Friday, January 20, 2012

Leela of the Sevateem (Writing sample)

I thought I'd share with everyone a writing sample of mine. Of course it's about Doctor Who, it's about one of favorite companions Leela of the Sevateem.

 The Doctor travels with an assortment of companions, all from different times and planets. But in the beginning for every woman to walk through those TARDIS doors they all seemed to be broken from the same mold; with the ability to scream checked double. Was this portrayal part of a tested true formula, or product of its time? That has been argued to death; nevertheless in the Doctor Who world that mold was broken with the introduction of one of my favorite characters Leela.

From 1977 to 1978 Leela of the Sevateem was the Fourth Doctor’s companion. The short lived yet offbeat pairing of the dirty, sexy, violent savage alongside the bohemian giant, with the toothy smile, dragging a scarf behind him, would become my favorite. They might not admit it but they need each other and that is one of the things that makes this pairing work so well. On one hand The Doctor can show off his knowledge, and he can impress Leela with simple actions like writing her name on a chalkboard. On the other hand Leela protects The Doctor, and will always be on his side knife ready even if he doesn’t ask for it. Leela wants The Doctor to be proud of her. Her eyes light up whenever The Doctor acknowledges things she’s learned, which makes the interplay between the two feel deeper than a basic teacher/student relationship.

Leela of the Sevateem was conceived by the powerhouse team of producer Philip Hinchcliffe, and script editor Robert Holmes. She was originally planned as an ‘Eliza Doolittle’ character that would learn from The Doctor. They kept her mind sharp, her body physically able but took away her clothing as if part of some insane compromise. Is the world we live in such a shallow and strange place a woman can spit out Shakespeare while standing on one foot but unless she’s showing some skin no one will give a damn? At least we know that’s what the BBC thought. Some would go so far to argue that a similar standard is still held today in the leggy style of a Mrs. Pond.

We first encounter Leela in the 1977 serial “The Face of Evil”. In the story’s opening scenes we focus on her. Leela had grown disillusioned with her tribe’s religious ways, causing her to speak out.  As she speaks her mind against her tribe The Sevateem her inner flame burns so rampantly it’s as if heat drips from her skin.  To them she speaks nothing but blasphemy and they throw her out.

Cast out, shunned, and alone Leela must fend for herself. Like those before her she needs someone. This is where she meets The Doctor. She starts learning from him immediately. On screen you see the shackles of superstition and magic fall away with each moment The Doctor spends with her. He opens her world to so much more; a door once open it’s near impossible to close. Can you really blame Leela for running into the TARDIS? Can you blame her for wanting the “more” The Doctor represented?

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