Sunday, 16 May 2010

On Doctor Who and Liz One

So I try to say what I have to say, here. I confess to things even when I'm worried that some members of the asexual community may not approve. I try to create a voice for the renegade. However, today, I am about to cross the line. I am about to admit to the worst crime an asexual could commit.

I ship Ten. and Liz One.

And here's why:
(note: if you didn't understand that sentence, this blog post may not make the most sense)
(note: actually, having now finished this, I advise you that this article (apart from the tiny history bit at the beginning) really is completely irrelevant unless you watch Doctor Who. Which you should.)

Elizabeth the First (henceforth to be known as Liz One) was one of the most powerful and iconic female leaders Britain has ever had. In her day, she was consistently thwarted by society's perverse gender expectations. She masculinated herself, famously declaring she had the heart and stomach of a king. When she ascended the throne, she also became as contractual a virgin as the Jonas brothers. She could never marry or have sex, because both of those assumed that the man was in charge, and no man could politically be in charge of the queen of England. She wore white and pearls and fetishised her virginity, turning it into her strength.

So, an asexual icon? Well, no. If she was a virgin, it was probably only in a Clinton definition of sex. In her intact hymen rested her intact political power. But there is little doubt that the Virgin queen broke the rules. She was barely past puberty when she was rumored to engage in heavy petting with her patroness's husband (even better, the man was her half-brother's uncle, his wife was her father's widow- how's that for soap-style drama?), and the rumours kept on flowing.

Doctor Who is a nine hundred year-old Time Lord, much beloved of asexuals. Now, he really is an asexual hero. He travels round the world with lots of pretty girls and still is nothing more than a charming intellectual. He recently reacted to an indecent proposal with the same puzzled horror that I can imagine I would. He doesn't seem to be attracted to humans. But recently, there have been some suggestions of something more.

We first met Liz One when she recognised Tennant's Doctor. He had done something she disliked in her past, his future, but it wasn't revealed.
Then, as Tennant's time drew to a close, in a possible attempt to solve one of the many small inconsistencies the show creates and then forgets about, Tennant boasted idly "They don't call her the Virgin Queen any more." He implied that, in his loneliness and fear of mortality, he had raided history for the trickiest conquest. I was, frankly, a little disgusted. I felt they had taken the character where he never should have gone.
They haven't dropped the idea. Liz Ten, in a far future, may have mentioned something about Liz One having been very fond of the Doctor (I'm not sure, though. The reference slid past me at the time. It may have actually been the present queen, Liz Two). And, this weekend, it was mentioned again. "Have you heard about Elizabeth the First? Well, she thought she was the first". So there were more before her? Does our time-travelling nerd-action-hero have regular love affairs?

And that was when I realised, I am actually really happy for him if he does. True, I'm annoyed by the new phallus-wielding Dr of this series ("Yours is bigger than mine", "Don't start all that". "I can't feel my feet, or other parts", "I can feel all my parts just fine."), but the Doctor is meant to connect with people in wide varieties of ways. He is momentary and life-changing, and is the perfect person to challenge the stuffy sexual confinements most people throughout history have been placed in. His relationship with the Madame du Pompador was one of the most touching moments in the new programme. The reason he can't get close to his companions is because they will age, but what makes the Doctor a person, not just a big, world-saving concept, is the fact that people can change him. A particular person in a particular circumstance can force him to embrace a relationship he'd never have considered, just like humans do. We saw this with Rose, River, du Pompador, the Master, and this is the Doctor's greatest strength- other people define him as much as he defines them.

So the Doctor finds a woman, trapped and alone. Sexual but with an enforced virginity. So very strong and forceful, like the other people who have the power to wrap the Doctor around their willpowers. They are both all alone, with no one who will understand them. They both want just a temporary feeling of kinship, and of belonging. She can't forsake her duty, nor he his. They connect in a way which is relevant for both of them. Even if he was asexual, he could still gain a lot from the experience. And the fact that they were probably also in the midst of an alien invasion probably helped.

I've not yet heard any asexuals judging their relationship, but I, for one, will stand by the right of the Doctor to enjoy sexuality (or not) in whatever way works. If we apply that right to real people, it's got to start with fictional.

Maybe we just need to find a new asexual idol. Spongebob Squarepants, anyone?


  1. Spongey's wet for Patrick.

    I'm a mad Who fan, and I totally dig the Doc/Liz One pairing, I think it's hilarious (but possibly because Miranda Richardson will forever be Queen Elizabeth to me) and makes sense in a perverse sort of way. I really liked QE1's chasing after the Doctor in a fury with the suggestion that he'd done something but hadn't done it yet (time travel - sheesh!), and when they dropped the first hint of what he'd done at the end of David Tennant's run I cracked up. And yeah, they've mentioned it a couple of times since, along with said occasional phallic references. I can cope with the Doc being on and off a sexual person, I have to admit it's refreshing NOT having every girl who jumps in the TARDIS trying to jump his bones tho. I hate how every Hollywood movie and practically every tv show has to throw in a hetero-romantic subplot, drives me barmy because it really does come across as reminding people to get back in their place and accept ordinary, prescribed, culturally-acceptable domesticity. Eurgh.

  2. liminalD, yeah, I'm the same. I'd hate to see sexual/romantic tension being a defining thing that always happens in Doctor Who, because it's really nice to have some awesome non-sexual relationships (such as the one he had with Donna, the one I hope he's going to develop with Amy). However, small mentions of his sexuality off-screen don't really bother me. In fact, I find them enriching.

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  4. Blasphemy!! xD

    Liz Ten, while talking about how her relatives brought her up on the story, says, "And so much for the virgin queen, you bad boy..." (after talking about how he had tea and scones with Liz Two, and then how Queen Victoria was "a bit on the fence" since he was knighted and exiled at once). So. There's that.

    It seems very much to me that the only truly (potentially) sexual Doctor was Ten, even with phallic references - everyone from one to seven was pretty strictly No Hugging No Kissing, then Eight really only kissed Grace from excitement (rather than, I think, any kind of romantic interest), and Nine was fairly romantic towards the end, but the bulk of his season was spent being a lovely, mad father figure. Eleven's persona strikes me very much as a "mad grandfather" redux (in the proud tradition of Two - they even have outfit parallels), who can safely be classified as asexual (and for various reasons, though most of them come from the scene at the end of "Flesh and Stone" wherein he's just entirely bewildered by Amy's advances).

    Ten is the only real exception to the Doctor as super-ace, but he's an exception in other ways, too - all of them making him the most human of any of the Doctors to date (the only real change when he actually became one in season three was that he was more subdued and less curious). Sexual relationships are often used as a means of reinforcing the humanity of a character (or lack of same as used to highlight just how abnormal they are - Ily has a post on this somewhere, wherein she mentions how most characters who could be classified as asexual are wholly removed from warm human experience (Withnail, Sheldon Cooper, others I can't remember right now)). So.

    Also! I was upset by the relationship with the Doctor and Elizabeth I (and I just... I cannot get on board, but largely for silly reasons that I will now explain) because of how much of an idol Good Queen Bess was to me when I was younger. Outside of QEI and Susan B. Anthony (whose picture, incidentally, stares down at me as I type), I didn't know of any other powerful, independent, celibate women, either actual or fictional, and having historical figures I could look up to as examples of, if not asexuality, then at least celibacy was a huge boon to my general self-confidence (and this was all before I actually came to know of and then join the asexual community). I got in yelling matches over QEI's virginity, it meant so much to me.

  5. Rebekah- we'll have to agree to disagree on Liz One's virginity (in the non-Whoniverse, that is). I love the professorish Twoishness of the new doctor, and I agree, he's delightfully ace. I think that was partly because he's very young and has a very young assistant (in a very short skirt), so it would have been too predictable, and partly because they got criticised for how far Ten went.

    As long as they never really oversexualise the Doctor, I think each of them having a different sexuality is a pretty good thing, and Ten was the most sexual so far.

    I can't remember Nine being especially romantic. Also, I've not seen Eight's movie, but I've heard the radio series, and I really can't imagine him being anything other than ace (he's my favourite).

  6. Nine was really only romantic at all in his devotion to Rose/kissing of same, although all of that makes sense within the substitute father figure role he embodied through their travels - I think he just seemed more romantic, to me, because of the last episode of his run, even if it isn't anything approaching overt.

    And in regards to Eight's movie... you really aren't missing much. There are so many things that either don't make sense (a trial on Skaro? For the Master? ...what?) or are just... horrifying (they made the Master into a beefy American) that it's difficult to enjoy. The only good things were the Doctor (of course) and the jelly babies he proffers near the end.