Not. I thought we had gotten over this Luke and Laura-esque nonsense back in the 1980s, but I guess I was wrong.

Fast forward to season 4. Cersei Lannister has finally reunited with her lover/twin brother, Jaime, after years of separation. But Jaime has changed. The show had spent the previous two seasons doing something I thought impossible: redeeming him, a character who had been primarily been known as the man who pushed Bran Stark out a window back in episode 1. He had also been physically mutilated, his sword hand having been cut off by his captors. Cersei has been through a lot, too: war, battles, her daughter being sent to Dorne, and her eldest son’s death. When Jaime returns, we thought it would be all happy happy, joy joy reunion. But Cersei rejects him. Then this happens.

The worst of it is that afterwards, we’re still expected to root for Jaime. The very next episode, he gifts Brienne of Tarth his sword and armor and releases her to go find the now-missing Sansa Stark. She names the sword “Oathkeeper.” So much emotion in those final looks between the two of them. If only things were different. If only Jamie could have lived happily ever after with Brienne. It’s not his fault he was a Lannister, and Cersei is, as he said, a hateful woman. Nothing is his fault. Poor Jaime.

SPOILERS for the last several episodes.

Fast forward again, this time to last week. Sansa Stark has married Ramsay Bolton—the son of the man who killed her mother and brother. Viewers of the show already know Ramsay is a sadist; we’ve been shown this over and over again since season 3, when Ramsay castrates Theon Greyjoy and send his genitalia back to his family. So yeah, no redeeming qualities there.

But silly me, I thought, maybe—maybe—we could expect something different. Since season 1, Sansa has been a largely passive character. But in the latter half of season 4 and the beginning of season 5, we got to see a different side to Sansa. She’s finally beginning to realize the power she has, and how she can use that to manipulate people. Her decision to marry into the family of her worst enemy was a calculated one. She wanted to avenge her mother and brother, and she thought that being back at Winterfell would help her do it. She didn’t know Ramsay was a complete nutjob. To be honest, I was kind of hoping she would kill him before it got to that point.

Not so much.

The worst of it is that Sansa’s rape scene isn’t even about Sansa. No, it’s about Theon—because apparently, he needs to see a girl he grew up with be brutally raped right in front of him in order to break Ramsay’s thrall over him. But even that doesn’t work correctly: in this week’s episode, when Sansa—now back to being the damsel in distress—asks Theon to help her get a message to her family’s supporters, Theon betrays her to Ramsay.

Awesome.

As if that wasn’t enough, we have enough near-rape scene this week, when Gilly is attacked at the Wall by two men of the Night’s Watch, and she’s rescued by Sam. Weren’t the Night’s Watchmen supposed to take vows of celibacy? Is there any man in the universe of “Game of Thrones” who doesn’t think he should have free, unrestricted access to women’s bodies?

Well…there is Sam, the chubby Night’s Watchman who’s been protecting Gilly and her baby for the last couple of seasons. So what does Gilly do after Sam rescues her again? She has sex with him for the first time. Naturally. Because that’s totally what I would do right after I was almost raped. Right.

Science fiction and fantasy have a bad habit of raping its female characters. It’s often used either to help a character “power up,” as in Dany’s story: her marriage to Drogo is the first step in becoming the Mother of Dragons and fighting for the Iron Throne. It can also be used, as sci-fi/fantasy author Seanan McGuire puts it, to “put cocky heroines in their place,” which we see in Cersei’s story. But the worst is Sansa. In less than one episode, Sansa goes from being a character with her own distinct point of view to a Woman in a Refrigerator, her trauma being used primarily to serve another, male, character’s storyline.

“Game of Thrones” appeals to me because it has some of the most interesting, complex female characters on television. Although the world is distinctly patriarchal, each of the female characters subverts and manipulates that power structure in some way to gain more agency for herself, and it’s awesome.

But this is also the series for which the term “sexposition” was coined. Violence is a mainstay of the “Game of Thrones” world, but it is only the female characters who are subjected to sexual violence again and again and again—even when these scenes were written as consensual in the books (as Dany’s and Cersei’s both were).

And I have to say, I’m tired. I’m getting to the point where I don’t know if I can, or should, follow this series any longer. I’m invested in these characters and the story, and I want to find out who wins the Iron Throne as much as the next person. But I’m so sick of tuning in week after week just to see yet another female character being raped, and yet another rapist we’re supposed to sympathize with.

Outlander, Sexuality, and the “Character” of Black Jack Randall

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First of all, I’m going to say SPOILERS if you haven’t read the book or watched the last episode of the television series.

I came across an interesting post on Facebook from Diana Gabaldon, the author of the Outlander book series.

She says:

Well, we seem to be getting a lot of interesting reviews on Episode 12–which is All Good, to be sure. I just want to make _one_ thing clear, before drawing your attention to a couple of interesting ones: To wit, Black Jack Randall is _not_ a homosexual.

He’s a pervert. He’s a sadist. He derives sexual pleasure from hurting people, but he’s not particular about the gender of a victim. (Personality, yes–gender, no.)

I see reviewers assuming that he told Jenny repeatedly to turn around, during their encounter in a flashback–and they assume it was because he’s gay. Actually (and obviously, I would have thought…), it’s because she’s looking at him and laughing, and he finds this unnerving.

If you look at his behavior throughout the book (and I emphasize book, though it’s almost the same in the show), he’s shown as attacking four people: Jenny, Jamie, Claire, and another prisoner at Fort William (who we don’t hear about in the show) named Alex.

Two men, two women–he’s an equal-opportunity sadist. However, given his position (garrison commander) and the structure of the culture he’s in, he has much easier access to male prisoners, whom he can torture at leisure. But he’ll take women when he can get them–_vide_ his reaction to finding Claire wandering around by herself.

At the risk of angering Outlander fans–though it wouldn’t be the first time–I’m going to have to disagree.

I wrote about the “Outlander” TV series back in 2013, shortly after Starz announced it would be producing a television series based on the books, and one of the things I cited as a potential obstacle for adapting the books to screen was the depictions of homosexuality.

There are only two characters in the first book who demonstrate same-gendered sexual attraction: Black Jack Randall, and Lord Sandringham. Sandringham’s sexuality has been downplayed in the show (although I’m a few episodes behind), but in the book, one of the “amusing” anecdotes is about how a teenaged Jamie barely escapes being raped by Sandringham by inducing a bout of diarrhea. So funny! Ha, ha…er…*cough.* Guess I don’t have that 18th century Highlander humor down.

Black Jack Randall is another kettle of fish altogether. Gabaldon calls him a “sadist,” and he is certainly that. But the book itself belies the idea that he’s an “equal opportunity sadist.” When he attempts to rape Claire, and in Jenny’s recollection of her attempted rape, both women state that Randall did not/could not become erect. Meanwhile, he doesn’t have this problem later when his sadism is turned against a male character. If there’s confusion about Black Jack’s sexuality, it’s a confusion rooted in the text.

For what it’s worth, I think “Outlander” is an amazing show, and an amazing book. Watching a show with a strong, well-developed female lead, told from the female perspective, has been great. But just because you enjoy a show, or a book, doesn’t mean it’s beyond criticism. I’m glad that the show is generating this conversation about sexuality, because it shows that we’re seeing things that would have flown largely under the radar in 1991 when the book was first published.

I Got Bookmarks!!! Also Other Stuff.

So I haven’t written in a while–bad Beth! But in fairness, I’ve been hard at work completing rewrites on The Demon Within. I took a few days off at the end of last week to give myself a big push, and I’ve been working all week long with almost no breaks. It’s basically been work, write, and sleep for the past couple of weeks. Unfortunately, I haven’t been sleeping enough, so I find myself drifting off at inopportune times. Not good. I think I was a cat in a past life, because I can pretty much nap anywhere, and in any position. Blame having AP Chemistry as my first period class during my junior year of high school. I liked chemistry, but advance science is just not something you should to a 16 year old at 7:30 in the morning.

So I was going to write tonight, but I’m feeling a little groggy and a little headachy, and I think I might be better off getting to bed at a reasonable time and getting up tomorrow morning to write. I’m hoping to finish the draft by the 31st. It’ll be close.

First things first…I HAVE BOOKMARKS!!! They are so amazing and awesome, and here’s a picture:

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They look amazing! Thank you to the amazing Robert J. Peterson, who, in addition to being my editor over at California Coldblood Books and a talented author himself, is also a kick-ass web designer and graphic artist. He designed the bookmarks for me. He wears way more hats than I do, and I am in awe.

This is not the cover of the book. The book cover will feature original art, and it has not been designed yet.

The blurb is a little hard to read in this photo, so it says:

All Dale Highland wants is a normal life. Too bad she can’t stop killing people.

It’s been ten years since the first time Dale blacked out and killed someone. Since then, she’s been on the run, searching for the cause of her blackouts–and a way to control them.

When an enigmatic and sexy assassin named John tells her she’s half demon, Dale and John embark on a quest to find the only person who can answer Dale’s questions: her mother.

But Dale’s mother is the key figure in an ancient war between angels and demons. To find the answers she seeks, Dale will have to risk not only her life…but also her soul.

It’s pretty much the same as what I now have up on the Books page, but it was condensed a little more for space on the bookmark.

I did go to Wizard World Comic Con a couple of weekends ago, and I did get to meet David Tennant. I told him how much the show meant to me, and how it helped me get through after my mom’s death. He seemed really touched. Unfortunately, since I signed up for an autograph and not a picture, I didn’t get a selfie with him. (I suspect it was a time thing. Some of the other celebrities had provisions for selfies, but the line for Tennant was HUGE! “Who” fans are a devoted–and apparently rich–group.

My autographed photo is now sitting on my desk, glowering at me. Motivation.

I did get my selfie taken with James Marsters (of “Buffy” fame):

James Marsters

This one meant a lot to me, too. I was a huge “Buffy” fan during high school and college. It was a passion my mom and I shared. While, as a dumb 15 year old, I was Team Angel all the way, she was always all about Spike–even long before his affair with Buffy. It took me getting a little older and wiser to see the appeal, but I so understand now. I’ll just pretend that episode in season 6 never happened.

James was great, very friendly and courteous to all the fans, and he really took the time to talk to each of us.

It was a great experience, all around.

An Open Letter to David Tennant

david-tennant

Dear Mr. Tennant,

This weekend, I am attending Wizard World Comic Con in Raleigh, North Carolina, where I will be meeting you. I already have my ticket to get your autograph, though me being the worst-case scenario type that I am, I’m a little nervous that something will go wrong. But I’m not going to give that possibility any more power than I have to. This weekend, I’m going to Wizard World, and I’m going to meet you.

I’ll be nervous.  Hopefully I won’t do something completely embarrassing, like ask you to have my babies, because that would just be weird. I hope there’s time for me to at least say hello and tell you thank you for being such a big part of “Doctor Who,” for being part of a show that has been such a big part of my life.

But I know I won’t get a chance to tell you why. Even if I had time—which I won’t, since there will be hundreds of other people waiting to get your autograph, I’m sure—I don’t think I could manage to untie my tongue long enough to get through the words. So, on the off chance that you peruse blogs of soon-to-be-published American urban fantasy writers in your spare time, I’m writing you an open letter.

I started watching “Doctor Who” in November of 2013. It was the month that the 50th anniversary episode aired, so everyone was talking about it, and my cable company had all the episodes of the rebooted series airing through their video-on-demand system. It was also the month my mother died.

My mom and I were close. My father died when I was 13, leaving just my mom, my younger brother, and me. We had a rough time when I was a teenager, but as I became an adult we grew closer. My brother and I never quite saw eye to eye on things, so my mother was the one I talked to and relied upon. She was my best friend and closest confidant. Her death was sudden. I was 30, and she had just passed her 65th birthday—not young, but my grandmother (her mother) lived to be 90, so I was expecting many more years with her. Then again, she had heart problems caused by a bout of rheumatic fever when she was a child, and I’d been asking her for years to quit smoking, so maybe it shouldn’t have been so unexpected. But these things always seem clearer in retrospect, I think.

My mom, my brother, and me, a few weeks before her death.

My mom, my brother, and me, a few weeks before her death.

I don’t know if you know what it feels like to wake up every morning with a piece of yourself missing, a big gaping hole where you expect there to be something. But that’s what it was like. I had trouble sleeping. I vacillated between binge-eating and nausea that left me nearly unable to eat at all. I became prone to episodes of extreme anxiety and panic, especially at night. My health suffered.

But, without the luxury of being independently wealthy, I had to go on. I had to go to work. I had to pay my bills. I had to deal with my mom’s estate business. I had to feed the cat. I told everyone I was okay, not because I really was, but because I had to be. I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter.

I had been binge-watching “Homeland” prior to my mom’s death, but afterwards I found I just couldn’t stomach another seen of Damien Lewis going through violent withdrawals or Claire Danes going crazy (again). So I started watching “Doctor Who.” I was immediately captivated by the Time Lord in the funny blue box and all of his intrepid companions.

As a kid, I used to imagine myself as characters in my favorite television shows. At 30, I found myself doing it again. I wanted to be the Doctor’s companion, to travel all of time and space with a two-hearted alien. I promised myself that I wouldn’t be silly enough to fall in love with the nearly-immortal alien; that kind of thing never ends well. But at least I’d have a friend who was there for me, a friend who could take me on adventures, a friend who could whisk me away from the endless bleakness of my life and allow me to forget the real world for a while.

But in retrospect, I wonder if it was the Doctor I actually identified with more: the last of the Time Lords, surrounded by people but always truly alone, making friends he always had to say good-bye to. It really got me in “School Reunion,” when the Doctor told Rose how he had to watch his companions—all the people he loved best in the world—wither and die. I may not be a near-immortal Time Lord…but I got it.

Watching “Doctor Who,” escaping to that place where I didn’t have to face my troubles for half an hour, kept me afloat when I was drowning. It kept me company when I was alone. And even though things are better now, the show is still special to me: I was all by myself, telling the world I was fine. But, silly as it may seem, the Doctor got to be there for me during one of the most difficult times of my life.

So what I’m really trying to say here is: thank you. Thank you for being there with me, if only through a television screen, during the hardest months of my life. Thank you for being part of a show that has meant so much to so many people. Thank you for coming to conventions and indulging blubbering fans like me. Thank you for being my favorite Doctor—because you really are, you know.

Thank you for everything.

Sincerely,

Beth Woodward

Outlander: Contemplating *That* Scene

Outlander

When Starz announced in 2013 that it would be adapting Diana Gabaldon’s popular Outlander book series for television, I wrote an in which I voiced some of the problems in adapting the series for television—and in doing so, inadvertently ticked off some of the book’s fans. A year and a half later, I am still concerned about some of these things.

That said, Ron Moore and his team have done an amazing job so far. The season began a little slow for my taste, but more than made up for it during the last few episodes. Moore has, so far, stuck pretty closely to Gabaldon’s story, with one notable exception: the decision to bring Frank, Claire’s husband from 1945, back into the story during the last episode, show how he’s been coping with the loss of his wife, and have Frank and Claire almost but not quite reunite at the stones. It was one of the most tense, dramatic scenes in the series so far, and it was awesome. The television adaptation also shows some of the most empowering, and frank, depictions of female sexuality that I’ve ever seen on television. (How can you leave a husband who goes down on you in the middle of a ruined castle?) Having seen Moore’s representation of this world, I have more faith that the show can weather the time jumps than I did a year and a half ago.

(Also, the wedding episode. Holy hell, the wedding episode!)

But the other stuff…well, my issues there have more to do with Gabaldon’s original novel than the television adaptation of it. They haven’t become an issue so far, because we haven’t gotten that far in the storyline. But we’re about to…

SPOILERS for people who haven’t read the Outlander novel…

 

I am talking, of course, about the spanking heard ‘round the world. And no, this isn’t 50 Shades of Grey here. The first half of the season ends with Claire being abducted by the evil Captain Jack Randall on her way to return to the stones and get back to her life in 1945, and Jamie dramatically (and handsomely) coming to her rescue. BOOM, end of episode, end of first half of season 1. It’s a pretty awesome note to go out on, and practically guarantees that viewers will want to come back for more.

Readers of the book know that Jamie will rescue Claire. Problem is, Claire’s actions in disobeying Jamie have put the entire group in jeopardy, and Claire must be punished for it. Jamie whips Claire with his belt. Claire is angry and humiliated, though she ultimately forgives Jamie when he talks about how his father used to whip him as a child. She also extracts a promise from Jamie never to do that to her again.

I recognize that the norms and mores of 18th century Scotland are a lot different than 21st century America. But I am approaching this book as a 21st century reader, and a 21st century woman…and frankly, the scene bothered me quite a bit when I read it. Claire is his wife, not a child…and furthermore, Jamie seems to enjoy it, admitting later that he was turned on afterwards.

There is always a certain violence to Jamie and Claire’s sexual relationship, and at times this can get more than a little disturbing—I’m thinking of one particular scene, late in the book, when Jamie is traumatized and delirious from fever—so this isn’t unprecedented, or out of character for him. And afterwards, he never breaks the promise he makes to Claire never to beat her again.

But we’re reading the story entirely from Claire’s perspective. Claire is stuck in a time that is not her own, trying to make the best of a bad situation. She married Jamie because she was forced to, but she unexpectedly developed real feelings for him. Claire is keeping so much of herself hidden, and she’s surrounded by people who don’t trust her. Jamie has been, through all of this, her only ally. Though she hasn’t been able to be honest with him about her situation, they’ve formed a deep friendship and trust in spite of everything. When Jamie whips her, it feels like a betrayal.

Yes, you can make the argument that Claire never should have disobeyed him in the first place. But Claire is not a child, but a grown adult. And yes, again, I also recognize that applying 21st century values to an 18th century situation isn’t historically accurate. But when you write a book, you create your own reality. It might have been accepted, even common, for an 18th century man to beat his wife. But I’ve read plenty of historical romances set around the same time where the man would never dare so such a thing.

There’s no right or wrong here; this one is just my opinion. It unsettled me, but not enough to stop reading the book. I ultimately forgave Jamie, but it took me a lot longer to do so than Claire. Even so, I’m not sure how I’m going to react to seeing it on screen.