Steven Moffat and the Strong Female Character Problem

Keeley Hawes, Doctor WhoBBC

When it was announced earlier this month that Keeley Hawes would be joining Season 8 of Doctor Who , the fan reaction was generally positive. But the fans’ hearts collectively sunk upon perusal of her promo images.

Look, I’m a fan of Hawes’ (she was great in Death at a Funeral, wasn’t she?). And I think she looks fabulous in character as guest role Ms. Delphox on the sci-fi series. There’s just one fly in the ointment. And that fly is the fact that she looks dangerously close to fitting Steven Moffat’s ready-made sexy older vixen trickster mold. Will Ms. Delphox follow in the footsteps of River Song, Tasha Lem, Liz 10, et al? Back when the Christmas special aired, Tasha Lem was the source of great debate: her similarities to River (the flirtatious banter seemed tailor-made for the Doctor’s Wife) were so striking that fans weren’t sure if she was a casualty of lazy writing or yet another enigma to follow (and let’s not get started on female enigmas in Doctor Who, shall we?)

Unfortunately, signs seem to indicate that Ms. Delphox, like River-doppelganger Tasha Lem before her, will be another coin in Moffat’s Strong Female Character trope jar. Behold her character description: a “powerful out-of-this-world character with a dark secret.” Add that to her sassy cat-eye glasses and red lipstick, and it looks like we’ve got ourselves another River Song on our hands.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I love River (and Alex Kingston). I certainly do not have a problem with bad-ass, gun-totin’, wise-crackin’ ladies (Buffy, anyone?) It’s more the fact that Moffat seems to think he can get away with recycling what’s essentially the same character time and time again.

Oh, Moffat, you sexist writer you. When will you learn?