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sociological construction

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1.

The Doctor pries open a panel on the TARDIS console and frowns at the frayed wiring inside. Something must have overloaded when they landed; that would rather explain the ship’s reluctance to take off again.

Footsteps clatter on the white floor as Sarah Jane steps into the TARDIS, and the Doctor looks up.

“You are still here,” she says. “I half thought you’d left me behind.”

“Now why would I do a thing like that?” the Doctor says with half a smile.

She shrugs. “I don’t pretend to understand the workings of your mind.” It’s either a compliment or an insult. One of the two.

The Doctor picks up the sonic screwdriver from where he’d set it on the console and levels it at the broken wires. Sarah steps closer, peering over his shoulder. “Is something wrong there?”

“Only for a couple moments longer.” He activates the sonic, pulling some of the wires back together.

“I see,” she says with a laugh, “you would have left me behind if you only could’ve, is that it?”

“I can’t say I considered it,” he says, without looking at her. He runs a finger over the repaired wire, then stands and turns towards her. “Though who knows, maybe I should have. You might have fit in here.”

She snorts. “Hardly. I don’t think the men in this time period would have appreciated me and my modern political ideas sticking around any longer than I already have.”

“That seems awfully harsh,” the Doctor says, closing the panel on the console and looking at her.

“Does it?” Sarah Jane says. “Do you have any idea what it’s like, Doctor? To realize that the person you’re talking to barely even sees you as human?"

“I’m rather more unsettled when they do think I’m human,” he says with a grin as he starts seeing in coordinates.

She scoffs. “Oh, you know what I meant. They don’t see me as a person. Not really. I thought it was bad enough back home, but…”

“You’ll have to forgive them,” the Doctor says. “Products of their time and all that.”

“That’s awfully easy for you to say.”

He hesitates. The coordinates for their jump back to Sarah Jane’s time have been set, but he hasn’t started the takeoff yet. “I suppose it is.”

It sits uneasily with him, somehow, to know that something so trivial colors the way people on Earth interact with him. 

It isn’t as if he can just waltz in anywhere. People tend to react in a variety of ways to a stranger out of time just showing up out of nowhere, regardless of said stranger’s gender. But he does have a vague awareness of the myriad ways the people of this planet have come up with to categorize and dehumanize one another over the years. “Your species really seems to have a knack for that,” he says aloud.

“For what?” Sarah Jane says.

“Making everything so much more complicated than it needs to be.”

 

2.

Rose props up the menu in front of her. “Did you really bring us to a space station hundreds of years in the future so we could get… bad American diner food?”

“Technically,” the Doctor says, “it’s not American. The United States hasn’t existed for at least a century.” He has no intentions of admitting aloud that they’re also several lightyears short of where he’d intended for them to end up. The suggestion of food had been a clever save, in his opinion.

Rose ignores him, and instead glances at Jack and continues, “Though I suppose you must feel right at home.”

“In this company? Of course I do.”

She laughs. There’s a moment of quiet as she returns her attention to the menu, and the Doctor allows himself to follow suit.

A server approaches their table, a slim humanoid with a crown of bright-colored feathers across their head. Rose stares at them. “Are you folks ready to order?”

No one responds right away. Rose appears frozen. She’s going to have to get over that. 

“A bit more time, maybe,” the Doctor says.

“Of course!” The server’s tone is almost annoyingly chipper. “I’ll be back around in a little while.”

They leave, and Rose leans in across the table and half-whispers, “Was that an alien?”

“Sure,” the Doctor says, only briefly looking up from his menu. “They’re from the Alpha Carinae system, I’d guess. Lovely place, remind me to take you sometime.”

“’They’?” Rose says. “Meaning that waiter, and who else?”

“Hm?” The Doctor looks at her for real. “Oh, no, ‘they’ in the singular—Carinaens have something like five biological sexes. Your excuse for a language doesn’t really have a pronoun that accurately describes their gender.”

“Right,” she says. “Okay. Weird.”

“Don’t be rude,” the Doctor says.

“Sorry,” she mutters, not sounding particularly so. “It’s just, you know, humans only have the two genders. So it’s… different.”

Jack laughs. “As someone who’s seen a whole lot of humanity, I can assure you that is not the case.”

“Oh, don’t blame her, she’s a product of her time.”

“Excuse me?” Rose says. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Just that the twenty-first century isn’t necessarily as enlightened as it builds itself up to be. Like I said, not your fault.”

“Twenty-first century?” Jack cuts in, looking at Rose with a new expression. “I didn’t realize I was traveling with a couple of Neanderthals.”

“Oi, don’t lump me in,” the Doctor says. “I come from a highly-developed alien race. I take no responsibility for the many faults of human history.” Not that he wasn’t responsible for some of them. But he wasn’t taking that responsibility just now.

“And what,” Rose says, “I suppose you Time Lords have ascended beyond the need for gender?”

“Yes,” the Doctor says. “Well, sort of. Well, not really, but—” But he’s the only one left, and that means that the question was fundamentally just the same as asking whether he has. Has he?

Rose laughs, unaware of this turn to his thoughts. “That’s what I thought,” she says.

 

3.

The big flickery alien monster thing growls, and says, “You humans have no idea what you’re messing with.”

“Wrong on both counts,” the Doctor says with a grin.

“So you’ve got a plan, then?” Amy says from behind him.

The Doctor glances back at her and Rory, silhouetted against the dark street. “‘Course I’ve got a plan, Pond, what do you take me for?”

“A madman with a box?”

“A box,” he says, “and a plan.”

“Enough,” snarls the alien. “Give me one reason I shouldn’t kill you right now.”

The Doctor spins around so he’s facing it again. “Oh, the list is really rather extensive, but topping it is that if you do, you won’t get answers to any of the questions running through your head right now, such as: if as I just told you I’m not human, what am I doing here? And, more urgently for you I imagine: just what else might I be hiding?”

It flickers. The Doctor’s mind races. Hologram? Could be. Not sure yet.

“If you’re not human, then what are you?”

“I’m a Time Lord,” he says, because the longer he keeps it talking the longer he has to work out an actual plan, “but I’ll be honest, that’s neither here nor there right this minute.”

It laughs, an almost-screeching sound that makes several nearby streetlamps start to spark. Ah, now that is interesting. “The Time Lords are dead.”

“Not all of them,” he says, sliding the sonic out of his coat pocket.

The being doesn’t so much step towards them as hover, cocking it’s head to the side. “Time Lord or no, I can still kill you.”

“Amy, Rory,” the Doctor says. “When I give the signal, run.”

“What’s the signal?” Rory says.

“This!” He activates the sonic and the streetlights spray another shower of sparks onto their heads. A few bulbs explode entirely at the same time as the alien’s electropsychic projection flickers out of sight.

The Doctor turns on his heel and starts running after Amy and Rory. They have to get back to the TARDIS before the creature reforms.

“How did you do that?” Rory shouts as they rush down the street.

“Like I said. Time Lord.”

Amy scoffs. “Some Time Lord,” she says with a laugh. Footsteps pounding. “Hey,” she says, “Everyone’s always on about the Time Lords. Weren’t there any Time Ladies?”

“What?” the Doctor says. “Of course there were.”

“Then why do you and, let’s face it, just about everybody who has it out for you, always refer to your entire civilization as ‘the Time Lords’? Sounds awfully sexist if you ask me.”

“Time Lady, Time Lord, does it really make a difference?” 

She stops in her tracks. Oh, they so don’t have time for this. “Doesn’t it?”

“Well—” the Doctor says. “I mean, sure, when you put it that way.” He hesitates another second. “I don’t really think about it,” he says finally. “The word for ‘Time Lord’ in classical Gallifreyan isn’t gendered, it only gets that way when you translate it into English. And probably some other languages is well. Say, did you know that the language of the moons of Viridian B has over twenty different grammatical genders? How those people keep it all straight is beyond me—“

Amy rolls her eyes and starts running again.

 

4.

The Doctor closes the Vault door, not yet turning to face its occupant.

“Oh, have you come to say hello finally?”

He sighs, and turns, taking in the sight of her seated there, behind glass. “Hello, Missy.”

“Nearly a week since you last visited, and that’s all you have to say? ‘Hello, Missy’?”

“What would your prefer?”

“I don’t know,” she says, “I just would’ve expected something a little more creative, that’s all. This is going to be such a very long thousand years if you’re already running out of interesting things to say.”

“I suppose you’ll just have to be creative enough for the both of us.”

“Isn’t that always the case?”

He doesn’t respond right away. They meet eyes. “You’re doing alright, though?” he says finally, stepping closer. He’s… responsible for her, right now. While she’s more-or-less his prisoner.

She waves a hand dismissively. “I’m fine. You know me.” He does. And he doesn’t, at the same time.

The Doctor takes a seat across from her, and she eyes him silently a moment. “You know,” she says, smoothing out a wrinkle in her dress skirt, “you still haven’t actually told me what you think about it. I’m rather surprised.” A pause for effect. “Aren’t you just dying to ask what it’s like?”

“I don’t have the energy for riddles,” the Doctor says. “What is ‘it’?”

“Don’t be coy,” she says. “I’m referring, of course, to the whole ‘woman’ thing.”

“Ah.” He probably should have seen that coming. “Well, have you considered that I haven’t asked about it simply because I don’t particularly expect it’s all that different?”

“Hm.” She leans back. “Not on its own, perhaps, I’ll grant you that. You’ve got to put in the work. Gender’s a performance, and I rather think I’ve earned a standing ovation.”

He still doesn’t understand the point of this train of thought. “Do you want me to be impressed?”

“Aren’t you, just a little bit?” she says. “Don’t tell me you’re not flattered on behalf of your precious human race. They are rather obsessed with the whole thing.”

“Gallifrey isn’t really all that much better,” he points out.

“Oh, I’m not complaining! I find it all deeply entertaining, really, I do.” Missy grins.

The Doctor sighs. “Of course you do.”

 

5.

Bill, seated at his desk, glances at the TARDIS is parked in the corner. “Are we going somewhere today?”

“Maybe,” the Doctor says.

“Maybe?”

“I haven’t thought about it. I’ve been busy.”

She snorts. “Right. Of course.”

He decides he is going to ignore that. “Did you have any questions?”

She looks at him, apparently thinking about it. “Have you ever been a woman?”

“…I meant about the reading.”

She rests her arms on the desk. “No, yeah, sorry, I just… You don’t have to answer if that’s like, invasive or whatever. I just got to wondering, after what you were saying about Missy, the other day.”

He frowns. He really cannot imagine why she would have spent mental storage space on such a question, but he doesn’t exactly mind answering it. “No,” he says, “I’m afraid I’ve never been so lucky.”

Bill raises an eyebrow. “You’d want to, then?”

He hadn’t meant the comment as much more than a poorly-thought-through joke, but now he shrugs. “Sure. Never one to turn down a new experience.”

She tips her head. “Is that even how that works, though?” she says. “I mean—the way you’ve explained regeneration to me, I thought it just changed your body. I know plenty of people’d say gender’s more complicated than that.”

“Well, so’s regeneration,” he says, gesturing with his hands as he speaks. “It changes your body, yes, but it also changes your personality. Some would say the very essence of your being. Not so unreasonable it would affect gender as well.”

“Oh,” Bill says. “I guess that makes sense, yeah.”

It does sound very reasonable when he lays it out like that, doesn’t it? So why doesn’t he feel as sure as he sounds?

He stands. “Right, well, that’s all very good, glad we had this chat.”

She raises an eyebrow.

He steps towards the TARDIS and pushes the door open. “What? Aren’t you coming?”

 

1.

The Doctor pries open a panel on the TARDIS console and frowns at the frayed wiring inside. Something must have overloaded when they landed; that would rather explain the ship’s reluctance to take off again.

Footsteps clatter on the metallic floor as Yaz steps into the TARDIS, and the Doctor looks up.

“You’re still here,” Yaz says.

“Yeah,” she says. “Bit of a mechanical issue, nothing to worry about though.” She means its. They’re currently parked in her companions’ present, with no obvious threat looming, and she can afford to take the time for repairs.

“Oh,” Yaz says, stepping closer and peering at the beaten-up console.

“Really,” the Doctor says. “I just gotta get this sorted.” She reaches in and twists the exposed wires together, then drops them with a shout as they spark. 

“You sure you got it there?” Yaz says, not quite holding back a laugh.

“Sure thing,” the Doctor says. She fishes the sonic out of her coat pocket, and sets to work adjusting things more carefully. Yaz stands and watches her, and the Doctor’s gaze keeps drifting towards her. A thought that’s been nagging at her floats to the surface.

“Yaz,” she says suddenly, “do you think of me as a woman?”

Yaz furrows her brow. “Well, yeah.”

“Huh.” The sonic whirs as she reconnects the wiring. It sparks again, but holds firm this time.

 “Why do you ask?” Yaz says.

“I dunno,” she says. “I’ve just… been thinking about it, I guess.” It’s a weak answer, even to her ears. She doesn’t have any other.

Yaz crosses her arms. “You used to be a man, right? You’ve said that.”

“Yeah,” the Doctor says, closing up the console, “though I’ll admit I was never too attached to the whole thing.”

“To being a man?” Yaz says with a laugh.

“Yes! Don’t see what all the fuss is about.” She glances at the status readouts for the TARDIS internals. Seems more or less back to functional.

“Doctor,” Yaz says, “I… Do you not think of yourself as a woman?”

The Doctor looks up and meets her gaze, as if she’ll find the answer to Yaz’s question there. “I guess not,” she says finally. “I don’t mind the idea or nothing, I just… don’t really think about it all that much.”

Yaz is silent for a moment. “Well, it’s not like there’s anything strange about that,” she says, eventually. “I don’t think many women are thinking about their gender 24/7, you know?”

The Doctor shrugs. “Wouldn’t mind if it was strange,” she says. “I’ve been told I’m a rather strange person.”

Yaz smiles.

“You don’t—“ The Doctor flounders for words. “You don’t think less of me, or anything, do you? For feeling…” She doesn’t know how to end that sentence. “For maybe not wanting to be a woman?” That isn’t quite it, either, really. But it’s close enough.

“‘Course not,” Yaz says. “You’re the Doctor. That’s all that matters.”

“Right.” She grins. “Well then, that’s sorted. On to all of time and space.”