A full TARDIS

Back when the TARDIS was full

Back when the TARDIS was full

I’ve been avoiding Series 8 spoilers like the plague, but it’s very difficult to not gain at least some information from headlines, not to mention the occasional discussions with friends. Luckily, I’ve managed to stay pretty clean about foreknowledge. A discussion that did come up this week was that it’s looking like they’re trying to draw parallels between the Capaldi Doctor and the Hartnell Doctor, specifically by filling out the TARDIS with a similar group of companions: a male teacher, a female teacher, and a female student.

If this really is intentional, I’m not really sure how I feel about this. First, there’s the obsessive fan in me that says that all parallels should be drawn to Troughton’s Doctor, since Capaldi’s Doctor is the second Doctor in the new regeneration sequence, not the first (Smith’s Doctor is the first). Ok, I just needed to write that and you can slap me for being way too silly now. Second, something just bugs me about drawing such obvious parallels, narrative-wise. Either there’s some big hand of fate causing events to repeat, which simply bugs me, or the Doctor is building his team the same way, which to me seems very un-Doctor-like. Ah well, either way, it really doesn’t matter what I think along those lines, does it?

On the other hand, it’s very exciting to have a completely new dynamic in the TARDIS, a full TARDIS, something we haven’t seen since Davison’s Doctor with Tegan, Turlough, and Kamelion (and really before that, Nyssa, Tegan, and Turlough, since due to technical difficulties, Kamelion didn’t get to appear very often). The Doctor started with a full TARDIS and more or less had three companions until Ben and Polly left and Victoria joined Jamie. From that point, there were one or two companions until Tegan and Nyssa joined Adric in Logopolis, and Davison’s Doctor always had three until Peri arrived.

A full TARDIS gives a lot more opportunity for developing companion relationships, something that was almost completely absent for Eccleston’s and Tennant’s Doctor’s runs. While their companions had fantastic stories, in all cases, the conflict was brought in from their families, and thus those stories had to be confined to Earth. Clara, of course, really doesn’t have a story other than how she’s tied to the Doctor’s timestream. We got to see what can be done with companions with Amy and Rory (and River), but what I’m really looking forward to are companions that don’t get along. One of the best companion pairings, in my opinion, was Tegan and Turlough. Turlough arrived with the intention of killing the Doctor (wow, for once, a companion who starts out not allied with the Doctor!), and Tegan was the only person who didn’t trust him outright. After he rejected the Black Guardian and really became a member of the crew, he and Tegan still were at odds. The relationship developed into more of a brother/sister dynamic, when they finally became friends but still sniped at each other.  This is the kind of thing I’d like to see with the new crew, a group of people who have to work out their relationships with one another.

I like Rory. He needed more air time.

I like Rory. He needed more air time.

There is one problem that can be introduced with a full TARDIS: what do you do with all of the characters each episode? It’s a lot easier to write a tight story if you only have two characters (the Doctor and his sole companion) to work with. Add in another full-time character and it gets difficult to find something for him to do every week, resulting in a character that seems to be only a hanger-on much of time (hello, Rory!). Add in another one, and now you’ve got four characters to keep occupied. An example of how this can go really wrong is “Terminus,” a Davison Doctor episode with Nyssa, Tegan, and Turlough. This was Nyssa’s final episode, so the story was focused on her, leaving Tegan and Turlough as more or less irrelevant. They spend the entirety of the second of the four episodes trapped in a crawlspace, and the show felt the need to cut back to them every few minutes to show them crawling five feet. They get out in the third episode, but for the rest of the story, they do very little other than Turlough getting yelled at by the Black Guardian every so often (probably to remind you that he’s supposed to be killing the Doctor). The writing and directing of Doctor Who has really changed over the last thirty years, so I doubt we’ll see Clara trapped in a crawlspace for forty minutes, but it’ll take very clever writers to keep all of the characters relevant in every episode.

(Ok, so a British friend of mine told me that they refer to the Doctors by their actors’ names. I’ve tried it here, and wow, that’s annoying. Back to ordinal numbers for me!)

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8 responses to “A full TARDIS

  1. ” One of the best companion pairings, in my opinion, was Tegan and Turlough.”

    This!

    “This is the kind of thing I’d like to see with the new crew, a group of people who have to work out their relationships with one another.”

    This too!

    “The writing and directing of Doctor Who has really changed over the last thirty years, so I doubt we’ll see Clara trapped in a crawlspace for forty minutes[…]”

    Probably not but there was that one episode with Rose and those people and the Ood and that big red guy with the horns.

    “(Ok, so a British friend of mine told me that they refer to the Doctors by their actors’ names. I’ve tried it here, and wow, that’s annoying. Back to ordinal numbers for me!)”

    Either way works for me.

    Alright, enough with the comedy, here’s the tribute.

    On this Memorial Day, I would like to honor the following peoples:

    UNIT

    Torchwood One

    Torchwood Four?

    [Spoilers for “Torchwood”]

    The Security Officers of the Starship Enterprise

    The crew of Seabase Four

    The real Captain Jack Harkness

    The crew of Bowie Base One

    The people of the planet Gallifrey

    Some Sontarans

    The ex-Time Agent known primarily as “Captain Jack Harkness”

    The people of the planet Traken

    Natasha Yar

    The ex-Time Agent known primarily as “Captain Jack Harkness”

    The people of the planet Alderaan

    Some Rutans

    The soldiers of the civil war on Trion

    Those caught in the middle of the Sontaran-Rutan war

    The ex-Time Agent known primarily as “Captain Jack Harkness”

    The ex-Time Agent known primarily as “Captain Jack Harkness”

    The Thals

    Natasha Yar of the Alternate Timeline

    Several Silurians and/or Sea Devils

    The ex-Time Agent known primarily as “Captain Jack Harkness”

    The people of Pompeii, Earth

    Ricky Smith of Pete’s World

    And many more fictional characters who have died in battle or risking themselves to helping others.

    • Very nice tribute! 🙂

      The thing about Tegan and Turlough in the crawlspace was that they were there for no real reason other than to escape the antiseptic gas, so it was really obvious the writer went, “Ok, we need to have the characters in the episode so that the actor gets paid. What to do? OH, I’ll stuff them in a ventilation duct for an hour.” At least in “The Satan Pit,” the people in the ventilation duct were being chased, and one of them turned out to be a traitor.

      • Some writers just don’t think about how they can maximize the potential of characters. Why, for example, did they not just hire some actor/actress and say in the script that this person was Kamelion today and someone else will be Kamelion tomorrow because he can shape-shift?
        (Who would win in a shape-shifting competition, Kamelion or Frobisher?)

        I don’t remember, who was the traitor? I know it wasn’t Toby, he was just as forcibly possessed as the Ood were, right?

      • I really have no idea why they didn’t use that ability for Kamelion. It would have been very interesting to have a shape-shifter aboard the TARDIS. We have that ability now, of course, since the Zygons are theoretically now living among the humans. Oo, I can see a future storyline in which one of the new companions turns out to be a Zygon trying to sabotage the Doctor…

        Toby was the traitor that I meant. He was possessed, but he convinced them that the possession was over and crawled with them through the ducts, and then betrayed them again.

      • A secret Zygon companion? Ah. An alien spy, sent here to spy on the Doctor. Well, we all know the fate of alien spies.

        I might not be remembering right. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen “The Impossible Planet” and “The Satan Pit” that episode last.
        Maybe he just thought he wasn’t possessed anymore? How does one know when one is being controlled like that? Or maybe he was made to say that by the one that possessed him.

      • Can’t really tell on that score. The important thing was that everyone else thought he wasn’t possessed, which almost let him get free of the planet.

      • Agreed. I just wish I remembered how he was portrayed in the episode so I could try and figure out if he was willfully hiding, or denying to himself and others, or unknowing of, his possession by that monster (and I use the word monster in both a literal and figurative sense as he is both scary to us humans and a cruel, destructive being).

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