Because it wasn’t that exciting.
So I have a vested interest in minority representation in Doctor Who. Anyone who’s read my S7 episode reviews knows that I’m annoyed at the lack of realistic LGBTQ characters. But I’m also concerned with the overwhelming whiteness of the show. I even have an essay being published in the Doctor Who and Race anthology about the lack of Asian characters in Doctor Who. (It’s coming out next year for anyone who’s interested.) We’ve been going through the editorial process pretty constantly over the past few months, and so the issue is even more at the forefront of my mind then it usually is.
So what was it about “TATM” that made history? Well, Doctor Who has a history of avoiding Asian locations, characters, and storylines. The only time in new Who that we’ve seen a character in Asia is when the entire Chinese army becomes the Master in “The End of Time”. “The Angels Take Manhattan” marks the first time where the Doctor is shown in China doing things.
So why did it suck?
Well, first of all, it wasn’t a part of the storyline but rather a stopping point so that the Doctor could drop a note to River on a Qin dynasty vase. It was actually so brief that I couldn’t find an image of it on Google—I had to screencap this myself.
Second of all, the characters are not agents, they’re objects. They exist in the show so the Doctor can pop in and manipulate things as he sees fit and leave. You could switch out the vase from China with an artifact from any other culture and nothing about that scene would have changed. It’s not like they played an important role.
This is just another fail in a long line of fail on Moffat’s part this season. Here, have a cissexist joke about a trans* horse! Trans* inclusion! Amy’s a bridesmaid in an off-screen gay wedding mentioned in a throwaway line! Queer inclusion! Ancient China is onscreen for less than a minute! POC inclusion!
This is not okay, Doctor Who. This is not real diversity. Step up and do something that actually makes a difference.