circular_time: (Default)
[personal profile] circular_time
TLDR: I think Michelle Gomez is the best Master in years, but series 10 has hobbled what I love about her.

I appreciate that characters need to evolve, and that villains are often guilty of being static. I know that a villain turning over a new leaf can be fascinating (see: Xena). However, Gomez!master's "heel face turn" doesn't seem genuine. If it's crocodile tears, fine— we've seen that before at the end of The Time Monster. Even so, her apparent "reform" in The Lie of the Land felt flat, handwaved, done off-stage. She has been so evil for so long, and she has seen the people harmed by her actions and felt no remorse so many times, that we need more than just hearing her say "I've been thinking about the people I harmed" to believe she's changed.

There were ways that could have made it convincing: scenes like the recent ones with Davros where we actually felt sympathy for him despite all he's done, a reinterpretation of past events in the Master's life showing how the Doctor's views have gotten under her skin despite her pretending otherwise at the time, her feelings about Gallifrey and how she identifies more with the Doctor than other Time Lords, a realization of how little longterm satisfaction she's taken from transitory moments of sadism that resulted in little to no success, or an inversion of Heaven Sent's flashbacks and montages covering a long space of time so that we feel how much she's gone through during her captivity. While the Doctor in Heaven Sent never showed character evolution because he kept resetting and the whole point was his tenacity, Missy, by contrast, can't break through her barriers unless she changes. So they need to show her struggling and punching through that wall one nanometer at a time.

Whatever has changed Missy's mind, we need to see it, not just hear her mention it. And with all the opportunities she's had to look her victims in the eye and laugh as they suffered, it requires something extraordinary to account for a fundamental change (even feigned) in Missy's identity.

There is another, deeper problem. Missy's captivity, subjugation, passivity, depression and despondence are all layered onto a character that was always a man but is NOW a woman, as if those changes go hand in hand. She has yielded up her autonomy to the Doctor. He's been keeping her like a locked-up wife for centuries (which Bill noted was creepy). She assists the Doctor almost like a stay-at-home helpmeet/homemaker/wife making it easier for him to do his day job. She's passive and takes whatever "favors" he gives her (Chinese takeout, a piano). And she's let her appearance go as if, like many abuse victims, she just doesn't care about herself anymore. She's become largely helpless in a way that ties into sexist tropes about women as victims and subject to male power.

If she were still a male character, there would be fans out there mocking the Master for becoming emasculated. There would be fans calling him the "Doctor's bitch." I don't like vocalizing that stereotype, which is a form of sexism that denies men their full range of emotions and vulnerabilities, but at the same time... it's unfortunate to suggest that that's what happens when a Time Lord regenerates female.

There are ways to capture/neutralize the Master without doing this. When Delgado!Master was begging for his life or Ainley!Master was hoist by his own petard and wound up trapped, there was a constant sense of a snake wriggling and trying to free himself from the trap, an unrepentant villain feigning contrition, rather than a subjugated and dispirited foe acknowledging the dominance of the hero.

It's similar to the problem that the Master is now explicitly showing attraction to the Doctor. As much as I enjoy watching them flirt while the Doctor tries and fails to keep from being affected by her charisma, it's troubling to see the male Master as default, with little to no sexual component to their relationship, whereas when female, suddenly that component is explicit. (And yes, I know there were some hella gay vibes from Three/Delgado!Master and Five/Ainley!Master, but the showrunners and writers weren't doing it on purpose the way they are now.)

Beyond thematic problems, I'm just sorry to see this dispirited, disheveled, passive Missy lose much of what was entertaining about her: her wicked and zany sense of humor, her blazing arrogance and charisma, her running circles around the Doctor, her utter amorality, her matter-of-fact revelry in being "mistress of evil." Killing Osgood for shock value was boring, but her cat-and-mouse games with Clara in "The Witch's Familiar" were brilliant, cruel, callous, and funny in a macabre way.

Plus, while appearance is less central to character, I miss Missy's playfulness in costuming and her striking LOOK. She dressed smartly and had her own unique fashion sense in a way that reminded me of Delgado!Master crossed with Romana II (and, yes, evil Mary Poppins). Her look was part of the fun of the character.

Bring back zany, psycho, charismatic, dangerous, elegant and suave Michelle.

ETA: Okay, NOW I've seen Eaters of Light. Which I liked. :)

That final scene brought back some of Missy's snark and gave Gomez more to work with in terms of showing how Missy might be changing. Enough that I can almost, almost believe the crocodile tears. There was a nice bit of lampshading acknowledging that they probably are crocodile tears -- but what if they aren't? What if the Doctor's hope is true?

Unfortunately that ep reenforced my misgivings about Missy becoming the Doctor's de facto housewife, doing chores and scrubbing floors for him while he's out at his day job. I hope this is soon going to be subverted, but it's really not a good look.

And I'm afraid it's going to be subverted by Simm!Master replacing Gomez!Master and just mocking this whole sojourn rather than actually working through it as Missy.

I hope I'm wrong. This may be Gomez's last season as much as it is Capaldi's, and I want her to be given good material to work with.

Date: 2017-06-23 08:54 am (UTC)
nuraicha: (Timecock Anthem Master)
From: [personal profile] nuraicha
This has been a very interesting post. I hadn't seen the sexist tropes and man, are you right. That's probably the worst thing of this whole affair, but I still like how Missy has been so far. and not gonna lie, the blatant "romance" is SO GOOD. About damn time! This is better down that all the gay subtext and jokes present with Simm and Ten IMO.

What I think/hope to happen is that Simm will go WTF at Missy and then she will prove she was pretending all along or maybe some changes have been done, but not in the way the Doctor wishes, and that's somehow prompted by Simm.

I'm positive Missy is not going to be wiped out by Simm. But it's the first time we have two Masters on screen, so that's definitely going to be highly entertaining!

July 2017

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