“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.
I don’t really have a problem with Sarah-Jane not being boy-crazy as she’s not fourteen years old and she was the feminist companion but then she goes all giggly and bashful when Captain Jack ‘says Hello’ in Journey’s End. What? Is she fourteen?
Likewise, Rose seemed to close herself off to love, determined to get back to The Doctor. On one hand, I hate Rose’s return as it’s re-finishing a storyline that is finished already. Doctor Who is not about The Doctor and Rose Tyler and with Davis, it really just making all episodes without Rose filler. On the other, this is an incredible young woman knowing what she wants and through impossible odds she gets it. Well a duplicate of it with half the hearts and some Donna Noble throwing in to the mix but it was close enough for her.
Martha Jones is a woman who tracked down the deliciously handsome and heroic Doctor Tom Millican who is good with children and does relief work after the year that never happened and within half a year they are engaged, the relationship lasting at least a year after Martha calls him in the hospital and then we next see her married to Mickey Smith.
Well …because both Martha and Mickey change and grew through their experiences with The Doctor they were the better suited couple while Tom seems lacking the same way Sarah-Jane found other suitors lacking before she gave up on love. So one could argue that The Doctor ruined normal life for her: she wanted it but she was working with UNIT and when on to freelance rather than strictly training in medicine so even in normal life she still yearned for what she had with The Doctor. Likewise Donna Noble rejected The Doctor’s offer of time and space and then spent a year searching for him after just a taster of what his life had to offer and she had no romantic attachment to The Doctor whatsoever.
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.