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Feb 16

Chicks Unravel Time and Big Finish

I intended to do a full review of Chicks Unravel Time a few months back. But following an unhelpful bout of apathy (not towards the book, but towards reviewing and blogging in general) all my brilliant thoughts about Chicks Unravel Time faded away like a resolved temporal paradox.

Genius thoughts aside, it is a great collection of essays and if you have any love for the Doctor then you should buy it immediately.

I’ve also been listening to quite a bit of Big Finish recently. The quality varies from the excellent to the bit rubbish, but overall I find the plays worth my time and my cash. In fact I buy most of what Big Finish produces including the Main Range to the Companion Chronicles to the wonderful Jago and Litefoot series.* However, one thing I have noticed though is how few women actually write for the main Doctor Who range (or any of the spin-offery).

A quick check of the main Doctor Who range indicates that the last full story written by a woman was Jacqueline Rayner in August 2008. Since then Emma Beeby has written a full story (in September 2011) though with co-author Gordon Rennie. I should also note that both Beeby and Catherine Harvey have written one episode stories since 2008.

A quick skim of the Table of Contents of Chicks Unravel Time demonstrates how many professional female writers love Doctor Who. There’s Diana Gabaldon, Barbara Hambly, Seanan McGuire, Una McCormack, Juliet E. McKenna, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Sarah Lotz, Martha Wells, Joan Frances Turner, Mags Halliday, Kelly Hale, Amal El-Mohtar, K. Tempest Bradford, Rachel Swirsky and Aliette de Bodard. And while none of them may actually be interested in writing a Big Finish audio, I think they’d all be more than capable (apologies if that sounds patronising).**

Now, I’m not saying that Nick Briggs, Alan Barnes, David Richardson and whomever else commissions the stories are sexist. Given that they produce one Doctor Who play a month and a slew of spin-offery, it’s no surprise that they go back to writers who they can trust. It just so happens that those writers, like Jonathan Morris and Marc Platt, are blokes. It’s not a matter of choosing guys over gals, it’s a matter off expediency.

That said, I put it to Big Finish, as part of their forward planning, that maybe it’s time to open the doors to more female writers. Writers who love the show, who appreciate its flaws and its quirks, who truly understand those moments that made us fall in love with Doctor Who in the first place. Because diversity in voice will ensure that Big Finish thrives, whether the show is on TV or not.*** And the brilliant Chicks Unravel Time is a good place to start.

UPDATED TO ADD: Una McCormack notes on Twitters that she has two plays coming out from Big Finish shortly. They are an episode of Gallifrey Season 5 that has just come out and a Blake 7 story due for release later in the year.

Also pointed out on Twitter by Mags Halliday is that only five women ever wrote for the pre-New Who book range (the New, Past Doctor and Eighth Doctor Adventures). Three of those women were commissioned by Justin Richards (and included Mags).****

*And the rest, of course. I highly recommend the Blake 7 Chronicles and if you’re a fan of StarGate the SG1 audios are good fun.

** There are also the fans like L.M. Myles and Liz Barr, who’ve written some wonderful fan fiction in the past and show in their essays how much they understand and love the show.

*** I haven’t mentioned the elephant in the room, that is the lack of female representation on both the Old and New Series. It’s a given that I’d love to see more women writing for the New Series. However, in the short term I think there’s more chance of this happening with Big Finish then on the telly.

**** … and Kate Orman, Llyod Rose, Kelly Hale and Jac Rayner.

1 comment

  1. Stuart Douglas

    I had a similar issue early on with Obverse – there weren’t enough women submitting for open slots and I’d asked all the good female writers that I personally knew. By letting editors know that we wanted more female voices, we’ve upped the number this year and last, but it’s an ongoing process.

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