Yesterday I watched the 6 episode season of 2007’s BBC TV series “Jekyll” And found myself thinking and thinking about what the hell is up with Steven Moffat.
Now, Steven Moffat; known for writing “Sherlock” and “Doctor Who” is frequently criticized with how he writes women. From the girl who waits Amy Pond (although it is worth noting that Rory also waited for Amy) and River Song a seemingly badass archaeologist who we find out revolves solely around the doctor to the waffling behaviour of Irene Adler in “Sherlock” to reimagining history in the recent 50th anniversary of Doctor Who special with Queen Elizabeth I. You can read a really rad rundown here.
In Jekyll we have Dr. Jackman (who we never see doing any “doctor” things, but who had worked for biotech company Klein and Utterman before Hyde started taking over) who at first appears to have a split personality with the alternate personality having severe violent tendencies. But then it’s more than that: there’s a physical change. But then it’s more than THAT: Hyde is actually the next step in human evolution.
And being the next step in human evolution: People rally around to get a piece of him.
But not just that: they exist solely to facilitate bringing around Hyde.
The real catch is that no one was really sure if Hyde will exist at all even though they have committed their lives to it and unsurprisingly, since it is Moffat, most of these people were women.
When Jackman starts losing control of Hyde he separates himself from his wife, Claire, and their two children without explanation. He locks himself up and hires a psychiatric nurse. Through a series of events Dr. Jackman finds out that Jekyll and Hyde wasn’t a work of fiction but a fictionalized account of real events. He begins to think he is a descendant of Dr. Jekyll (but Dr. Jekyll had no children… which is repeated so many times that I was left ready to scream “Hyde had children, you twits!”) but instead they somehow come up with Dr. Jackman must be a clone.
All the while: Claire stands up to Hyde. Albeit for some very “faithful wife” and very “maternal” reasons. She’s mad at Jackman for keeping his condition a secret from her. She worries for her children above all. We never see any of her personality outside of this except for a flashback when she first meets Jackman and is so funny and weird (and cool). But anyway, she is sassy and unafraid. She slugs Hyde with a wine bottle and chains him up. And later, she tries to rescue him: because Hyde is her husband, too. While that last part might make your eyes roll, or not, I don’t know, and the amount of time she yells “my husband” or “my children” was cringeworthy… it was still kind of okay… until…
They find out that there was never any potion… that it was “a girl” that brought it on. Then they find out that his wife, Claire, is actually a clone of Dr. Jekyll’s maid.
Cloned by Klein and Utterman strictly for bringing out Hyde in the modern Dr. Jackman.
Claire’s entire reason for existence is to fall in love with the drab Dr. Jackman and bring out Mr. Hyde.
Katherine, the psychiatric nurse that Jackman hires also turns out to be working for someone else. So her adult life is also revolving around Jackman-Hyde. She also inexplicably has a crush on Jackman.
But I can’t even chalk (well… all) this up to Moffat’s incredibly archaic views on women.
Longtime friend Peter Syme’s life revolves around keeping tabs on Jackman. It’s the whole reason they are friends. For decades.
So the question I would really like to pose: While, mind you, I am not arguing that Moffat doesn’t see women as fragile discounted versions of men; Is Moffat just plain incapable of writing any characters that don’t just orbit around the MC?
It happened in “Doctor Who” repeatedly: Clara “the girl who would save the doctor” and Amy Pond who wasted her childhood staring at a crack in the wall, and Rory as “the last Centurion” and River Song.
It happens in Sherlock. Let’s face it, this needs no explanation.
It happens in Jekyll. With every other character. Including the two PI’s who would have been more awesome if they just cashed their paychecks and left. Why would they continue to help Jackman 1) not knowing him previously 2)knowing that he could turn into a violent and powerful being at a moments notice 3) knowing that huge government agencies would stop at nothing to obtain him?
While assembling my thoughts I also read this article that discusses Moffat’s inability to have his characters deal with loss and grief. This also happens in “Jekyll” where we get to the end. Every one who the audience cares about is okay. Even Tom Jackman… and probably even Hyde.
(and then his mother turns out to be the descendant of Hyde?! But then who brings Hyde out in her if they needed to clone the maid? what sense can that make?!)