Looking through the Doctor Who tag I notice most people interpreted the Doctor playing Pretty Woman (a classic Roy Orbison song I love and recognized from the first two chords!) as being indicative of Whouffaldi. Now I’ve never been one to ship the Doctor with anyone (Missy/Master and River being Time Lord exceptions) but I’m even more suspicious here. Let me, first of all, say that I’m not bashing whouffaldi. I just personally don’t support it and am offering an alternative interpretation of that scene.
So basically when the Doctor notices Clara and Missy while having his pre-Death party, he starts playing Pretty Woman. It seems cut and dried romance. Except the Doctor is a 1,200 (possibly older) year old alien who operates light years ahead of any mortal and Clara is a cute, but spunky, 20 something London girl. Except Clara and Missy literally just got out of a scene where Missy declared Time Lords were above, and I quote,
“Oh, don’t be disgusting, we’re Time Lords, not animals. Try, nanobrain, to rise above the reproductive frenzy of your noisy little food chain and contemplate friendship.”
Basically Missy is stating that Time Lords don’t engage in a prototypical romance the way we humans do. Their love is different, more complex and will probably never be fully understood by humans. It’s not just this episode either, yes there are the occasional flirty/sexual remarks the Doctor makes but on the whole he is portrayed as Asexual, being uncomfortable if not derisive of human love/sex. This is pretty much confirmed, especially with Capaldi Doctor.
So why did the Doctor play Pretty Woman for his Clara? Because he loves her, but not in the way you’re thinking. It’s, to quote Missy again “Infinitely more complex” than that. The Doctor is dying, or he believes he is anyway, and one of his beloved friends arrives at his side on the eve of his death. He’s already behaving a bit wildly and erratically but he knows humans and he knows his Clara. So he flatters her, he plays an iconic and easily recognizable Earth riff to let her know he sees her and watches her smile. Because Clara has a gorgeous little smile and if playing a cute little guitar riff is enough to bring it out than of the course the Doctor will.
He’s an old, old man, and what more does any old man want than to make a little girl smile. Imagine an old man sitting in the park, entertaining kids with simple magic tricks just for the sake of seeing them smile. To me, it’s the exact same thing. I’ve always been one promoting deeply platonic or paternal relations between the Doctor and his companions. This is simply another example of it.
So you can still ship whouffaldi if you like it, either way we can both agree that the Doctor loves Clara Oswald, listen to the way he chokes out ‘my Clara’ at the end, oh boy does he love her. But he also loved Amy Pond and Donna Noble and Sarah Jane and Susan. His companions are his friends and his children/grandchildren by proxy. He takes them on adventures, watches them smile and grow and he gets this fuzzy feeling like a grandpa watching a baby trying to toddle around. The Doctor is NOT one of us and sometimes I think the fandom forgets that.
And that is why I believe the Doctor playing Pretty Woman is demonstrative of his love for Clara Oswald but in a much deeper, more meaningful way than if he simply wanted to snog her.