Not the Rani – I refer to Queen Elizabeth I.
Elizabeth I first appears in the First Doctor story ‘The Chase,’ when Barbara makes use of the Time Visualizer to look in on her court. I haven’t seen the story, but it sounds like just a quick appearance alongside Shakespeare, adding historical material to the show’s then-supposedly-educational format. A cameo and nothing more.
She turns up next in the closing minutes of ‘The Shakespeare Code,’ demanding the Doctor’s head for reasons unknown to him, hinting at an event taking place in his personal future. It’s a fairly hilarious moment, one of the joys of time travel, and I wish they’d left it at that.
Instead, dear Russell – and Moffat after him – decided to make something of it.
At the opening of ‘The End of Time,’ the Doctor lists the things he’s done since the Ood summoned him. Among them:
“Got married. That was a mistake. Good Queen Bess. And let me tell you, her nickname is no longer. Ahem.”
Elizabeth I’s nickname – among others – was ‘The Virgin Queen.’ At the time ‘virgin’ merely meant ‘unmarried,’ so while the Doctor’s comment is technically accurate on that score, his discomfort suggests a more modern usage of the term. (Davies and Moffat have since argued publicly about whether the two ever consummated their relationship – I am so not linking that conversation here.) Later, in ‘The Beast Below,’ the Eleventh Doctor encounters a many-times descendant of the Queen, Liz X, who makes a similar observation:
“And so much for the Virgin Queen, you bad, bad boy.”
I suspect I’m in the minority, but I find suggestive comments regarding the Doctor’s sexual misbehavior uncomfortable and inappropriate. Moffat is the main culprit, but dear Russell is far from innocent. Romance, relationships, and sexuality are not always handled poorly in the show, but often enough that I wish they’d just stop.
Then we come to ‘The Day of the Doctor.’
On one hand, the scenes between Ten and Elizabeth are a pretty hilarious jab at Russell’s relentless romantic storylines, Tennant’s undeniable chemistry with each of his co-stars, and many fans’ slavering adoration. Joanna Page makes an entertaining Queen, reminiscent of the inimitable Miranda Richardson of Black Adder fame, and she has a ball doing it.
On the other hand, ew. Elizabeth’s slavering adoration is extremely unqueenly. Not that Elizabeth herself was incapable of such feelings – she was, as far as I can tell, historically no ice princess – but Page and Moffat really take it over the top. It’s not impossible that the Queen, who apparently felt that marriage would require her to cede too much of her power, would choose to ally herself with an alien; a man with no interest in the crown would have little reason to try to control her. But her gushiness, and her apparent inability to see through him, don’t sit well with me.
Moffat then slaves himself to Russell’s original idea and throws the two a wedding. I’m not a fan, but it does make possible that delightful exchange between Eleven and the War Doctor:
War: “Is there a lot of this in the future?”
Eleven: “It does start to happen, yeah.”
Wonderful commentary on modern vs. classic Doctor Who.
(It does beg the question, though: If, in the crossing of the timelines, Ten and the War Doctor lose their memories of these events, then how is Ten sufficiently aware of his marriage to comment on it in ‘The End of Time?’ Timey wimey, I suppose.)
There are other aspects of Elizabeth’s characterization I really like. She is tough and ruthless enough to fend off and kill an attacker herself. She is wily enough to fool the enemy into thinking she is one of them. The Doctor underestimates her each time, and each time he’s proved the fool. I have trouble seeing the Doctor’s callow, gullible Elizabeth and this one as the same woman. (Unless she’s playing him too – in which case, why would she be so angry in ‘The Shakespeare Code?’)
Interesting to note, I feel similarly about Martha. What is it about Ten that makes people stupid?
I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of romance. (My adoration for Rose and her story notwithstanding.) I’m not a fan of marriage as plot device, or as fodder for bad jokes. In classic Who, the Doctor was once accidentally engaged, in a charming little scene from ‘The Aztecs;’ modern showrunners, however, have run that gag well into the ground.
As annoying as it may be, though, Ten’s fling with Elizabeth I does little to diminish my enjoyment of ‘The Day of the Doctor.’