Archive for the ‘Companions’ Category

The Battle   Leave a comment

Yes I’m behind. Deal with it.



Doctor Who has frequently touched on the topic of faith. Notable examples include “The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit,” “Gridlock,” and “The God Complex.” Neither Davies nor Moffat – nor Murray Gold, for that matter – shied from religious imagery. And now we have “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos.”

Tim Shaw returns as false god, target and instigator of revenge, distorter of faith, mass murderer. The Ux are blinded by belief, placing faith above all, but especially above reason, truth, and basic decency. Youthful Delph’s doubts are cruelly quashed; he is forced by his elder/superior/leader to bow to Belief at the expense of what he knows is right.

And then there’s Graham.

Moffat said it, back when he was first beginning to be asked about a female Doctor. He saw the Doctor as the object of the show, yes, but to him (so he said – his seasons notably fail to express it) the companion is actually the main/identifying character. He claimed that with a female Doctor, either men would be excluded from the TARDIS, or they’d be given back the more interesting role.

Obviously fans throughout history disagree.

Now, with Chibnall – a very different kind of fan and showrunner – we see what Moffat meant. The Doctor is wonderful in every way, as she always has been, but the story belongs to the companion. Specifically, Graham.

He was never a coward. In the beginning, he just wanted to stay out of trouble. When alarming things happened, his preference was to leave and get help – not to run into the face of it. But run he did, if only to stay beside those he loved.

In loss, he embraced who his partner was: what Grace would have done, who she would have been. He left old Graham behind, and stepped out into a new world. His battle became the rift between him and Ryan: healing it, crossing it, building bridges between the experiences of a comfortable older white man and an unsure young black man. He fought hard, gaining ground every episode, and finally won the coveted title of Grandad overlooking a fjord in Norway.

Then, at Ranskoor Av Kolos, he discovers a new battle: rage.

Anger is part of the experience of grief. The bereaved feels cheated, betrayed, done wrong – in Graham’s case, a bit more literally than most. But the alien didn’t kill Grace, didn’t casually murder her as he would have done all of them with his DNA bombs, or as he did all the many varied life forms aboard those five stolen planets. Grace died because of him, but also because of herself. She died fighting, courageously and joyously, when she didn’t have to, because she saw she could make a difference and did it.

Still. Given how angry many fans remain over Grace’s death, it only makes sense that Graham should feel it too.

He’s honest with the Doctor. He wants nothing more than to crush Tim Shaw under his boot like a bug. But in spite of that – in spite of his intention to do exactly that – he knows he’s a better man. He knows violence isn’t strength. He knows the value of being someone his friends and family can count on. He wants to vent his rage and pain on the deserving creature – but he knows it won’t help. More like the enemy, as the Doctor said: he’d become someone she could no longer travel with, someone he could no longer respect.

As Moffat preached but didn’t practice, Chibnall wrote the Doctor as a secondary character. Instead of the Doctor’s angst and trials, we get a love story between (surrogate) father and son brought together by their travels with the Doctor.

(I can’t hate it; emotional story arcs between men aren’t often told so well. But I also want more women’s stories. C’mon Yaz!)

As always, the Doctor is a catalyst in the lives of his/her companions. The Doctor makes the impossible happen. The Doctor makes heroes, from the Bad Wolf that destroys an army of Daleks, to a lonely young man who finally accepts that family doesn’t have to be blood. She believes in them: the good in them, the strength. They in turn, inspired, believe in her. The Doctor, as she tells us, always answers a call for help – but it’s the people around her who end up saving the day.


Posted February 13, 2019 by Elisabeth in Companions, Season 11, Writers and Writing

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New Romance   1 comment

WARNING: Some fans are not going to like this post. Disagreement is acceptable; rude comments will be deleted.


At the end of episode 4 I came a realization: Yasmin Khan is Chibnall’s Martha Jones.

Yaz, like Martha, is a smart, competent, determined young woman, weighed down by family and societal expectations. She loves her home and her work but they exasperate her. Meeting the Doctor gives her an escape, but also the opportunity to be more than she ever thought possible. As a result she falls head over heels in love.

At first Yaz is baffled by the Doctor, as anyone would be. But in this tiny, indefatigable, frankly bizarre woman, Yaz sees a possibility for herself. She sees someone committed, and yet absolutely free. Someone who makes a difference under impossible circumstances. Her admiration grows slowly at first, but by the end of episode 1 it shines as bright as the smile on her face, and continues to expand from there.

Fortunately for Yaz, Chibnall’s – and Mandip Gill’s – treatment of the character’s outsize adoration works much better than RTD’s in Series 3. Yasmin doesn’t get stupid over a kiss. (Are we even going to see any of that in this series? It looks like not, especially where the Doctor is concerned. I may rejoice.) She doesn’t make awkward advances on narrow tavern beds or pine for her love to be returned. She doesn’t love the Doctor like a teenager loves a movie star; she loves her like we do, with awe and delight. She doesn’t hold her love against the Doctor; she channels it into making herself a better person, doing not just what the Doctor asks, but what the Doctor would do, what needs doing to solve the problem at hand. She’s braver, she’s smarter, and she still has room to grow.

I hope we get to see a lot of that growth this season.

The Rescue   Leave a comment

This one’s a quickie – only two episodes, little more than a vehicle to replace Susan. However it’s captivating enough: a little adventure, excitement, cleverness, and in the end young Vicki joins the crew, charmed by the Doctor’s grandfatherly ways. Sets and costumes run at the low end of the budget, as walls serve for rocks, a neat model for a crashed spaceship, and an assortment of tubes for a monster.

It’s also the first time since “An Unearthly Child” that the TARDIS has taken on new crew. “It’s huge!” Vicki observes, declining to utter the famous line. (Who said it first? It remains to be seen, by me anyway.)

I appreciate that the crew takes a moment to miss Susan, though none seems too concerned about whether she’s happy in her new life. In her absence, the Doctor deigns to teach Barbara how to open the TARDIS doors. All this time and neither she nor Ian has learned the first thing about the TARDIS, barely able to recognize when the ship has landed! Modern companions would be aghast.

In the end, the TARDIS falls off a cliff, and we move on to “The Romans.”

Posted October 26, 2018 by Elisabeth in Classic, Companions, The Long Way Round

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A pattern emerges?   Leave a comment

Or maybe it’s deliberate, or at least obvious, and I’m slow.

It was the teaser for next week’s story, featuring… someone spoilery… that tickled my brain. Just like Ryan, Yaz, and Graham, Rose Tyler met the Doctor when something weird turned up in her hometown… was then whisked away to someplace alien… met a famous person from the past… and returned home for more weirdness. Is Chibnall following the same arc?

The pattern recurs with “The Christmas Invasion” (weirdness at home); “New Earth” (someplace alien); “Tooth and Claw” (Queen Victoria); and “School Reunion.” In S3, though Martha doesn’t return to her own time for episode 4, the rest of the trend holds with “Smith and Jones,” “The Shakespeare Code” (past first this time), and “Gridlock.” Donna’s season follows both patterns, with history and sci fi switched and followed by a trip home: “Partners in Crime,” “Fires of Pompeii” (Caecilius being less famous but still notable), “Planet of the Ood,” “The Sontaran Stratagem.”

It makes a certain amount of sense to arrange stories this way. First, the new companions must meet the Doctor somehow: where better than in the course of their ordinary lives? Then, the full range of the show’s potential must be explored, past to future, Earth to outer space. In S1, RTD’s choice for episode 2 was very deliberate: aliens and sci fi would make or break his show, and he wanted to know right away which. Afterwards – again, a deliberate creative choice by RTD – the companions return home for character development and grounding, as we get to know their families and their lives before the Doctor.

It’s the last bit I’m most excited about. There’s been plenty to like about Moffat’s era lately, but I’ve missed RTD’s grounded characters: companions that seem like someone I could know or be, with families and jobs and histories of their own, separate from their adventures in time and space. I loved getting to know Rose and Donna this way, and I’d love the opportunity to do the same with Ryan, Graham, and most especially the delightful Yaz.



“Everything that’s ever happened or ever will… where do you want to start?”

The Daleks Invade   Leave a comment

or, Susan Sprains her Ankle, Is Inconvenienced For Five Minutes and Haunted Forever.

(I read somewhere recently that in spite of being famous for spraining her ankle, she only did it twice: here, and in “The Five Doctors,” which being a reference to canon not only doesn’t count but may in fact have established the canon it was supposed to be referencing.)

Lots of stuff happens across six episodes of “The Dalek Invasion of Earth.” Daleks emerge from the River Thames. The Doctor is rude to a frightened muggle, setting a precedent for generations to come. (“Not her. She’ll only slow us down.”*) He breaks out of prison using Science. Ian too uses Science to delay a Dalek plot, and Barbara uses History. “The long way round” makes its first appearance. The Daleks cultivate proto-Cybermen, and for some reason, something called a Slyther. Barbara spends most of an episode interacting only with women, inspiring terrified Jenny with her courage and righteousness, and saving the universe in a biiiiiiiiiig yellow truck!** (At least I hope it’s yellow.) Everyone is repeatedly captured, incapacitated, lost, found, betrayed, and rescued, again and again until their heads spin. The Doctor gives a famous speech. A freedom fighter falls in love with a high school student, instigating her abandonment by the people she calls family.

Seriously. Susan tells David she loves him, but she’s hardly a consenting adult. Over the course of her run, she has never been portrayed as older than maybe sixteen, and has often seemed younger. She’s known the guy for a day, under stressful circumstances. But the Doctor decides she’s ready to be left behind, and her former teachers seem to concur.

Given true freedom of choice, what might Susan have done? Of course she loves her grandfather, but does she stay with him out of anything more than obligation? She’s never wanted her teachers to leave her; is she suddenly now ready to let them go? Is this comfortable, privileged child ready to parent a whole new world?

In a perfect world, Susan is ready to grow up. She chooses David freely, and bids a tearful and sincere farewell to her grandfather and their accidental friends. She chooses Earth freely, as the place to grow her roots, and maybe a family of her own. She desires to build this world anew – not as a lovely idea, but as a driving passion, to last the rest of her life.

I wish it had been portrayed that way. Instead, parent figure hands off immature girl-child to adult man for sex and continued infantilization. (It doesn’t help that I was just reading about Sonita Alizadeh, the almost-child bride.) The first companion exit ever is not one of the best. Is this what RTD was (unconsciously?) imitating when he forced Rose and Donna off the TARDIS? Is this what Moffat was (almost certainly intentionally) subverting by giving Clara a choice? and then mostly failing to subvert with Bill? I’m curious now to review upcoming departures. Some things I recall: Ian and Barbara return home joyously; Dodo wanders off without explanation; Jamie and Zoe have their experiences cruelly stolen. I look forward – with some trepidation – to the rest.

*see “Smith and Jones”

**see “Age of Steel”

The Mind Robber   Leave a comment

Fictional characters confronting fictionality is one of my favorite tropes – and this time it wasn’t even Moffat!

For once my husband was in the mood for DW, and the Second Doctor is one of his faves – hence my veering from the Classic timeline. There aren’t many extant Troughton stories left that we haven’t seen, but this was one of them. I remembered it as the story where Frazier Hines got sick and Jamie was played by someone else. (That did happen for one episode – and fortunately in the Land of Fiction you can make that work.)

Overall this is a cracking story. It moves fast for its era with no especially notable padding. The interactions with Gulliver and Rapunzel are great fun – Rapunzel is adorable, and I don’t understand why this is her only television role. I also particularly enjoyed the comic-book superhero from the future: grounding Zoe as a character and legitimizing comics as literature in one fake-muscle-bound stroke. However, neither Jamie nor Zoe is at their best in this story, each having little use for their strengths and both being repeatedly and too easily fooled.

A couple of things confused me as well. The title didn’t click for me at first, though after some thought I managed to put it together – the Doctor’s mind was needed to continue creating the fiction, and could not be got by legitimate means. The intent of the primary villain – to empty the earth via stories? never quite made sense. (The secondary villain’s motivation of looking for a replacement so he could retire worked much better.) And then there was that credit at the end of episode 1: The Master, though no new character had been introduced and the Master himself does not appear until the Third Doctor’s era.

I have never even heard another Master mentioned. In story, the character is more accurately called “the Master brain” or something like that – the alien intelligence that kidnapped the human “Master” for its inexplicable purpose. There is no (apparent) relationship between this Master and the Master. Still, I can’t imagine that fandom hasn’t tried to create one.

The story picks up right where the previous story – “The Dominators,” which I haven’t seen – leaves off. It also ends on a cliffhanger, but as far as I can tell that one does not resolve: the following story, “The Invasion,” begins on the moon, and I recall no reference to a prior story. However I haven’t seen it in some time; perhaps in a few years when I get to this spot in my Classic Who (re)watch, I’ll learn better.

On another note, I don’t usually swing that way but I adore this shot:


In the #MeToo era it doesn’t look good. There’s no story value in Zoe’s bum no matter how glorious. We get no corroborating up-skirt shot of Jamie. (A disappointment to be sure.) And truthfully, had this been most any other companion – any modern companion for sure, or any more helpless companion such as Victoria, or more thoroughly sexualized character like Leela – it would be nothing less than crass. But something about Zoe makes it work. One, she is rarely sexualized in the series, and rarely less than fully clothed from chin to sole. And two, according to the stories at least, Wendy Padbury was more than able to hold her own on set. The boys’ club of Troughton and Hines was known for practical joking, generally at the expense of their younger female co-stars. (Deborah Watling reportedly had a difficult time on the show for this reason.) But it’s been said that Padbury could give as good as she got, and was undeterred by any juvenile antics.


I don’t know what Padbury thinks of the shot, or what her young fans at the time felt. For me, I’m reminded that sexuality can also be empowering for women.* I’m reminded, in spite of her detractors and of course Moffat, of Amy Pond.


Your mileage may vary.


*This is a complex arena, but I have acquaintances who are strippers and burlesque dancers, and they are anything but disempowered by a glorious bum.

Martha’s Moments   1 comment

Scrolling through my old posts, I came across Top Ten Moments of Rose Tyler, and wondered if anyone had ever done something similar for Martha. The first Black woman to travel in the TARDIS has suffered all manner of under-appreciation: even her fans spend their time bemoaning her treatment by RTD or the Doctor, or complaining about Rose. It’s rare she’s valued for her own merits. But Martha is the most grown-up of the modern companions. As a medical student, she far exceeds her fellow travelers in education and book-smarts. As the parent-figure of her own family, she is the most responsible adult among them. Also, she’s a bad-ass who learns to take care of herself while taking care of everyone around her.

In fact, the Radio Times did a Top Ten for Martha much as they did for Rose. However, as I disagree with almost every one of their choices, here instead is my own selection of Martha’s best moments – to the best of my recollection, as I haven’t watched her series in a while. In order of appearance:

#1. We Might Not Die


Finding herself on the Moon, Martha doesn’t worry about running out of air. Instead, she appreciates the wonder of the moment – in spite of the risks.


#2. Expelliarmus!


Put on the spot, Martha provides the magic necessary to seal Shakespeare’s witches away forever. Incidentally, this is not the only reference to her literary choices: in Eleven Doctors, Eleven Stories, Martha acknowledges the breadth of her reading – up to and including Twilight.


#3. In Heels, No Less!

If I could do screen caps, I’d have a better picture for you. In “The Lazarus Experiment,” wearing THAT DRESS and THOSE SHOES, Martha Jones jumps over a table to shut down a machine to free partygoers trapped in a burning building. This is the kind of woman we’re dealing with: quick-thinking, fast-acting, and steady on her pins.


#4. Would You Like Some Tea?

Another example of Martha’s quick thinking is this conversation from “Human Nature” by Paul Cornell:

MARTHA: Would you like some tea?
JENNY: Yes, thanks.
MARTHA: I could put a nice bit of gravy in the pot. And some mutton. Or sardines and jam. How about that?
JENNY: I like the sound of that.
MARTHA: Right. Hold on a tick.

The Doctor has forgotten her. Aliens are invading. Her one friend in this world is acting a bit odd – and Martha doesn’t miss a trick.


#5. So, So Sorry

Again, if I could do screencaps, you’d have the moment I mean.

From Professor Yana’s lab, Martha overhears a conversation between the Doctor and Jack, two old friends separated by metal and death, and united by a woman:

DOCTOR She’s gone, Jack. She’s not just living on a parallel world, she’s trapped there. The walls have closed.
JACK: I’m sorry.

In this moment, Martha gets the truth about the Doctor and Rose, and the depth of his grief. In this moment she finds her compassion.


#6. I’ll Do What I Like

Back on Earth, Prime Minister Saxon has just blown up her home. Her family is in danger. The Doctor tries telling her what to do.

It doesn’t go well.


#7. I’ll See You Again, Mister

Her family needs her. Her planet needs her. Her time with the Doctor was fun, but it’s time to be the doctor herself.

She leaves him by choice, and in friendship, and she leaves him with orders:

“If that rings, when that rings, you’d better come running. Got it?”

Good thing too, because…


#8. I Thought We Needed An Expert

Martha has finished her medical degree and gone to work for UNIT, the one employer she can find who knows about aliens. Now they’re in over their heads – and like Mickey at Deffry Vale, Martha knows just who to call.


#9. I’ve Got You


She didn’t want to go to Messaline, and now she’s separated from her friends and her ride home. But instead of an armed alien, she sees someone who needs her help – and she won’t be stopped from helping.


#10. Dat Hair


Martha Jones can save the world, snag a man, and rock her hair game. Yas queen.

Posted April 11, 2018 by Elisabeth in Companions

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