A Few Thoughts on Kate Stewart
Guest contributor Nathan Lobo shares his views on the character.
With the latest two-parter hitting our screens, our attention has been somewhat diverted, not in a bad way, towards the return of Osgood from the dead. However, I feel this overshadows the return of another character: the fantastic Kate Stewart, stunningly brought to life by Jemma Redgrave, and in this article, I would like to present some thoughts on the character with some references to an old friend.
One of the main areas of exploration when it comes to Kate is her tendency to favour non-violent and scientific methods of sorting out issues than just going in guns blazing as Colonel Walsh does in ‘The Zygon Invasion’ and as her father preferred to do before he met the Doctor. This is quite appropriate seeing as she is, in effect, the head of UNIT. The first words that the Doctor directs to her in ‘The Power of Three’ are a question which makes us think about what UNIT have become. ‘Since when did science run the military, Kate?’ Kate’s somewhat oxymoronic response is interesting and reveals more of her character than anything else. Dragging UNIT along, kicking and screaming, in order for them to adapt to a more scientific approach of operations is most probably meant as a joke with a more serious tone, showing that she will do whatever is necessary almost as a final resort.
In ‘TPOT’, along with UNIT soldiers, she storms the Ponds’ house in order to get a swift reaction, again obtained in ‘Day’ by parading the TARDIS all across London, presumably to get the Doctor’s attention, even though, unbeknownst to her, he’s still inside. In the latest episode, she makes it very clear that she is only ordering the bombing because she believes the ‘treaty’s been comprehensively violated’ but three seconds later, after the Doctor has reminded her that this is only a splinter group, she’s quite happy not to bomb the place and instead go herself to Truth or Consequences.
I read an interesting piece of speculation recently which led me to think more deeply about Kate and to write this article. It said that, based on the assumption that she is clever enough to have realised that Norlander was a Zygon quickly, Kate is tricking the rest of the Zygons into thinking she’s one of them when in fact, she’s the one who overpowered Norlander and survived. One piece of evidence to support this is that, while we saw the ‘lightning’ strike Clara and Osgood, we did not see the actual striking of Kate. The question is was this done deliberately? If so, then this would show much similarities in her way of thinking to her father’s. In his final ever televised appearance in Doctor Who, the Brigadier confronts and successfully kills the enemy himself at the end of the story, nearly dying himself, all just to spare the Doctor the arduous and painful task of killing it himself.
Kate clearly makes it known from the beginning she wanted to be distanced from her father for fears of nepotism and this is why she changed her name and dropped the Lethbridge. This shows she wants to be independent. Although she was guided by him, ‘even to the end’, she wants to make her own name within UNIT and it seems she has done that. Her father is obviously very proud of her as shown by his actions at the end of ‘Death in Heaven’ when he saves her, before again saving the Doctor from killing someone by shooting Missy herself.
Steven Moffat made sure the past had a presence in the 50th Anniversary by bringing back this obscure character which, before ‘The Power of Three’, had previously appeared in only two unofficial Direct-to-Video stories and a BBC novel. Kate’s importance in her debut televised story cannot be undermined but Moffat seemed to have one eye already on the 50th and beyond. After that story, Kate has only faced four monsters (so far) and they are arguably the four most iconic Classic Who villains ever, with the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Zygons and, not forgetting, Missy (the regenerated Master from Classic Who). What strengthens her bond with the past is that her latest enemy, the Zygons, was also the last enemy for her father in the regular series before his eight year long absence and his last enemy fighting as a member of UNIT.
Although we should see her as a fitting tribute to the achievements of an iconic character in the Brigadier shortly after the actor’s sad departure and also as a lovely reference, especially around the time of Doctor Who remembering its past, Kate is an important character in her own right and I hope she makes more appearances in the Whoniverse for many years to come.
Please add your own thoughts on the character of Kate Stewart in the comments below. I’d love to read what others think of her. Thanks for reading.