The space-time continuum of the geek world may be collapsing: The Doctor is engaged to his daughter. The joke about the engagement between David Tennant and Georgia Moffett is two-fold; Tennant played the Doctor and Moffett played his daughter in an episode, and Moffett is the real-life daughter of Peter Davison, who played the fifth incarnation of the Doctor. Yes, it’s kind of creepy, but only if you can’t separate fiction from reality.
Thinking about “the Doctor’s” engagement, however, got me thinking about the real Doctor – that is, the character himself. And the sticky, sticky subject of love, sex and Doctor Who.
Those with only a passing familiarity with the show might not know that this is a subject hotly debated amongst Doctor Who fans. Might the Doctor be sexually attracted to his companions? On the one hand, they rather look like him. On the other hand, he’s an alien species. And something like 900 years old. And, well, he’s alien. Who’s to say he’d even have the same drives as a human?
On the other hand, as human viewers it’s in our nature to want to see characters with charisma get together. And it’s probably human nature to ascribe sexual motivation to most things. Thus, no one complains about Kirk and his humanoid alien conquests, and undoubtedly there have been viewers who have wanted to see almost every Doctor get together with one of his companions.
However, for decades those viewers could only fantasize. The Doctor started out as an old man with, literally, a granddaughter; subsequent incarnations got younger, and the companions were older. Still, for the most part the Doctor remained distant, alternating between platonic-and-fatherly and mad-genius-barely-tolerating-his-interns.
You could read in a bit of sexual tension here and there if you were looking for it, but in the script the only real equals the Doctor seemed to have were other Time Lords (yes, I’m including the Master).
Then, in 2005, Russell T Davies resurrected the show, tweaking it along the way. And in by far the most controversial change, he had the first companion, Rose, fall in love with the Doctor. And the Doctor loved her back.
This is a game-changer in many ways, even within Davies’ own universe. A common theme discussed in the new Doctor Who is the isolation of the Doctor; he surrounds himself with people, but ultimately he leaves them behind at some point and moves on. This is rather sensible from the standpoint of an immortal; better to say goodbye when it’s not quite so depressing.
So the companions, while cared for, are… companions. Maybe comparable to cats. And while we may like one more than the other, they’re all pretty much the same in terms of importance.
Until, well, Rose. Now we have one companion who will forever be different from the others. Viewers were made to endure two seasons of a rebound companion who mooned about while the Doctor made it quite clear: no one could be as good as Rose.
Have I mentioned that I intensely dislike Rose?
And there, in a nutshell, is the rift in the Doctor Who fanbase. There are those who only began watching the show in its new iteration; for them, the pairing seems quite reasonable. There are those who were always pulling for the Doctor to hook up with someone, anyone.
Others feel the pairing takes away from the alien element of the Doctor; he may love and care for beings (and he surely loves the human race), but romantic or sexual love is just too much human biology. And, of course, there’s the massive break in the continuity, changing the core relationship between the Doctor and his companion.
Now, what about me? Place me in the latter camp. You know how people talk about their first Doctor? The first one people get emotionally invested in tends to be their favorite; every other Doctor, before or after, is but a pale imitation. Well, the character of Rose was the first companion, and she even outlasted a regeneration. I feel the writers got a little too personally invested in that character, at the expense of the cohesiveness of the show. It’s all a little too Mary Sue for me, to be honest.
Of course, I wasn’t a fan of Tennant by the end either, for sort of the same reasons. I felt the show focused on these actors, this regeneration, as the Most Epic Ever – when really, Doctor Who, for me, is about a new day, a new face, a new companion, a new adventure.
And maybe that’s the real problem people have with the Rose Situation – it’s not about whether an alien should have romantic feelings for a human, it’s about whether any one companion or Doctor should be any more important than any other. We all have our favorites, and we can debate them, but really they’re pretty much equal. Until now.
So, what about the latest incarnation of the Doctor, and the men behind the curtain, Stephen Moffat and Matt Smith? Personally, I think it’s been played just right (no fangirl here, cough). For all the criticism the show has gotten about being increasingly sexy – due mostly to gorgeous companion Amy Pond – I think the Doctor himself has been more kid-friendly and asexual.
The recent Christmas Special is an excellent case in point – tons of throwaway lines there about having never stayed up talking about girls, awkward first kisses, and his ‘scientific’ fascination with kissing. Is he completely clueless? No. But he’s not Doctor Stud, either. Somehow I greatly prefer this, or even Eccleston’s laid-back wisdom about “enlightened 51st-century guys,” to macho posturing or the puppy love angst of the Tennant era.
However, it’s possible that the biggest game-changers in Doctor Who, love and sex are yet to come, and my current opinions will change. After all, we’ve been told that next season will finally answer all the questions about River Song; there’s no telling what she is, or what will be revealed.
What do you think about the Doctor and romance? Should it be avoided, or is he only human(oid)?