Any mention of gender within the context of Doctor Who is often enough to get most internal Cloister Bells ringing, as the debate around Jodie Whittaker's arrival ripped a hole possibly even bigger than Belgium through many a newspaper, magazine & internet forum. You'd perhaps be forgiven, then, for wanting to cast anything that draws it out any longer it into the Time Vortex with little more than a “good riddance”. Women In Doctor Who: Damsels, Feminists And Monsters does manage to rather succinctly sum up the state of things - at least if you're willing to sit through what can feel like the edited notes from the sort of university lecture that made an afternoon feel like an eternity circling the void of complete and utter boredom. Academics, apply within.
Valerie Frankel is by no means any sort of Professor Chronotis. The depth of research alone proves it - going beyond the televised stories into Big Finish and on to various novel ranges... but we've heard all this before. We know who fits where and how they reflect the times in which their stories were produced, as we've been told so many times, although the insights from those who were actually there do add something, with the late Elisabeth Sladen in particular coming across as well as you might expect.
But then, she gets a lot of coverage. From plucky young journalist to elder stateswoman via the Sarah Jane Adventures, it's all there. The rest feels a bit “blink and you'll miss it” - the relative brevity afforded to everyone else from longer term companions and enemies to short termers feels a tad unfair. Given the changes undergone by TARDIS team members from Susan to Bill in the course of their own journeys through time, space and indeed femininity and perceptions of just what that meant kept shifting, much like everything else within the parent programme itself. But then, unless you've been hiding in the Cave of Skulls for 50+ years, whether plus or minus qualifications, you knew that.
WOMEN IN DOCTOR WHO: DAMSELS, FEMINISTS AND MONSTERS / AUTHOR: VALERIE ESTELLE FRANKEL / PUBLISHER: McFARLAND / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW