In the wake of Leonard Nimoy’s death last week, I found myself wondering why Spock isn’t my favorite Star Trek character. He hits so many points for so many people: brilliant, dignified, unflappable, a scientist who always thinks logically and never loses his cool. But he was never my favorite. My favorite was always Dr. Leonard McCoy.
McCoy is brilliant. He is occasionally dignified, rarely unflappable, and loses his cool at every opportunity. He is sarcastic, bombastic, often negatively disposed, sometimes even mean. What about him do I find so appealing?
I think I like a character who tells it like it is.
McCoy doesn’t hold back when there’s something to say. He doesn’t concern himself with effects. He doesn’t coddle or protect anyone. He says what needs saying and he doesn’t mince words.
This sounds very much like Donna Noble. Though Donna’s not my favorite, I admire in her all the same things I like about McCoy. I like that she doesn’t hold back, and she doesn’t let herself get put down.
These are not traits I possess myself. I can be garrulous, but when strong feelings are at stake, I shut down. I don’t get into arguments and I don’t stand up for myself or others. When things get heated, I walk away.
I wish I could be more like Donna, but I’m far too afraid.
While less outspoken than Donna, Rose shares some of her traits. She calls the Doctor out when she thinks he’s wrong; she stands up for herself and speaks out for others. She makes mistakes – she is sometimes cruel, sometimes thoughtless – but she doesn’t let fear hold her back. I would very much like to be more like Rose.
In contrast, in nearly every other companion we find a liar. Amy and River conspire to ‘protect’ the Doctor from his own future. Martha lies about her feelings, and deceives herself about the Doctor’s. Amy lies to Rory, and Clara lies to both Danny and the Doctor. While each of these characters does possess admirable traits, their willingness to deceive works against them. The fact that in Moffat’s universe they rarely face consequences just makes the problem worse: I don’t like it when people get away with things. (See ‘Taking the blame’.)
What about the Doctor? “Rule number one: the Doctor lies.” But with the possible exception of some Moffaty moments, the Doctor’s lies never seem to be of consequence. He will happily tell an irrelevant fiction, or fail to point out an uncomfortable truth, but when it matters he tells it like it is.
Now that’s a hero.