I was introduced to the British television show Doctor Who by some friends a few years ago. I fell in love with the new incarnation of the show, and though I have tried to get into the older episodes, I just don’t find them as good or as entertaining as the newer episodes. What I love about the newer episodes is the relationship the Doctor has with his companions.
For those unfamiliar with the show, the Doctor is a Time Lord, an alien from an ancient race, who travels around through space and time in his TARDIS (which looks like a blue Police Box). He usually has a young female companion, someone he takes with him on his adventures.
As I’ve said, I’m not familiar with the Doctor and his companions in the old series, but in the new series, which was restarted in 2005, he has had 4 different companions, and their relationship with the Doctor is what I find fascinating. Maybe I’m just a sucker for characters and character development, even more than plot development at times, but I like looking at how people interact with others.
First Companion: Rose Tyler – At the beginning of the series Rose is sort of stuck in a dead-end job at a shop when she meets the Doctor. With him she experiences a whole new world of space and time, and she falls in love with the Doctor. The 9th Doctor, I don’t think responds as well to her love for him, he has his own emotional baggage that he is dealing with – but Rose stays with him. At the end of the first series the Doctor tries to send her home to keep her out of danger while he faces impossible odds, but she manages to return and save him, but that is when the Doctor ‘dies’ and regenerates into the 1oth Doctor. This Doctor starts to return her love and there is a beautiful relationship building. They are truly happy together and they both recognize that they need each other. But at the end of the second series Rose Tyler is lost to the Doctor, being trapped on a parallel world. This devastates the Doctor and he almost refuses to take on another companion until he meets —
Second Companion: Martha Jones – The Doctor meets Martha in a hospital where she is working studying to be a doctor herself. The Doctor has noticed some odd happenings and checked himself in to investigate, when the hospital is lifted and transported to the moon. When everyone else is panicking and rushing about, Martha makes a few observations and comes to a logical conclusion. I feel that the Doctor is drawn to her because she is able to be calm and level-headed, even in the midst of a crisis. He likes her because she is clever. He begins to realize that maybe he has been alone for too long, and offers to take him with him. And through their adventures she begins to fall in love with him. But what makes this show better than a common soap opera with people always falling in and out of love with each other, is that Martha’s relationship with the Doctor is very different than Rose’s. Martha wants to love the Doctor, but the Doctor doesn’t want to give himself to Martha and risk losing her like he lost Rose, so he remains distant, and this leads Martha to leave him. That is what I love about Martha – she is strong and independent and is not just infatuated with the Doctor, but is able to do what is best for herself. She loves the Doctor, but realizes he will never love her in the same way, and so she leaves to save herself the heartache.
And then the Doctor feels like he is truly alone. He has had two amazing companions and lost them both, and he determines to no have another companion. But then we meet —
Third Companion: Donna Noble – We had met Donna before, in a Christmas special episode where the Doctor saves her and destroys the alien threat to London. At the very end of that episode she is both awed and scared by this man and his power and she leaves him, but she recognizes that he is lonely and too powerful for his own good. She encourages him to find himself a companion, somebody to help him. Then in series 4, she runs into the Doctor again as they are both investigating an unusual company. She agrees to go with the Doctor, I think, mostly because she is looking for excitement and adventure and meaning in her life. With the Doctor she begins to realize that there is more to the world and the universe than she previously thought. But she doesn’t really fall in love with the Doctor, she becomes his mate, his pal, his travelling partner. She is attracted to the Doctor more intellectually, platonically, than romantically. But they both act like an old married couple, constantly bickering, but in a friendly way. For both of them, both recently recovering from relationships that did not work, they find each other. Neither is looking for love, they are both merely looking for fun and companionship.
But at the end of the 4th series both of them ‘die’. Donna has absorbed some of the Doctor’s power and it is too much for her human mind and so he erases her memory to save her life, he removes everything that they had done together. And then the Doctor ‘dies’ as well at the end of the specials after the 4th series, regenerating into the 11th Doctor, brand new and very different from the 10th Doctor. In his first episode he crash-lands his TARDIS in the garden of a young girl —
Fourth Companion: Amy Pond – we first meet her as a young girl who meets this strange “raggedy Doctor” who comes and fixes a crack in her wall, which was a rift in space and time. And then he goes away, for what he thinks will only be five minutes, but in reality it was 12 years. Amy’s relationship with the Doctor is very interesting. She first met him as a 6-year-old, and has loved him, obsessed over him ever since. He became her imaginary friend, but when he returned she fell in love with him, but she loves him as a 6-year-old little girls loves an older man. She doesn’t really understand her feelings for him or her relationship with him, because she knows that she loves him, but in the meantime, while he has been gone, she has fallen in love with and become engaged to her friend Rory. She follows the Doctor and tries to seduce him because she has certain feelings for him, but I don’t think she really understands these feelings. And I love the fact that Rory becomes a companion as well and travels with them. This allows the relationship between Rory and Amy to grow and not to be replaced with the relationship between Amy and the Doctor.
And I feel this is important – no one could ever stand up against the Doctor. He is so wonderful, he has his spaceship/time machine, he can take you to worlds and times that you had only dreamed of. Who would ever want to date or marry someone ordinary after having seen the universe with the Doctor. That is the struggle that began with Rose Tyler and her boyfriend Mickey Smith, who once commented, “Oh no, I’m the tin dog”, referring to the metal canine companion the Doctor use to have who is more of the comic relief, third-wheel than an actual, helpful companion. And Amy has the same struggle with Rory, which struggle led to one of my favorite episodes in series 5, “Amy’s Choice.”
The Doctor needs a companion, we saw that in the few episodes where he had none. He needs the companion for their humanity. And he needs them for their relationships.