Steven Moffat has received a lot of criticism for his portrayal of female characters and a lack of females in behind the scenes roles on Doctor Who. However, the ending of Hell Bent may have changed that narrative.
When it comes to females on Doctor Who, Steven Moffat has been accused of many things. He has been called sexist, accused of having women on the show to flirt with the Doctor and/or become obsessed. At times, the female characters, and even the companions, have seemed to be no more than damsels in distress for the Doctor to rescue.
That narrative may have changed with the ending of Hell Bent. For a time, it appeared as though Clara was about to get the Donna Noble treatment, where her memories of the Doctor would be wiped away to save her life. Instead, Clara turned the tables, tampering with that device so that the Doctor lost his memory of those final events and what she looked like. She was then able to take off in her own TARDIS with Me, who Clara once threatened to fight the Doctor for.
Not only did Clara get to live another day and continue her adventures, but this episode, written by Moffat himself, may have changed the narrative over how females are handled on Doctor Who. In fact, with Clara avoiding Donna’s fate and leaving on her own terms, Hell Bent was referred to as a feminist victory by Vanity Fair.
While Moffat deserved some criticism for his portrayal of females, and their roles off the camera, on Doctor Who, that seemed to change this season. There were more females behind the scenes than on any other season of the new incarnation of the show. Female characters were no longer there to be rescued, but rather strong beings with leadership. Clara’s development during Series Nine was a welcome change, and one of the highlights of the season.
No, this season, and the events of Hell Bent, do not erase the past when it comes to Moffat’s dubious record with females. It is, however, a great step in the right direction, and something that helps the show. In a world where the bizarre is commonplace, seeing stronger, more assertive female characters in positions of leadership and taking command of their own destiny is great to see.
Doctor Who has been a show that has made a point of promoting togetherness and inclusion, regardless of species or sexual orientation. It is great to see them catch up with modern times and give females that same treatment.