Tag Archive for donna noble

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”)

Love After The Doctor

“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.

Wait, what?

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.

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 II: The Missus, the Ex and the Mothers-in-Law

In the last Domesticating the Doctor post I talked about various instances from Classic and Big Finish Doctor Who of the Doctor being domesticated against his nature. Now it’s time for the New Who story! Or the RTD years, at least, as it got a bit longer than I expected.

The Ninth Doctor puts his cards on the table right from the start. “I don’t do domestic.” No previous Doctor had ever had to make such a statement, but right from the start, the writing team of New Who seemed to relish throwing kitchen appliances and chips and the telly at the Doctor’s head, to watch him squirm.

“I’ve never been slapped by someone’s Mum before,” he complains in Aliens of London, one of the stories that most deeply explores the collision of the Doctor and domesticity. He’s never had to deal with anyone’s Mum before – he’s met a few companions’ Dads, but they’ve mostly got themselves conveniently killed before the credits rolled.

Imagine, oh imagine, if Jo Grant’s Mum had turned up to see what her new boss was like? Or if Romana’s Mum had arrived in the TARDIS to demand the Fourth Doctor tell her why her daughter’s postcards home had suddenly stopped…

Jackie Tyler, even more than Rose, drags the Doctor kicking and screaming into a world where you watch the alien invasion on the telly, and the TARDIS needs to start considering a regular parking space in London. He allows Rose phone access to him, something we’ve never seen him do before – and even occasionally, as in Father’s Day, marvels at the “ordinary people” life that he is completely not a part of.

For the most part he stays that way, largely because Rose is so desperate to escape her life on the housing estate that she doesn’t push him to embrace her home life (except for occasional day trips to catch up with her Mum and get her laundry done). This is a Doctor who breaks the rules and thumbs his nose at any kind of domestic restraint: quite literally, in Bad Wolf, when he is trapped in the Big Brother house, he escapes using rudeness and an inability to follow social conventions.

Rose’s own journey is one of choosing the Doctor over a domestic everyday life: not just once in the first episode, but several times, as she regularly returns home and then leaves with him all over again. This is key because we have never seen companions do this before, except those of the Pertwee era where the Doctor himself had a home on Earth, and being a companion did not mean being tied to the TARDIS.

When the Doctor changes, his relationship to domesticity is one of the key personality shifts. The Tenth Doctor embraces Jackie and Mickey instead of snarking at them (well, he does that too, but he hugs them first) and he is perfectly willing to stay and eat Christmas dinner with Rose’s family rather than sulking in the TARDIS or insisting they leave right away.

Indeed, the time lapse between The Christmas Invasion and New Earth suggests they have hung around the Powell Estate for several days or weeks – certainly long enough for the snow to melt and for Rose to have her hair done! She no longer has to choose between her family and her Doctor… though of course, she chooses travelling, every time.

Season 2 is the one where the Doctor and his companion are at their cosiest, and he is at his most sympathetic towards domesticity – he still doesn’t really understand how humans work (witness the licking of the jam in Fear Her) but he is actively interested in trying to do so. Also, like the Third and Seventh Doctor eras, this is a season with several stories that themselves portray the domestic world as a source for horror and fear: we see families torn apart by the technology they take for granted in The Age of Steel and Rise of the Cybermen; alien dinner ladies and school children turned into computers in School Reunion, ordinary people having their lives destroyed merely because they are fans of the Doctor in Love and Monsters, and alien invaders causing havoc in suburban streets in Fear Her and The Idiot’s Lantern.

All this, and Rose learns through the return of Sarah Jane that the Doctor doesn’t have a habit of keeping his companions in the TARDIS forever – he leaves them behind, and doesn’t look back. In the same story, we see her unsettled when the Doctor allows Mickey to join them – her domestic life and TARDIS life have suddenly got a bit too close together, and it’s clear that she’s not ready to have both spheres of her life collide together.

(I was disappointed they did so little with this, ridding the TARDIS of Mickey the story after next – there was so much story potential in this clash of Rose’s two worlds)

It’s the spacey two-parter The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit that really brings home the limitations of the Doctor’s relationship to domesticity: when it looks like the TARDIS has been lost forever, Rose tries to plan for a life without her, in which she and the Doctor live in a house… and it’s clear from his reaction that the thought is utterly unimaginable. It’s the first time it sinks in to Rose that the Doctor’s travelling life, onwards and upwards forever, is not something that has a use by date.

Jackie also has concerns that her daughter’s relationship with the Doctor is turning her into something less than (or more than) human. While her own relationship with this Tenth Doctor has become that of a mother-in-law who accepts the new bloke into her family, warts and all, she also feels threatened by Rose’s alien experiences, and worries for her daughter’s future – understandable, considering Rose isn’t past 20 yet and doesn’t realise what ‘forever’ actually means!

Ultimately, the Doctor chooses that Rose will stay with her family and lose him forever; Rose, not liking that choice, chooses to never see her family again in order to stay with him forever, and almost dies; finally, Pete saves Rose which also means she stays with her family and loses the Doctor.

While this can definitely be read as the two men in her life making patriarchal decisions about what’s best for her, it’s hard for me as a parent to wish it had gone any other way. The thought of Jackie stuck in that other universe with her husband returned to her, a new baby and never seeing Rose again is every bit as devastating.

The Doctor’s own loss is conveyed not only through David Tennant man-paining at the cameras, but also by the fact that he never tries to embrace domesticity again. He takes far less interest in the families of his next two companions, Martha and Donna, with the exception of Wilf who becomes a friend in his own right rather than someone who comes with the Donna package.

One of the big differences between Rose and Martha as companions is that Martha has nothing to run away from. Travelling with the Doctor is temporary, an adventure and an experiment. She’s not only settled in her career and flat and studies, but she is completely wrapped up in her family and their problems – indeed, getting a break from those problems can be read as one of the reasons she hops ship upon the TARDIS, though she wasn’t looking for more than a brief holiday from responsibility.

Francine, Martha’s mother, is also very different to Jackie: influenced by the Master and his cronies (though this isn’t obvious at first) she never embraces the Doctor as a necessary evil, but sees him as the enemy right from the start. She’s that other kind of stock character mother-in-law, the one that won’t even pretend to be nice to the strange man her daughter brings home. It’s Tish, Martha’s bubbly sister, who welcomes him into the family, assuming he is Martha’s new man.

It’s Martha, not Rose, who actually does experience a TARDIS-free domestic life with the Doctor, but this happens offscreen in Blink – all we really know about it is that she is the one working to support them.

When Martha leaves the Doctor, after a horrific year in which she thought of little but him and how important he was to humanity, in which she fought a war with words and lost part of herself, she makes the opposite choice that Rose did: she chooses the needs of her family over the Doctor. She’s not choosing to never see him again, but she is making it clear that her family’s general welfare is far more important to her than travelling in the TARDIS. It’s also fairly clear that the Doctor doesn’t entirely grasp why she needs to stay with them – it’s not life or death, it’s about those squishy human feelings, and he’s falling short.

And yes she does cite her romantic feelings for him as being another reason why she has to stay behind, but that is a secondary revelation, not the primary one. It also has the benefit of keeping him from making too much of a fuss about losing her.

Donna brings a wave of domesticity with her – she chats endlessly about the kind of social details and gossip that the Doctor has never had to deal with, because Rose never tried to make him care about her life or her friends. Donna is confident enough in herself that when she’s interested in something, she’ll just MAKE him listen to her.

At the same time, there’s little about Donna to challenge the Doctor’s disinterest in domestic issues, because like Rose, she wants something bigger. She’s an even more enthusiastic space tourist because for her, it’s far more about the adventure than it is about the Doctor specifically. As Courtney noted in her post about poverty and the companions, the financial freedom is a pretty major carrot offered by the Doctor, too.

But you get the impression that if Donna was stranded in another time and place, she would keep travelling and having an awesome time – any place except her own time and place. And that is the tragedy of her ultimate end. She has every memory of her extraordinary life wiped from her, and is literally stuck in a small domestic setting. She looks and thinks she is happy, and it’s only because we know she wanted something different that her ending feels so awful.

There’s nothing wrong with her finding a nice guy and settling down (and never having to worry about money again thanks to a certain lottery ticket) but the fact that it goes against Donna’s previous dreams makes it heartbreaking, and makes the wedding scene in The End of Time seem far more grim than it appears on the surface. Donna has come full circle, replacing the bad fiancé of her first story with a good one (according to her granddad, anyway), but losing her adventurous spirit.

Sylvia has less of a direct relationship with the Doctor as his “mother-in-law” or equivalent for most of Donna’s run, mostly saving up her antagonism for her actual daughter, though she does flap at him a bit by association. While Turn Left shows us Donna’s strength even without the Doctor around (something that makes her loss of memory and character growth even more sad later on), it’s only when the Doctor finally brings Donna home that Sylvia gets to have a proper confrontation with him.

And it’s absolutely fair that she should be not only furious, but fiercely determined to rid him from her daughter’s life once and for all – after all, he has himself told her that Donna will die if she recognises him. While Wilf is gutted at Donna’s loss of her adventures and her history, it’s Sylvia who protects the Donna she knows, the one who isn’t a hero, valuing her daughter’s life over anything else, and oddly it’s something that puts her entirely on the Doctor’s side.

It’s pretty clear that the Tenth Doctor, towards the end of his time, has become so embittered that he avoids any kind of domestic entanglements. He wouldn’t have checked in on Donna at all if Wilf hadn’t drawn him back, and has actively avoided taking on the commitment of a regular companion.

Still, this is still the Doctor who once tried to understand humans and their families, and in providing the lottery ticket for Donna with a pound borrowed (given) by her late father, he reveals that he’s not completely dense when it comes to understanding humanity. Sylvia, proud as she is, would have rejected anything that smacked of charity, but comes undone in the face of him using time travel to allow Donna’s dad to give her a wedding present.

It makes you wonder how often the Doctor is in fact faking it when he pretends to be so very alien.

When the Tenth Doctor regenerated, so did the production team making the show. And all of a sudden, domesticity in Doctor Who was about to look a lot less scary…

Domesticating the Doctor WILL RETURN in Domesticating the Doctor III: Marrying the Ponds

Framing and Writing The Companions

For my first post on Doctor Her, I would like to present a conundrum I’ve been mulling over on and off since watching the first series in 2005: what would it take to reconcile character motivations to get a different type of companion into the TARDIS?

There are some basic similarities in the basic characteristics of The Doctor’s companions over the run of New Who (2005-present): she is young, without clear purpose and unsure of herself. This presents us with a problem from a feminist perspective. Once is a character choice, when the pattern repeats it becomes more of a troubling trend, something that the writers should be trying to solve as the series continues.

Rose was nineteen when she left her job in a shop to jump into the TARDIS with Christopher Eccleson’s Doctor, leaving her Mum and Mickey for worlds and times unknown. As the audience, we accept this premise. The time after leaving high school, especially for those young people who choose not to go on to University, or cannot afford to is one fraught with uncertainty, a lack of purpose, and perhaps a nagging sense of something better waiting for us out there. As an audience, we can understand how Rose would choose to leave a dead end job and a (not too serious) boyfriend when such a unique opportunity presents itself.

Martha, a medical student, also leaves behind her family, but this time she also leaves behind her studies, her hard work towards being a doctor in her own right, for the chance to travel with David Tennant’s Doctor. Martha has more concerns with leaving her life behind for adventure, needs reassurance that she could be back to the same day or only lose a few days in the process of this adventure. It is the family drama she wants to escape from, the demands of siblings and being caught between her parents’ divorce. Martha eventually leaves and goes back to her studies, and we later on see her become what she set out to be, in episodes of Torchwood. As an audience we understand this decision, with Martha’s caveat of returning to the time when she left, not losing any time towards her goal, and later returning to what she set out to do.

Donna at first declines the Doctor’s invitation but later on, still working as a Temp, living with her mum and grandfather, she accepts when The Doctor waltzes into her life again. We accept this, as the audience. We can understand why a woman, who’s relationship has recently fallen apart (spectactularly and because of aliens), who is working a dead-end job, and unsure of what she wants to do with her life, would take the opportunity to see the world.

And then we have Amy. Before we met Amy, we saw photos of her in a police uniform. What an interesting take that would be, a policewoman who chooses to travel with The Doctor? We were excited, but were unsure of how the storytellers would work their way around this one. Then, when the episode aired we found out that Amy wasn’t a policewoman, instead she was a kissogram, the police uniform carrying not power with it, but fantasy. She leaves on the eve of her wedding night, unsure enough of her decision to risk it all to leave with the man in the Blue Box. With Amy though, we have a history. Her life has been building up to this moment. Young Amy waiting in the garden for the man in the Blue Box to come back for her, suitcase packed. Then again when she’s in her early twenties, working as a kissogram, Matt Smith’s Doctor barges into her life. So even though Amy is happy enough to be soon married, we have a background that leads up to her willingness to run away with The Doctor. 

Though their stories are all slightly different, the similarities are a troubling aspect of this type of storytelling. As writers, there has to be an explanation of this character’s motivation in leaving her (or sometimes his) life behind to travel in space. I would very much like to see a different type of companion to The Doctor. Someone sure of herself, established, less naive or easily persuaded. But how would she get into the TARDIS in the first place. Would we accept the premise of a companion with a career, a family, children? leaving everything to travel with The Doctor?

Another interesting moment to consider comes in series two, with the episode School Reunion, where Sarah Jane Smith gets her chance to return to the TARDIS. After the adventure of the episode, which takes place on Earth. The Doctor offers Sarah Jane the chance to travel with him again. She declines. She has a son, a life on Earth that she can’t leave. But I for one, can’t help but wonder how that would have played out, what it would be like to have someone established and comfortable with herself and her convictions travel with The Doctor.

So, my friends of Doctor Her (Doctor Hervians? Can we make this a thing?), what do you think? Is there a way we could accept a different kind of companion leaving her life and traveling in the TARDIS? As a storyteller, how would you reconcile this? I’m honestly curious, as it’s something I’ve puzzled over for a while now.

NuWho, poverty, and class: Or, the poor women are totally screwed

Kate’s great post on Rose Tyler reminded me of my own love affair with Rose. Rose gets a lot of flack in the fan community (mostly because she had the gall to be loved by the Doctor), but for me, she was revolutionary. I had never before seen a show that featured a working-class young woman as its heroine. When I was growing up poor, the best representation I got was Roseanne.

In Doctor Who, Rose’s background is never swept under the rug, or made the butt of a joke. Even when Cassandra calls her a “chav” in “New Earth,” the show doesn’t align us with her opinion. Cassandra making negative comments on Rose’s appearance after she jumped out of her own body, a trampoline of skin, appears almost laughable. Further, she has always been depicted in the show as a snob. She is, after all, Lady Cassandra. Her classist remarks come off as petty, not observant. And I loved this about the show. Rose was poor and a heroine. She was depicted as bright, adventurous, and badass.

Unfortunately, as I watched Russell T. Davies era end, I noticed a pattern in the stories and outcomes of the poor vs. privileged companions in NuWho. And that pattern was not nice to the poor companions.

Rose lives in government-subsidized housing. She has an entry-level retail job in “Rose” (2005), and no higher education to speak of. She is stuck in a dead-end job, with a dead-end boyfriend, and not a lot of prospects for the future. Then the Doctor comes along. With his infinitely-large house, the TARDIS; his unlimited possibilities for travel and adventure; and his obliviousness about money.

That last bit always got to me. I think that the Doctor thought it was charming of him, how he never understood money. But I couldn’t find it charming at all, any more charming than I find rich people in the U.S. who say things like, “But $500,000 isn’t even that much money!” Not having to think about money is a privilege the Doctor shares with the upper class in Rose’s world. Not bothering to think about money and the effect it has on this race he claims to care so much about? That felt pretty cruel to me, as I watched him travel with a companion who was poor.

So Rose is saved from a bleak future by a Daddy Warbucks with a time machine.

Compare this with the story of Martha Jones. Martha has her own problems, being stuck in the middle of her parents’ bickering after a nasty divorce. But Martha is also in a position of extreme privilege. Her family clearly has significantly more money that Rose’s, and Martha can even afford to live alone. She is going to medical school, and loans are never really mentioned, even when she jets off with a time traveler. (That would be my first concern: Am I going to have bill collectors on me by the time I get back?) Martha doesn’t have to be saved by the Doctor, but that’s not just because she’s older or more mature than Rose. It’s because she doesn’t have too much to be saved from.

Donna’s story, on the other hand, is very similar to Rose’s, only Rose is 19 and Donna is played by 42-year-old Catherine Tate. Donna is living in a multi-generational home, for financial reasons. (We can tell this in part because Donna’s mother seems very unhappy with Donna living in the house, but never seriously suggests she moves out, probably because she knows that’s a financial impossibility.) Donna’s career looks like what Rose’s probably would have been 30 years in the future; she works a series of dead-end temp jobs, without much hope of a “real” career. Donna is smart, but we don’t hear about her having a college education. Her best hope of a normal, middle-class life is getting married to someone better off than herself.

Is it any wonder that both Rose and Donna say they will stay with the Doctor forever? I’ve heard fans say that this is out of character for Donna, because she isn’t young and in love. But Donna has as little to look forward to in her working-class life as Rose does. Of course they both want to stay with the Doctor; he represents a life unburdened with thankless and unfulfilling work, living paycheck to paycheck. It’s not just adventure that companions get to look forward to, it’s a life in which money doesn’t matter.

Being poor and on food stamps myself, I can see why Rose and Donna would jump at the chance to stay forever.

Unfortunately, neither of them get to stay forever. While I understand that has to be a production decision, I railed as a viewer against what I would term the “classed outcomes” of the companions in NuWho. I can’t include Amy in this analysis, because her ending is still up in the air, so let’s look at the other companions’ outcomes.

For Rose, the privilege the Doctor carries offers her a “happily ever after” ending. Her father returns (sort of), she gets the lover and partner she wanted (sort of), and is returned to her world (sort of) with new-found family wealth and influence. I would argue those “sort of”s are important, however. Rose is still trapped in an alternate dimension. I don’t know if we can gloss over that quickly just because her mom and best friend are with her. She doesn’t even officially exist in this world, so how can she thrive there? Is she going to be able to go to college without a birth certificate or ID? Is she going to be able to work? Are we supposed to believe her father’s money will smooth all that over? And this universe was supposed to be a dystopia, and now we’re to believe everything’s fine and awesome for her?

Rose’s dad is not really her dad; this man never even fathered a child, and had completely different experiences than her real one would have had, if he had lived. And Rose’s Doctor is not the Doctor. He is supposed to be an improvement, a man who can make a real life with her, but last time I checked, Rose wasn’t hankering for a white picket fence and children. She won’t get to live in the TARDIS again, or have time-traveling adventures, or get to help save the world. And none of that was a choice made by her.

Donna’s fate is even worse. Donna forgets everything, and thus everything good that came from her experience with the Doctor–her growth and her friendship with him–is gone. She returns to her unhappy life and her temp jobs. She loses her zest for adventure. And in the end, the best we can hope for her is a happy marriage to someone richer than she.

Compare these fates to Martha’s. Martha returns to the security she always had. (I would argue that security is precisely why Martha can leave the Doctor, while Rose and Donna had to be forced out.) She gets her medical degree and has her choice of careers. She is in a position of power at UNIT when we see her again. And had she forgotten the Doctor, like Donna did? She still would have been fine. It would have been sad, but it wouldn’t have devastated her life. She would still have gotten her M.D. She would still have gotten a rewarding job. She still would have had her independence and security.

On one hand, I think that the fact that the poor companions get shafted in Doctor Who is the result of their being shafted in real life. How much can adventuring experience help you if you don’t already have the security of a good education and financial stability in real life? But on the other hand, Donna didn’t have to be the one to lose her memory. Rose didn’t have to be the one trapped in an alternate dimension. Martha didn’t have to be the one hired by UNIT. And yet.

For the Russell T. Davies era at least, the poor women are totally screwed.

The Doctor: a God Among Women?

This guest post was written by Chris Emslie. Chris is a poet and editor living in Scotland. He blogs intermittently at Q.L.P. but spends most of his time yelling at his relatives for saying things they don’t realize are offensive. He co-edits the online poetry journal ILK and frequently gets angry at the TV. Who aside, Chris loves Buffy, True Blood and Dead Like Me. Also he tweets.

God and the doctor we alike adore
But only when in danger, not before;
The danger o’er, both are alike requited,
God is forgotten, and the Doctor slighted.

John Owen

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“It’s always the women.”

Some of the many ‘dying words’ of Doctor Who arch-villain The Master. These come in the 2007 episode ‘Last of the Time Lords’, immediately after he is shot by Lucy Saxon, the human woman he seduces, marries and—ostensibly—brutalises and drives insane.

This scene is dominated by a tearful farewell conducted exclusively between men, but there is more to note here. While the  Doctor in this scene is literally all forgiveness and light, the only dangers to the Master’s life come from wronged and vengeful women: Francine Jones and Lucy Saxon. The impulse to revenge immediately casts these women as morally inferior to the Doctor.

This unspoken assertion of the Doctor as the superior / rational man among hysterical / inferior women is symptomatic of a larger trend in the series’ history. What are unendingly termed ‘strong women’ are permitted space in the narrative to display their charm / wiles / independence, but only to a point—only so long as they do not present a sustained challenge to the Doctor’s supreme position at the centre of the Whoniverse.

The best examples, distressingly, can be found in the rebooted series, from 2005 onwards. The Doctor’s female cohorts might flirt with equality, but it cannot last. In ‘The Parting of the Ways’, Rose Tyler is granted superhuman abilities by her contact with the heart of the TARDIS, but at a cost: the power will kill her without heroic male intervention (“I think you need a Doctor”). Similarly in 2008’s finale ‘Journey’s End’, Donna Noble achieves the vaguely-defined ‘metacrisis’ that puts the Doctor’s Gallifreyan brainpower in her ickle human (read: female) head. But again, the sudden upsurge in agency is too much for Donna. Indeed, she gets so close to true equality with the Doctor that she has to be punished—“all those wonderful things she saw” have to be stripped from her, reducing her to the bridal archetype she represented at her inception.

More recently, River Song has been repeatedly been billed as ‘[more than] a match’ for the Doctor.  She almost succeeds in killing him, and her ‘human-plus-Time-Lord’ physiology removes the impassable disadvantage of species. But let’s stop and consider the fate of the Time Ladies (or variations thereof) who have given equalling or surpassing the Doctor a real shot:

  • Romana Mk. I is shown as stuffy and narrow-minded in comparison to the Doctor, and only outsmarts him very occasionally. She regenerates into the more submissive Romana Mk. II, who conveniently departs for E-Space and never comes back—at least not in the television series.
  • The Rani is arguably a cautionary tale against allowing Gallifreyan women access to education (they’ll only end up as evil geniuses, ultimately dropped without much ado from the programme).
  • 2008’s ‘The Doctor’s Daughter’ gives us Jenny, genetically a female offshoot of the Doctor. She is born a morally misguided killing machine, reformed by the reason of a Doctor at his most literally patriarchal, and then swiftly killed off, resurrected and sent on her merry way.
  • And then we have River Song herself. She has all the makings of a true equal, on the Doctor’s own turf: she is ingenious, heroic, brave and appealing. Her knowledge of the Doctor’s personal future puts her at an unprecedented advantage. This is balanced initially by her being homicidal—no one can be that badass and morally righteous but the Doctor—and latterly by her domestication. Okay, ‘domestication’ might be a strong word. But the bulk of River’s considerable ability is used to preserve the Doctor’s place on his pedestal, cohesion of reality be damned. The woman who almost defeats him gives up her regenerations to save him because (of course) she has fallen in love with him. Is anyone else noticing a trend in Steven Moffat’s writing here? And of course, River’s threat to the Doctor’s role as patriarch is neutralised by the fact that we know from her first appearance that she is doomed to die, while he can potentially live forever. Take that, woman!

Let’s end with a nice, light-hearted moment from 2006, when Rose Tyler meets Sarah Jane Smith, the celebrated damsel-in-distress from the days of the third and fourth Doctors, in ‘School Reunion’. Sarah-Jane ribs the Doctor:

“You can tell you’re getting older [...] your assistants are getting younger.”
“I’m not his assistant!” Rose rightly protests.
“No?” Sarah Jane shrugs and smiles to herself.

We cannot help but infer from this brief exchange that Rose thinks herself equal to the Doctor. Quite reasonable, really, to assume that about your best friend. Sarah Jane’s smile tells us that Rose, like countless other women to have travelled with the paragon Doctor, will inevitably learn otherwise.

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