Doctor Who and the role of companions

Earlier this week I did the migraine thing, which sucked but I lived through, and then I did the post-migraine hangover for two days which went a bit beyond sucking. No sooner was that over, then a massive problem came to light in Zombie project that required a lot of time, swearing and stress to fix and resulted in me missing my release. It’s going to feel good when I flee my office this afternoon.


What I actually wanted to talk about was Doctor Who. I know, total shocker there. At the weekend I held a conversion/indoctrination session for some friends. It basically involved food, Rose and The End of the World and explanations of things when necessary. We had a total blast, which is what always happens when I get together with my knitters no matter what we’re doing. I appear to have hooked at least one of them – she’s been hunting down at watching all the episodes she can get her hands on (think she just finished Aliens of London) and loves the Ninth Doctor. Yay!

As I was watching, there were a few comments about Rose’s slightly glazed look and her moments of, er, less than brilliance. She’s a great character because of the progression we see from the Rose in the first episode (bored, not precisely stupid but not given the chance to use her brain) to the Rose we see at the end of her time. In some ways, it’s a similar journey to Donna’s although Donna started from a slightly different place in large part because Donna was a number of years older than Rose.

Martha had a different journey. While Rose and Donna both had to learn that they could be brilliant and find the kick-ass woman within, Martha started out as a med student so she knew that she was competent and smart. Thus her journey was about the consequences of life with the Doctor and in some ways about the fact that it is painful for people. I’m quite excited to see the new companion: we know that she’s a police officer which implies that she’s already got a knowledge of her own competence and skills. I wonder what she’ll learn?

That thought led me onto one of the reasons that I think Doctor Who hooks people so well. The Doctor is the untouchable alien who does amazing things, but we can’t be him. The companions are us. They come from the same backgrounds and origins as us, they ask all the questions that we would and we can imagine what we would do if the Doctor gave us the chance to travel with him. The companions give the audience someone to identify with, even if they aren’t from exactly the same backgrounds as us, because they’re ordinary people given the chance to do something extraordinary. If the show was just the Doctor, it would be fun but I’m not sure there would be the same degree of attachment because there would be nobody there for us to ‘watch’ it all through.

Perhaps that is why the recent specials, while excellent, haven’t been quite as engrossing as a regular episode or even a regular Christmas special? Planet of the Dead had Lady Christina, who was Companion-ish and provided some of the best moments, but the other specials didn’t quite have the same feel. Wilf in the recent Christmas episodes was the closest we came and I adore him to pieces, but I don’t think he has quite the same audience-identification role.

I think that I’m going to have fun watching my hooked friends’ reactions as they work their way through the stories. They don’t have the same background cultural awareness of Doctor Who that people in the UK do, so hearing what they think is going to be fascinating.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. moonblade2005
    Jan 29, 2010 @ 12:07:07

    I love Dr. Who! It is an awesome show, and I think you nailed it with the role of the companions. They provide a character in which viewers can easily relate. I highly suggest anyone that hasn’t seen this show to check it out, especially if you like the sci-fi genre.


    • archerygirl
      Feb 02, 2010 @ 11:24:51

      Hee! Doctor Who is still the best show out there 🙂 But it really wouldn’t work if it was just the Doctor without a companion (or two).


  2. Cristina
    Feb 02, 2010 @ 07:07:35

    I have mostly new Who knowledge, but some old Who cultural osmosis knowledge due to being in the UK several years now.

    One of the problems I have with the companions is that they pretty much fall head over heels for the Doctor. I mean, he is an alien with a time machine and a sonic screwdriver, so I would too, but still. I liked Donna because she didn’t do that!

    I absolutely loved Captain Brooke in The Waters of Mars as a companion. Mainly because she stood up to the doctor. She provided a strong force against his, all the way until her end. And the Doctor has not seen in a while someone to go against him like that (requests of not wandering away aside). It was great to see his face when he realised he couldn’t play god like that. is having a very interesting series about “Moffat’s Women“, you’ll probably like it!


    • archerygirl
      Feb 02, 2010 @ 11:29:38

      The companions falling for the Doctor is strictly a New Who phenomenon and it’s a big part of why I adored Donna. There have always been companions that were particularly attached to the Doctor (Ace, Sarah Jane, Romana), but never in the romantic love way that Rose and Martha were.

      I totally forgot about Captain Brooke. She was awesome 🙂

      Thanks for the link – I’m going to check that out now…


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