“Well… there was this one guy. I traveled with him for a while. But he was a tough act to follow.”
– Sarah-Jane Smith, School Reunion
With this quote, Russell T. Davis points out why he shouldn’t have made The Doctor a romantic hero. From Mickey Smith to Rory Williams, nu-Who always had the competition for the companion’s attention, attractive men with decent qualities of their own, but did they stand a chance when The Doctor were ruining all other men for these women?
Sarah-Jane herself, had one canon relationship in her spin-off show. That storyline opened with the kid companions tracking her on a date because they were freaking out by her ‘strange behaviour’ lately. This shows that Sarah Jane has pretty much given up on love after The Doctor but the quote implies that she has seen other men between Doctor 4 and Doctor 10 and none of them interested her.
Not that there is anything wrong with her not being interested in romance…but then she goes all giddy and bashful when Jack Harkness says ‘Hello.’ She’s not fourteen!
Likewise Rose seemed to close herself off from love after Doomsday, focus on getting back to The Doctor and hearing those words he never got to say. On one hand I hate hate HATE the ship and the character and that going back to that finished storyline only opens plot holes but on the other: this incredible young woman knows what she wants, fights impossible odds to get it and succeeds – more or less.
Martha Jones is a woman who tracked down the deliciously handsome and heroic Doctor Thomas Millican who is good with children, does relief work and got engaged to him within a half a year because he’s dreamy, good with kids, died for her in another reality and played by Tom Yummy Buns Ellis.
So why did she end up with Mickey Smith of all people? Mickey! Smith! …Well they both change and grew throughout their experiences with The Doctor. The Doctor did to them what he does for his companions and brings out their best, their heroic side. He has shown them things that others may find hard to believe. Like when Donna Noble spent a year searching for him after rejecting his first offer to travel with him and she had no romantic attachment to him whatsoever.
Unlike Sarah Jane, Martha found a suitor that understood the world she lived in and could live in it too. She didn’t have to keep secrets or risk him not believing her.
When it comes down to it, experiences changes people and traveling with The Doctor would be quite an experience. We’ve seen characters that change just because their lives were touched by The Doctor: Harriet Jones, Craig Owens, Sally Sparrow, Amy’s friend Jeff, Lady Catherine de Souza and the members of LINDA.
The experience made them see the same things at a different angle and that will apply to what they look for in a partner and their relationship. It’s not all about love. Love is just a part of it.
Love is a powerful story telling tool but the stories of Sarah-Jane’s return and Martha could be told without the romance. At least with Sarah-Jane it’s undertones to appease the shippers but Martha’s story could have been so much stronger if her story wasn’t mutually conclusive with a love story.
It does make sense that Martha was ‘the rebound companion’ as she was always good, but finding that self-belief that one could argue she had in Smith and Jones and The Doctor’s been chipping away at since making her feel second best. However having her interest over The Doctor and jealously over Rose be romantic it makes Martha slightly petty. When Donna meets Martha, Donna sees how good this young woman is and ups her game, not competition with Martha but to earn her place on the TARDIS which she does in one act. Having a series with Martha trying to prove that she is worth that ‘one more trip’ and make that a more stable position on the TARDIS would be far more interesting, speaking to anyone who ever felt ‘not good enough.’
I hope with the new companion we see new interesting character arcs being explored and experiences change her without it been driven by romance. It’s not needed, it’s been done more than once and rather than building up a doomed romance they can put in fresh plot and character moments.