BLOG Women of Defiance #5: Doc Yewll

So far in this series, we’ve covered the Rosewaters, the Iraths, the minor players and the wonder that is Stahma Tarr.

And then there’s Doc Yewll.

Really, that’s nearly all there is to say.

I love Doc Yewll so much it isn’t even funny. Years ago, I wrote a piece here about how much I love a morally ambiguous character, and that hasn’t changed. Since the good doctor has ambiguity in spades, even just thinking about her makes me smile.

But then again, she doesn’t tell anyone about McClintock’s secret origin until she’s forced to. And she clearly has a quite sordid past, as evidenced by her interactions with Pol Maddis and the E-Rep. She also covered up the murder of Hunter Bell and then killed his murderer years later. Finally, when she got her hands on a genocidal weapon – one she urged Nicolette to destroy – she not only kept it, she experimented with it, despite knowing that Irisa was being harmed by it.

So I guess that hero label was applied prematurely.

Or was it? Though the list of Yewll’s transgressions seems noticeably longer than one of her acts of valor, her motivations for those transgressions are not all bad. Her history in the Pale Wars and her covering up Indogene infiltrators can be explained by the fact that it was, well, war. People do terrible things in war. As the Doc said, “You try to win those.” The ends can be made to justify the means.

Likewise, covering up Nicolette’s murder of Hunter Bell can be construed as good for Defiance, as the town was only just coming together then and may have fallen apart if its mayor was convicted of a brutal killing. The later murder of Nicolette herself seems therefore poetic justice and certainly good for the town at that point. Plus, Yewll clearly didn’t want to do that. She did it because she had to, not because she wanted to, and she did it in the kindest way possible. Nicolette had gone off the rails. Whatever her plan was, the ends no longer justified the means, so the Doc did what needed done.

Now, not destroying the artifact once she got it? That’s a bit tougher to justify, especially given its effects on Irisa. Perhaps it was merely curiosity that drove Yewll to do what she did. Perhaps it was something more sinister. But the fact that, once she discovers Irisa’s “gift,” she seems to genuinely feel sorry for the Irathient and urges her to use her abilities to escape seems to indicate she isn’t a complete monster. It’s all very … conflicted.

So, frankly, I have no idea how to take Doc Yewll, and I’m beyond perfectly okay with that. I like not knowing which side she’s on, other than her own. I like not knowing her motivations and her past. It gives Defiance more stories to tell, which is fine by me. And the fact that Yewll does her best work while dropping some of the greatest dialogue Defiance has to offer is just the icing on the cake. Her sarcasm and wit are pitch-perfect. Trenna Keating shines in this role. Despite the makeup and the limited facial expressions allowed to Doc Yewll, she manifests a slew of emotions – but none so well as snark, and I love snark.

I don’t want to wait, but I must, for I cannot speed up production of a television show, and even if I could, I wouldn’t want to in this case. Not with the good doctor involved. After all, as she said in the pilot in the line that hooked me but good on this show and this character, “If you rush me, we all go boom.”

We wouldn’t want that. What we do want is more Doc Yewll, complete with castration jokes and dripping with cynicism. Next summer can’t come soon enough!

Laura McConnell

Read Laura’s other Women Of Defiance features