Confession #80: I'm Not Celebrating Ten Years


The recent flood of "ten years ago today" posts about the relaunch of Doctor Who with Christopher Eccleston's spectacular Ninth Doctor and Billie Piper's Rose is kind of weirding me out. It's not that I feel old thinking about how much time has passed, or nostalgic about the moment the show came back. It's that I have no personal connection to that moment.

You may recall that although I was first introduced to the show through Rose, that didn't actually happen until early 2008. I'm still three years out from my personal ten-year Doctor Who anniversary. So all those "remember when...?" and "where were you?" posts strike me as odd.

Yes, I remember seeing Rose for the first time, but I didn't approach it as I've heard the fans who'd made it through the Wilderness Years did, with either breathless anticipation or trepidation. For me, it was a way to pass some time of an evening with a friend who was enthusiastic about something of which I'd barely heard.

I have fond memories of the way we watched the first five episodes together, but then our viewing fell by the wayside. I had enjoyed the stories, but wasn't hooked (that didn't happen until much later, when we got back to it with Dalek). To be honest, I can't even pin down the dates to within better than about a year until I finally caught up with "live" viewing.


Confession #79: I Want Sister-Friends


[Note: In case you saw yesterday's post but didn't click through to read the comments, YES, it was an April Fool's joke. I've no plans to end the blog, despite the fact that the first paragraph was gospel truth.]

Last week I talked about how nice it would be to see more "bromance" in the TARDIS—that male-male bonding that doesn't hinge on competition or other head-butting dynamics. But there's another type of common human relationship that happens all the time in real life but is relatively rare in fiction. It's a female-female bond I'm going to call sister-friends.

Think about the women you know (yourself included, if that's how you identify)—family, friends, coworkers, random people at the grocery store, whatever. How often do you find women keeping the company of other women and how often are they with men? Alternatively, think specifically now about women you know well. Who are the handful of people with whom each woman has the closest relationships? Are those people exclusively men? Or are there other women in that innermost circle?

Now compare to what we see of the Doctor's Companions (especially in the modern era). Starting with our current title holder, note that while Clara can get chummy with other women (as she only does when traveling with the Doctor, as far as we've ever seen), the people she actually spends time with are (a) the Doctor and (b) Danny. On rare occasions we've seen her with her father and/or her grandmother (or mentioning her long-dead mother), but those relationships are incredibly thinly developed on screen.

Even when we enter Clara's world a little more completely, as in The Caretaker, nearly everyone around her is male: the headmaster, the other teacher the Doctor mistakes for her boyfriend, the beat cop who gets vaporized by the Skovox Blitzer... Only Courtney rises slightly above bit player status, and even then I'd argue she's more there to bounce off the Doctor or highlight the relationship between Clara and Danny than anything else.


Confession #78: I Want Bromance


When I mention the Doctor's Companions, who's the first person who pops into your head? Is it the current or a recent Companion: Clara, or maybe Amy? Is it the first one you ever saw: Rose or Nyssa or Liz Shaw or even Susan? What about your all-time favorite (if it's not one of those I've already named): Sarah Jane, Jo, Ace, Barbara...?

When I say "Companion," how often does a guy come to mind?

Even if we restrict the Companion count to television, there have been a great many folks who've traveled with the Doctor over the years. Using the fairly generous selection criteria on the relevant Wikipedia page, we get a total of fifty individuals, including such outliers as Kamelion and Adam Mitchell. Of those, seventeen are men (eighteen, if you count the male-presenting Kamelion; or nineteen if you include male-voiced K-9). That's roughly 35%.

More strictly, if one doesn't include those who were only on one adventure (like Sara Kingdom or Jackson Lake) or didn't have their names in the opening credits (like Adam), but does include regular UNIT staff (the Brigadier, Sgt. Benton, and Capt. Yates), the Companion count comes in closer to thirty-seven or thirty-eight. Eleven or twelve of those are men (depending on whether or not you count Jack Harkness), or about 30%.

Either way we count, men are relatively uncommon TARDIS travelers. And yet some of the Doctor's longest-lasting, most intriguing relationships have been with these male Companions. There are two in particular that I'm thinking of: the Brigadier and Jamie.


Confession #77: I Think the TARDIS Is a Caretaker


How do the Doctor and his Companions take care of their basic biological needs while they're traveling in the TARDIS? It's a question perhaps less pressing when considering Clara than most others, as she seems to spend little time at all there. We've seen her changing clothes after an adventure, but on-screen evidence suggests (to me, at least) that she rarely, if ever, so much as spends one night aboard.

Even as recently as Rory and Amy, though—another pair who treated their time on the TARDIS more like a commuter than a residential lifestyle—it was clear that long stretches of time passed between their visits home. Historically, Companions lived in the TARDIS more like a dormitory or a commune, presumably spending their time between adventures in its halls.

So where do they sleep? Eat? Relieve themselves?

I suppose one obvious answer is that they stop off at various planets (or space stations, or whatever) to get supplies, have a picnic, or find a place to crash. (After all, Rose and Nine talked in The Empty Child about needing to stop for milk: "All the species in all the universe, and it has to come out of a cow," he quips.) It makes a certain amount of sense that part of exploring the universe is exploring various species' cuisines, for example.

I don't think that's how it works, though. We saw early on (in The Daleks, the second-ever story to be broadcast) that the TARDIS was equipped with a food machine that could produce (rather unappetizing looking) blocks of nutritional matter, programmed to taste like whatever one liked. Although it barely ever showed up again, that seeded the idea that the crew had everything they needed without ever leaving the ship.


Confession #76: I Like Grumpy


As I've discussed the latest series with more and more people, I've noticed a distinct dichotomy in fan reactions to the new Doctor. Capaldi's Twelve appears to be a "love him or hate him" kind of character, with very few having a lukewarm reaction. It made me wonder why some can't stand him, while others think he's the best thing since sliced bread.

Then I got to wondering why any Doctor appeals to certain fans and not others.

Perhaps the most noticeable schism in fandom lately has been between fans of the Classic era who don't really care for the more recent stuff and fans of "NuWho" who just can't get into the Classic stuff. For ease of discussion, I'll call the former "strict paleowhovians" here, and the latter "strict neowhovians" (to differentiate from my usual use of paleo/neowhovian as mere indicators of which era of the show a fan first saw).

I know, for example, a significant number of strict neowhovians (SNs) who are none too impressed with Twelve. Conversely, I've come across a fair number of strict paleowhovians (SPs) who just really don't like Ten. The reasons seem to be similar, with opposing sense: the SNs don't like Capaldi's depiction because he's "too mean," while the SPs don't like Tennant's because he's "too emo."

But what about the rest of fandom—those who fall under neither SN nor SP umbrella? Those of us who like at least some of the stories across all fifty-plus years of the show's history still have strong opinions about each Doctor, and no fan's likes and dislikes align perfectly with any other's. Some can't stand Hartnell, and others think him an underrated gem. Some feel Tom Baker will always be the archetype against which all other incarnations are measured and others find him irritatingly self-congratulatory.

So what are the key qualities about any given Doctor that set him apart from the rest, and make him climb someone's best of/worst of leaderboards? Or is it qualities of the fan that dictate a Doctor's reception? (There's undoubtedly a master's thesis in there somewhere...) I suspect it's a combination of both, but here are my completely unscientific speculations about what some of each of those might be.



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