The Sexual Politics of Coffee Service
I finished The Moonbase this morning, and it was a rip-roaring finale as long as you don't spent much time thinking about the physics involved. I mean, really, the moon seems like a really impractical place to have any kind of terrestrial weather control apparatus, and don't even get me started about orbital deflection into the sun. So yeah, when I say that Kit Pedler writes more "hard science" stories, I only mean that as contrast to completely nonsensical stories like the previous one. That being said, The Moonbase is an excellent example of the kind of casual misogyny and sexism that is rampant in classic Doctor Who.
Let's talk about that.
The Moonbase - Episodes 3 & 4
(TARDIS Data Core recap)
First of all, the story: The third episode largely consists of a squad of Cybermen taking over the base, with the assistance of the humans they have already infected and then placed under their control with a cybernetic headpiece. Their stated plan is to use the Gravitron beam to wipe out all life on Earth, not out of revenge for the events of The Tenth Planet but rather out of a coldly logical calculation to eliminate any further threat from humankind. This group is defeated when Polly gets the inspiration to use solvent as a weapon against them, melting their plastic chest packs and regaining control of the base. Unfortunately, an army of Cybermen is marching across the Lunar surface with large weapons, placing the base under siege.
In the fourth episode, it all comes down to the Doctor turning the Gravitron into a weapon against the remaining Cybermen, and literally pushing them all off of the moon and into the sun. I mean, sure, there is more to it than that, but that's the nuts and bolts. It's a lot more exciting than that, but it's late and I'm tired and want to go to bed.
What was interesting about the story is all the flak it gets for having two different scenes of Polly bringing coffee service to the men. Yes, it's sexist. Yes, it is maddening that none of the scientists on the moon are female, and that the writers just casually have Polly pop off to the kitchen in the middle of a crises and have her return with a tray of freshly-brewed coffee. When questioned about that, actress Anneke Wills (rightfully) points out that it is Polly who comes up with the idea for the perfect weapon against the Cybermen, making her the hero of the third episode. Of course, she thinks of that solution by way of looking at her manicured nails and wondering about nail polish remover, which means the writer felt the need to give her a "girly" reason for having the idea. And once her idea is weaponized, she is immediately dismissed by both Ben and Jamie, with Ben telling her to stay behind because, "this is men's work!"
Barbara Wright, Goddess, was very rarely saddled with that kind of dismissal (although it did happen occasionally.) Most of other female companions have been teenagers, and effectively played the role of a child (Susan, Vicki, Dodo, Katarina). The only other adult female companion thus far was Sara Kingdom, who was a bad-ass gun-toting special agent. It's sad to see Polly pushed off to the sidelines and weakened as a character. Surely the show is a product of its time, and I'd by lying if I said that the modern series doesn't also have a deep well of problematic writing when it comes to female characters. At least I know that I still have Sarah Jane Smith to look forward to in a few months, and that's something.
Companion(s): Ben Jackson, Polly Wright, Jamie McCrimmon
Episode(s): The Moonbase - Episodes 3 & 4
Steps Walked: 6,842 today, 521,407 total
Distance Walked: 3.37 miles today, 246.96 miles total
Weight: 283.32 lbs (five day moving average), net change -23.98 lbs