Archive for Historical Analysis

Domesticating the Doctor Part VI: Soufflés in the TARDIS

[Crossposted at TansyRR]

Previously on Domesticating the Doctor, we looked at our hero’s distaste of the domestic sphere throughout the Classic Years (with a brief holiday from it when he was Jon Pertwee), we looked at the three Mother-in-Law characters from the RTD era and how this new, rebooted version of our hero coped with jam, Christmas dinner and housing estates, we delved back into pre-war Britain with a very human Doctor, we poked holes in his new Moffat era family with Marrying the Ponds and then examined the final act of that relationship in Divorcing the Ponds.

As it turned out, the new companion of 2012 provided me with a brilliant coda to my Domesticating the Doctor series – a girl with an egg-whisk in her belt who moonlights as a Victorian governess!

Thank you, Mr Moffat. I’ll take it from here.

To me, the most baffling element of Asylum of the Daleks was not what the hell Jenna-Louise Coleman was actually doing there, five months before we expected her to arrive. It was: how does the Doctor know that you require fresh eggs and milk to make a soufflé?

I mean, seriously. It took him nine hundred and one years to get the hang of jam.

OswinOswaldColeman’s character of Oswin Oswald is explicitly domestic, from the cozy home she has set up for herself in the belly of a crashed spaceship to the egg whisk she wears in the utility belt of her little red dress. She even dictates letters home to her Mum. It’s all a cruel trick, of course, but it’s a clever one. Oswin is hanging on to the precious shreds of her remembered humanity, and the burnt birthday soufflé that was ‘too perfect to live’ is a part of that illusion.

Domesticity – the place we live, the everyday tasks that heroic stories tend to ignore – is an important aspect of humanity. We don’t all have to be 1950’s housewives who make perfect soufflés, or even switch on an oven, but to me the most interesting science fiction (and indeed the most interesting history) is that which explores how people actually go about their daily lives.

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The Girl Who Fell Out Of The World: or, The Importance of Being Tegan

Before we begin: Janet Fielding is battling cancer. I’d like to take a moment to wish her the very best of outcomes, and to point you all to her online support group slash charity page: projectmotormouth.org.uk

Actor Janet Fielding as Tegan Jovanka, in a screencap from the 1982 serial "Black Orchid". In this closeup, she is wearing a flapper-style green headband ornamented with a pink rose, and is smiling or laughing at the camera.

Actor Janet Fielding as Tegan Jovanka, in a screencap from the 1982 serial "Black Orchid". In this closeup, she is wearing a flapper-style green headband ornamented with a pink rose, and is laughing at the camera.

Mouth on Legs

Tegan Jovanka, everyone’s favourite trainee Australian flight attendant, is one of the Doctor’s longest-serving companions. She even eclipses the legendary Sarah Jane Smith, though only by a couple of weeks (and SJS was in more episodes). She’s pretty inarguably the Fifth Doctor’s companion, serving in all but two of Peter Davison’s televised serials. But you’d never know it from fandom. What is it with Tegan? Why is her sarcasm “stroppy” and “mean-spirited”, while Donna Noble’s is endearingly sassy? Why is her ambivalence about adventuring across time and space versus forging her domestic, Earthbound life–her real life–“whiny”, when Amy Pond’s very similar arc is portrayed much more sympathetically? I think it’s time to take another look at Our Tegan, the Classic Who companion who most clearly anticipates the New Who companion, and this time see the seeds she planted.

I hate those transmat things. I’d be afraid of coming out puréed.

Me, I had a soft spot for Tegan from early on. In “Castrovalva”, the newly-regenerated Fifth Doctor is looking for a Zero Room–a place, he says, that’s cut off from the rest of the universe. Tegan snarks that if she’d known that’s what he wanted, she would have suggested her native Brisbane. And lo, my little heart went “pwing!” What kid raised in suburban or rural environs–convinced that their parents had deliberately chosen the least interesting place on earth for them to grow up in– wouldn’t feel a twinge of empathy?

I love moments in Who that ground the fantastic in the earthy, that reach right past the high concept of the show to reveal how real people might react in such bizarre circumstances. I love the moment in “Forest of the Dead” where Donna, bewildered at the revelation that her life is a Matrix-like simulation, snaps, “But… I’ve been dieting!” All her discipline and willpower, and she could have had the chocolate cake anyway. Who wouldn’t feel frustrated? I love Martha worrying, in “The Shakespeare Code” whether Elizabethan London is a safe place for a black woman, and I’m annoyed that the Doctor brushes off her valid concerns.

And Tegan, with her shots at Brisbane and her entirely understandable wariness of this strange new world she finds herself in; Tegan, who never travels with a fellow human aboard the TARDIS; Tegan provides that essential grounded viewpoint.

Tegan’s character establishes itself early, and is remarkably consistent: she’ll speak her mind even when her voice shakes, she tries to be self-reliant to the extent that she won’t always ask for help when she needs it; she hides her fear and vulnerability behind a facade of snark and bravado. In short, she has a lot in common with one of the best-liked recent companions: Donna Noble. The two redheads are characterized by their fiery natures–both have tempers, neither is willing to take the Doctor’s crap, and both almost delight in puncturing his self-importance. Both remind the Doctor of the impact his plans have on the ordinary people caught up in them; indeed, they each almost consciously take on the mantle of the Doctor’s conscience. Both women were abducted aboard the TARDIS for their first experience(s) with the Doctor; leave when the Doctor finally returns them to their own time; and, later, dissatisfied with what had, pre-Doctor, been perfectly satisfying lives, chose to return for more adventures. [1]

So why is Donna beloved while Tegan, generally, isn’t? Is it the quarter century that elapsed between the two? I think that’s a large part of it. Nyssa and Tegan are both good examples of some of the problems with the way womens’ roles were written in the early Eighties: one was sweet and childlike; the other, adult but shrewish, and guess which one was allowed to be intelligent? Nor was the series at the time very interested in the companion’s story. We learned much more about Donna’s past, her family, and her character in one year than we did about Tegan in three, and the depth of Donna’s character helped make her sympathetic. So where Donna was a well-rounded character with flaws and strengths, Tegan, despite her much longer tenure in the TARDIS, is much more of a cipher.

I happen to think that human lives are just as valuable as yours!

Tegan’s original character brief is… kind of offensive.

Tegan is twenty-one, an attractive and intelligent Australian trainee air stewardess, whose brash confidence in her own abilities actually conceals inner insecurity, a state of affairs that becomes clear in moments of stress. On her way to her first real flight she accidentally blunders into the TARDIS and thus finds herself being inadvertantly [sic] abducted by the Doctor. Characteristically her inner bewilderment at the new situation in which she finds herself causes her to assume an attitude of overweening self-assertion, and she begins to take charge of the Doctor and Adric. During the course of three stories, Tegan’s superficial self-assurance will build until it becomes a real problem for the other two occupants of the TARDIS, and it will need drastic action on the part of the Doctor to put things to rights and show her the error of her ways. She may or may not continue with the Doctor thereafter.
(“Doctor Who – The Eighties” by David J Howe, Mark Stammers, Stephen James Walker; p.13.)

Oh, joy: the Uppity Woman Who Receives Her Well-Deserved Chastisement At The Hands Of A Wiser Man. (See, also, a remarkable fraction of the plots involving Lois Lane in mid-century Superman.) Way to smack down any female character who thinks herself a man’s equal!

But what’s remarkable here is how little of Tegan’s planned arc made it into production. Tegan had her flaws–rashness, a short temper, a bad habit of lashing out at people when she felt overwhelmed or frightened–but I think it’s very hard to argue that she was arrogant, much less that she “took charge” with “overweening self-assertion”. She makes her opinions known, but defers to the Doctor and Nyssa, less brash than she but more experienced. Certainly her comeuppance, as planned in her character brief, never happens.

Long shot showing Tegan exiting the TARDIS. Her inexpert landing has left the TARDIS sticking out of a hill at a strange angle, but she is proud to have landed it intact. Screencap from the 1981 serial "Castrovalva".

Long shot showing Tegan exiting the TARDIS. Screencap from the 1981 serial "Castrovalva".

Tegan gets away from the bitch in the character brief as early as her debut story, “Logopolis”. We meet her as she heads to Heathrow to begin her new job as a flight attendant, a job she is clearly looking forward to. She seems eager for independence, for a chance to prove herself in–yes–a man’s world. Tegan herself identifies her desire to fix her own car as feminist self-reliance.

Even when Tegan stumbles into the TARDIS and gets lost, she manages to maintain much better composure than might be expected of a human confronted with the overwhelming implications of a dimensionally transcendent alien spacetimeship. (Remember that, unlike nearly every other companion, Tegan doesn’t have the Doctor as a tour guide.) She is clearly terrified, but doesn’t let her fear disable her. She knows that she is in some sort of craft: she realizes that the console room is the equivalent of a cockpit; she tries to use the communication devices at the console; she reasons that there must be a pilot aboard, and asks to see that person. She, in short, displays a rather astonishing degree of analytical ability and sang-froid–and that’s just in her first serial.

Peter Davison’s been heard to say that he thought Nyssa was the companion best suited for his Doctor, but I think he’s wrong. Nyssa may have been the one the Fifth Doctor got along with, but Tegan–spiky, ornery, brave Tegan–was the one he needed. It’s Tegan who wants to know why the Doctor can’t go back and save Adric (“Time-Flight”), in a scene that–as the companion confronts the Doctor over a heartbreaking failure to save a fellow companion–is right at home in the new series:

Tegan: Aren’t you forgetting something important, Doctor? Adric is dead.

Amy: Save him. You save everyone. You always do. That’s what you do.
The Doctor: Not always. I’m sorry.
Amy: Then what is the point of you?

 

It’s Tegan who who commits to freeing the Frontios colonists when the Doctor is trying to butter up the villain (“Frontios”), Tegan who’s willing to throw knives at people in the Doctor’s defense (“The King’s Demons”). And, finally, it’s Tegan whose departure forces the Doctor to admit that his hands are bloody. The Doctor doesn’t last long without her–two serials after she leaves, he regenerates.

Tegan vs. Eurocentrism

"McArthur's Universal Corrective Map of the World": a 1979 world map by an Australian cartographer that is oriented so that it has South at the top.

"McArthur's Universal Corrective Map of the World": a 1979 world map by an Australian cartographer that is oriented so that it has South at the top and Australia in the center.

Beneath its glossy science fiction trappings, Doctor Who is a direct descendent of Victoriana: specifically, the Victorian traditions of the gentleman adventurer and the gentleman inventor. This is not an era known for its transgression or its diversity, and Who has at times struggled to rise above the colonialist subtext of “nice white man from advanced civilisation arrives to save backwards civilisations from themselves”.

As our own Courtney Stoker has put it, Doctor Who is:

… not a particularly progressive, transgressive, or subversive show. It’s just a show about a White dude who wields all the power and paternalism of a British imperialist force…

John Nathan-Turner’s reasons for creating an Australian companion probably didn’t include venturing outside Doctor Who‘s comfort zone or introducing a non-European perspective–accounts of the era suggest that he was mostly interested in selling the show to Australia.

But Tegan does bring a non-British, non-European perspective to the TARDIS, maybe most notably in “Four to Doomsday” when she can communicate with Kurkutji, a temporally displaced Aboriginal Australian, and the Doctor can’t.[2] The scene has some problematic elements that imply a screenwriter who seems not to have thought much about either linguistics or Australia’s diversity of languages, including the odd implication that Kurkutji’s language hasn’t changed over 40,000 years (by contrast, a mere 10,000 years separates English from Proto-Indo-European), and the extraordinary coincidence that Tegan happens to know that one particular language among the hundreds native to Australia. But Tegan’s achievement remains: she can do something that the Doctor cannot, and it is extremely important to the story.

It’s tempting to wonder how much of her pointed refusal to be impressed by the Doctor is that, from her perspective, he may well be the Ultimate Pom: representative of an allegedly superior culture who condescends to hang around hers.

It’s stopped being fun, Doctor

What does Tegan want? Does she want to stay with the Doctor or leave? Certainly she’s one of the companions most ambivalent about traveling with the Doctor. But her story is nearly unique among the companions: she stumbled aboard the TARDIS without meaning to, and the Doctor’s attempts to take her home repeatedly failed. She never asked for adventure; it was thrust upon her.

But how do you reconcile a life of adventure with a mundane Earthbound life? This is a major theme of the new series and its spinoffs, but it’s in Tegan’s story that we see it first broached.  The confident young woman we met in “Logopolis”, looking forward to her new job, has her horizons so shattered by her adventures that (per “Arc of Infinity”) she doesn’t last three months as a flight attendant.

So she returns to a life of adventure. This time she wants to be there. She seems happier, now that it’s her choice; she’s more of a participant than a bystander. She is increasingly concerned with the lot of the little people caught up in the mayhem that surrounds the Doctor, and is increasingly determined to give them a voice.

And things start going wrong. Gradually, Tegan realizes that the exhilaration of adventure is not worth the psychic toll it’s taking on her. She’s seen too much. She’s… outgrown him.

So she makes the excruciating choice–the only possible choice–and leaves. On her own terms, with her head held high. Brava.

 

There’s a woman in Australia… fighting for Aboriginal rights

I’m of the opinion that Who has, ultimately, just one lesson for us to learn, over and over again: we are the same.

Tegan learned it.

[1] It’s pretty common in the new series for companions to alternate time with the Doctor and time at home: Rose, Mickey, Martha, Donna, River, Amy, and Rory have all had adventures, left the Doctor, and then come back to have more adventures. But it was vanishingly rare in the classic series; I think Tegan’s the only example. (Sarah Jane didn’t come back until the new series.)
[2] Interestingly, this translation oddity didn’t make any sense at the time (I think it’s the first time the translation magic didn’t work) but does fit in remarkably well with current Who canon, which holds that the TARDIS can’t translate exceptionally old or obscure languages. (“The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit”)

The First Face This Face Saw

[crossposted at tansyrr.com]

I know that most of us are thinking REALLY HARD about The Angels Take Manhattan right now, but I wanted to step back for a moment and talk instead about a thought that emerged from the previous episode, The Power of Three.

“The first face this face saw,” the Eleventh Doctor said to Amy, explaining why it is that he has been so very emotionally attached to her, and by extension, Rory, over the last several hundred years. Much like “I always took you where you needed to be” from The Doctor’s Wife, this one line throws the whole history of Doctor Who into a new light.

I’ve always subscribed to the idea that the Ninth Doctor was freshly regenerated in “Rose,” and that he went off to have a bunch of adventures in that instant before he and the TARDIS came back for her and he upped his offer: “Did I mention it also travels in time?” Not only is this a nice thought because it means he got to have a bunch of adventures on his own, but it allows him to appear at various points through history in his leather jacket, thereby catching the attention of Clive.

But Rose could well have been the first face that his Ninth face saw. At least, the first non-Auton, non-dead face. The first person he talked to, the first person he told to “Run.” Extending this thought further, this could be why he came back for her at the end of the episode, once he thought of something new to tempt her with. And maybe even that “run” was the first word he said, also imprinting itself upon the destiny of his incarnation of the Doctor.

Yes, I’m arguing that the Doctors set their own themes in the first moments of life. Bear with me.

I know that many fans are annoyed by the perceived “specialness” of Rose, while others love her best and most above all others. Well, she is special. Because she may well be the only person whom the Doctor saw first in two incarnations. With the Ninth, it’s arguable, but it’s definite with the Tenth. He regenerated in the TARDIS, and the first face his face saw was Rose, crying and angry and bouncing emotions off the walls. Rose, who loved him.

Yep, this explains a lot about the Tenth Doctor.

But does the theory hold up into the Classic series? I had a long walk this morning, which always does ferocious things to my brain, and I’m here to tell you that maybe it DOES.

Some are drawing a longer bow than others, I’ll admit. The first face the Eighth Doctor saw was that of a morgue technician screaming at him for being alive. But the surgeon who killed him, Grace Holloway, certainly can have had an effect on who he was as a Doctor. Did he see her through the anaesthesia? Does his grogginess explain the weird hallucination about being half human?

The Seventh Doctor is a way better example. The first face his face saw was his old enemy the Rani, pretending to be his companion Mel. No wonder he spent his whole incarnation as a sneaky, suspicious and manipulative dark version of himself! Apart from the whole spoon-playing phase which was obviously caused by the strobing effect from Mel’s psychelic apricot striped outfit.

The Sixth Doctor tried to kill the first face his face saw, the argumentative Peri, and his incarnation was certainly characterised by bickering and violence.

The Fifth Doctor saw three young people he barely knew: Adric, Nyssa and Tegan, and spent the rest of his regenerative crisis freaking out and impersonating his former selves. I have no idea what effect this had on his personality. But it does explain why he and/or the TARDIS failed so utterly to return Tegan to her workplace over and over again, despite her stated wishes.

The first faces the Fourth Doctor saw were Sarah Jane Smith and the Brig. Interesting then that he set out to distance himself quickly from UNIT and his previous life on earth. A born contrarian? Still, there’s no denying that he remained more closely attached to them both than almost any other companions of the classic era. He sent Sarah a K9, after all, and he always came back for Alistair Gordon.

The first face that the Third Doctor’s face saw was a random squaddie who shot him. He then spent five years living with and working for the military, despite the fact that this was dramatically against anything established for the character previously.

And finally, the Second Doctor. His very first regeneration, and the first people he saw were Ben and Polly. There was nothing particularly special about them, though it is worth noting that he spent his entire incarnation with companion pairs of a boy and a girl, except for the one time that Jamie stowed away.

The first faces that the first regenerated Doctor saw were human, though. And in fact, apart from Nyssa, Adric and the Rani, every first face his faces have seen have been human. No wonder he’s so attached to us all, to the humans who live on Earth. The First Doctor despised humans, and if he had any control over the TARDIS, would not have chosen to land on Earth nearly as often as he did. But the later Doctors… every one of them called Earth his home away from home.

And there we are, proof that I think about this stuff way too much.

Seven (or More) Queens That The Doctor Met Before Nefertiti…

[crossposted from my blog at tansyrr.com]

Forgive the frivolity of this post but it occupied my attention on a long drive on Monday afternoon, knowing that Dinosaurs on a Spaceship awaited me at the end of the journey.

Historical queens! Oddly enough, while the historical was an essential staple of very early 1960’s Who, and continued to be a feature in quite a few later stories even though the ‘true’ historical went the way of the Dodo (written out halfway through never to be seen again) very quickly, it’s only in New Who that the Celebrity Historical episode has become a true tradition.

Classic Who does have a few gratuitous historical figures, it must be said, and even more are name-dropped by the Doctor in his more grandiose moments, but many of its historicals are more about the time period than the famous faces.

But I wanted to write about Queens in particular, because I’m rather fond of them as a species, and it certainly seems from New Who that they have opinions about the Doctor too… though, spoilers, not as many want to snog him as you may think!

[Spoilers for assorted TV stories and Big Finish plays below, but not for the very recent Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, unless you didn’t want to know that Queen Nefertiti is in it, in which case… oops? It was in the trailer?]

» Read more..

Goodbye Dr Liz Shaw

[Crossposted from my blog at tansyrr.com]

We’ve lost many actors and creators from Classic Who over the last couple of years. When Elisabeth Sladen died, I was gutted, and simply couldn’t talk about it. Her character had been so important to me as a child, and had continued to be relevant and important through my adult life. The fact that she was still working, still playing the character on screen, made it more immediate. I never blogged about the loss of Elisabeth Sladen, or talked about it much, and even turned down the request to give a toast in her honour, because I couldn’t find the words.

Only when I heard in the last week that Caroline John had died did I start thinking about how important her character had been to me, too. I’m a lot less emotionally invested in Liz Shaw as a character, but she was a huge influence and role model for me – specifically the Liz Shaw of Spearhead from Space, the story which rebooted Doctor Who from the black and white 1960’s to the colour 1970’s.

Everyone remembers the Jon Pertwee era of Classic Who as being about the Doctor, representing the hippies and the scientists, in regular conflict with the Brigadier and UNIT, representing the military solution, despite taking resources from them without any apparent qualms. In fact, the Brigadier is quite accommodating to the Doctor, who rarely does more than roll his eyes at the use of guns in dealing with aliens, and the two of them riff good-naturedly against each other while saving the world.

Liz Shaw, who is our point of view story for a large part of Spearhead from Space, criticises the military and their way of doing things more in that first story than I think the Third Doctor does for his entire five year run. She is cynical and amused by UNIT and its military solutions, but also very much a skeptic about aliens, who has to learn fast that she is wrong (about the aliens thing) and adapt. Which she does – she may start out as something of a Dana Scully, but once she sees what is happening, her scientific mind proves to be more than up to the challenge. She is an assistant to the Doctor, yes, but she is very much portrayed as his intellectual equal, and while she never wanted to be part of UNIT, the scientific challenge is enough to keep her around (for a while).

And oh, it burns me every time one of them calls her Miss Shaw. I know it’s the 70’s, but she’s a freaking DOCTOR, she earned that title, and the script still occasionally treats her like she’s a dolly bird brought in to make the tea (though that, of course, is Benton). Still, Caroline John rose above it, and despite the mini-skirts and big hair, proved to be a capable and inspiring female scientist.

More importantly, she left. Now, Caroline John left for two reasons – because the production staff felt that having a companion who was the intellectual equal of the Doctor wasn’t the direction they wanted to go in, and also because the actress was pregnant and needed to quit in any case. Because this was decided after the filming of Season 7, there was no ‘final’ story, no leaving scene for Liz Shaw. Fans have often complained about this, because that is what fans do. But I kind of love the way she’s written out – the beginning of Terror of the Autons, the first story of the next season, makes it clear that Liz has gone back to Cambridge to continue her work, and that the Doctor isn’t happy about it.

She has, in short, better things to do. “It was fun, Doctor but… I’m busy.” (The Brigadier even says at this point that she was overqualified for the role as the Doctor’s assistant as he only needs someone to pass him test tubes and tell him how brilliant he is – which feels like a bit of a dig at the behind the scenes decision!) Liz’s independence is part of what makes her such an original and awesome companion character, and the critical regard so many viewers have for season 7 has a lot to do with the role that she played.

i09 article on How Caroline John Helped Save Doctor Who.

Calapine posts about Caroline John and Liz Shaw and provides time stamps for the following long YouTube interview:

A lovely tribute to an unforgettable character, and an important woman in the history of Doctor Who, by Babelcolour:

Domesticating the Doctor III: Marrying the Ponds

The Eleventh Doctor crashes literally in Amelia Pond’s back yard, and from that point on is irretrievably tangled in her life and her family – though with the exception of dancing with them (presumably) at her wedding, he remains largely apart from, and free from any association with, her parents and aunt. Indeed, the whole of season 5 not only has Amy’s family literally removed from her life (a mystery to be solved by the Doctor) but frames the Doctor himself as her imaginary friend, a character who, in the land of child logic, would never interact with her parents and guardians anyway.

The Doctor has always been an abductor of young people, but here we see him set up as an ostensible kidnapper of children. He not only gets himself invited into her house at night, he agrees to take young Amelia off on adventures with him, without any kind of permission from the adults responsible for her.

The Eleventh Hour is for me one of the most perfect pieces of Doctor Who storytelling of all time, but my inner parent is still going, HANG ON A MINUTE. It also raises all kinds of interesting questions of where he got hold of Susan in the first place, back in the 1960’s…

The Doctor’s first main scene with young Amy, in which he tries all the foods and spits them out in dramatic fashion, demonstrates quite clearly that he is still a fish out of water in a domestic environment (and shouldn’t be let out in public).

Like Rose, the adult Amy alternates between dragging the Doctor into her domestic life, and using him to escape it. Amy’s house is a symbol of domesticity gone wrong: the house with missing family members and too many rooms. In that first episode, there’s a monster hiding in a room she can’t even remember, let alone see – the Doctor can see her house more clearly than she can.

At the end of the Eleventh Hour, the big reveal is that Amy, who may or may not have “something” to come back for in the morning, has hightailed it out of her spooky house with the Doctor, leaving behind a certain wedding dress. We return later that same night, at the end of Flesh and Stone, because Amy thinks the best place to proposition the Doctor is back at hers, rather than the far more convenient TARDIS. Why there? Was she expecting him to dump her and wanted to make sure she was back where she started? Or was the TARDIS emanating some kind of ‘no unmarried nookie in here thank you’ magnetic field?

It’s fascinating that the Doctor goes to so much trouble to set up Rory and Amy in The Vampires of Venice, in response to her failed seduction. I know there are some who might view this as him being all patriarchal, but I think his general comedic incompetence balances out his assumption that he knows what’s best for them. He doesn’t understand how humans work, especially the romantic aspects, and his bumbling attempts serve to show how alien he really is. It’s certainly preferable to how the Tenth Doctor dealt with Martha’s feelings for him by ignoring the issue.

The Eleventh Doctor isn’t completely dense, though. He figures out that Amy and Rory’s relationship won’t survive her having otherworldly adventures without him (much as travelling in the TARDIS changed Rose into someone her mother almost didn’t recognise) but he is still flailing blindly in the dark. The obvious solution – to leave Amy with Rory and start again with a new companion – doesn’t occur to him. Instead, he’s determined to keep Amy even if that means bringing her feller along with him. Something he never offered any of his previous companions… and a good thing too, really, or (back in the 70’s) Jo Grant would have had a TARDIS full of alien toyboys by the time Cliff Jones came along.

Amy’s Choice is one of several stories in Season 5 to deal overtly with the issue of the human desire for domesticity vs. The Doctor’s aversion to it. There are two dreamworlds created in this story, one recreating the TARDIS, and the other recreating the life that the Doctor thinks Amy and Rory want for themselves. You’ll note that he’s already thinking about the fact that someday, Amy and Rory will leave him to settle down planet side. Of course they will. The companions always do.

So dream Amy is pregnant, dream Rory is a qualified GP with a silly ponytail, and they are living in an idyllic but deeply boring country village. The dullness is accentuated by the fact that the characters actually fall asleep as they shift between dreamworlds.

The ‘choice’ of the story title is implied to be Amy choosing between the Doctor and Rory, as symbolised by the two dreamworlds. But that’s a cheat, because the village dream isn’t something Amy craves at all (and it could be argued, is only tangentially what Rory wants for them). Her choice has nothing to do with the Doctor – it’s about figuring whether she loves Rory. She chooses a future with him, regardless of where they are, and that’s a choice she holds to from that point onwards, even when she doesn’t remember him.

Arguably the most important story of the Eleventh Doctor vs. Domesticity is The Lodger, which has nothing to do with Amy Pond at all, but crystallises this particular Doctor’s interest in how humans work.

Stranded without the TARDIS, the Doctor investigates a new creepy house, one which, like the one Amy grew up in, is not what it seems. Again we see him trying to fit in with humans by parodying their behaviour, not always successfully. Where he does succeed, it’s often by accident – he cooks and plays football brilliantly, but is less than convincing when it comes to toothbrushes, money or emotional signals.

The story revolves around the top floor of a house that lures and kills people – a floor that was actually never there. It’s a neon sign as to what has been going on with Amy all along, but also represents one of the greatest horror tropes, the idea that the place where you live might not only not be safe – but might be trying to kill you.

It’s interesting really that this trope is so rarely applied to the TARDIS itself, the Doctor’s hearth and home. Though of course it is, many times during this season, and Amy herself is finding out how dangerous the TARDIS can be while all of the Doctor’s tea drinking and footballing is going on.

The mystery of Amy’s house is unravelled in the finale of Season 5 (though the mystery of the TARDIS blowing up is not) and she leaves the house behind without a backward look, wending her way into the universe with “her boys” as a married woman ready for adventures. This felt revolutionary at the time – the idea that a wedding doesn’t have to be the coda for ‘time to stop having fun’ or ‘second best to travelling with the Doctor’. I think it’s dangerous to only imagine weddings are the end of a story, a happy ending to strive for rather than the beginning of something new. We need more pop culture that says you can have your domesticity and swashbuckling at the same time.

It was a magnificent end to a great season of Doctor Who, but I’m not convinced that what followed was anything close to the married-in-the-TARDIS hijinks we were promised.

Having a married couple in the TARDIS (and a baby of sorts) is a huge change of focus for the show, and while it’s good in some ways that it didn’t change the format too drastically (we don’t actually want the show to turn into The Pond Sitcom however cute that YouTube trailer was) it also felt like the show didn’t change enough. A cute married couple can absolutely bomb along with the Doctor in his rackety old TARDIS without making him change his habits too drastically, especially as they were doing so in the previous season as a romantic couple anyway – but why do something different with the companions only to then NOT do anything different with the companions?

The Time and Space comic relief scenes are actually the closest we come to seeing ‘married person chatter’ or any real acknowledgement that something has changed. The funny revelation in The Doctor’s Wife that the room the Doctor set up for Amy and Rory features bunk beds (and he can’t imagine why they might not think they were awesome) and his embarrassed discussion with Madam Vastra about the conception of the baby go to show that actually, the Doctor has not had to compromise in order to make space for the Ponds in his life. They are still travelling with him on his terms, and he’s not even letting them partly set up home for themselves.

Indeed, we see that Rory is still unsure of where he stands with Amy well into Day of the Moon, and episodes like the Rebel Flesh two parter still prioritise the relationship of Amy as the Doctor’s main companion, with Rory as a sidekick. The controversial kidnapping of Amy by Madam Kovarian may put Amy in a traditionally passive role, but at least it forces the Doctor and Rory to work as a team, something we haven’t seen nearly enough of, and makes the TARDIS crew feel more united in the second half of the season by comparison.

Then there’s The Doctor’s Wife, another story about houses that are quite literally trying to kill you. It is a loving tribute to the TARDIS as the Doctor’s faithful companion (or rather, the Doctor as her faithful companion) and makes it clear that the show is really just about the two of them. Companions come and go, but the TARDIS, the Doctor’s hearth and home, is always going to be there for him, and vice versa. The reason he has always fled domestic spheres in the past is not necessarily because it scares him or confuses him, but because he already has a wife and house waiting for him within those blue doors, and no one else compares to Her Indoors.

Wait, I’ve forgotten to address something.

The baby.

But that’s okay, because the show forgot to address it too!

I’m all for babies in my science fiction and fantasy. I’m a mum, and I love to see motherhood explored in my favourite genres. It’s not done nearly enough… and of course, it’s rarely done well. It drives me batty when a pregnancy or baby story is introduced to an ongoing science fiction series, usually to a female character, and then whisked away again, leaving little to no emotional ramifications. Think Deanna Troi and “The Child” in Next Generation. Also there’s the rapidly ageing baby trick, as with Connor in Angel or Eve/Livia in Xena. I don’t even like it when the show in question properly acknowledges how horrible an experience that is for the parent/s, because I’m well aware that the emotional trauma is a side effect of a cynical production choice, to dabble with a baby story but not bother with the realistic long term issues of how that would change a character’s life and priorities.

Which is relevant in the case of Season 6 of Doctor Who, because not only did they take the easy escape by writing the baby out almost as soon as it was born (and indeed skipping the inconvenient pregnancy period too) but they didn’t properly address the emotional ramifications of this to Amy or Rory for a full half of a season. Especially Rory, actually, as Amy at least gets to express her feelings in The Wedding of River Song, while we have to read his loss as a father from subtext in stories where he openly expresses other reasons to be dissatisfied with the Doctor.

It’s a shame, because one or two sentences per episode throughout the second half of Season 6, to show the characters were still thinking about and dealing with this enormous loss would have made it a far more powerful, worthwhile storyline. My only hope is that the story isn’t over yet, and there’s a twist still to come. Recent revelations about the setting of the episode in which the Ponds will be written out only further support my theory that the story of baby Melody is not yet finished. (And you can see HERE my argument for why Amy Pond should not be killed off)

Domesticity and parent-child relationships are a huge part of Season 6, despite the baby-fail. The Doctor can barely turn around without being faced with more children, daddy issues and haunted and/or murderous houses. In Closing Time, he slapsticks his way through Two Men and a Stormageddon, and we are treated to a fun comedy of errors which deals with all kinds of great issues to do with the clash of domesticity, danger and dads. I particularly enjoyed the whole issue of – how do you save the world if you can’t get a babysitter?

So… why couldn’t this be done with Melody Pond? Why couldn’t we have a baby in the TARDIS, stick a robot nanny in with the Gallifreyan crib, and tell the story that way? It’s not like we were going to be stuck with her forever, they’re only keeping the Ponds another five episodes into Season 7!

(James, a regular commenter on Doctor Her, expresses fan frustration with this issue beautifully in a comment on another post, which had me punching the air in agreement)

So, the Doctor has a married couple in the TARDIS (mostly) but he doesn’t have to change his spots. They have a baby, but while there are all manner of timey wimey consequences, it’s hardly even worth the Doctor dusting off that old cot of his. Then, to cap it all off, the Doctor gets married (to someone who isn’t the TARDIS though you could definitely say River is TARDIS-approved) and is in no way expected to live with, change or compromise anything for his new bride.

And yet… maybe he isn’t living as fancy free as we think – at least, not by choice. If we learn anything from The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, it’s that this Doctor rather likes playing house. He creates a Christmas home for Madge and her children, and afterwards, goes home to Amy and Rory – the same home he bought for them, something he’s never done for a companion before. Another Doctor at Christmas dinner, but this one is all his idea.

Somehow, the Doctor has ended up with a real family, not one he visits in order to placate his current companion, but one that includes him as official, full fledged son-in-law. It’s not a permanent thing – Amy and Rory’s days with the show are numbered, and they’ll be gone by Christmas – but it’s hard to imagine that the Doctor hasn’t somehow been irretrievably changed by this development.

Looking back over the Seasons 5 and 6, I wonder if maybe all the kids and killer houses were not about showing us what the Doctor (and those who travel with him) can’t have, but about what this Doctor might be looking for in the future. Eleven didn’t have to marry River, or provide a home and car for Amy and Rory. He certainly doesn’t have to fly through space with a cot in his TARDIS, all ready for some future occupant.

Is this as domesticated as our hero is ever going to get, or is it the beginning of a new direction for Doctor Who? As long as Moffat is involved in the show, it’s pretty clear that it will be daddy issues ahoy. And that means there’s one fairly obvious next step that the show could take.

Could the Eleventh Doctor become a parent – a real, involved, doing-the-dirty-jobs-while-saving-the-world parent – without breaking the show irretrievably?

It would certainly make a change from all those romantic companions, if the next woman to join him in the TARDIS was his daughter…

"Booties... doesn't look too hard!"

PREVIOUS DOMESTICATING THE DOCTOR POSTS:
Cocoa, Test-tubes and the Classic Years
The Missus, the Ex and the Mothers-in-Law
John Smith’s Human Nature

Two Women in the TARDIS

So the TARDIS is a lady. We’ve always known that, right?

The Doctor’s Wife, which made concrete the Doctor’s characterisation of the TARDIS as female, and a living being with her own thoughts and feelings, makes re-watching older episodes a fascinating exercise. It brings an extra layer of meaning to almost every story since 1963.

But crucially, it shakes up the Doctor Who “formula” which, to so many people, sums up what the show is about: One Doctor, One Female Companion.

If you actually watch the show for any length of time, you know that this formula isn’t actually essential at all – but it’s amazing how often the media surrounding the show, official or otherwise, prioritises this depiction of how Doctor Who works. We all know that Jack, Mickey, Rory and River count companions (there hasn’t been a single full season of New Who in which the Doctor has one lone female companion at his side) and yet somehow they disappear in the way the show is pitched to the audience, in the newspaper and blog coverage, and even the merchandise (Arthur Darvill, after one year as occasional companion and a second year as a billed co-star, is only just receiving his first action figure).

[Ritch discusses why this might be the case in one of his Ritch and Space YouTube vids: New Companion, Old Companions]

It happened in the old days, too. JNT, a previous generation’s RTD, famously set up all manner of sexy photo shoots for the Doctor’s co-stars, to the point that you would easily believe that Sarah Sutton’s Nyssa or Janet Fielding’s Tegan travelled with him alone. Most non-diehard-fans remember a Doctor-companion combination that is singular. There’s a kind of mythic resonance to the concept of the “Doctor Who girl” and yet for huge chunks of the show from 1963 all the way through to the present, the Doctor travelled with more than one companion, often a man and woman together, but sometimes as many as three.

In fact, only the Third, Sixth and Seventh Doctors followed the ‘one Doctor Who girl’ format for their whole TV run, and considering that the Third Doctor had an ensemble cast as well as his female companion, it’s really only the late 80’s (and a few chunks of the Fourth Doctor’s era, depending on whether or not you count the robot dog) which completely support the ‘crew of two’ concept.

Now, of course, we know that the TARDIS *always* made three.

But I thought it was worth talking about one of my favourite companion combinations: when the Doctor has two women in his life at at time. (Well, okay, three.) Having more than one woman in the regular cast allows for multiple “types” of female character (yay diversity) plus we get to see them gang up on him, and when is that not fun?

So here are the best examples:

SUSAN AND BARBARA:
The Doctor’s grand-daughter and her history teacher, worlds apart in so many ways. It was Barbara’s curiosity about (and concern for) Susan which got she and Ian into this mess in the first place, and she often takes on a motherly (or at least, cool auntie) role with the alien teenager. I particularly like that they both have such different spheres of expertise, and often have something to learn from each other.
From The Unearthly Child (1963) to The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1965)

BARBARA AND VICKI: Just as Vicki was the substitute granddaughter figure for the Doctor, she had a similar relationship with Barbara as had Susan, though perhaps they erred closer to be being friends rather than teacher-student. It didn’t hurt that Vicki was human, if from the far future, which meant she had extra reason to think that Barbara (and Ian) were like, SO OLD, MAN. When the crew split up (as often happened back then) it often meant we had the Doctor and Vicki going one way and Ian and Barbara going the other, but we still get plenty of great scenes with these two very different women working together.
From The Rescue (1965) to The Chase (1965).

TEGAN AND NYSSA: After a very long gap including the entire Troughton and Pertwee years (and most of Tom Baker) the Fourth Doctor accidentally took on a random assortment of urchins and orphans in his last stories, including two women: Tegan, a mouthy Australian air stewardess and Nyssa, a demure alien aristocrat with mad science skills, along with alien boy genius Adric. While the scripts didn’t always give them the best material to work with (often the writers dealt with the three companion dilemma by making one fall mysteriously asleep for a whole story or otherwise disappear) we did get to see the forging of a strong friendship between these two young women, which was further developed after Adric left and we got to see them working together as the Doctor’s companions. More recently, in Big Finish, their friendship has been further explored with a series of adventures based on the premise that a much older Nyssa has returned to the TARDIS crew – fifty years have passed for her, while only a few weeks for Tegan.
From Logopolis (1981) to Terminus (1983) [TV]
From Cradle of the Snake [Big Finish Audio]

PERI AND ERIMEM: Not only does Big Finish provide us with a bunch of new stories for Doctor-companion combinations that didn’t get much time in the TV show (like Five-Peri) they also create new ones! Erimem, the feisty female Pharaoh who chose a different destiny for herself by leaping into the TARDIS, makes a great offsider for Peri, and their stories involve a lot of girl talk as well as culture clashes between them – for the most part it’s a warm, supportive friendship. I haven’t listened all the way through to Erimem’s end, though!
From: The Eye of the Scorpion [Big Finish Audio]

DONNA AND MARTHA: After two years of Rose, it felt like Martha Jones left too soon, and so it was lovely to have a story in which the Doctor returned at her summons to help with a UNIT mission that turned out to be a Sontaran attack. Even better, we got to see new companion Donna join forces with her predecessor without a hint of jealousy between them. The scene in which the Doctor watches, baffled, as they hug and shriek and mock him, is pure Doctor Who gold. It’s particularly nice because Martha’s era had been overshadowed by her cranky jealousy of her own predecessor Rose, and it’s the first time we get to see a Martha who isn’t in love with the Doctor any more. The Doctor and Donna then manage to kidnap Martha for at least one more spin in the TARDIS.
From The Sontaran Stratagem to The Doctor’s Daughter, plus Journey’s End

AMY AND RIVER
While River’s travels in the TARDIS are rarely chronological, she does manage to pop in quite often when Amy is there – and as we realise in Season 6, it’s not all about the Doctor’s charisma. Even before we learned that Amy and River were mother and daughter, we saw them as friends. The lack of jealousy (so crucial) between them was evident from the start, and Amy is delighted at the weird possibility that River might be the Doctor’s future wife. We also see River work to save Amy by her own methods, proving the Doctor wrong and showing her own capability. The two of them come into their own as a team many times over, across several adventures, often overriding or challenging the Doctor.
From The Time of Angels on and off until The Wedding of River Song.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

MEL AND ACE: In the story Dragonfire, we get a rare overlap/handover from old companion to new, but most of the story actually has Mel and Ace working together as a team while the Doctor does his own thing. At the end, it’s Mel who nudges the Doctor to take Ace along on his adventures.

ROSE AND SARAH-JANE: In the episode School Reunion, New and Old Who collided, and Rose discovered she wasn’t the first young woman to be important to the Doctor. Sadly, jealousy was a big issue in this story, though Rose and Sarah-Jane did work through their issues and boy, wasn’t the Doctor worried when they started laughing at him together?

ROSE AND JACKIE: Obviously this mother-daughter team had been hanging out for a long time, but it wasn’t until Army of Ghosts and Doomsday that Jackie actually hopped aboard the TARDIS and came for a ride. Only across the city, but still… it was very cute to see the Doctor claim Jackie as an aged Rose, and while the mother-daughter team were mostly separated (as they were also in Journey’s End) it was enough evidence for me to claim Jackie as a companion.

DONNA AND ROSE: In Turn Left, Rose became the Mysterious Enabler of Donna’s adventures – with the Doctor nowhere in sight! Lovely to have two companions get a story entirely to themselves. Donna was always a bit of a Doctor/Rose shipper, and while they didn’t get to recreate their Turn Left relationship in Journey’s End, we do get to see the two of them (and Jackie and Martha and Sarah-Jane) all jammed into the TARDIS together. Five women in the TARDIS!

ACE AND BENNY: While Bernice Summerfield was introduced in the Virgin New Adventures novel that wrote Ace out, the two of them didn’t stay strangers. Ace returned several times, the two of them wrangling over all kinds of issues (including I think some rivalry over Jason Kane – boo for jealousy but yay for it not being the Doctor in the pointy end of the triangle for once). Big Finish recreated the Seven-Ace-Benny team a few times, and will be bringing them back together again for the anniversary of that first story, Love and War, later in 2012.

EVELYN AND MEL: in the Big Finish audio Thicker Than Water, the Sixth Doctor brings Mel back to meet Evelyn, the companion who has had the most effect on how he lives his life. And the two of them get into all kinds of trouble together!

LUCIE AND SUSAN: Rose wasn’t the first companion to be faced with the Doctor’s distant past – in Big Finish audio Relative Dimensions, she cooked Christmas Doctor for the Eighth Doctor, his granddaughter Susan, and great-grandson Alex! Together, Lucie and Susan discussed what it meant to travel at the Doctor’s side… and whether it was something either of them wanted to do now.

SARAH-JANE AND JO: In the Sarah Jane Adventures episode Death of the Doctor, these two iconic 70’s companions met and were delighted to do so, even if it was at the funeral of the man they both thought of as their best friend. There was a hint of jealousy here and there, but not of the romantic kind – plenty of wistfulness too, especially when Jo discovered that the Doctor’s current companion got to bring her hubby along on the adventures. But mostly it was two awesome women who had fabulous lives, with fond memories of that crazy bloke they both knew in their youth. And I would have watched whole seasons of them together!

LEELA & ROMANA II: in another spin off series, Big Finish’s Gallifrey, two of the Fourth Doctor’s companions work together in war, death and politics, and barely even mention that crazy bloke they both knew in their youth. Luckily for us, there are whole seasons of them together!


HARDLY WORTH MENTIONING:

But for completion’s sake…

VICKI AND KATARINA – a hand-maiden introduced late into the Trojan story The Myth-Makers was sent on her way to the TARDIS by Vicki, who had a better offer.
DODO AND POLLY – They got along quite well in the opening episodes of The War Machines but Dodo was sent “to the country” halfway through, leaving Polly to carry on with Ben instead.
ROMANA I AND PRINCESS ASTRA – liked each other so much in The Armageddon Factor that Romana stole her body – well, the intellectual property surrounding her body, anyway. She wore it better, too.
ROMANA II and CHARLEY – Disapproved of each other mightily in Big Finish’s Neverland mostly because Romana II had a problem with Charley’s status as a time paradox. How awesome that they didn’t conflict over their feelings for the Doctor, though!