Tag Archive for Love After The Doctor

Love After The Doctor: The Classic Years

Jo: “In a funny way, he reminds me of a younger you.”
The Doctor: “I don’t know whether to be flattered or insulted.”
–Jo Grant and the Doctor discuss her new love interest, Cliff Jones

Rose: “He’s a lot like you, Doctor, only with dating and dancing.”
–Rose Tyler, on Jack Harkness

Does traveling with the Doctor ruin companions for romance after they leave him? What mere man could ever compare to a charismatic Time Lord with all of time and space at his fingertips? Inspired by Bumble Toes‘ post on the Doctor as a romantic rival in the new series, here’s my take on the same dynamic in the classic series.

As the above quotes show, companions do seem to appreciate some Doctor-like characteristics in their romantic partners. It seems equally clear to me that the idea of companions perpetually pining over the Doctor, incapable of moving on, is native to the new series. I think it was born of RTD’s penchant for deconstructing the series, and an excellent example of how this deconstruction can backfire.

To me, the most genius decisions that RTD made were the most straightforward:

  1. He realized that the companion has the hero’s arc, not the Doctor, and
  2. He took the questions that the series had spent forty years studiously avoiding, and placed them front and center: How does the Doctor pick companions–what does he look for? What kind of person would leave everything she knew behind to go adventuring in time and space with an alien? She’s usually young–do her parents know what she’s doing? Do they approve? Do they know about the Doctor’s history of absconding with young women, not all of whom make it home? Might the companion ever look upon the Doctor with romantic intent? Might the Doctor ever return that glance? What would happen? Finally, and maybe most devastatingly, what happens to her after the end? Is the TARDIS door perpetually closed to her, or could the Doctor return for more adventures?

The classic series seems to have given companions exactly two possible exits: a) status quo ante, dumping you back into your old life, or b) permanently stranded in the alien society of your choice. (Hope that marriage works out!)

There’s an orthodoxy in some corners of fandom that the classic series never went anywhere near Doctor/companion UST, that the new series focuses too much on Doctor/companion UST, and that the new series is inferior for that reason. Mostly you hear this from men, and mostly this charge is levied along gendered lines–“attracting female viewers” being given as a reason for the new series’ willingness to have Doctor/companion ships.

But for all that everyone insists that the classic series never ever went anywhere near Doctor/companion romantic tension, they did go there a little bit. The best example is Jo Grant, companion to Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor.

The Doctor and Jo seem to relate primarily as father/daughter: when he realizes, in episode 1 of “The Green Death”, that she is outgrowing him, his response is to compare her to a fledgling leaving the nest. Yet there are also hints that the Doctor has deliberately interfered in Jo’s love life: she’s about to leave on a date with Mike Yates, at the very beginning of “The Curse of Peladon”, when the Doctor drags her along with him. In fact, “The Green Death” keeps the Doctor physically elsewhere as Jo and Cliff bond, perhaps aware that they can’t do so if the Doctor’s disruptive presence is about. And, famously, the Doctor looks deeply hurt at Jo’s decision to leave. He even slinks out of the engagement party and drives off alone. It’s all subtext, but taken all together it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Doctor may just have been a little bit into Jo. Certainly he behaved possessively towards her in a way he hadn’t for other companions, and that we would rarely see again.

But Jo married, and the marriage seems to have been stable and long-lasting, per the Sarah Jane Adventures episode “Death of the Doctor”, so it’s hard to argue that her adventures with the Doctor ruined her for an ordinary life with a human partner.

So, even though the Doctor may have been a little bit into Jo Grant, it’s not true that she was necessarily into him, and certainly not true that the Doctor as a romantic rival outshines human suitors.

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.

Not that there is anything wrong with her not being interested in romance…but then she goes all giddy and bashful when Jack Harkness says ‘Hello.’  She’s not fourteen!

Likewise Rose seemed to close herself off from love after Doomsday, focus on getting back to The Doctor and hearing those words he never got to say.  On one hand I hate hate HATE the ship and the character and that going back to that finished storyline only opens plot holes but on the other: this incredible young woman knows what she wants, fights impossible odds to get it and succeeds – more or less.

Martha Jones is a woman who tracked down the deliciously handsome and heroic Doctor Thomas Millican who is good with children, does relief work and got engaged to him within a half a year because he’s dreamy, good with kids, died for her in another reality and played by Tom Yummy Buns Ellis.

So why did she end up with Mickey Smith of all people?  Mickey!  Smith!  …Well they both change and grew throughout their experiences with The Doctor.  The Doctor did to them what he does for his companions and brings out their best, their heroic side.  He has shown them things that others may find hard to believe.  Like when Donna Noble spent a year searching for him after rejecting his first offer to travel with him and she had no romantic attachment to him whatsoever.

Unlike Sarah Jane, Martha found a suitor that understood the world she lived in and could live in it too.  She didn’t have to keep secrets or risk him not believing her.

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.