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01 May 2013 @ 01:57 pm
a Doctor Who observation  

Okay, so I came to Doctor Who through New Who and haven’t watched any of the Old Who. I came to it with the following knowledge: The Doctor is a Time Lord who regenerates (thus allowing more than one actor to play the part) and who travels through time and space with (usually) human companions who have been caught up in his wake.

This being the sum total of what I knew about the show, there’s something that’s happen(ed)(ing) with New Who that I get the impression is…not as it was in the past. But because the entire thought could be construed as spoileriffic for the entire New Who series, I’m going to put it behind the cut.

So something I’m noticing increasingly in the companions is that they are Special in a way that’s telegraphed from their introduction: Clara is clearly Special (Enigma); Amy was Special (Timehead), Donna was Special (DoctorDonna).

Martha…was not Special. Martha was smart and sweet and thrust into unforgiveable circumstances through which she arose to Specialness (Earth’s Defender), but frankly, Martha got screwed, and not in a good way. Rose also became Special (Bad Wolf), perhaps, and it *was* telegraphed once we knew how to look for it (or was all of that the Tardis, using Rose as a vehicle, as I just saw hypothesized recently), but I don’t think she so much started that way.

Specialness is not my impression of what the companions are supposed to be. That they’re introduced to wonderful or awful things and perhaps become special because of that, okay. That seems to be what happened with Rose and Martha, anyway. But my sense of Old Who is that the companions are meant to be ordinary people. Wonderful, in their ordinariness, but ordinary. That they are, in effect, meant to be you and me. My impression is that we’re meant to be able to hope that the Doctor might drop by with the Tardis at any moment and collect us.

And all this Specialness doesn’t seem to allow for that. This feeling of a fate associated with the companions, the destined for greatness, etc, seems…I mean, I guess we could all be waiting to discover our Doctor’s Destiny as well as waiting for the Tardis.

It’s worst, mind you, with Amy and Clara; Donna was very clearly an ordinary person with an extraordinary fate (which she then got screwed out of, grr), but Amy and Clara, well. I don’t know. Maybe I just don’t like Moffatt’s companions. (Well, there’s no maybe about that, really. I thought Amy was mean and Clara…rings false, possibly because of this Unexplained Destiny hanging over her.) Maybe he doesn’t know how to write someone ordinary into extraordinary circumstances. I dunno, but I’m not delighted with it.

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

irishkateirishkate on May 1st, 2013 01:13 pm (UTC)
I never thought Amy was special but then I had problems with her too.

But yes, that's what I thought the companion should be although historically the every day kind of people included people from the past and the future so also not exactly us. But certainly normal people (for where/when ever they were from)...mostly.
kit: drwho_adorkablemizkit on May 1st, 2013 08:45 pm (UTC)
Amy's clearly Special from the outset. She's the Girl With A Time Tear In Her Wall. She comes into the story already affected by, if not the Doctor himself, then the Doctor's *world*, at least, if you see what I mean?

Edited at 2013-05-01 09:00 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - anghara on May 1st, 2013 10:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - irishkate on May 2nd, 2013 08:48 am (UTC) (Expand)
GM Ceosannaceosanna on May 1st, 2013 01:22 pm (UTC)
I can't actually comment on the substance of this post as I haven't followed the show as much as I should. I can say, however, that my husband has determined that I must be a time lord since I currently have two heartbeats. :P
kit: drwho_nine_milleniumeyemizkit on May 1st, 2013 08:46 pm (UTC)

Edited at 2013-05-01 09:00 pm (UTC)
Andrea Blytheblythe025 on May 1st, 2013 01:39 pm (UTC)
I haven't been keeping up, or really wanting to, since there latest doctor took over and I'm getting the sense from online chatter that the writing is kind of going downhill, especially this season. But the ordinariness, the idea that any one of us could be poked up is definitely part of the appeal.
kit: drwho_bigsmileymizkit on May 1st, 2013 08:46 pm (UTC)
I don't actually think the lack of appeal is Matt Smith's fault. I think he's fine as the Doctor. But the stories aren't leaving me delighted, no.

Edited at 2013-05-01 09:00 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - blythe025 on May 1st, 2013 09:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Mary Anne: pixelpers1stence on May 1st, 2013 01:53 pm (UTC)
I think the mileage varies about how special the companions are. His first "companion" (in Old Who) was his granddaughter, and she was special but trying to be a normal girl. the companions who joined her and the Doctor were of the non-special sort, but got drug into things when they were trying to make sure Granddaughter was okay at home.....
Mary Anne: pixelpers1stence on May 1st, 2013 01:58 pm (UTC)
I think I *prefer* the non-special companions, by and large. And I am not wildly in love with the Moffat/Smith era. Journey to the Centre of the Tardis was one of the first episodes (along with the Rings of Akhaten) I've really liked in quite some time. I loathed the first half of the season 7. I thought the best part of season 7 was the sketch-animation epilogue to Amy and Rory's departure -- that should have been filmed and included in the episode and I would have felt much better about the conclusion to their story arc.
(no subject) - marlowe1 on May 1st, 2013 06:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizkit on May 1st, 2013 08:47 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - pers1stence on May 1st, 2013 09:00 pm (UTC) (Expand)
T. Revst_rev on May 1st, 2013 01:54 pm (UTC)
Depends what you mean by special. Arguably Romana was special, K9 was special, Adric was special, Kamelion was special, Leela was special, Zoe was special, Susan was special.
kit: drwho_nine_staywithmemizkit on May 1st, 2013 08:50 pm (UTC)
Well, I can't define their specialness in any useful way, having not seen them. :) I know Romana, K9 and Susan as character concepts, at least, and yeah, they do seem to have something Special attached to them, particularly Susan (since the other two are another Time Lord and a robot, which makes them special in a different way). And, y'know, it's okay for a few of them to be special. It's just that all the New Who seems to be Destiny Driven, which...well, it just doesn't leave me feeling like the Doctor might happen to show up outside *my* house. :)
(no subject) - st_rev on May 1st, 2013 09:30 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Jeff Linderjslinder on May 1st, 2013 01:55 pm (UTC)
This is exactly my problem with the current series (and to some extent with the last, although River/Rory mitigated that a bit). The show has become 'The companion of the day' featuring Doctor Who. Jenna Louise and Matt do have some chemistry, but there's just too many things happening against canon (the Tardis has never been Sentient..empathic yes, but not sentient.

We could also wonder why since the Tardis can apparently TALK, it had to play rearrange the corridors.

And the use of a reset button episode. Ugh.

I'm finding this season very weak.

Tim Liedermarlowe1 on May 1st, 2013 06:06 pm (UTC)
It's strange but Moffat was always getting shit for doing seasons that were plot intensive and contained bits that only came together at the final episode. Now that he's doing an episodic season it just feels weak. Also I keep wondering what the ultimate game is - especially when this last episode seems like his attempt to promise that there is really something important going on with Clara.
(no subject) - mizkit on May 1st, 2013 08:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - anghara on May 1st, 2013 10:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Kari Sperringla_marquise_de_ on May 1st, 2013 02:20 pm (UTC)
It's a Russell T Davis thing. He announced that Dr Who was 'all about the doctor-comapnion relationship' and instituted this new age of Manic Pixie Dream Snowflakes, (some of whom I like, but whose plots and the endless family stuff I tend to dislike intensely). Now, there may be people who remember the original and who agree with Russ T. I don't know any of them. Old WHo to me was about problem-solving and time and space travel and aliens and adventure. The companion was there to be the audience-identification character, by and large, though there were some companions who had unusual powers (Romana, Turlough), were super-smart (Liz Shaw, Adric) or had some mystery attached to them (Ace, Susan). But mostly they were fairly ordinary. I find the relentless specialness of the new companions and the endless centrality of them, their family and the earth to the doctor both a bit tedious and rather suspect -- there is something a bit disingenuous about this. (Plus Moffatt writes the doctor as given to discounting certain people and places because of the companion, which did not happen in the original show). It all feels a bit post-Thatcherite to me: what matters is the special people and the rest... well, that's their tough luck.
Tim Liedermarlowe1 on May 1st, 2013 06:11 pm (UTC)
I agree with Davies in this regard since a lot of the old show was about the magnificent Doctor and the companions were mostly there to get possessed by evil monsters and get rescued and go "Doctor, please explain the plot"

I was extremely happy when I saw the first season of Doctor Who and saw how the last episodes were based on Rose's family and friends coming together to send her back to the Dalek time so she could be Bad Wolf. The season arcs were great and giving the companions back stories and motivations beyond getting rescued made more sense.

Also the actresses playing Tegan and Nyssa still complain that their characters were given amazingly tragic and deep back stories (dead planets, attempts at getting jobs that were cut short by the Master, etc.) and then nothing. The back stories were never explored. The first time we find out that Tegan might not be having much fun is when she goes "Sorry Doctor, this isn't fun anymore. I'm going away." at the end of the Dalek story. And by that point she was speaking for the audience.
(no subject) - mizkit on May 1st, 2013 08:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - la_marquise_de_ on May 2nd, 2013 10:37 am (UTC) (Expand)
Deborah Blakedeborahblakehps on May 1st, 2013 02:28 pm (UTC)
I've been watching from the 3rd Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and sometimes the companions were special and sometimes not. And I loved Amy (sorry, but I did). I find with Doctor Who it is sometimes better just not to think about it too much :-)
kitmizkit on May 1st, 2013 08:54 pm (UTC)
No reason to be sorry about it. There were things about her I liked, but I came to really loathe her relationship with Rory, whom I felt she constantly emotionally and sometimes physically abused. It's something that's recurred in the New Who relationships, including the Doctor's relationship with his companions (in my house, you never told somebody to shut up. That's rude and hurtful.) and I don't like it.
Brienze: MINI Cooperbrienze on May 1st, 2013 03:02 pm (UTC)
I think the specialness of the companions is *because* this is New Who - it's a post-Babylon 5 world where there needs to be a thru-plot, and having "Bad Wolf", or "Prisoner Zero has escaped", or "WTH does she keep dying and popping up again" provides a thru plot.

The funny/tragic thing is that Bab5 and Buffy were the only shows to do that really well. Most people I know prefer the Creature of the Week episodes of X-Files or Supernatural, the latter of which came to the end of season 2, realized they had a hit on their hands and had run out of plot, and things devolved from there.
kit: fanboy_trek_livelongmizkit on May 1st, 2013 09:03 pm (UTC)
To be argumentative, I actually think DS9 did it better than anybody else, once B5 introduced the idea to them. It was like they went, "Oh, we can DO that!? *Awe*some!" and seasons like 3-7 are full of thru-plot. :)
Alix (Tersa): Dr Who - Pondering Ten (bibliophile1887)tersa on May 1st, 2013 04:59 pm (UTC)
I'm like you, in that I wasn't familiar enough with Original Who to have sharp opinions, and I'm also like you in that I don't like the dynamic Moffat in particular has driven into the show. Granted, Rose also made me grind my teeth as it became my opinion that she represented Davies's gender bent self-insertion (and am hypocritical because I also liked how Davies resolved that romance line at the end of Donna's story, haha :P), but I liked Martha and Donna for being regular people.

Moffat is all about his "special snowflakes", be it Mme de Pompadour, River Song, Amy, and I'm guessing the new Companion (I haven't watched last season or this). "Amy was mean" is a good way to summarize why I disliked her so much (although I loved Rory and wanted to knock him upside the head for letting Amy treat him like garbage that first season). He has these great ideas (I loved the concept of River and the Doctor encountering each other at different points in their lives and having to compare notes to see where they were in "The Library"), but then tries to expand on them and they fall apart like a souffle (the Angels two-parter, again, see River).

Also not fond of the sexualization of the show. I could forgive it the first time with Rose, Martha because it was unrequited, and I embraced Donna wholeheartedly because she was like 'No no no no', but then Moffat brought it all back again with Amy and River, and I've heard it's continuing with Clara.

Maybe that's why I'm a season and a half behind, haha.

Edited at 2013-05-01 05:00 pm (UTC)
kit: drwho_animatedkissmizkit on May 1st, 2013 08:59 pm (UTC)
I met a Scottish woman recently whose behavior was *exactly* like Amy's. It took about fifteen minutes for me to really not ever want to be around her again. Perhaps Moffatt was trying to tap into a cultural thing or something, and perhaps it worked, but *shit*, man, Rory coulda done a whole lot better than somebody who was nasty to him all. the. time.

And it's awful, because Rory's story turned out to be one of the best of New Who. It's just that the woman he lived it for wasn't worth it.
(no subject) - tersa on May 1st, 2013 09:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - st_rev on May 1st, 2013 10:15 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - st_rev on May 1st, 2013 10:16 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tersa on May 1st, 2013 10:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - st_rev on May 1st, 2013 11:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
rfrancis on May 1st, 2013 05:53 pm (UTC)
I think, pound for pound, that my favorite companions ever show a pattern:

Ian and Barbara: fully capable and competent in their own rights; often themselves prompted the Doctor to better behavior (granted his behavior was pretty awful at the time) and struggled with him over the rightness of action. When they grew weary and an opportunity presented, they returned home. No super destiny.

Sarah Jane Smith: fully capable and competent in her own right, as proven by the fact that she met the Doctor while she was doing a parallel investigation, and after he broke her heart and callously abandoned her (in the wrong place) she went on investigating on her own. No super destiny (except that which she herself made.)

Ace: fully capable and competent in her own right. More inclined to violent action than the Doctor? WRONG. Simply less hypocritical about it. ("Ace, do you have some of that Nitro-9 I told you not to have?") Arguably a slight super destiny by way of being swept by some kind of anomaly into the future. Where she became a waitress. Some super destiny. Beat up a Dalek with a baseball bat. Completely awesome.

They don't have to be cosmic beings, Davies and Moffat and whoever comes next. Let them just be normal people who, given opportunity and necessity, rise to great heights by means of their own intellects and abilities and courage.

Like Martha.
kit: drwho_marthamizkit on May 1st, 2013 08:55 pm (UTC)
Yes. *Precisely*.
(no subject) - chrysoula on May 2nd, 2013 06:27 am (UTC) (Expand)
Tim Liedermarlowe1 on May 1st, 2013 06:19 pm (UTC)
I like the way that the new Doctor Who gives the characters back stories and allows the actors to explore these back stories. I think it's much better than the way the characters would just get dropped into the stories and spend most of the time running away from monsters (when I was 13, Peri running over hills was awesome!) or getting possessed.

Moffat is trying for more intricate stories than RTD which I think has worked for his first two seasons and I am suspending judgment for this season until he gets to the point. The mystery surrounding Clara is nice but I really hope that the answer to her mystery is much more compelling than what we've seen.

The last couple of episodes irritated me mostly because they dangled that mystery and then didn't do a damn thing with it.

The problem I am having with Clara is that she is not moving out of the "Cute girl with a winning personality" role and becoming interesting. In fact, she's edging into Mary Sue territory by being the woman that everyone is obsessed with but not really giving us much. Granted, she's supposed to be mysterious but it still feels weird.

I have a feeling that this will be one of those things where the fact that the Doctor wanted her as a companion leads her to splitting off into many different people across time and space so the only reason why she's special is because he thought that she was special and all of the versions of Clara that he has run into are because of he took onto the TARDIS in the first place.

I really hope not. Moffat has already pulled the "you're special because of something I am going to do in the future and we'll find out as we go along" trick with River and Amy.

Still it's better than "Old Villain comes back and flying monsters come to kill everything. They are defeated by LOVE!!!"
kit: drwho_sadmizkit on May 1st, 2013 08:56 pm (UTC)
Honestly, I wish Clara died at the end of every episode. That would be interesting.

Edited at 2013-05-01 08:59 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - st_rev on May 1st, 2013 09:43 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - cyranocyrano on May 3rd, 2013 07:22 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizkit on May 3rd, 2013 07:25 am (UTC) (Expand)
Passionately decaying organic mattermiintikwa on May 2nd, 2013 02:19 am (UTC)
I agree with you completely. I can't stand Moffat and the way he does his Companions. Sigh.
Cyrano: Ahrrcyranocyrano on May 3rd, 2013 07:22 am (UTC)
There is a lot of opinion in here. Woo Hoo.
I really liked the start of NuWho--I loved the fact that Rose had a family and didn't have them wiped from her brain by the TARDIS threshhold. I loved consequences. And Sarah Jane showing up and saying "This is what happens when he dumps you"? Frickin' amazing. And then time went on. And it became obvious that RTD loved Rose a whole lot more than I did. And then she made her Great Sacrifice.
And, in classic comic book form, he ruined any emotional impact it might have had by negating that sacrifice and having her pop round for tea every other Saturday. "Hey all. Still locked away in another dimension where our tragic love can never be realised. What's up?"
But the path there felt real, and felt good, even if I had misgivings about the Doctor (a teacher, parent, authority figure in the years of OldWho) getting smoochy with a companion (a student, child, impressionable). And I liked Martha and was glad that aspect went unrequited and that she got over herself.
And I liked Donna quite a bit. She would rear up and give the Doctor hell if she felt he was out of line, whether or not she was right about it. And again she grew into the Special. (I am told Runaway Bride was supposed to be another guest starring role, like Kylie Minogue, which evolved.) And then came the End of Donna. Of which I have a horrendous rant in epic scale and major key, even more rancorous than the one about "Love and Monsters". The details are neither here nor there, except in that The End of Donna and The Year of the Specials felt very unsatisfying, like Davies had half washed his hands and started to wander off. "Water on Mars" was the high point of that stretch. And, pretty much, no companions.

Caveat: I do not care for Moffat's tenure on Doctor Who. I've seen "Empty Child/Doctor Dances" and have proof he can write a coherent and satisfying story, and thus must assume he choses not to as a default. I briefly stopped watching the Matt Smith "Who" because it made me unhappy. There's an essay about that one coming up, apparently head starting here.

At first, I was ready to ride along. A ginger in a short skirt, that's a call back to the OldWho years. The 'Tigger in the pantry' scene went on a bit, I thought, but I expect young viewers enjoyed it. And I grew rather fond of Rory, the cooler whiter Mickey. But Amy Pond, the Girl Who Waited, the Girl With the First Crack, Super Model, and Mother of the apotheosis of all things amazing and awesome, was Special. River Song, also quite full of The Special. I'm only three episodes into the tenure of Clara Oswin Oswald, but she reeks of The Special. Like Madame du Pompadour, the only woman the Doctor ever loved, who was also Very Special.

Caveat: I am old and crotchety, and honestly haven't been able to entirely make any kind of sense out of Moffat's arcs. It may be attributed in part to my not paying enough attention. It may be in part because they make no bloody sense but look really really cool.

I would not, could not, in a little blue box. I do not like this trend, Sam I Am.
Georgina ScottGeorgina Scott on May 5th, 2013 09:50 pm (UTC)
Doctor Who
Moffat was an adequate producer to Davies show runner but should never have become show runner. He has lost the magic of the companion as ordinary in extraordinary circumstance. Since Moffat took control we have had the Amy and Rory show with the doctor as the background character. At least with Clara we have had some of the show approaching the original intent (Cold War). I hope that the BBC finds someone who can bring back the magic and let Moffat go back to things he is good at like Sherlock.