Tag Archive for barbara wright

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!

Domesticating the Doctor I: Cocoa, Test-tubes and the Classic Years

Domesticity and Doctor Who don’t seem to fit together, as concepts. There’s something about this show, and its fandom, and possibly the hero himself, that rails against the ordinary and the everyday.

You could argue (as I think I might, in future posts) that a major theme of New Who is the uncomfortable and at times antagonistic relationship that the Doctor has with domesticity – he rails against it, runs from it, fails to see it when it smacks him in the nose, and on several occasions, has to compete with it for the attention of his companions.

Feminism often struggles to deal with the same issue. There’s a long tradition in feminist history of dismissing or disassociating itself from anything that smacks of the domestic, and while that’s an understandable side effect of trying to increase the options of female (and indeed, male) roles, it’s important to accept that domesticity can be a perfectly valid life choice. Even for superheroes.

Choice is key, though. There’s a big difference between characters who choose to embrace domesticity and those who are pushed into it against their nature. It doesn’t seem likely that the Doctor would ever willingly choose a domestic path… or does it? Before discussing the uses of domesticity in New Who, I want to look at the (far fewer) instances in the Classic series where domesticity is remotely relevant to the Doctor’s aimless, epic lifestyle in the TARDIS.

As it happens, this is the theme of the very first episode, “An Unearthly Child.” The First Doctor has ceased his wanderings in time and space in order to give his granddaughter Susan a “normal” life in one place for a while, and it’s driving him nuts. Susan is enjoying school, but not very good at faking normality, and when her teachers investigate, the Doctor takes the first opportunity he can to cut them all loose from 1963 London, and hurl them into the unknown.

We never learn the truth of how and why the Doctor ended up being Susan’s carer, but it’s very clear that the parental role is not one he inhabits comfortably. The addition of Ian and Barbara to the crew, however, gives Susan a semblance of “normal” family life in amongst all their mad adventures, at the expense of Ian and Barbara themselves, who have been ripped from their own life.

The contrast between mad adventuring and domesticity is actually rife through the First Doctor’s era. For a start, we get to see where they all eat and sleep, something happily ignored for decades at a time in the show. The Doctor accidentally goes through a cocoa-related betrothal ceremony with Cameca in The Aztecs, and responds to this discovery with utter bemusement (but isn’t above using the relationship for his own benefit). He abandons Susan so she can make the most of a fledgling romance in a war-ravaged future Earth (REALLY not a good parent) and promptly takes on a replacement in Vicki, who serves as his surrogate granddaughter up until she also falls in love, and the Doctor cuts her adrift in a war-ravaged Troy. Are we sensing a pattern here? The Doctor is willing to emulate family life on his own terms, travelling around randomly in his intergalactic house, but never considers allowing Susan or Vicki to bring her new boyfriend/future husband into the TARDIS.

(Obviously production decisions have a lot to do with this choice, but I didn’t say this article was going to be fair!)

It’s not until the Third Doctor that we see something close to domestication imposed upon him. The Time Lords may have ensured he is stuck on earth in one time stream, but it’s the Brigadier who provides the Doctor with a job and a laboratory, making sure he stays in one place. And boy, doesn’t the Doctor settle in? Luckily there are plenty of alien invasions to keep him amused, but in between all the adventuring and military politics, his life is almost cozy, with female assistants to pass him his test tubes and tell him how brilliant he is. The TARDIS, meanwhile, acts as a glorified cupboard in the corner.

Don’t get me wrong – the Third Doctor is constantly railing and complaining about being stuck on Earth, and never entirely accepts his confinement. But it’s telling that even when the Time Lords free him from his exile, he doesn’t quit his job – in between travelling in time and space he keeps returning to the laboratory and his UNIT family, drinking Sgt Benton’s excellent cuppas, bickering with the Brig, and tinkering with his cars on the weekend. Likewise, Jo’s time as companion never involves cutting herself of from everyday life – she goes on dates, earns a pay check, goes home to change her boots, and still gets to flit off to alien planets during work hours. Liz never even got to leave Earth!

This Third incarnation of the Doctor, then, is fully house-trained. But as soon as he regenerates into his Fourth identity, he and the TARDIS are off again, without looking back. Whenever the Doctor returns to UNIT you can see that he doesn’t quite fit, and isn’t tempted to stay with them. He is a domestic tourist again, occasionally turning up in the suburbs or someone’s home, but only when there’s something nasty in the woodwork.

The Fifth Doctor Years transform the TARDIS into something more home-like than had been seen since the early 60’s, with his companions’ bedrooms as regular sets, but eventually they all leave him to go home, or to find a new one. The Seventh Doctor examines domesticity through something of a scientific lens as he sorts out Ace’s back story, but family and home life in that era of Classic Who are portrayed very much as sources of gothic and suburban horror rather than somewhere safe and warm.

In the New Adventures novels, there’s only one really clear instance I recall where the Doctor was completely immersed in domesticity – the novel Human Nature by Paul Cornell, which I’ll talk about when I get to the David Tennant years rather than deal with the same plot twice. It’s one I highly recommend, though, if only to compare to the TV version!

In the Big Finish audio adventures, which occupy a headcanonspace for me between the classic and new series, even though there is substantial overlap with New Who, there’s only one relationship that I felt really pulled the Doctor against his nature into something like a domestic sphere. This was the pairing of the Sixth Doctor and Dr Evelyn Smythe, who is also the first ‘old lady’ companion the Doctor has ever had, though she was only 55 (a spring chicken!) when she first ran away with him.

Evelyn is a fabulous character, and managed to soften the blunter edges of the Sixth Doctor, not complaining about his pompousness as Peri did, but actively training him out of such behaviour. In “Thicker Than Water,” when he takes Mel to meet Evelyn, it’s clear that he credits Evelyn with having substantially improved his manners and temperament in dealing with people.

That word ‘cozy’ comes up again – while there is no romantic spark at all between the Doctor and Evelyn, they settle easily into the dynamic of an old married couple, and their adventures are dotted with nice chats, cups of cocoa (of the non-marital variety), and gentle holidays in between the madness and the Daleks. Evelyn leaves for love, but that’s not the end of her adventures, nor the end of her relationship with the Doctor, who COMES BACK TO SEE HOW SHE’S DOING ON PURPOSE, something which I don’t think has happened in his history before. This relationship was very much a hint towards how the 21st Century Doctor (both in audio and on TV) was going to develop differently.

For the most part, the Doctors of the classic series and their associated (pre-2005) spin offs not only avoid domesticity, and long term family or relationship ties, but seem to look straightthrough them, ignoring their existence. No, not even ignoring their existence, because he’s so rarely put in a situation where they impinge upon his reality.

The endless traveller is constantly moving forward. He never stops to pick out furniture, or to drop in to any former companions’ homes for tea, biscuits and baby photos. Even his beloved TARDIS is constantly changing (or being changed) by him, often at times of emotional crisis – the jettisoning of Romana’s room, for example, or the restoration that happens just before The Five Doctors.

But something does change for him, and it’s possible that the turning point can be seen in the portrayal of the elderly Seventh Doctor at the beginning of the TV Movie, which also marks close to the halfway point of the Wilderness Years between Classic and New Who – instead of the stark white console room, we see flying buttresses and a sitting room that resembles a Victorian parlour – the Doctor sips his cup of tea and reads a book, surrounded by the music from his record player, a dish of jelly babies and a cluttered (one might almost say, cozy) assortment of possessions.

It’s a calm, utterly domestic scene between a Time Lord and his TARDIS. Who else, after all, was he ever going to settle down with?

The Eighth Doctor we see in the TV Movie was every bit the undomesticated adventurer of most of his predecessors, but for the first time in that story we see a companion’s home, and a friend for the Doctor who is willing to not only turn down his invitation to travel in the TARDIS, but to counter it with an invitation of her own: to stay with her, and fit into her life.

Of course he didn’t say yes – barely even took the question seriously. But the fact that it had been asked was a turning point for the series. Not since Cameca in The Aztecs and Susan before An Unearthly Child had someone suggested to the Doctor that he stop moving for personal reasons, and choose to settle down in one time and place.

When Doctor Who came back in 2005, that question was going to get larger, and louder, and domesticity would no longer be something the Doctor would have the luxury to ignore, as the show itself began to pay greater attention to the needs of the humans around him.

But this post is long enough already. Tune in soon for Part II of Domesticating the Doctor!