The Doctor and the Subtext of Loneliness

I last waxed poetic on the constant theme of acceptance woven throughout the series, now I would like to point out another thread. This thread weaves a dark subtext but one every being no matter what their views has experienced.

The Doctor most times is joyful, full of discovery, defending the oppressed, basically saving the universe and the Earth repeatedly.

Sometimes this bitterness is subtly touched upon and others times its thrown at the viewer with brutal force.

This sharp blade is loneliness; the realization that YOU are the one that is different, and no matter how much you strive this can never change.

In his extensive life with all his vast knowledge The Doctor knows that sooner or later he will again be alone. As the only one of his kind he can never hope to find that constant companion that could turn into a full time partner.

What individual has not faced this pit? It matters not if you were or are the perfect social butterfly, beloved and respected by your peers. You don’t have to be the individual struggling with your sexuality, discovering and processing your views on life and injustice. You can be absolutely the vanilla definition of normal and still be struck down by the thought that no one can ever understand you and you face the onslaught of life alone

This is why he searches and collects his companions but never allows himself to be too close. Of course the subject of love and attachment was explored with the companion Rose. Even this was fleeting and ended, changing his attitude and outlook even more with regards to emotional connections.

The current Doctor, Matt Smith, of course is not near as serious as The Doctor portrayed by Tenant, but his first companion is essentially already taken and attached when she joins him in his adventures.

The Doctor teaches us that even if we are different and exist in an environment where no one is fully able to relate to our thoughts and feelings; there is still joy to be found. You can still strive to find happiness and teach those around you to understand your views, if not help them to accept and embrace them.

To place this subtext in the real world, do we not strive to teach others that all genders, race, religion, beliefs and sexual orientation are something to be embraced and respected? Learning about these views and accepting them is not something evil but a new adventure to be explored. Is there anyone that at one time was the only individual in a group with a different slant or view of importance that others couldn’t understand? Thus leaving us “ALONE” with our outlook and misunderstood?

The Doctor shows us these feelings and situations can be dealt with and overcome. Although we may be alone we can persevere and make a difference. We may have too,time and again, face the pain of loss and  return to being on our own. This being said The Doctor shows us you should never give up and sequester yourself away from others. With belief and knowledge you can open eyes and set others on a path to explore the universe.




  1. I thought this was conveyed particularly effectively in The Doctor’s Wife where we found out the TARDIS doesn’t even bother to learn companions’ names – for us, a companion’s journey with the Doctor often takes a year or two (or two and a half months of the year, twice) and maybe a few months or years in THEIR time, but for someone of 900+ years (which includes the TARDIS as well as the Doctor) it’s like the blink of an eye, and they’re gone again.

    Which, sometimes, is what parenthood feels like, or the parenthood of friends/relatives you don’t see very often, so it feels like their children are growing metres at a time, and the world is spinning far too fast.

    No wonder it only took him a few seconds to comprehend that River was Melody all grown up! That’s how people work to him.

    I wonder if we’re going to get a teenage Stormageddon in the TARDIS any time soon…

    • daisybones says:

      Wow- this comment really added a new dimension to my understanding of the Doctor- he IS a parent in many regards. His challenges mirror those of parenting- he is committed to “not interfering” with the “growth” of humanity and other civilizations, but is deeply invested as well, and so must constantly interfere as a sort of champion for the people/places in peril. I think that’s the role of parents- to champion our children but to respect and allow them to develop as they will within the safe environment we create. Very interesting…

      I also have to say that my reading of the Doctor-as-parent is a core thing about parenthood; I’m not looking at it as a gendered, patriarchal father or a stereotype of motherhood either.

      • Yes, I think it’s important to (sometimes) look at the Doctor in this way, rather than assuming that his interference is necessarily patriarchal merely because he appears male – he has certainly had his patriarchal moments, but for the most part he does represent something other than traditional masculinity.

        Modern parents are caught in a terrible dichotomy – we know we’re over protective, and should encourage independence, but at the same time letting go is incredibly hard because we have so many more resources and experience at our fingertips than they do.

        I think the moment in “The Beast Below” where the Doctor tells Amy the rule is to never interfere and then runs out to talk to the crying child without even pausing is the perfect example of modern parenthood.

  2. Tabz says:

    LOVE this post, I have to come back when I’m not busy and really comment, but I think the subtext of loneliness draws many of us to love the Doctor.

  3. daisybones says:

    I really relate to this theme- I count it as the main reason the character of the Doctor appeals to me so deeply. I have a very firm root in identifying as “Outsider.” I have an obvious disability, I’m bisexual, and am radically liberal in a staunchly conservative community. Aliens and monsters have always touched me, but the Doctor even more so. He appears human, interacts with them in many ways as if he is one of them, but is essentially and dramatically Other. His awareness of the loneliness of his condition informs everything, I think. Great topic:)

  4. fontgoddess says:

    This is one reason why the weakening of River Song as a character to a psychopath whose entire life revolves around the Doctor is so terribly tragic. We had a chance to see the Doctor in a relationship where he had a true, equal partner rather than a mediating sidekick. I don’t think the story needs to be about eternal loneliness to work, but it seems some of the writers do.

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