Time to get your passports stamped, ’cause this week on Geek Girl Riot we’re traveling all over the geekdom. First up, Sherin and Alex attempt to explain the NBC show The Good Place, which is surprisingly difficult without spoiling it (and this is spoiler-free)…but they have a whole lot of fun regardless. Just like you will too when season 2 premieres tonight—but remember the golden rule, when visiting TheGood Place, all good house guests bring cocaine. Oh, and watch out for the flying shrimp.
Once you’ve hopped on the train outta The Good Place, make sure you don’t miss your connection to Gallifrey via the TARDIS. Our intrepid reporter Sam will be telling you all about Doctor Who, a show our resident Anglophile has somehow only just discovered. But there’s no shame here, because we’ve all gotta begin somewhere—and Sam’s report will give you a pretty good headstart. Allons-y!
Now it’s time to jump in the Millennium Falcon to talk about all the amazing women in and involved in the Star Wars universe (reading list below). Catrina (aka @OhCatrina) joins the GGR ranks as guest host, and chats with special guest Chelsea Christer, and Rioter Kat. Hit play below to join the discussion, and if you have any favorite Star Wars leading ladies we missed, come chat with us about ’em on Twitter!
For more outerspace awesomeness, check out Catrina’s very own webseries Treasure in the Core, about the adventures of an ex-space pirate turned cargo pilot. Yeah, y’all are already intrigued we can tell. Then for a change of pace but with just as much awesomeness, you can get your pop punk on and check out Chelsea’s film documentary on The Matches, Bleeding Audio!
If you haven’t heard, Geek Girl Riot is now on idobi Radio, in a new timeslot! Tune in every Tuesday at 11pm ET / 8pm PT for your dose of late-night geekery from our team of rioters. For now, see below for a list of books and comics, series and films, and awesome ladies onscreen and behind the scenes from Star Wars, along with a transcript of Sam’s Doctor Who report!
Hey Rioters, it’s Sam here to tell you about one of my latest obsessions. Full disclosure: I’m aware that I’m several years later to this party; in fact, you could say that I’m half a century and several alien invasions late. I’m talking, of course, about Doctor Who.
If you’re already a fan of the Doctor, you can zone out for the next couple of minutes while I recap what the series is about.
The Doctor—whose name is not actually “Doctor Who”, despite what people tend to think—is an alien from the planet Gallifrey. He’s a Time Lord—he can travel through time and space and get into all sorts of mischief, which is essentially what the series is about. Apart from having two hearts, the Doctor looks like a regular person, and spends a lot of his time here on Earth, because, if there’s one thing that fascinates the Doctor, it’s humans.
How does he travel through time, you might ask? With the help of his TARDIS, naturally. The TARDIS—which stands for “time and relative dimensions in space”—is basically the Doctor’s Gallifreyan spaceship. A glitch in its system—the chameleon circuit, to be specific—caused the TARDIS to take the form of a blue police box sometime in the sixties, and it never changed. But that’s okay, because the big blue box is now an icon of British pop culture—you may never have seen an episode of Doctor Who, but you could probably recognize the box.
Fun fact: there are actually about a dozen of these police boxes scattered throughout the UK. Scotland—specifically Glasgow—is home to six of them and looking for all six is a cool way to tour the city.
So now that you know the basics of the madman with his box, let’s talk history. I’m a relatively new Whovian—I started watching the reboot last fall, and am currently on season six—but when I fall in love with something, I spend countless hours diving into the history…aka Wikipedia. I wish I had a chance to catch up with every Doctor Who episode ever made so that I could talk about them from personal experience, but there are a lot of episodes.
The original Doctor Who series ran from 1963 to 1989. A television film followed in 1996, and the series was successfully rebooted in 2005—it just finished its tenth season. With any other show, a reboot would be confusing or unsatisfactory because the actors would all be different and OG fans would be up in arms about ruining a classic. Let’s be real, these complaints still happen, but what makes Doctor Who different is the fact that the cast—especially the Doctor himself—is supposed to change.
In 1966, when the First Doctor, William Hartnell, became too sick to continue, the creators had to either end the show or find a way to keep it going. Thus, they came up with the concept of regeneration. Basically, every once in awhile, the Doctor changes his physical appearance—which also results in a personality shift—allowing the show to bring on a new actor to give the role his own interpretation. It’s a tradition that made a reboot possible: season one of “New Who” introduced us to the Ninth incarnation of the Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston.
Before I try to explain regeneration, let me just make a public service announcement: if you decide to watch Doctor Who and you start with the reboot, do NOT skip Christopher Eccleston. That seems to be a thing among new Whovians, where they leap right into season two, but it’s unfair to Eccleston who did a fantastic job—not really what I was expecting, and quite serious at times, but he was a good introduction to the series and it’s fascinating to see how the Doctor’s personality changes with time and space.
Regeneration can be influenced by many things, but it’s caused when the Doctor’s body starts dying, usually due to some sort of outside strain. For example, at the end of Eccleston’s first season, when he expressed a desire to move on, Nine absorbed a time vortex and regenerated into Ten, aka David Tennant aka my favourite Doctor. A few years later, after absorbing a ridiculous amount of radiation, Ten turned into Eleven—played by Matt Smith. I’ve only just started Matt Smith’s second season, so I’m not sure how he’s going to regenerate into Peter Capaldi, but I do remember the uproar the show caused when the older Capaldi was named as successor. Not unlike the uproar last month when the thirteenth incarnation of the Doctor was announced—and she’s a lady!
Set to take over for Peter Capaldi at Christmas this year, Jodie Whittaker is the first female to take the role in the show’s fifty year history. It’s pretty cool that they’re finally letting a woman steer the TARDIS, and, having seen Jodie Whittaker in Broadchurch, I’m positive she’ll do a great job as the Doctor. Plus think of all the little girls who can now dress up like the Doctor! Not that I don’t already enjoy pairing pinstripe pants with hightop Converse and running around like Ten…but seeing a woman in such an iconic, beloved role is extremely satisfying.
To be honest, I’m not sure why people are fussing angrily over a strong female character because the show has had strong females before—they just haven’t been the main character. Which leads me to my next point: the companions.
Each Doctor has his own companions who travel through time and space with him. The First Doctor hung out with his granddaughter Susan. The Fourth Doctor—arguably the quintessential Doctor—had Sarah Jane Smith, who made a few appearances in the reboot, and even had her own spinoff until actress Elisabeth Sladen’s death in 2011. And speaking of the reboot…I’m about to voice an unpopular opinion here, so if you’re a fan of Rose Tyler, you might want to plug your ears.
Rose—played by Billie Piper—was the first companion in the reboot. She originally worshipped Nine, maybe even started to fall in love with him, but when he regenerated into Ten, their relationship got a lot more, um, romantical in nature. Not that I blame her, because I’m a David Tennant fangirl, but I didn’t really ship them. I’m not heartless—I was emotionally distraught at the end of season two’s finale “Doomsday”, but Rose wasn’t my favorite companion. Personally, I loved Donna Noble.
Played by Catherine Tate, Donna first showed up in the 2006 special, “The Runaway Bride” (right after the “Doomsday” episode). She and Ten had a grand adventure, but at the end of the episode, she declined his offer to be his new travel companion. A couple of years later, Donna appeared again, this time deciding the join the Doctor for the fourth season. Donna had a big personality and never shied away from putting the Doctor is his place, and I loved their banter-filled friendship. I can’t even talk about Donna’s fate without wanting to weep…so let’s just say that for one shining moment, she was the most important woman in the whole wide universe.
There are a handful of other companions in the reboot, apart from Donna and Rose: Martha, the one in between, isn’t the most popular, probably because she spent the majority of a season gloomily pining after the Doctor (again, I don’t blame her), but she had a fantastic story line and, if anything, I respect her take charge attitude. After regenerating into Eleven, the Doctor also travels with a cute married couple—Amy Pond and Rory Williams. I’m not sure yet how Clara fits into the picture but I know she’s around well into Twelve’s tenure. And, of course, we have the mysterious Professor River Song, another time traveler whose meetings with the Doctor are out of sync: her past is his future and trying to map out their timelines can get a bit wibbly-wobbly.
This most recent season saw the addition of the first openly lesbian companion Bill (as played by Pearl Mackie) who, from what I’ve heard, is fabulous. Speaking of LGBTQ characters, let’s not forget the flirty Captain Jack Harkness, played by the charming John Barrowman in the first few seasons of the reboot, who also had a spinoff—Torchwood, which lasted four seasons.
Okay, so I’ve been talking for awhile, and now you may be wondering who the Doctor’s adversaries are. He can’t just flit around different planets and time periods without making a few enemies, right? His archnemesis is a race of aliens called Daleks. They’re round-ish robots with a whisk for one arm and a plunger for the other…so yeah, they don’t sound threatening—until you watch them glide around shouting “EXTERMINATE” and shooting death rays at the Doctor. There are also robotic Cybermen, and potato-looking Sontarans, and the terrifying Weeping Angels (note to self: don’t even blink in front of a statue) and loads more. And there’s also the Master, a fellow Gallifreyan Time Lord gone rogue who pops up every now and then in different incarnations. One of the biggest things I’ve spoiled for myself while looking up Doctor Who history is what happens to the Master during the Peter Capaldi era…but I won’t spoil it for you. Let’s just say Jodie Whittaker isn’t the first woman to travel out of Gallifrey.
Despite all these details I just threw at you, I’ve barely scratched the surface of Whovian history. There were eight other doctors before the reboot, and I haven’t seen any of their episodes, so there’s literally years of adventures that I haven’t experienced for myself. If you’ve been intrigued by anything I’ve said so far, if you—like me—enjoy British accents and time travel that occasionally involves jaunts into historical events and other wackier adventures that shouldn’t make sense but somehow work anyway—then I recommend straightening your bow tie and leaping into the world of Doctor Who. Allons-y!