There’s always been controversy over whether a Doctor / companion romance has a place in Doctor Who. Showrunner, Steven Moffat, has more recently said the 12th Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi, does “fancy” Clara, but this contradicts what Capaldi said last year, which was that there would be no flirting. So what’s the truth? If, after reading this, you watch Series 8 back, you’ll find that they’re both right; the Doctor is attracted to Clara but you won’t find any flirting going on between them. Having said that, the sexual tension was electrifying, but there’s only ever sexual tension when there’s no outlet for desire and so it builds up until it seems deliciously unbearable, like a balloon so full of air, it’s ready to pop.
The reason it may not have been so clear to us pudding brains is that there are some valid arguments and preconceived opinions of what Doctor Who should, and shouldn’t, be about but, like a single wavelength of colour, it’s easy to reflect only what we want to see whilst the rest slips through undetected.
The main reason people dislike the idea of a Doctor / companion romance is the fear of it becoming banal and debased, akin to romcoms with fairytale endings. Series 8, however, was about unconditional love and, far from being quixotic drivel; it was poignant and intellectually engaging.
coleman-capaldi-s8-plIt may also be that some deem a romantic relationship between the Doctor and Clara, played by Peter Capaldi, 57 and Jenna Coleman 29, as inappropriate. It makes me wonder why, in the Twilight Saga, it’s OK for the lead male character, who’s around a century old, to date a 17-year-old because he looks like a teenager! The age gap between the Doctor and his companions is so ridiculous that age loses all meaning but the actor playing him can’t be more than a mere 30 years older than the actress playing his companion. However, this provides the opportunity to show the kind of difficulties the Doctor faces now that his love is unrequited, due to his true age being more apparent to Clara.
Either way, I think it’s high time we re-evaluate whether romance has a place in Doctor Who.
Far from cheapening the show and the characters, Series 8 took an in depth look into the Doctor’s past and present psyche and dealt, candidly, with some interesting topics and questions like, can love transcend aesthetics, are we truly in love with someone if we’re only falling for their persona, is good and evil so clear cut and showed why we shouldn’t pre-judge? It dissected the Doctor and Clara’s relationship and portrayed the difficulty they faced trying to re-establish their relationship with each other, after the 11th Doctor (Matt Smith) regenerates. Clara then doubts him to still be the Doctor she thought she knew.
the-snowmen-clara-kiss-aIn previous series’, Matt Smith’s Doctor, seemed to be charming, happy-go-lucky and asexual, other than a bit of sexual innuendo, but it seems these whimsical and Peter Pan-like qualities where mere affectations he employed in an attempt to be adored: (to Amy Pond) “I took you with me because I was vain, because I wanted to be adored.” Series 6, and as a means of suppressing his guilt for previous actions: (River Song, the Doctor’s previous love interest) “When one’s in love with an ageless god, who insists on the face of a 12 year old, one does one’s best to hide the damage.” Series 7. Nevertheless, the façade worked and he gained the attention of Clara Oswald and, from early on, flirtation ensued between the two, though nothing ever came of it and then the Doctor, Clara had become fond of, regenerated.
Series 8 then starts off with a feature length episode ‘Deep Breath’, which sets the tone for the rest of the series in that Clara’s quixotic perception of and feelings for the Doctor, are thrown into doubt due to his new incarnation looking nothing like the Doctor she knew. The Doctor she initially fell for is gone but was she really in love with him when she all she knew his persona? For the rest of the series, the Doctor show’s Clara that he’s not an archetype hero. He wants her to want him despite his flaws because, although his methods seem heartless, he’s a good man because he tries to do the right thing.
The reason behind the Doctor’s choice of appearance shows how deeply his feelings run for Clara.
deep-breath-capaldi-tardisOne of the reasons the Doctor has chosen an older form is that he wants to give Clara a frank and brutal portrait of his true self to test Clara’s devotion to him, wanting her to love him unconditionally for who he truly is, warts and all: “…I’ve lived for over 2000 years and not all of them where good. I’ve made many mistakes…” To illustrate his previous appearance was just a façade, he tries to show Clara that ‘her’ Doctor’s appearance and character traits were just a persona he used to be loved.
This is the first time the Doctor has opted to show the real, flawed man behind the mysterious façade; showing his true self is such an intimate thing to do. He chooses to bare his soul to Clara and asks her to love him despite his idiosyncrasies, to love him for his values and principles and not his physiognomy and demeanour. He clearly wants a deep, meaningful relationship with Clara. She is truly special to the Doctor and it means the world to him that she accepts and loves him unconditionally. This is the first time we’ve ever got an insight into the man behind the mask and that’s what makes this series so captivating, that, and Capaldi’s metatheatrical take the Doctor, really earning himself the title, 100% rebel Time Lord.
The other reason the Doctor chose a more adult, more mature appearance was as a symbol of his decision to come to terms with and deal with his past: “…offer a child a suitcase full of sweets and they’ll take it. Offer someone all of time and space and they’ll take that too. Which is why you shouldn’t, which is why grown ups where invented.” – Series 6.
Still don’t believe it? The meaning behind a lot of the dialogue in the first episode has been misinterpreted
clara-tardis-deep-breathNear the end of the episode, the Doctor tells Clara that he wants to make up for past mistakes: “I’m the Doctor. I’ve lived for over 2000 years and not all of them where good. I’ve made many mistakes; it’s about time I did something about that.” He then tells Clara that he isn’t her boyfriend, meaning that he sees this fact as one of his mistakes but Clara misinterprets it to mean that the mistake was not clarifying that he only wanted their relationship to be platonic. Clara responds by saying she never thought he was her boyfriend and, in turn, the Doctor misinterprets her to mean she’d never looked at him in that light. The Doctor replies by saying: “I never said it was your mistake.” but I think this comment is lost on Clara.
As the TARDIS lands back in the present, Clara asks the Doctor if she’s home. The Doctor says, with a hopeful chuckle: “If you wanna be!” assuming she means the TARDIS (yes, he wants her to move in with him!) Clara says she doesn’t think she knows him anymore and then her phone rings, who we find out, a few moments later, is the Doctor’s previous incarnation, wanting to say goodbye. The new Doctor knows it’s his predecessor ringing and says: “You’d better get that; it might be your boyfriend!” hoping Clara gets his inflection. Clara has no clue that the Doctor knows it’s himself on the phone and says: “Shut up; I don’t have a boyfriend.”, with the inflection that she’s not interested in anyone else but the statement is just rhetorical, because she thinks the Doctor isn’t attracted to her.
Everything changes and evolves; the only constant in our universe is change. So why not Doctor Who?
Humans evolved to fall in love for the purpose of reproduction and, given that Gallifreyans also have two sexes, I’m sure the same applies to them and I think it would be less realistic if the Doctor didn’t fall for someone; it proves he’s just as much led by his desires as humans and shows he’s not a god; he’s mortal and fallible.
It had something for adults and children, alike
It’s always been a family show and there’s concern this might change but I don’t believe the format was compromised. The romance element was a wonderfully convoluted and intense addition to its already thrilling format of adventure romp through time and space. Whether we can expect the same standard for the next series, the proof, as they say, is in the pudding!