This is something I’ve been turning over for a long while, mostly to see if it was a flash-in-the-pan thing or a real pattern. Since it keeps popping back up into my field of view, I’m going to call it a pattern at this point.
Although the title of the post is pretty clear, I want to specifically restate: this isn’t something I see in all of Doctor Who Fandom – the percentage is small, in fact, but (as is sometimes the case) very vocal and thus very visible.
So here we are. Series Eight of the new Doctor Who has wrapped up with the 2014 Christmas special and, in those eight series and assorted specials, we’ve watched five(ish) Doctors and something like nine or ten(ish) companions, if you don’t count the one-offs that came and went within a single special.
Everyone has opinions about these Doctors and these Companions. Everyone has their favorites.
But there’s a pattern I’ve seen within a vocal minority that is disappointing, and rather than drag the ‘reveal’ out, I’ll get right to it.
If a companion is smart or capable or talented and appears to know it and believe it to the point where they don’t require the validation of the Doctor’s approval, this vocal minority (hereafter: VM) does not like them.
I’ll dance down the list of Companions to quickly illustrate what I’m talking about.
- Rose: Shop girl. Doesn’t think much of herself. A VM favorite, though not usually the #1, due to two issues: she channels the energy of the Tardis’s heart at the end of her first season to basically mess about with the Doctor’s timeline, and how dare she, and she’s apparently cool enough for the Doctor to fall in (romantic) love with her, so that’s two VM strikes against.
- Martha: A doctor. Smart. Confident. Capable. Talks back to the Doctor and is generally very clever. All huge strikes against her with the VM.
- Captain Jack: Clever, sexy, action-oriented time-traveler who happens to be sort of immortal, due to questionable use of Tardis/Timelord energy. Generally either not seen as a companion, or is a VM favorite.
- Donna: Temp office worker who acts very confident but secretly (yet very obviously) isn’t, and actually thinks very little of herself. Like Rose, also channels a pile of timelord-only energy for a few moments of awesomeness at the end of her season, but pays for it in a quite horrible way. Usually the VM #1 favorite.
- River Song: Is River Song (Clever, sexy, action-oriented time-traveler who happens to be sort of immortal, due to questionable use of Tardis/Timelord energy). Generally loathed by the VM.
Amy Pond, Solo: Sexy, clever, and has the audacity to mock the Doctor’s sartorial choices. Disliked by the VM from at least the second episode in which she appears (where she has the gall to wander off and start asking questions and making decisions all by herself. The nerve.)
Amy Pond, Married: Pretty, clever, but “settled” for Rory. Suddenly much less objectionable to the VM.
Rory: Sometimes not seen as a companion by the VM, or as the element that makes Amy “palatable.”
Clara: Clever, school teacher sexy, takes no guff from the Doctors, generally seen as pretty awesome by most characters in the show. Strongly disliked by the VM, ranging from her “Impossible Girl” stunt (stepping into the Doctor’s timeline to protect him, see Rose’s Bad Wolf trick), to (more recently) the VM-rage-inducing ploy of simply pretending to be the Doctor during an episode where the Doctor was stuck inside a shrunken Tardis.
So let me sum that up again.
If a companion is smart/capable/confident/sexy/talented and appears to know it and believe it to the point where they don’t require the validation of the Doctor’s approval, the VM does not like them.
Unless they’re Captain Jack.
So, to paraphrase:
“If a companion is a smart/capable/confident/sexy/talented woman, and does not require the Doctor’s (read: male) validation of these qualities, they are bad. If they ‘know their place’ (secretly have a poor self-image, or in Amy’s case, get married), they’re good.”
I doubt anyone (well: very many) in the VM would put it that way, but doesn’t in any way mean it’s inaccurate.
I don’t know what can be said about this, besides point it out. It’s highly unlikely anyone in this Vocal Minority will ever even see this post.
But other people might see it, and might agree, and might encounter someone in the VM, and point it out and, by pointing it out, perhaps cause some reevaluation. I mean, hey: like who you like – everything is about personal taste, obviously – but if there’s a certain kind of pattern, it might be worth taking a hard look at the whole thing.
Hell, maybe I’m imagining the whole thing.
Though to be honest, I’m not that kind of optimist.