It's tough being a female character in a sci-fi show. You're going to be exposed to peril on a weekly basis. You'll definitely need to book in some time to be saved by the show's dashing yet mildly geeky hero. If you're lucky you'll get to be the season cliffhanger – but usually because you've been messing around with Powerful Fantastical Gubbins and it's made you go a bit weird. Seriously, can't you girls just learn to stay out of trouble?
Fortunately, the re-emerging British sci-fi genre is starting to show us female characters who don't exist just to be rescued – and nowhere is that more evident than in the mayhem of Misfits.
Kelly introduced herself to the world by dispatching Tony, the Original Psychotic Probation Worker, without flinching. She fights with fists and words, telling one villain: "If you wanna spunk all over someone's tattoos, just ask 'em, yeah?" Her decision to buy the power of rocket science as her new superpower is beyond useless in community service, and on the evidence of the world's strangest interview, even more so if potential employers don't believe it. Yet not so long ago Kelly would never have dared to even dream of the almost unlimited power of being brainy.
Alisha's somewhat notorious "sex power", meanwhile, proved problematic for feminists everywhere – and deeply uncomfortable to watch. Yet her role as the reluctant observer forced her to learn about herself. In choosing her new power (which allows her to see what other people are doing) and a relationship with Simon, she's also chosen to embrace both the superhero life and her own vulnerability, despite knowing that disaster likely awaits in both. The ability to put herself in others' shoes – and control them, maybe? – reflects her newfound empathy and her determination not to lose it, while putting her at the plotting heart of the gang's shenanigans. Not bad for the formerly untouchable party girl.
Elsewhere, Doctor Who has River Song: a gun-toting femme fatale, channelling Mrs Robinson and capitalising on her own enigmatic status as murderer/wife/daughter/archaeologist. And in the latest series of Torchwood, Gwen Cooper took the protective mum role to the extreme, engaging in a shoot-out while holding the baby. It'd be difficult to find two superwomen in less need of a man to save them.
But for all the genre's strengths, younger women particularly are often still written more like props than characters. Doctor Who's last series might not have been so criticised had the "modern" Amy Pond done more than hatch The Doctor's future wife/murderer in a pod, having somehow failed to notice her own kidnapping. The girls of The Fades fared even worse: with a tendency towards killing off the more intriguing women almost as soon as we'd met them, its central (living) female characters were either the lead's bitchy sister or the lead's girlfriend, rather than people in their own right.
Yet these sketches of women are shown up by others who manage to subvert type. For much of Misfits' first series Alisha certainly wasn't nice, and Kelly rarely lets anyone get close enough to like her. And River Song spends much of her time treading the line between knowing smiles and being knowingly smug. But having been given the opportunity to get to know these characters, flaws and all, we like them anyway. Unlike Amy Pond, or The Fades' Sarah, Misfits hasn't needed to make a big deal of telling audiences how empowered, interesting or complicated its women are, because they just are.
In other news, Misfits got its best ratings ever for the series three premiere:
Misfits had a triumphant return to E4, with the premiere episode achieving the highest audience figures ever for the show.
The overall figure (including those who watched it live on the night and those who watched it on catch up and those who watched on 4OD) was 2.2m.
The third series of the show opened with a consolidated TV audience of 1.8m for episode one, a 6% increase on the previous best of 1.7m for the Christmas special in December 2010 and a 53% rise on the overnight figure of 1.2m.
Aaaaaand, ten teasers for episode three. Spoilers here:
Misfits has had a cracking start to its third series, and the next episode is all about Simon and Alisha! Yes, Simon's racing on in his quest to become the Superhoodie, but Alisha's not necessarily happy about it.
But if that's not enough to get you excited, we've seen the episode and have ten teasers below to whet your appetite... Read on to find out what they are!
1. Is Simon gay? Someone certainly seems to think that he is.
2. "A superhero has to be prepared to *** *** **** ** ******** **."
3. Simon and Alisha fans - prepare for a bit of a bumpy ride. There are tears.
4. Sean meets Rudy's alter ego... while our Rudy is also in the room. Uh oh.
5. "I fancy you. Stop all the bulls**t."
6. Whose side is the Superhoodie on, anyway? Some of our Misfits might just be wondering that...
7. This week's adversary isn't a flat-out villain. You might even feel a little sorry for him.
8. "I have to ********* our relationship."
9. Wondering whose grave Seth was visiting last weekend? You'll find out in this episode.
10. "I don't want you to put that suit on ever again."
Misfits airs on Sunday at 10pm on E4.