Over the past 53 years, Doctor Who has had a rollercoaster relationship with the representation of women, both in front of and behind the camera. But a new examination of the show’s portrayal of women in scientific fields shows that from the very beginning, the series has valued female scientists—and continued to give them more and more prominence.
A new study posted at The Conversation by Rachel Morgain and Lindy Orthia of the Australian National University examines the show’s portrayals of scientists over the years—specifically between “An Unearthly Child”’s airing in 1963 and the broadcast of the 50th Anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor”. Of 222 scientists over 50 years of storytelling, just 56 were female—but the gender balance between scientists on the show has steadily improved over the decades, to the point where 42% of scientist characters were female in the revived era of the show.
The report also examined the roles of female scientists by if they actually practised science on-screen, if they held a position of authority or autonomy, and if they addressed with scientific titles. There were many great portrayals of female scientists that the show could turn to across its entire history, including Anne Travers from “The Web of Fear,” Emilia Rumford in “The Stones of Blood,” all the way up to Osgood and Kate Stewart in the modern era (although man, remember when Kate was all “science leads,” and now she just wants to run around blowing stuff up like her dad? Bummer.)
It’s mostly good news—the full report, which can be purchased here, also finds that the show has also frequently linked scientific prowess to masculinity over the years, often associating scientific capability to civilizations portrayed with typically feminine traits like pacifism—but above all, it’s an intriguing look back on how the show has championed the scientific field for everyone, regardless of gender. You can check out more at the link below.