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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Eye candy

No, not that kind of eye candy. I don’t have a chance to really write anything today, so here are a few images from my “cool Doctor Who images” folder. Enjoy!

A cool photoshop of the modern female companions (except Clara and the one-shots Astrid, Adelaide, and Rosita) . Amy wasn’t added well, but it’s still cool.

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A message that appeared on the London Underground on the 50th anniversary.

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Cool art. Attribution is in the image.

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I just love this little clip. I think I really love it when the Doctor is taken over and loses control – probably the most terrifying thing to ever see. Which is why I love “42” and “Midnight.”

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An interesting thought about companions

One of the best things about being married to a fellow Doctor Who fan is that we talk about the show all the time and sometimes come up with interesting insights out of seemingly banal conversations. Here is one from today.

Tegan, the token human

Tegan, the token human

Last night, we were watching “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” and were surprised when the Doctor mentioned that Leela was human. We had always thought that her people, the Sevateem, were human-looking humanoids from a different planet, but instead, they’re a regressed tribe of humans from the future. In discussing this, I realized something very interesting about the Doctor’s companions: the Fifth Doctor is the only Doctor that traveled primarily with non-humans. His companions were Tegan (human), Nyssa (Trakenite), Adric (Alzarian), Turlough (Trion), Kamelion (android), and Peri (human) (and Peri was only his companion for two episodes). The Doctor that comes closest to this is the Fourth Doctor, who traveled with the humans Sarah Jane, Harry, and Leela, and with the non-humans Romana, K-9, and Adric (for four episodes). All of the Fourth Doctor non-humans were in the latter half of his run: there were no humans in the TARDIS between the departure of Leela and the arrival of Tegan.

It almost feels like someone decided the Doctor needed to have non-human companions and went overboard with it, and then someone decided to punt them all from the TARDIS at the end of the Fifth Doctor’s run.  Beyond these, the only other non-human companions were Astrid Peth (Tenth Doctor) and River Song (who was human with some Time Lord characteristics).

After seven seasons of the modern show, it would be nice to have a non-human companion. It wouldn’t have to be a non-human-looking companion. A humanoid companion with an alien personality would be really nice, especially if there’s also a human in the TARDIS for us to identify with. Turlough and Romana especially were very interesting companions, and I’d love to see the show do something similar again.

In the company of a mad man

Doctor Who: Legacy released the character Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All today. You can get him by playing the level “Infestation,” which is in the Fan Area. He’ll be available for 30 days. Yes, you can’t get into the Fan Area without buying some Time Crystals for real money, but it’s really good deal: for a few dollars (not sure how much, but I think it’s $5), you get Time Crystals plus extra content, including a number of characters that you can’t get otherwise. If you’re enjoying the game and want to see it continue to put out top-quality content, I recommend supporting them by buying some Time Crystals.

The Legacy team holds contests every time they release a new character, awarding a few players early or instant access to the new content. Stormageddon’s contest asked players to name a character that they thought would be a great companion. My usual answer to that specific question would be Jackson Lake, because he got along so well with the Doctor and because he was courageous and resourceful. I think, like the Tenth/Eleventh Doctor relationship in “The Day of the Doctor,” Jackson Lake would be a great brother to the Doctor. However, in thinking about it more, I think the more interesting question is what kind of dynamic would you like to see in the TARDIS crew.

Sarah Jane and Jenny really aren't what I'm talking about here, but gorgeous pic.

Sarah Jane and Jenny really aren’t what I’m talking about here, but gorgeous pic.

Over the Ninth and Tenth Doctor’s seasons, we saw a Doctor/companion romance, a companion in love with the Doctor without reciprocation, and a Doctor with a best friend. During the Eleventh Doctor’s tenure, he had a best friend with a husband and then another best friend. In all cases, though, the companion was female and for most of the time, there was only one companion (yes, Rory is a companion, but he was for most of the time the tin dog). There were times when the Doctor had male companions and more than one companion, but that was few and far between. During times of multiple companions, they all pretty much got along well.

I’d like to see more variety here, because there are a lot of other types of relationships that can be explored. First, I’d like to see a male primary companion, which, I suppose is something that hasn’t been done since the 60s. I’d like to also see the “entourage” that the Doctor likes to travel with, that Sarah Jane mentions in “School Reunion.” We haven’t seen a full TARDIS since the Fifth Doctor traveled with Nyssa, Tegan, and Turlough, and once Peri arrived, more than one companion was rare. If three companions are too many for the modern show to work with comfortably, then two companions who are equal in status and aren’t joined at the hip would be nice. It’d be great to see a bit more of the Tegan/Turlough dynamic, where each companion has a distinct (and not necessarily pleasant) personality and sometimes clash with each other.

I suppose I’d also like a bit more change-up in companions. It’s probably too much to ask to have companions change in the middle of story arcs instead of always at the end of them (what with actor contracts and all that), but maybe introducing companions that stick around for a few episodes and leave would be nice. It probably isn’t very feasible, from a production point of view. Or a writing point of view, either, having to write in new characters and develop them, then yank them away a few episodes later.

It seems, from all the clues that we’ve been getting so far, that the dynamic in the TARDIS is going to be very different this coming season, at least for the first few episodes, as the Twelfth Doctor comes into his own. It’s been hinted that he’s not going to be a friendly Doctor, and it sounds like Clara is going to have a bit of difficulty with him.  I think a bit of friction in the TARDIS will be a good thing, and we’ll see where it goes from there.

 

We know who you are

One of my friends is celebrating the approach of the Doctor Who Christmas special and the last episode of Matt Smith by changing his Facebook profile image to the Doctors, in order, while also posting a quote or bit of dialogue for that Doctor. Today’s Doctor is the Tenth Doctor, and the dialogue was from “The Christmas Invasion,” when the Doctor brings down Harriet Jones with six words. This reminded me of one of my absolute favorite characters in the show, Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North and later Prime Minister of Great Britain.

MP for Flydale North, with Indra Ganesh and a disguised Slitheen

MP for Flydale North, with Indra Ganesh and a disguised Slitheen

We meet Harriet Jones in “Aliens of London/World War Three,” when she’s the MP for Flydale North, describing herself as a “faithful back-bencher.” Being American, I had to look up this term: according to Wikipedia, it means that she serves her constituency without holding high office or having the power to influence policy. In other words, she’s no one important. She arrives at 10 Downing Street for an appointment with the Prime Minister, only to find that on that fateful day, aliens have crashed in the Thames and the government is running crazy trying to figure out what to do, as the PM is nowhere to be found. Her appointment with him has been cancelled, but she sticks around, hoping to get a word in with him anyway. As she’s waiting, she starts to notice weird things happening, and she discovers that the acting PM and his staff are disguised aliens. No one will listen to her, but she finally finds someone to talk to, the assistant of the “alien expert” brought in to deal with the situation – Rose and the Doctor.

Harriet is established in this episode as a woman of great inner strength who was content with making the best of her little corner of the world but stepped up when disaster struck. She began to panic when first confronted with green aliens who killed people and wore their skins as a disguise, but once she was able to deal with it by revealing what she saw to Rose, she took control of the situation: she sorted out the emergency protocols, helped the Doctor figure out what was going on and how Jackie and Mickey could kill the Slitheen that was attacking them, and fully understood the consequences of the Slitheen plot and the options they had for combating it. She was also completely willing to sacrifice herself for others: she offered herself for Rose when the Slitheen was about to kill her, and later, she made the call to fire the missile at 10 Downing Street in order to save the world from nuclear war. At the end of the episode, with the lack of effective leadership in the wake of the destruction of 10 Downing Street, Harriet steps

The Prime Minister and her right-hand man, Alex

The Prime Minister and her right-hand man, Alex

We meet Harriet again in “The Christmas Invasion,” in which the alien Sycorax intercepted a British space probe while on the way to invade the Earth; thus, they speak to the British government to ask for the humans’ surrender. Harriet was PM – she had ushered in Britain’s Golden Age and worked tirelessly for her country (“Never off-duty.”) – and took control of the UNIT operation speaking to the Sycorax. Teleported to the alien ship (without fear, I might add), she was placed in the unenviable position of choosing between killing 1/3 of the Earth’s population or selling 1/2 of them into slavery. The Doctor arrived to save the day, but after the alien spaceship left, she decided to have it blown up by Torchwood. Her reasoning was that she didn’t want the aliens to go out and tell the universe about the Earth, inviting more species to come and invade, because the Earth has to defend itself; it can’t rely on the Doctor who isn’t always available. The Doctor disagreed, of course, and had her removed as PM.

Manager of the Subwave Network

Former PM and builder of the Subwave Network

The thing is, she wasn’t wrong, and she stood by her decision. While she was sorry for murdering the ship full of Sycorax, she never wavered in her conviction that the Earth had to stop relying on the Doctor and learn to defend itself, and this brings us to her third appearance, in “The Stolen Earth”/”Journey’s End.” It was three years since she was deposed as PM, and she hadn’t been idle. With funding from the Mr. Copper Foundation (nice tie-in there), she built a communications network designed to stay hidden but allow the Children of Time to communicate with each other in the case of global catastrophe. When that catastrophe arrived, she contacted all of the major players, meaning that she’s been watching the Doctor’s movements and figuring out who the Earth can rely upon. If she had not done all of this, there would have been no way to call the Doctor back to Earth, and the Daleks would have won. All because of her strength and conviction. And in the end, when the Daleks were trying to shut the network down, she made sure that they found her and not the others, sacrificing her life to make sure the others would survive to fight on.

My favorite of her scenes has to be the showdown between her and the Doctor directly following the destruction of the Sycorax, because of its complexity. She and the Doctor were both right. The Doctor knew that there are protocols that the denizens of the universe follow, that the Sycorax acknowledged their defeat and were leaving in peace. He also knew that the humans killing the Sycorax would send the wrong message to the stars, that the humans were not civilized. He then deposed her because she disagreed with him, aborting “Britain’s Golden Age” that he had mentioned before, during “World War Three”.*   She knew that the Earth had to defend itself, that it couldn’t rely on a single man to always be there, no matter how powerful he might be. She knows killing the Sycorax while they were fleeing wasn’t right (the tears she choked back after she gave the order demonstrated that), but it conveyed the message she wanted to send, that the Earth does have the ability to defend itself. She and the Doctor throw into light that what’s right and wrong are not always cut and dried, that it’s possible to draw two conclusions from the same situation and have them both be right.

And that’s Harriet Jones: strong, courageous, caring, devoted, driven, not afraid to make the difficult decision, not afraid stand up for herself and her people. It’s very sad that she only got three episodes, but those were three fantastic episodes for a wonderful character.

* You might argue that he deposed her because she had committed murder, but his line was “Don’t challenge me, Harriet Jones, because I’m a completely new man. I could bring down your Government with a single word.” His anger and her defiant response goaded him into proving that he could bring her down, and in doing so, destroyed Britain’s prosperous times. In a way, this is really a low point for the Doctor, where he lost control. On the other hand, “The Christmas Invasion” was designed to show you who exactly the new Doctor was – a cheeky gob, a valiant champion, the man who gives his enemy a choice, no second chances, willing to spend Christmas with his family – and I would argue that this bit shows you another key characteristic of the Tenth Doctor: that he is going to have trouble controlling his dark side, and that he will eventually fail.