Tag Archive for river song

Domesticating the Doctor Part V: Divorcing the Ponds

[Cross-posted at my blog, tansyrr.com]

The Christmas decorations are still up, we’ve only just started eating the pudding (if I’d known it only took 3 minutes in the microwave I might have cooked it on Christmas Day) but the festive season is pretty much over in our house. Time to chew over the 2012 Doctor Who episodes (Series Pond & the Christmas Special) with a couple of new installments of DOMESTICATING THE DOCTOR.

Previously on Domesticating the Doctor, we looked at our hero’s distaste of the domestic sphere throughout the Classic Years (with a brief holiday from it when he was Jon Pertwee), we looked at the three Mother-in-Law characters from the RTD era and how this new, rebooted version of our hero coped with jam, Christmas dinner and housing estates, we delved back into pre-war Britain with a very human Doctor, and finally we poked holes in his new Moffat era family with Marrying the Ponds.

Before I get to the 2012 episodes, I wanted to touch briefly on the Night and the Doctor shorts, which were released last year as part of the Season 6 box set, but which I personally failed to watch until somewhere around the beginning of Season 7. These little sketches not only answer some rather intriguing questions about the actual timey wimey physics involved in the Doctor’s marriage to River Song, but also expands on his relationship with Amy, cementing it once and for all as being far closer to a familial connection than anything else.

This Doctor doesn’t get why married people should want to share a bed, but is in his element when talking about his best friend’s childhood – children make sense to him in a way that grown ups don’t, and he seems far less threatened by their domesticity. If this wasn’t fully clear from The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe (which probably deserves a post of its own, to be honest) in which the Doctor upcycles a house to be a child’s paradise but sneers at the functional adult rooms, it should certainly be clear from the scene in which he shows Amy the power he can have over her childhood and her memories, using only a theoretical ice-cream.

» Read more..

I started to think you were just a madman with a linkspam.

I thought you guys might appreciate this GIF, and The Organization for Transformative Works‘s observation that “This is what fandom is.”

A GIF from Harry Potter. In it, Ron reads Harry's tea leaves and says, "...you're gonna suffer, but you're gonna be happy about it."

On Whatever, John Scalzi outlines an excellent metaphor for illustrating privilege without using the word:

Dudes. Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a massive role playing game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, cell phones and donuts, although not always at the same time. Let’s call it The Real World. You have installed The Real World on your computer and are about to start playing, but first you go to the settings tab to bind your keys, fiddle with your defaults, and choose the difficulty setting for the game. Got it?

Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.

It’s excellent. Go read the whole thing.

Via i09, a very pretty TARDIS scarf, and free instructions on knitting it.

A close-up of detail from the TARDIS scarf, in light blue.

Via Nerd Approved, a cat house shaped like a TARDIS. If you’re interested in TARDIS-inspired cat houses, you can check out another one at The Mary Sue.

A kitty sits in a TARDIS house. Alternating panels on the TARDIS are cut out, and we can see that there are carpeted shelves in those cutouts.

More seriously, this “I Had An Abortion” post at Maehem Sez, is getting a lot of attention, for good reason.

And at Think Progress, Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow in the recent Avengers movie) talks about the ridiculous, sexist portrayals of superheroines.

Feminist Whoniverse talks about Moffat’s recent Twitter reveal that River Song is bisexual, and argues that because her queerness is pretty much invisible, this does nothing for queer visibility in the show.

If you have a suggestion for our linkspam, please email it to: courtney (at) doctorher (dot) com.

I need…fish fingers and linkspam!

At A Shouty Girl with a Scarf, you can read a hilarious bit about how things with River Song would have ended differently if she’d met a Spunky Bisexual Tumblr Girl. This is a riff off the Sassy Gay Friend videos on Youtube.

On Courtney Stoker‘s Tumblr, she talks about how she thinks Doctor Who is never intersectional (and thus feminist), but that fans can (and do!) make it so.

From i09, a TARDIS dildo. Yeah, you read that right.

From a comment at Geek Feminism, a call for participants in an anthology about lady Doctors. Well, not lady Doctors, because that would be copyright-infringing, but “people who identify as female saving the world and/or universe.” The contact information for the proposer is in the comment.

NPR interviewed Steven Moffat about Doctor Who and Sherlock.

Domesticating the Doctor III: Marrying the Ponds

The Eleventh Doctor crashes literally in Amelia Pond’s back yard, and from that point on is irretrievably tangled in her life and her family – though with the exception of dancing with them (presumably) at her wedding, he remains largely apart from, and free from any association with, her parents and aunt. Indeed, the whole of season 5 not only has Amy’s family literally removed from her life (a mystery to be solved by the Doctor) but frames the Doctor himself as her imaginary friend, a character who, in the land of child logic, would never interact with her parents and guardians anyway.

The Doctor has always been an abductor of young people, but here we see him set up as an ostensible kidnapper of children. He not only gets himself invited into her house at night, he agrees to take young Amelia off on adventures with him, without any kind of permission from the adults responsible for her.

The Eleventh Hour is for me one of the most perfect pieces of Doctor Who storytelling of all time, but my inner parent is still going, HANG ON A MINUTE. It also raises all kinds of interesting questions of where he got hold of Susan in the first place, back in the 1960’s…

The Doctor’s first main scene with young Amy, in which he tries all the foods and spits them out in dramatic fashion, demonstrates quite clearly that he is still a fish out of water in a domestic environment (and shouldn’t be let out in public).

Like Rose, the adult Amy alternates between dragging the Doctor into her domestic life, and using him to escape it. Amy’s house is a symbol of domesticity gone wrong: the house with missing family members and too many rooms. In that first episode, there’s a monster hiding in a room she can’t even remember, let alone see – the Doctor can see her house more clearly than she can.

At the end of the Eleventh Hour, the big reveal is that Amy, who may or may not have “something” to come back for in the morning, has hightailed it out of her spooky house with the Doctor, leaving behind a certain wedding dress. We return later that same night, at the end of Flesh and Stone, because Amy thinks the best place to proposition the Doctor is back at hers, rather than the far more convenient TARDIS. Why there? Was she expecting him to dump her and wanted to make sure she was back where she started? Or was the TARDIS emanating some kind of ‘no unmarried nookie in here thank you’ magnetic field?

It’s fascinating that the Doctor goes to so much trouble to set up Rory and Amy in The Vampires of Venice, in response to her failed seduction. I know there are some who might view this as him being all patriarchal, but I think his general comedic incompetence balances out his assumption that he knows what’s best for them. He doesn’t understand how humans work, especially the romantic aspects, and his bumbling attempts serve to show how alien he really is. It’s certainly preferable to how the Tenth Doctor dealt with Martha’s feelings for him by ignoring the issue.

The Eleventh Doctor isn’t completely dense, though. He figures out that Amy and Rory’s relationship won’t survive her having otherworldly adventures without him (much as travelling in the TARDIS changed Rose into someone her mother almost didn’t recognise) but he is still flailing blindly in the dark. The obvious solution – to leave Amy with Rory and start again with a new companion – doesn’t occur to him. Instead, he’s determined to keep Amy even if that means bringing her feller along with him. Something he never offered any of his previous companions… and a good thing too, really, or (back in the 70′s) Jo Grant would have had a TARDIS full of alien toyboys by the time Cliff Jones came along.

Amy’s Choice is one of several stories in Season 5 to deal overtly with the issue of the human desire for domesticity vs. The Doctor’s aversion to it. There are two dreamworlds created in this story, one recreating the TARDIS, and the other recreating the life that the Doctor thinks Amy and Rory want for themselves. You’ll note that he’s already thinking about the fact that someday, Amy and Rory will leave him to settle down planet side. Of course they will. The companions always do.

So dream Amy is pregnant, dream Rory is a qualified GP with a silly ponytail, and they are living in an idyllic but deeply boring country village. The dullness is accentuated by the fact that the characters actually fall asleep as they shift between dreamworlds.

The ‘choice’ of the story title is implied to be Amy choosing between the Doctor and Rory, as symbolised by the two dreamworlds. But that’s a cheat, because the village dream isn’t something Amy craves at all (and it could be argued, is only tangentially what Rory wants for them). Her choice has nothing to do with the Doctor – it’s about figuring whether she loves Rory. She chooses a future with him, regardless of where they are, and that’s a choice she holds to from that point onwards, even when she doesn’t remember him.

Arguably the most important story of the Eleventh Doctor vs. Domesticity is The Lodger, which has nothing to do with Amy Pond at all, but crystallises this particular Doctor’s interest in how humans work.

Stranded without the TARDIS, the Doctor investigates a new creepy house, one which, like the one Amy grew up in, is not what it seems. Again we see him trying to fit in with humans by parodying their behaviour, not always successfully. Where he does succeed, it’s often by accident – he cooks and plays football brilliantly, but is less than convincing when it comes to toothbrushes, money or emotional signals.

The story revolves around the top floor of a house that lures and kills people – a floor that was actually never there. It’s a neon sign as to what has been going on with Amy all along, but also represents one of the greatest horror tropes, the idea that the place where you live might not only not be safe – but might be trying to kill you.

It’s interesting really that this trope is so rarely applied to the TARDIS itself, the Doctor’s hearth and home. Though of course it is, many times during this season, and Amy herself is finding out how dangerous the TARDIS can be while all of the Doctor’s tea drinking and footballing is going on.

The mystery of Amy’s house is unravelled in the finale of Season 5 (though the mystery of the TARDIS blowing up is not) and she leaves the house behind without a backward look, wending her way into the universe with “her boys” as a married woman ready for adventures. This felt revolutionary at the time – the idea that a wedding doesn’t have to be the coda for ‘time to stop having fun’ or ‘second best to travelling with the Doctor’. I think it’s dangerous to only imagine weddings are the end of a story, a happy ending to strive for rather than the beginning of something new. We need more pop culture that says you can have your domesticity and swashbuckling at the same time.

It was a magnificent end to a great season of Doctor Who, but I’m not convinced that what followed was anything close to the married-in-the-TARDIS hijinks we were promised.

Having a married couple in the TARDIS (and a baby of sorts) is a huge change of focus for the show, and while it’s good in some ways that it didn’t change the format too drastically (we don’t actually want the show to turn into The Pond Sitcom however cute that YouTube trailer was) it also felt like the show didn’t change enough. A cute married couple can absolutely bomb along with the Doctor in his rackety old TARDIS without making him change his habits too drastically, especially as they were doing so in the previous season as a romantic couple anyway – but why do something different with the companions only to then NOT do anything different with the companions?

The Time and Space comic relief scenes are actually the closest we come to seeing ‘married person chatter’ or any real acknowledgement that something has changed. The funny revelation in The Doctor’s Wife that the room the Doctor set up for Amy and Rory features bunk beds (and he can’t imagine why they might not think they were awesome) and his embarrassed discussion with Madam Vastra about the conception of the baby go to show that actually, the Doctor has not had to compromise in order to make space for the Ponds in his life. They are still travelling with him on his terms, and he’s not even letting them partly set up home for themselves.

Indeed, we see that Rory is still unsure of where he stands with Amy well into Day of the Moon, and episodes like the Rebel Flesh two parter still prioritise the relationship of Amy as the Doctor’s main companion, with Rory as a sidekick. The controversial kidnapping of Amy by Madam Kovarian may put Amy in a traditionally passive role, but at least it forces the Doctor and Rory to work as a team, something we haven’t seen nearly enough of, and makes the TARDIS crew feel more united in the second half of the season by comparison.

Then there’s The Doctor’s Wife, another story about houses that are quite literally trying to kill you. It is a loving tribute to the TARDIS as the Doctor’s faithful companion (or rather, the Doctor as her faithful companion) and makes it clear that the show is really just about the two of them. Companions come and go, but the TARDIS, the Doctor’s hearth and home, is always going to be there for him, and vice versa. The reason he has always fled domestic spheres in the past is not necessarily because it scares him or confuses him, but because he already has a wife and house waiting for him within those blue doors, and no one else compares to Her Indoors.

Wait, I’ve forgotten to address something.

The baby.

But that’s okay, because the show forgot to address it too!

I’m all for babies in my science fiction and fantasy. I’m a mum, and I love to see motherhood explored in my favourite genres. It’s not done nearly enough… and of course, it’s rarely done well. It drives me batty when a pregnancy or baby story is introduced to an ongoing science fiction series, usually to a female character, and then whisked away again, leaving little to no emotional ramifications. Think Deanna Troi and “The Child” in Next Generation. Also there’s the rapidly ageing baby trick, as with Connor in Angel or Eve/Livia in Xena. I don’t even like it when the show in question properly acknowledges how horrible an experience that is for the parent/s, because I’m well aware that the emotional trauma is a side effect of a cynical production choice, to dabble with a baby story but not bother with the realistic long term issues of how that would change a character’s life and priorities.

Which is relevant in the case of Season 6 of Doctor Who, because not only did they take the easy escape by writing the baby out almost as soon as it was born (and indeed skipping the inconvenient pregnancy period too) but they didn’t properly address the emotional ramifications of this to Amy or Rory for a full half of a season. Especially Rory, actually, as Amy at least gets to express her feelings in The Wedding of River Song, while we have to read his loss as a father from subtext in stories where he openly expresses other reasons to be dissatisfied with the Doctor.

It’s a shame, because one or two sentences per episode throughout the second half of Season 6, to show the characters were still thinking about and dealing with this enormous loss would have made it a far more powerful, worthwhile storyline. My only hope is that the story isn’t over yet, and there’s a twist still to come. Recent revelations about the setting of the episode in which the Ponds will be written out only further support my theory that the story of baby Melody is not yet finished. (And you can see HERE my argument for why Amy Pond should not be killed off)

Domesticity and parent-child relationships are a huge part of Season 6, despite the baby-fail. The Doctor can barely turn around without being faced with more children, daddy issues and haunted and/or murderous houses. In Closing Time, he slapsticks his way through Two Men and a Stormageddon, and we are treated to a fun comedy of errors which deals with all kinds of great issues to do with the clash of domesticity, danger and dads. I particularly enjoyed the whole issue of – how do you save the world if you can’t get a babysitter?

So… why couldn’t this be done with Melody Pond? Why couldn’t we have a baby in the TARDIS, stick a robot nanny in with the Gallifreyan crib, and tell the story that way? It’s not like we were going to be stuck with her forever, they’re only keeping the Ponds another five episodes into Season 7!

(James, a regular commenter on Doctor Her, expresses fan frustration with this issue beautifully in a comment on another post, which had me punching the air in agreement)

So, the Doctor has a married couple in the TARDIS (mostly) but he doesn’t have to change his spots. They have a baby, but while there are all manner of timey wimey consequences, it’s hardly even worth the Doctor dusting off that old cot of his. Then, to cap it all off, the Doctor gets married (to someone who isn’t the TARDIS though you could definitely say River is TARDIS-approved) and is in no way expected to live with, change or compromise anything for his new bride.

And yet… maybe he isn’t living as fancy free as we think – at least, not by choice. If we learn anything from The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, it’s that this Doctor rather likes playing house. He creates a Christmas home for Madge and her children, and afterwards, goes home to Amy and Rory – the same home he bought for them, something he’s never done for a companion before. Another Doctor at Christmas dinner, but this one is all his idea.

Somehow, the Doctor has ended up with a real family, not one he visits in order to placate his current companion, but one that includes him as official, full fledged son-in-law. It’s not a permanent thing – Amy and Rory’s days with the show are numbered, and they’ll be gone by Christmas – but it’s hard to imagine that the Doctor hasn’t somehow been irretrievably changed by this development.

Looking back over the Seasons 5 and 6, I wonder if maybe all the kids and killer houses were not about showing us what the Doctor (and those who travel with him) can’t have, but about what this Doctor might be looking for in the future. Eleven didn’t have to marry River, or provide a home and car for Amy and Rory. He certainly doesn’t have to fly through space with a cot in his TARDIS, all ready for some future occupant.

Is this as domesticated as our hero is ever going to get, or is it the beginning of a new direction for Doctor Who? As long as Moffat is involved in the show, it’s pretty clear that it will be daddy issues ahoy. And that means there’s one fairly obvious next step that the show could take.

Could the Eleventh Doctor become a parent – a real, involved, doing-the-dirty-jobs-while-saving-the-world parent – without breaking the show irretrievably?

It would certainly make a change from all those romantic companions, if the next woman to join him in the TARDIS was his daughter…

"Booties... doesn't look too hard!"

PREVIOUS DOMESTICATING THE DOCTOR POSTS:
Cocoa, Test-tubes and the Classic Years
The Missus, the Ex and the Mothers-in-Law
John Smith’s Human Nature

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!

The Strength of Song

While perusing a list of the Doctor’s Companions I decided to start my next series of posts on those I believe hold ideals and strengths, plus exhibit behavior I can admire. Those Companions, who explore the complexity of navigating different world views, beliefs and morality based on the foundation of ideals, composed by our beloved Doctor.

I’m going to start with the Nu Who and travel backwards, much like the subject of this post does in her adventures. Really she’s wibbly wobbly all over the time stream.

The first time we as a fandom meet River Song you know at once she’s different. This is a woman that faces off with the Doctor as an equal. There are no clumsy colt legs of acclimation, no wide eyed wonder regarding the Doctor and his adventures.

River, who’s portrayed in her forties, is an Action Hero!  She’s confident in her abilities, intelligence and sexuality. This isn’t the end of her list of attributes, this is only the beginning. If I were to list all of them, this post would be way too long. I will settle for what in my opinion, makes her special to me.

The first quality that made River stand out is her extreme intelligence. The adaptability and cunning that stems from this formidable resource make her readily able to continue coming to the Doctor’s rescue, or kill him, depending on what needs to be accomplished.

The second quality, which caused supreme admiration, is her strength. Everything she has to endure from her first meeting with the tenth Doctor to her final interaction during this past season, there’s no way someone without superior courage could have survived let alone succeeded.

Not only does River have the strength to be joyfully ruthless when necessary, she also has the strength to love. The strength of her love for the Doctor is what enables her to face and overcome the obstacles in her path.

Now you can argue, the love of a man leading to greatness?  Isn’t that stereotypical of how women are portrayed and doesn’t that lead us wibbly wobbly to the very issues we are her to discuss and prevent? Perhaps, I don’t believe River allows herself to be used this way. She’s not pining for a prince to rescue her and provide a picket fence. River rescues others, sets wrongs right, plans and executes her own conspiracies. She knows that in the end she will not actually “BE” with the Doctor. River does what she does for herself, because she wants to do it.

This inner strength led her to be able to resist brainwashing and alien technology. She created an alternative reality just by her force of will (and a little Time Lord DNA). River Song also had the strength to sacrifice this reality, as most are aware letting go of something is often harder than getting it.

River portrays qualities and dynamics I can utilize daily. She helps me self assess when I’m facing hardship; she shows me I can still be a beautiful, intelligent woman and embrace my feelings without being weak. I can rescue the prince and build my own white picket fence, then have the strength to knock it down if it’s needed.

River Song showed me that if I needed too I could be a better TARDIS pilot than the Doctor himself, and I thank her for it.

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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