Who’s That Girl: Examining the Doctor’s Lovers (Part 1)

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Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull on the Doctor’s romances.

The concept of the Doctor having romantic relationships with his friends has always been met with much broadside (and the BBC for its tackling of the subject). From the show’s monochrome origins, it was always envisioned that the introductory Doctor would have a travelling companion entitled Sue. This was quickly changed to Susan and the epithet, ‘travelling companion’ to granddaughter due to the possible sexual implications. There was never any forecasted possibility of the Doctor having an amorous relationship other than his paternal fondness for Susan. As the revived series started up, the Doctor encountered more and more love interests and through this article I shall be scrutinizing the Doctor’s multiple relationships and the repercussions on the character.


the-aztecs-doctor-who-hartnellRegular readers of the site will acknowledge my love for the historical tale, The Aztecs and chiefly my bittersweet adoration for Cameca. Whilst the remaining characters ran around impersonating goddesses, learning at Aztecan institutes and fighting warriors, the Doctor reclined to the serene Garden of Peace where he encounters the flirtatious Cameca. From step one they bonded like bosom friends and soon the Doctor realised his romantic inclination for her. As the pair exchanged coy smiles and hot cocoa the Doctor unknowingly became betrothed to the sage and when he announced his inability to fulfil marriage Cameca was heartbroken. Yet she still helped him and the other TARDIS crewmembers escape back to the time machine. William Hartnell and Margot Van der Burgh share a truly touching moment together as the Doctor departs leaving Cameca forever. Hartnell and Van der Burgh’s flawless acting frankly added much more passion and fervour than had it been portrayed by other actors. Dear Mrs. der Burgh passed away unfortunately in 2008 leaving future stories of Cameca and the Doctor to be unexplored, and the events of The Aztecs to remain permanently preserved.

Doctor Grace Holloway

Doctor-and-Grace-Holloway-TV-movieThe TV Movie has never been meet with the justifiable praise it deserves. Bombarded with never-ending condemnation, I feel that it merits much more laud than it actually gets. I am not here to give a defence (the appropriate protection can be found here as penned by the wonderful Adam James Cuthbert) but more to divulge my opinions on the one-off companion, Grace. Her encompassment was hit with more heavy fire than other assistants largely down to the unexpected kiss.

Before I go on, picture this: imagine you’re a viewer in 1996, watching the ‘revival’ of Doctor Who and traditionally the Doctor has served as a professor-type figure, mentoring his fellow traveller and generally having fun in time and space. Now vision the professor-type figure smooching the traveller… many would be very unprepared and thus that is partly why The TV Movie was never really successful. Obviously it introduced the diabolical conception of the Doctor being half-human, that is where the movie failed but aside from that, everything worked. Most readers on Doctor Who TV are followers of New Who and are used to the orthodox seasonal kiss between Doctor and companion. The watchers in the 90’s weren’t expecting this romantic subplot but I felt it really worked and built up slowly before ending in a sad denouement.

Daphne Ashbrook took over the role of assistant from Sophie Aldred, who once played streetwise Londoner Ace, and introduced us to Grace Holloway, an intellectually competent and cultured cardiologist working in a San Francisco hospital. The contrast between Ace and Grace was big with class and continent divisions separating the two. Rather than using the classic conventional introduction of companion to Doctor it was rather contrariwise with the Doctor being introduced to the companion. This provided the audience with a working surrogate manifested in Grace from the opening.

I have never had any problem with sexual relationships between Doctor and companion and just because the Eighth Doctor and Grace were the first to have this experience don’t mean they are the worst. Yes… the first kiss when the Doctor’s memories are regained isn’t exactly warranted but The TV Movie had a rather epic feel and a dramatic osculation seemed fitting due to the formulaic layout of blockbuster movies (a format the movie took in its stride). As for the sequel in the epilogue, the Doctor had watched Grace die and had grown an attachment to her so it’s vindicable for him to feel sad. Daphne Ashbrook provided a superlative performance that was just the final tier on the characterisation of Doctor Grace Holloway.

Rose Tyler

rose-tennant-series-2Possibly one of the most loved yet hated characters of New Who, Rose was the starting point of the revival with the eponymous urban thriller, Rose. She was introduced as a clever, working-class shop girl with an overbearing mother and a street-smart boyfriend, who assists the Doctor in the first episode before joining him in further adventures. The chemistry was limited from the beginning and the tension between the pair was far from sexual. The Ninth Doctor kept a more guru-like persona and taught Rose the ways of time travel whilst the latter held an intrepid sense of excitement and stimulation. As Series One progressed, the relationship of the Ninth Doctor and Rose stuck to fatherly-cum-mentor but when the Doctor regenerated things took an alternative route.

The Tenth Doctor was introduced as charismatic, sexy, cheeky and a grinner. Rose withheld herself from being too close as she really struggled to accept who this ‘new’ Doctor was. By the coda of The Christmas Invasion, Rose had embraced (a bit too quickly in my opinion) this new incarnation and the oh so memorable scene on the Powell Estate when the ashes are falling and the pair look at each other with knowing gazes before deciding to journey onwards, clinched it.

Russell T Davies was eager to get the rapport going and instigated it from episode one of Series Two, New Earth. The Cassandra takeover plot strand gave Billie Piper 45-minutes to gallivant around coquettishly and even showed how capable Billie was of playing other ‘parts’. The affinity continued and was really highlighted in stories like Tooth and Claw, The Idiot’s Lantern and The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit. Everything came to a tragic climax in the series finale, Army of Ghosts/Doomsday in which Rose left in such lachrymose fashion after pronouncing her love for the Doctor. The dismal thing I find is that the Doctor never got to reply and that is possibly one of the most melancholic scenes the pair had together.

I thought David and Billie got on tremendously well on and off screen making up the most perfect Doctor-companion duo.

Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Madame de Pompadour

myles-girl-in-the-fireplaceMadame de Pompadour was barely recognised outside the world of Doctor Who until the show brought her in as the identifying titular character of the Series Two episode, The Girl in the Fireplace. Now thousands of youngsters and adults know her as the lost lover of the Doctor and her appearance tugged at the heartstrings of millions.

The Girl in the Fireplace was Steven Moffat’s second televised episode and remains the best in my opinion, with next to no plot holes and ridiculous story arcs (I anticipate numerous commenters venting how the latter statement is inaccurate). The Doctor became quite clearly infatuated by the Mademoiselle and stalked her throughout her life using the Clockwork Robot’s nifty Time Windows. Some feel that Reinette was one of the Doctor’s ultimate love-interests but I protest. The relationship between the French madam and the alien traveller only had forty-five minutes to develop and I personally think that Madame de Pompadour and the Doctor didn’t get a good enough chance to bond.

Astrid Peth

tennant-doctor-kylie-voyageSome may be puzzled by my decision for choosing the rather wooden waitress in this examination. My rationale being that Astrid appeared as the Yuletide love for the Doctor and served the purpose aptly. Kylie Minogue’s casting was a marvellous coup d’état for the show and drawing such a famous face in really set the calibre for future specials (the likes of Michael Gambon, Richard E. Grant and David Morrissey spring to mind). The singer turned actress had frankly little to do and Astrid was merely eye candy for the audiences grazing round the television for Christmas viewing. I enjoyed Voyage of the Damned thoroughly, a rather different opinion from the general hoi polloi and found the razzmatazz fitting for the time slot it received (although the death count was alarmingly high). Astrid’s background was rather basic: young aspiring stewardess that seeks to travel amongst the stars meets the Doctor and her dreams are fulfilled until tragedy separates them. Only one kiss remains between them and it really was the showiest snog Doctor Who has ever produced.

And there you have part one, an article I hope you enjoyed. Please, if you have any constructive criticism don’t hesitate to post in the comments below, and I will see you tomorrow for the concluding chapter of Who’s That Girl: Examining the Doctor’s Lovers.