Tag Archive for Jackie Tyler

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

Women who waited…

I’m increasingly sensitive about how older women are portrayed on TV.  So few of the programmes I love, when I think about it, give me  images that I can recognise or respect.  Either they are solely defined by being somebody’s mum or somebody’s wife, or they have independent lives which appear to preclude them being somebody’s mum or somebody’s wife.

Dr Who is no exception.   There are reasons why companions are in general young (and I note the exception of Barbara, from the very first DW).  Older women have ties and responsibilities, and though they might yearn to travel in time and space (and they do yearn, oh, they do) they can’t just take that leap, without looking back.

So, where are the older women on Who?

There are, of course, mothers.  The power of motherhood has been a bit of a theme recently, notably in the 2011 Christmas special, which merits a blog post of its own.   But what seems to be a NuWho phenomenon is that companions now have mums.   There’s a reason why fantasy narratives tend to keep parents, particularly mothers, out of the way.  They ask awkward questions, they want to know where you’re going, and if you’ll be back in time for tea.  A bit like Buffy’s mum, Joyce Summers, who attempts to ground her daughter on the night that a vampire apocalypse looms (OK, on one of the nights…), with the words, ‘I know. If you don’t go out, it’s the end of the world. Everything is life and death to a sixteen-year-old girl!’.  Jackie Tyler, Sylvia Noble and Francine Jones all contribute to the narrative primarily by getting in the way, inadvertently, through their fears for their daughters and mistrust of the Doctor, or through naivety.  Of the three, it’s Jackie who emerges most fully from the stereotype, to play, albeit briefly, a more active role alongside Sarah Jane, Mickey and Jack. Jackie and Sylvia are played for laughs, however, Jackie for her sexuality, which we are clearly meant to find ridiculous, and Sylvia for her prudishness (she wouldn’t allow webcams as they were ‘naughty’).

Of course, companions do become older women, eventually.  Sarah Jane Smith is our icon here, the one whose post-Tardis life we know most about. In ‘The Death of the Doctor’ (Sarah Jane Adventures) she and Jo Grant compare notes on other past companions, all clearly changed by the experience of travelling with the Doctor, and now working for the benefit of humanity.  Sarah Jane speaks movingly in ‘School Reunion’ of the pain and loss she felt when he left her behind, and Jo’s reaction when she realises Sarah Jane had seen the Doctor shows that she too had felt abandoned.  There’s a hint that ex-companions do the things they do in the hope that he will be aware of them, and that they will see him again.   Fair enough.  The Doctor (so far) is a man, a charismatic, unpredictable, extraordinary man.  Those who travel with him, whether or not they harbour romantic or sexual feelings for him, whether or not they maintain a healthy scepticism and have the confidence to challenge him, however their connection with him ends, are scarcely going to forget him, nor are they likely to encounter anything in the rest of their lives that will eclipse those experiences. ‘We get a taste of that splendour and then we have to go back’ (‘School Reunion’).

There are a few women who don’t fit either category – neither ex companions nor companions’ mums.   They’re not quite allies, nor yet adversaries.   Harriet Jones (backbencher, PM, ex-PM)  is forthright, good in a crisis, brave and the stand-off between her and the doctor left me unsure whose side I was on.  That kind of moral ambiguity is relatively rare – one could disagree with her actions AND dislike profoundly the Doctor’s way of bringing her down.  And Adelaide Brooke (‘Waters of Mars’,  pioneer, explorer, grandmother,  opposes the Doctor at his most hubristic, taking her own life to negate what she sees as his arrogant irresponsibility.   The parts that these two play in the narrative didn’t absolutely require them to be women, but I’m glad they were.

And then, of course, there’s the girl who waited.  ‘Old Amy’, who grew old(er), alone.  She needs a post to herself, I think.

So, what do I want from DW in the future?   I don’t want the companions’ mums to retreat back to invisibility, but I’d like them to be less of a joke.  Sadly, more Sarah Jane is no longer possible.  But more of the ex-companions – the women who were plucked from regular lives, plunged into intergalactic mayhem and then dropped back again into ordinariness, who then put their energies into trying to change the world, even if they didn’t have the power to save it.  More Harriets and Adelaides, yes please.   Women who are on the right side in the old good v. evil thing,  but who are confident enough in their knowledge, their wisdom, their judgement, to say no, even to the Doctor.

And should there be a vacancy for a more mature woman, say, around 54ish, untested in actual combat situations but mad organisational skills, to hop aboard the Tardis, can I be first in the queue?