Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Doctor Who Fan Who Waited

I love Doctor Who. I make no secret of that. I have like 4 sonic screwdrivers, Doctor Who chucks, salt and pepper shakers. Let’s just say: If you’re a geek and you know it say, Allonsy!


With Matt Smith stepping down as the current Doctor, speculation has begun on who the next Doctor might be. I asked a friend recently who she thought it might be, and her response was an apathetic “meh.” She explained her reasons and I realized that I was also not particularly excited about the next incarnation of the Doctor. In fact, when the new season began and introduced Clara, I barely cared. Which is odd seeing as each new season of Doctor Who used to user in a few weeks of totally appointment TV.

The problem lies with the companions. Or rather, how the companions are being written under the helmsmanship of Steven Moffat.

It pains me to say this since Moffat wrote my favorite episode of DW ever (Blink), writes Sherlock (which I adore) and did a fantastic take on the tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Jekyll). But Steven Moffat can’t write women. No, let me take that back...because his brilliant trio of detectives (Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax) proves that he can write strong women with personalities that are fleshed out and brilliant. So why are all his companions such empty vessels?

Based on his two-part story (Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead) that introduced River Song into the Whoniverse, you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking that Moffat could write fully fleshed out female characters. But the saddest part of River Song’s journey is that she actually grew less complex as time went on. She began as a complete person and ended as merely the Doctor’s wife, a MacGuffin that tied Amy and Rory’s own story together with the Doctor’s. We were teased with backstory of River Song’s life but in the end, everything she was revolved around the Doctor. She was born to kill him, gave up her lives to save him, waited in jail for killing him (despite the fact that she didn’t) for him to whisk her away on adventures. River Song stopped being River Song and simply became the Doctor’s Wife.

Amy and Clara share similar fates, except they don’t have the benefit of beginning with a great story. Amy begins as The Girl Who Waited, and Clara is The Impossible Girl. Not even a woman...a girl. They are puzzles for the Doctor to solve. They exist because of him. Amy is who she is because of the Doctor. Clara is who she is because of the Doctor. Over the course of their respective seasons, we learn very little about each of them. Solving them is what’s important, not knowing them. At least, that’s what Moffat would like us to believe.

My favorite line from any review comes from Booklist’s review of fml. “Hutchinson delivers a raucous, raunchy, and romantic hero who is challenged to view the object of his affections as a person, not a prize.” That was so important to me when I was working on fml. I wanted every character to be someone. Not just to be there to move the plot. Simon is in love with Cassie Castillo. His rival is Eli Fucking Horowitz. His evil ex-girlfriend is Aja Bourne. At the beginning of Simon’s story, these people are just ideas to him. Cassie is the girl to woo, Eli is the rival to best, Aja is an obstacle to avoid. But through the story, Simon realizes that they’re actual people. Fully fleshed out and real. It’s no mistake that readers of both FML and Deathday have notice the 80s Teen Movie vibes. The Breakfast Club was THE movie for looking at and destroying stereotypes. And I took the lessons I learned from that movie and others to heart, and injected them with my own brand of romanticism and crude humor.

Because I believe that every character should exist on their own, not just to support the lead.

Which is where Doctor Who under Moffat has gone so very wrong.

Compare Amy Pond to my favorite companion, Donna Noble. Sure, when Donna began her run she was loud, obnoxious, and often shallow. But through one season, we got to know Donna. We learned about her as a person. Much like Sarah Jane, Donna Noble could have run off and had her own adventures without the Doctor. And in one of Russell T. Davies’ most brilliant seasons, he reversed the importance of the Doctor and his companion. Donna didn’t exist because the Doctor needed her to, the Doctor (and the whole universe) existed because DONNA needed him to. Donna Noble was the most important person in the whole of the universe.

Which, of course, makes her ending that much more tragic, and I’ll probably never forgive Davies for it.

But the point is that Donna was a person, not a riddle. Despite the fact that there were riddles surrounding her, the Doctor never, ever treated her as a thing to solve. Person first, puzzle never.

Despite Martha being my least favorite companion, even she was far more fleshed out and developed than Amy or Clara. I hated that they made her so lovestruck, but they also made her a person. She was a doctor, she joined Unit, she made her own decision to walk away from the doctor when she realized he couldn’t return her feelings. I feel if Moffat had been running things during the Martha Jones era, she would have likely stuck around and mooned after the Doctor for two seasons and ended up being his long lost daughter.

The nice thing about Doctor Who is that if you dislike the actor playing the Doctor or a companion or even a showrunner, eventually, that person will be replaced. So either Moffat will learn that the companions are people, not puzzles, or he’ll be replaced by someone who does.



  1. My favorite companion is Rose Tyler. Partly because of her pluck, but also partly because as you point out, her ARC is more well fleshed out than Amy or Clara's (I haven't seen all the Clara episodes yet).

    Personally, I thought both Amy and Clara's first episodes were pretty brilliant, but I also agree not necessarily because of their characters so much as because of the premise of each one.


    1. I'm always on the fence about Rose. I view the Doctor as this asexual being, so I never liked the idea of him having feelings for Rose. He's 900 years-old, she's...22? It's all a little too weird.

      I was excited at the beginning of Amy's story. I loved Matt Smith, and I adored the idea of a continuing story arc, and I absolutely bought into the idea of a couple on the Tardis. In fact, Rory was my favorite part of their arc (okay, actually I wanted to see more of Rory's dad...Dinosaurs on a Spaceship was brilliant). But later episodes turned her into River's mother rather than an actual person. And the way she was always having to apologize to Rory just rubbed me the wrong way. I think, as a character, Amy had so much potential that was squandered as her personality was sacrificed to the plot.

      Unfortunately, I never warmed up to Clara, and I think that's because she was nothing more than a MacGuffin from the outset. She was a riddle for the Doctor to solve. We know very little about her. Her personality seems to fluctuate depending on what the plot calls for. I think the actress has a great style and could be a commanding companion (at least as good as Donna in terms of being on equal footing with the Doctor), but until she gets some honest-to-goodness character development, she's just The Impossible Girl.

    2. Well Clara is a paradox to begin with, isn't she? I'm struggling to remember the episode where her existence is explained, but basically she exists in many universes, right?

      Still that kind of fits your point that she isn't really her own person, and I agree she would be a stronger character if she was.

      Personally I just can't wait to find out whether The Face of Boe is Captain Jack Harkness or not.


Keep it clean, keep it classy, and jokes are always appreciated.