So this is it. The end of my three-part series on Doctor Who. I’m not gonna lie, I’m pretty pleased with myself, ‘cause normally I never get this far with long-term projects (and yes, with me, six weeks is a long time). Let’s jump right in, because there’s a fair amount to cover and I’m gonna wax all sentimental and crap at the end, probably.
A long time ago, or possibly in the future, a Time Lord stole a box called a TARDIS and went on grand adventures through time and space (though he kept coming back to modern-day England, which prompts the question why don’t I live there). But travelling alone has a way of making him a little crazy, and ruthless, and incredibly lonely, so he picks up people off the streets of London (or Cardiff; the Doctor seems to like Cardiff) and brings them along as companions on his adventures. And every so often he dies, at which time he regenerates and gets a new face and a new personality, which is just incredibly distressing if you’ve gotten attached to the old face. You’ll see this Christmas. You’ll all see.
At the end of “The End of Time,” David Tennant’s last episode, the Doctor regenerated. It was a horribly emotional time for me, and I seem to recall shrieking “no, no, no” over and over again, because this strange new face with the long hair and the angular body was not the Doctor I loved nor the one I wanted.
It took me a full season to warm up to him—“He’s not that bad, I guess. He’s pretty fun to watch”—and it wasn’t until season 7’s “The Name of the Doctor,” Matt Smith’s third-to-last episode and the most recently aired, that I realized the truth. The Eleventh Doctor is my favourite, and I don’t want him to go.
Surprised? So was I.
Eleven is gangly, and awkward, and enthusiastic, and endlessly brilliant, and has absolutely zero concept of fashion sense. Everyone always talks about his fez and his bowtie, but I love his out-of-style-no-matter-which-time-you’re-in tweedy suit and near-clownish shoes. His hair, though not as great as Ten’s, is nicely styled. Overall, I think, he veers very close to becoming a hipster (I mean, come on, he even had those thick-rimmed glasses in “The Girl Who Waited”). He insists that everything he likes is “cool,” even if it most decidedly is not.
But I think what saves him from being that which we hate even more than the Daleks is that he doesn’t like this stuff ironically. He really, truly believes that these things are cool. Maybe that’s an odd thing for me to focus on—and trust me, I hate talking about hipsters as much as you hate hearing about them—but it shows me one very important thing: the Doctor is honest about who he is, even if he’s not always honest about everything else.
Smith is the youngest actor to play the Doctor yet, but he also plays the oldest incarnation. It’s an interesting juxtaposition between youth and ancient wisdom, and Smith does it well. His personality is much different than that of Tennant’s; he’s darker, more secretive, and far more manipulative. That being said, his heart has also grown several sizes. Or maybe it just took a certain kind of person to break into it. But I’ll get to that.
Amelia Pond started out as a little girl who lived with her aunt and a crack in her bedroom wall. She met the Doctor, fed him, told him about the crack, and became the first friend Eleven ever made. And then he left her. She waited all night for him to return and carry her away from her life, but he didn’t. The Doctor misjudged his time, and while he was gone, Amy grew up into a Scottish firecracker.
She never forgot about her Raggedy Man or the blue box he arrived in, so when he returned to see the little girl, Amy still remembered him. And when he returned a third time, asking her to come and travel with him, she went, leaving a wedding dress in her closet. And that’s interesting, given how she feels about abandonment.
See, Amy lived with her aunt as a girl because her parents were gone, sucked into the crack in her wall and erased from time. The Doctor left her, and she waited in her front garden all night for him to come back. She’s so used to being abandoned, and that’s an undercurrent that runs throughout her time on the show. She places her faith in the Doctor, a person who keeps pulling her into danger and causing her pain, however accidentally, because she’s so convinced he’ll never leave her again, even though she left the person who never once abandoned her: Rory.
Amy Pond is not my favourite companion. Not by a long shot. She’s maybe slightly above Martha, although I don’t know why, because at least I have sympathy for Martha. Amy is selfish and spiteful and pretty destructive. She does have the odd good quality, like compassion and fierce love and being a pretty damn good mother, but it’s pretty hard to watch her using and abusing her fiancee and later husband.
Although it is pretty nice watching her falling in love with him and remembering him time after time when by rights she shouldn’t. Maybe she’s just not very good at relationships because she hasn’t seen any good role models, what with her parents being gone and all. Following the reboot of the universe, she seems much kinder to Rory, which could be the result of getting her parents back and seeing what a relationship is supposed to look like.
To be fair, Amy does have her fair share of suffering. She gets stranded on an alien world and ages over 30 years, waiting for the Doctor and Rory to get her. She gets pregnant, is kidnapped by the Silence, and loses her baby only hours after giving birth. She’s imprisoned in the Pandorica for two thousand years in a state of near-death. She divorced Rory so he could have the children he always wanted, knowing that she couldn’t give him that again. And at the end of her adventures with the Doctor, when Rory is sent back into the past by a Weeping Angel, she says goodbye to her Raggedy Man and follows Rory, because she can’t bear to live without him.
Yes, Amy has a rough time of it. Yes, maybe she’s deserving of a little sympathy. But for some reason, I find it very hard to give her that. If you have any insights into why that might be, please take them to the comments section, ’cause this is driving me crazy.
Oh, Rory. Here’s the thing about Rory: as a character, he’s less a three-dimensional person and more a brick wall made out of love. But that’s all right, because with a character as dynamic as Amy, there needs to be a solid presence to balance her out.
Rory grew up loving Amy, eventually became her boyfriend (after she figured out he wasn’t gay), and later her fiancee, husband, and the father of their child. He’s dedicated, devoted, patient, and loves Amy absolutely—to the point where he waits two thousand years outside the Pandorica, protecting her as the Roman Centurion while she sleeps.
But as much as I love Rory—because I really, really do—I find him a tad unrealistic. I know that there’s always one person in a relationship who cares more, who puts in more effort, and who will do all the work to make sure the relationship holds firm. But what kind of man puts up with all that abuse and uncertainty and emotional unfaithfulness from the woman he loves? It’s supposed to be an easy answer, but there are really two ways this can go.
One, Rory loves Amy more than anyone has ever loved another person. He sees her as the only woman in the universe, and he’s willing to overlook her faults and dig deep to find the qualities he knows are there. That’s why he does everything he does for her, from waiting two thousand years to giving his life over and over to singlehandedly storming onto a Cybermen ship to track her down when she’s being held by the Silence.
Or two, Rory has incredibly low self-esteem, pursued the first woman who gave him the time of day, and clung to her for the rest of his life because no one else came along and he has no guarantee that anyone else ever will.
But that second one is incredibly cynical. And looking at Rory that way can only tarnish the memory of him that I was left with after he was sent back in time by the Angels. So maybe it’s naiveté, or refusing to see facts, or romanticism or gullibility or whatever you’d like to call it, but I choose to believe that Rory really did love Amy that much. For him, there was only one woman in the universe. And that’s almost a harder truth to grasp, because that kind of love is like the sun: it’s so bright, so beautiful, that it’s impossible to look at for too long without your eyes watering.
A long time ago, a professor of archaeology thought the best way to unearth ancient temples and bring to light the secrets of long ago was with a fedora and a bullwhip. Professor River Song looked at that and thought, “Screw that, a fedora won’t fit over my hair and bullwhips are reserved for my downtime.”
Some people will tell you that River Song was never a companion and that she has no business being on this list. To those people, I say, “Well, who the hell is my favourite companion supposed to be, then?” I could rattle off a long list of qualities she possesses, and they still wouldn’t even begin to outline the kind of person she is.
River inherited the Time Lord’s gift of multiple regenerations because she was conceived in the TARDIS, as well as the best qualities of her parents, who were *SPOILER ALERT* Rory and Amy. Yes, she was the child taken by the Silence, and she was raised to kill the Doctor. But she loved the Doctor from the time she was a little girl, and she fought it for as long as she possibly could before shooting him at Lake Silencio.
One of the things I love most about River is that she brings out qualities in other people that they never saw before, particularly the Doctor. She’s flirty, sexy, slightly wicked, and utterly confident in who she is; if that ever faltered for a moment, her character would fall flat. But it doesn’t, and so she—well, doesn’t pursue him, so much as taking it for granted that they are/will be together. So is it any wonder that the Doctor falls for her?
I haven’t seen the original series (don’t kill me; I’m planning to do it soon), but I’m pretty sure the First Doctor was married at some point, ’cause he had a granddaughter. In all that time, over ten incarnations, the Doctor may have expressed some interest in his companions (though not before the Eighth), but he never married. So it was a bit of a break with tradition when he took off his bowtie to handfast with River in “The Wedding of River Song,” and it was one of the sweetest, simplest, most understated gestures in the entire show. The Doctor took that bit of himself, the honest part, and bound it to her. That meant being absolutely honest with one person in the entirety of the universe, and he chose the woman who understands him as well as, if not better than, he understands himself.
River’s just as big a wanderer as the Doctor is, and that wandering extends from gallivanting throughout space and time to slipping out of her maximum-security jail cell every now and then for date night. But the wandering might have something to do with the fact that she and the Doctor are also living their lives a bit opposite from each other, time-wise: River met the Tenth Doctor in the library, and in her first appearance on the show, she died. She knew it would happen someday, and that it would break her heart to meet the Doctor before he knew her, but she still knew it was him, even underneath an unfamiliar face. And even though he didn’t know her, she gave her life for him anyway.
And that’s one of the many, many reasons that River Song is my favourite companion: she’s brave, bold, and daring; she fights for the things she believes in, even if they don’t quite match up with what everyone else wants; she never lets the Doctor see when she’s hurt, even when it’s killing her to hide it; and she loves him unconditionally, unequivocally, in life and in death, from near and from far, with every last bit of her.
Yeah, she’s definitely her parents’ child.
Following the loss of the Ponds, the Doctor moped around Victorian-era London, unable to cope and unable to heal—until a barmaid/governess named Clara happened along. But what could be so special about an ordinary woman after the Ponds?
Just this: the Doctor had met her before. And she had died.
The second half of season 7 is about unravelling the mystery that is Clara Oswin Oswald. Originally appearing as a one-off in the season premiere, “Asylum of the Daleks,” she went by “Oswin,” a bit of a genius who had crash-landed on a planet crawling with Daleks and had spent her time there hiding from them. Or at least, that’s what she thought: in reality, the Daleks had turned her into a Dalek herself, and she created a fantasy inside her head to cope with what she had become.
Then she appeared as the governess, and she died then, too. And in modern-day London, a nanny, also named Clara, accidentally contacted the Doctor, who became intrigued and tracked her down. It was the same girl—the Impossible Girl—and the Doctor invited her to travel with him so he could figure out just what exactly the hell was up with her.
Not everyone likes Clara, either, but I think she’s good for the Doctor. She’s clever and big-hearted, and when I think about it, she’s not really like anyone else he’s ever travelled with before. She has no romantic designs on him, no ulterior motives, just a thirst for adventure and an eagerness to find out everything the universe holds. And she has absolutely no idea why the Doctor thinks she’s someone else.
At least, not until “The Name of the Doctor,” when the Doctor’s timeline is assaulted, and Clara jumps into it to save him. She shatters herself, spreading versions of her throughout moments of his life to protect him. And that says a lot about her, given that she hasn’t known him all that long and is still willing to risk death for him.
In all honesty, we don’t know Clara very well yet. She hasn’t been around very long; there’s still a lot about her I’d like to find out. But she’ll be the Twelfth Doctor’s companion, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of her.
The Weeping Angels figure pretty prominently during the time of the Eleventh Doctor. I think the fan reaction to them in “Blink” was so positive that people wanted to see more of them, but every time I see them, I get more and more afraid. Not just of them, because they really are one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen, but also that they’ll be overused, causing them to lose that terror. Used in small doses, they’re brilliant antagonists, but too much of a good thing and all that. Honestly, I hope they don’t come back in season 8, because I think we need a bit of a break from them.
The Silence are a religious order dedicated to bringing down the Doctor. Part of that involved taking the infant Melody Pond (River Song) and raising her to be an assassin, which ultimately failed. The Silence appear repeatedly, although no one ever remembers having seen them. They believe a prophecy that foretells the downfall of the Doctor: “On the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the eleventh, when no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a Question will be asked, a question that must never, ever be answered.”
The Question is the oldest question in the universe, one we’ve heard multiple times and never thought anything of: “Doctor Who?” The Doctor is running from his identity, but he can’t run forever. Even if the fans don’t want to know his name, it’s a reality the Doctor is going to come face to face with sooner or later. Clara already knew it, although messing around with time made her forget. But if she knew, other people will soon know, and there will be no stopping it. Especially with the appearance of John Hurt, who is apparently a numberless incarnation of the Doctor and the most infuriating cliffhanger of all time.
I don’t think we’re done with the Silence, not by a long shot. I don’t think they’ll win, but I do think all this business with the Silence and John Hurt will come to a head, and the Doctor will finally have to take a good long look at himself and figure out why he’s spent the last thousand years running, and what exactly he’s running from.
The 50th Anniversary episode will be released in three weeks. After that comes the Christmas episode, and Eleven will regenerate into Twelve. This is what it means to be a fan of Doctor Who: to know that nothing is certain, that the things we love could be lost at any time, that there’s nothing we can do to prevent change. But it also means learning to cope, to appreciate what we have, to do what we can with the time we’re given, to give people the best possible chance to show us what they can do, to love fiercely and unreservedly, and to be willing to share that love and, if necessary, let it go.
I’ll miss you, Matt Smith. And welcome, Peter Capaldi. I think you’ll do one hell of a job.
Favourite Episodes: “A Good Man Goes to War”; “The Wedding of River Song”
Reason: Rory being a badass, rescuing Amy, realizing who River Song is; Amy remembers who Rory is (because she always remembers), Madame Kovarian dies, River and the Doctor get married (YOU GUYS)
Least Favourite Episodes: “Asylum of the Daleks”; “The Angels Take Manhattan”
Reason: seeing deranged Daleks is really terrifying, seeing the Daleks wanting the Doctor’s help is weird, it’s horrible seeing Oswin/Clara like that; Weeping Angels EVERYWHERE (far more terrifying than the Daleks, even with that goofy Statue of Liberty Angel), the Doctor hurting River, losing both Rory and Amy
Final Grade: A+
- The Eleventh Doctor is so quotable. I love it.
- “Hello. I’m the Doctor. Basically… run.”
- “He likes to be called Stormageddon, Dark Lord of all.” “And how d’you know that?” “I speak Baby.”
- “Apple’s rubbish. I hate apples… no, no, no, I love yogurt. Yogurt’s my favourite. Give me yogurt… I hate yogurt! Just stuff with bits in it. New mouth, new rules. It’s like eating after cleaning your teeth. Everything tastes WRONG… Bacon. That’s bacon. Are you trying to poison me?… Ah, you see? Beans… beans are evil! Bad, bad beans. Bread and butter. Now you’re talking!… And stay out! Carrots? Are you insane? No, wait, hang on. I know what I need. I need… I need… I need… fish fingers and custard!”
- “Hello, everyone! I’m Amy’s imaginary friend. But I came anyway.”
- “I’m being extremely clever up here and there’s no one to stand around looking impressed! What’s the point in having you all?
- “This is bad, I don’t like this. Never use force, you just embarrass yourself. Unless you’re cross, in which case, always use force!” “Shall I run and get the manual?” “I threw it in a supernova.” “You threw the manual in a supernova? Why?” “Because I disagreed with it! Now stop talking to me when I’m cross!”
- “The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant. And we definitely added to his pile of good things.” That is all.