Editorial 5th Doctor

Published on November 6th, 2013 | by James Lomond

Did Classic Doctor Who Really Need More Sex?

No, Peter. Nice try, but the problem with your era was not the lack of sex. In an interview with the Radio Times fifth Doctor Who star Peter Davison says that the writers in the Classic era,

…never quite mastered the whole companion idea… they were struggling for many years to find a better way of making the companions more rounded characters.

He bemoans the reluctance of the BBC bosses to introduce sexual tension between female companions and the Doctor and suggests it may have made it “easier to write a better [female] character”.

I don’t wish to take Davison’s statements out of context but there are several issues here. My main concern is that he is confusing sex with chemistry and good story-telling. The success of the character of Rose relied heavily on Billie Piper’s excellent portrayal of a believable woman her age. The premise and story arc from RTD was also crucial. Rose wanted to be with the Doctor, she fell in love with him and ultimately couldn’t be with him (until the awkward second trip to Bad Wolf Bay). Donna Noble was also a popular character and if anything tried to discourage any lustful advances from her ‘space man’. The reason Donna worked well was the chemistry between her and the Doctor and, again, her overall story.

Compare this to Davison’s reluctant troupe. Tegan wanted out from the word go. Yes she was strong and opinionated but who wants to watch a character, strong or not, being stuck somewhere they’re perpetually miserable? She could take or leave the Doctor, had no interest in exploring the universe and ultimately left because all she saw was the death and misery. Great. Nyssa was an introverted genius who took everything in her slightly indifferent stride. She joined (like Adric) because she was orphaned and left because she found the ultimate do-good cause and scientific challenge… [yawn] Turlough was similarly difficult to impress and, erm, wanted to kill the Doctor. And Adric. I’ll let you appraise Adric’s character yourselves…

[pullquote]The reason Donna worked well was the chemistry between her and the Doctor and, again, her overall story. Compare this to Davison’s reluctant troupe – Tegan wanted out from the word go![/pullquote]

Now I don’t blame Davison for wishing. He had some lovely ladies on board his snogging booth and, unlike the Doctor, he’s only human. But what I think he’s hit on is that things could have been better if his companions had actually wanted to be in the TARDIS and had a relatable story. And that’s not sex. (Though in fairness having designs on what was under the Doctor’s cricket whites would have been a reason to hang around!)

It’s not that successful characters in Classic or New Who have more sex on the brain nor that they’re more flirtatious – it’s that they’re interesting and relateable. Sarah Jane Smith was easily as engaging and popular a companion as Rose if not more so (who got the spin-off?) But sex wasn’t the key – it was chemistry.

Lastly, it’s 2013. I know he’s referring to television characters from the 1980s and earlier, but there is an uncomfortable asymmetry in suggesting that only the female characters could have been improved by adding a sexual tension with the male lead. Why not Turlough, or Adric?? I’m sure Davison is not suggesting that women in TV need to have the hots for the nearest chap to be ‘rounded characters’ – but he’s not complaining that the male characters should have had a love interest to be well-rounded!

Again what is needed is chemistry (not sex or sexual tension) and a reason to enjoy that character’s story. Jamie and the Second Doctor had incredible chemistry (the McCrimmon/ Troughton period has been described as a ‘three-year buddy movie’) as did Sara-Jane Smith with both the Third and Fourth Doctors. These were far from unsuccessful characters and they’re relationship with the Doctor had nothing to do with sex.

Another side to this is the sexuality of the show’s main character. (Cat released, pigeons in chaos)… Doctor Who has a significant gay following around the world. Many have commented on the comfort Doctor Who can provide younger gay fans in an otherwise at best heterocentric and at worst homophobic television landscape. The Doctor -like Gandalf, Yoda or Aslan- was not overtly sexual in the Classic series. If every other male lead and role model on television is snogging birds between martinis, you can imagine that gay viewers might feel somewhat alienated. Not so with the Doctor who represents compassion, intelligence, courage and adventure without a carnal interest in short skitrs and long legs.

River Song loves the Doctor - but not as much as we do.

I imagine this may seem OTT to many fans, including Moffat who has made his view that the Doctor is explicitly heterosexual pretty clear. The Moff has variably represented the Eleventh Doctor as awkward and avuncular at times but has had some pretty full-on kissing with River Song (his wife) and enjoys the fact that Clara’s skirt is a tad too short. But I actually think it’s important. I’m not saying that the show should exist to accommodate the needs of every minority and of course it will and to some extent should reflect the norms and expectations of the contemporary audience. But it can also challenge those expectations and as the one non-sexual male lead role on TV when I was growing up gay, it was so important to have a role model that you weren’t supposed to identify with because he was physically attracted to women.

And here’s where I open a whole cupboard-full of canned worms. Just as it was important in the 1980s that ethnic minorities were positively represented on television, it is increasingly important in the 2010s that LGBT are positively represented. RTD was accused of having a ‘gay agenda’. I’m certain he did – but no more than people writing good parts for non-white characters in earlier decades demonstrated a ‘racial agenda’. The fact that people even noticed RTD’s inclusion of occasional gay characters shows that there was an equality issue. Gay characters were noticed by the audience as deliberate rather than being incidental. In fact they had to be deliberate because they were underrepresented. The only reason to reference the Doctor’s attraction to Clara is to make the character more relatable to straight men. And now the only leading man that gay fans could watch without feeling cut-off from has disappeared. Though, in a retrospective don’t-have-it-on-screen, at least there’s Dumbledore!

So. In summary – I’m sorry Davison feels his time in the TARDIS could have been steamier. Bad luck. And yes an attraction to the Doctor could be one among many character traits for a companion – male, female, android, gynoid or other. But it’s not a necessary condition for rounded characters. Less sex, more chemistry, please.

But what do you think? Should there be more sex in the TARDIS or should it only be blue on the outside? And should our lonely god, our Space Gandalf be straight, gay, both or mysteriously neither…

email

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


About the Author




47 Responses to Did Classic Doctor Who Really Need More Sex?

  1. Philip Bates says:

    I can see what Davison means – and he probably meant chemistry, but was cornered for the interview and just relived his frustrations that he wasn’t even allowed to put an arm around Nyssa, for example. That was a ridiculous policy.

    I share his annoyance at his companions’ attitudes (apart form the brilliantly-conceived and realised Turlough). While I like all the actors/actresses, Tegan’s “I don’t wanna be here” stance was tiresome and unrealistic (she’s seeing the universe!!); Nyssa’s indifference was a bit odd, considering all she’d been through; and Adric – - !

    But I just logged in to praise you, James. I’m really blown away by this article. Really impressed. An in-depth, considered argument. And with a joke about the TARDIS being blue too! You are good, fella.

    • James Lomond says:

      *blush*

  2. adipoos says:

    Great article – and I totally agree with your comments about 80s Who not needing more sex (despite my personal feelings towards Turlough!). However I think the lack of what we would today see as chemistry is more part of the approach of 80s telly rather than something directly Who-related.

    Where I’m a bit frustrated is with people continually picking on poor Tegan’s desperate desire to get home as an example of what the show didn’t need. The idea that everyone that boarded the TARDIS should find an experience largely composed of danger, death and horror to be totally wonderful is a bit weird.

    Part of the show’s original conceit was that Ian and Barbara – essentially kidnapped by the Doctor – were on a pretty-much continual quest to find their way back to 1963, so Tegan’s response is not only natural but also has precedent companion-wise. Not to mention that having someone with a different point of view on board did make for a far more interesting and diverse crew than if they’d all been excited explorers.

    • James Lomond says:

      Good point about Ian and Barbara – only I feel the way their presence and leaving was handled was SO different to Tegan. They developed a real affection for the Doctor and were hurt when he wouldn’t say goodbye to them. And that was because Doc1 *really* wanted them to stay and was a stubborn king-of-sulk. Plus you got the thanking the Doctor bit afterward. Perhaps they were just more sympathetically written characters. The only thing I’m sure of is flirting would not have solved the Tegan problem ;)

  3. Mon says:

    Sexuality in Doctor Who without even a slight mention of Captain Jack? Come oooon….

    • Natalie says:

      you must have missed it
      “The only reason to reference the Doctor’s attraction to Clara is to make the character more relatable to straight men. And now the only leading man that gay fans could watch without feeling cut-off from has disappeared. Though, in a retrospective don’t-have-it-on-screen, at least there’s Dumbledore!”

      they were talking about jack.


      • I’m pretty sure James was talking about the Doctor here, not Jack.

        “gay fans could watch without feeling cut-off from”

        as opposed to, say

        “gay fans could admire as he stood atop skyscrapers”

        • James Lomond says:

          How did he get up there? WHY did he get up there??!

  4. Patrick Ball says:

    I think the problem was partly that the characters weren’t adequately differentiated. The First Doctor’s original entourage was the same as Davison’s — two women and a man — but there they formed a sort of family group: old man; young girl; mature man and woman. That meant they weren’t interchangeable: if something happened to Barbara there was no way Ian or Susan could have been substituted instead.

    Whereas in Davison’s day they were all so young it was like a school trip through time and space — and if something happened to Tegan it could usually have happened just as easily to Nyssa or Adric. That led to problems with characterisation and plot.

    I’d also say that I think the rot set in with Tom Baker — because, despite his own presence in the role, part of his character involved not relating fully to his companions. Sarah-Jane Smith had a very strong relationship with Jon Pertwee but when TB came along, a lot of their relations consisted of him being eccentric and her rolling her eyes. The result was that after seven years of Tom Baker the art of writing chemistry into the relationships had been forgotten.

    • Natalie says:

      I cant agree with you there. my feeling is that some of the best chemistry ever on the show besides 2nd and Jamie was 4th and Romana and even 4th and Leela. neither relationship had romantic overtones and were well written (with the exception of the few times they kept trying to turn leela into eliza dolittle). Leela is my favorite companion because, like Jamie, her views were so different from the doctors and yet her views were valid ones. she didn’t just blindly follow the doctor and say “yes, doctor” “no, doctor” “you are brilliant, doctor” and “save me, doctor”. Her background allowed her to believably take charge and do her own thing. Romana was a totally different kind of companion than any there has ever been. River couldn’t even measure up. Romana had the book-smarts of a timelord whereas the Doctor had the imagination. They were more of a team than just doctor-companion. the changes did come with the advent of the “school trip” companions as you said. and in the new series, the doctor even has to get parent permission slips! how is that not completely stupid?? he had to get Jackie’s approval for Rose to go, and then he even had to get Rory’s dad’s approval! how is the nuWho not a step down?

      • Cameron says:

        I agree with you on your point about Leela and Romana, but you have the revived series companions completely wrong. He only gets parental permission after the fact, and even then he doesn’t even need it. The few times that the Doctor has requested parental permission (the only two I can recall are the two you have mentioned), it came off as more of a “I’m sorry, I’m taking this person you have an emotional attachment to on a journey from which they may never return, hope you’re okay with that” than actually asking permission. In the two instances you have mentioned, it’s the Doctor having the courtesy to tell his companion’s loved ones where they have disappeared to. How would you like it if one of your loved ones just disappeared without a trace and no explanation?

  5. Ricarda says:

    “And should our lonely god, our Space Gandalf be straight, gay, both or mysteriously neither…”

    I’m pretty sure if we could ask the Doctor himself, he’d blink in confusion, ask us why that would matter and continue running.
    I never thought the Doctor was straight or gay or anything else that pigeon-holes a person that way. He appreciates beauty and attractiveness regardless of sex (or lack thereof), and he just happens to have been married to a few women (I lost count; and keep in mind he married some of them during very bigot times). And as far as we know, his first spouse may very well have regenerated into a male body for fun at some point – after all, other Timelords did.
    Although, to be fair, a scene where 11 comments on Clara’s short skirt, then turns and compliments Captain Jack on his tight pants would have been hilarious^^

  6. vera says:

    I enjoy the episodes without all the romance better than that rose storyline. Chemistry is important. Donna was the best companion. There’s enough sex on tv. Why be bombarded with more of any kind. Give our kids sex free show to enjoy. There really is more to life.

    • John Miller says:

      I agree. All the “Rose loves the Doctor” and “Martha loves the Doctor” stuff could be sick-inducing at times. They even retconned the Classic Series to say that Sarah Jane had fancied the Doctor, and the he was her whole life! Thus, Donna was a breath of fresh air.

      And let’s not forget, the Doctor is a 1200(actually much more)-years old alien from Gallifrey. he is not human. It’s the equivalent of Rose and a baby gibbon. Actually even a wider gap.

  7. Sophia Burgess says:

    Very well put, I agree with this article 100%. I am trying to like the Doctor and Clara, but I must admit, I’m excited for Peter Capaldi to be the doctor partially for this reason; there should be less sexual tension. Because Time Lords can be male and female, be attracted to male and female, and ought not to be in a romantic relationship with any non-Time Lord species anyway (unless they just so happen to have a spare copy of themselves that will age like a human just lying around…again…), I feel like it’s been turning a little too heteronormative as of late. I’m much more interested the Vastra/Jenny/Strax trio than the little Doctor/Clara instant love fest thing. It’s too much “quirky dream girl here to fix her man’s space-woes” and not enough… anything else…

  8. Ranger says:

    Very good article, James and I agree 100%. I also agree with Vera’s comment that it would be nice to go back to having one programme on TV that isn’t constantly carping on about sex


  9. No sex please. We’re the BBC!!!

    Without even referencing Doctor Who, the BBC wasn’t exactly known for producing sexually charged programmes during the 70′s and 80′s. No, for that we had to rely on Channel 4, although I accept that Peter Davison wasn’t bemoaning the lack of sex scenes themselves. There’s no possible way I can imagine a scene where a rampant Doctor has his way with a companion over the console!

    If anything, the BBC had gone to extreme lengths to demonstrate the Doctor was completely uninterested in sex by having Leela parade around in a leather bikini without so much as an appreciative glance by the Timelord. Obviously, this wasn’t the case for the many pubescent teenage boys and their fathers who were watching her each week, The closest we ever got to the concept of Gallifreyans producing offspring was the inclusion of his grand daughter. A daughter would have suggested (in relative terms) a recent sexual encounter, but Susan was suitably removed by a generation from the notion of the Doctor ever having had sex. Even then, the novel (I’m struggling for it’s title) suggested Timelords grew their offspring, and that all that messy sex stuff was long away in their past.

    As for the show, well it was still rumbling on under the auspices of it being a family show, if not downright one for children, so the idea of anything sexual going on in the TARDIS was unthinkable. And I mean to say it would never have crossed the minds of the writers, directors or even the actors themselves. And the BBC was very careful not to break the spell they had spent decades creating. Doctor Who was a time honoured jewel in the crown and was hitting every demographic that mattered to the Beeb – the upper working and middle classes. It was safe, it was gentle and it was very, very British. Almost, colonially British. So, as we all know, it stagnated over the late 80′s before finally, mercifully being put out of its misery.

    Society moved on and left Dr. Who behind. The viewing public got the taste for more spice in their TV shows, much like someone trying a curry for the first time and then never quite liking egg & chips in quite the same way again. The BBC was throwing Bonnie Langford at us ffs!

    So, it is quite unsurprising that there was a complete lack of sexual chemistry between The Doctor and ANY of his companions. Since Tom Baker’s Dr. I couldn’t find any proper relationship between the Dr and any companion. You have highlighted very well the issues Peter Davison had with his motley lot and after him it was into accelerated free fall.

  10. Christine says:

    A highly interesting feature. Thank you James! In fact I was quite surprised by Davison’s remarks. Not those about the characterisation but those about sex. One of the reasons I liked RTD’s period is that he may have introduced sex (well, kissing) but he applied that to all characters, not just straight ones. And although I didn’t really like the love affair between the Doctor and Rose (it felt rather embarassing to me seeing a 900 year old powerful male and a 19 year old inexperienced girl together; swap the 900 for 40 and we have a rather unequal relationship that generally would be frowned upon. On that score River Song is more mature and fits the bill much better), I did like Jack’s omnisexuality. And I also liked the excellent characterisation of the companions, especially Donna. I agree with James that Davison wasn’t very lucky with that, although in my view Turlough was excellent.

    One of the good things of Who (besides of course many others) is that generally the females are not just there to be either a love interest or to have one, but to be somebody with a major role in the stories themselves. For that matter there are some exceptions. Some of the Who in the past shows not only a lack of characterisation or sex, but much worse things like women only being there to scream. Davison is actually quite Lucky in that he didn’t have one of those as a companion during his era! But there were also interesting characters like Liz Shaw, both Romana’s and Barbara. And we all know about Sarah Jane who was a favourite of mine too. But of course Davison didn’t get to meet up with those either.

    Thankfully we can get to know these companions better – including well rounded characterisation. In the audio drama’s Nyssa and Tegan are much improved and I expect this will also be the case with Adric!

  11. Linden says:

    I think the 11th Doctor could actually use a bit less sex in his storylines. His character just doesn’t give off sexual vibes — he’s quirky and childlike in one episode, asking quite seriously why Rory and Amy aren’t happy with bunk beds, then in another episode he’s flapping his arms awkwardly when River Song kisses him (presenting a faintly unwholesome image of an innocent schoolboy being seduced by a naughty schoolteacher), then suddenly he’s supposed to be epically in love with River Song even though their great love develops quite literally off-screen, then he’s noticing the shortness of Clara’s skirts even though he has no personal interest in her (and she’s not really a companion anyway, just a plot device). I’d just as soon they leave romance out of it if they can’t do it justice.

    • Ricarda says:

      “presenting a faintly unwholesome image of an innocent schoolboy being seduced by a naughty schoolteacher”

      Not quite accurate; he’s surprised because of the whole “we meet in the wrong order” thing. Also, he’s old. Like, really old, and mature in certain ways; he remembers everything his former regenerations did, so technically, not a boy, even though he’s boyish bordering on childlike sometimes, I give you that.

    • Philip Bates says:

      You can still be childlike and ‘inexperienced’ (for want of a better word) and be in love.

  12. Al says:

    Reading some of these comments, I think people need to learn what “sex on TV” really is. Go watch an episode of Game of Thrones or Masters of Sex. That’s sex on TV. Name me one single episode of Doctor Who that has shown anyone shagging anybody (Torchwood doesn’t count). I agree, chemistry is important, but the fact is the romance aspect has provided Doctor Who with some of its strongest storytelling over the past 7 years – Girl in the Fireplace being Exhibit A. And strong storytelling trumps all other considerations. Doctor Who isn’t unique in having fans wishing it to be asexual – that seems to be a common failing in sci-fi fandom in general. Star Trek (all permutations), Farscape, Star Wars, Galactica, Stargate, even fantasy shows like Once Upon a Time have fans who can be quite vocal in their upset if any “shipping” occurs because they just want sexually neutral entertainment. Might explain the popularity of the subgenres of anime and manga that just involve giant robots. And the popularity of stories where people are too busy killing each other or being killed to even think about sex and romance.

  13. John Miller says:

    The Doctor was always supposed to be an avuncular or paternal figure to his companions. Nobody would fancy their own father or uncle that way. At least I hope not. Davison was a change because the Doctor was now being played by a young man. Later, it seemed the Doctor was getting younger and younger.

    Really Davison is wrong. Doctor Who survived(and more often than not thrived) for 26 years without “sexual tension”. The best Doctor-companion relationships were friendships(although it was always clear that the Doctor liked women, however due to his age he always went for mature intelligent women, rather than a young bit of tail). Television in the last decade is a totally different medium to television in the 60′s-80′s. In fact, when did somebody FIRST even consider the idea of a Doctor-companion sexual relationship? Probably Four and Romana, but that is something totally different, of course. Sorry Peter, but a Five-Tegan relationship would be equivalent to Five talking about console room “desktops”, it’s a total anachronism, and it jars just hearing it.

  14. joan kelly says:

    Davison played the role as it should be played – with a paternal interest in his companions. We don’t need a “soap opera” Doctor. If sexual tension is what you want, there are plenty of other shows to watch. Let the Doctor be the Doctor.


  15. I agree with this article! Chemistry is more important than romance. The Doctor isn’t limited by human needs, desires or preferences; in his various incarnations, he may be straight, gay, bi, asexual, or something we haven’t thought of yet. He may be a male, a female, or something in between. I think the heavy concentration on sex and romance in the new series is getting to be too much; people are starting to expect it from the character, when really the character should be much more than that.
    I have some hope for the next incarnation, but when the showrunner is a man who believes that girls only watch for kissing and boys only watch for short skirts, I have to keep my expectations low.

  16. Hyncharas says:

    Though this article was tough to read, I agree mostly with what was said. The Doctor is a character that has been established over many years, and I think there is only so much an actor should be allowed to do with it; assuming the role doesn’t necessarily mean you have free reign to do whatever you please, in contradiction with the show’s mandate.

    However, excluding The Master – one reminder of his sociopathic attitude towards women was enough – this is not to say that other Time Lords in the fiction haven’t had an intimate component in their character.

    The Doctor, for the most part, just isn’t that kind of man… he’s more in love with poking his nose where it doesn’t belong.

  17. Linden says:

    I don’t think it’s even so much that the character should be “more” than just about sexual tension, but that sexual tension between the Doctor and his companions doesn’t even really make sense, if you think about it. He’s an alien from a race that canonically has reproduced asexually for millenia – how interested in the human act of reproduction would he really be? Does he even have the appropriate equipment and does it work the same way? I guess so, because of references made in some episodes, but there’s no real reason that has to be true.

    Love and chemistry do make sense, however. From what we’ve seen, Timelords are enough like humans to have the same kinds of emotions and attachment needs that humans do. But even there, the Doctor’s basic alien nature gets in the way of complete connection. 10 couldn’t tell Rose that he loved her even when he had the chance, but Metacrisis 10 could, presumably because he was more human.

  18. TimeChaser says:

    I think we can blame Paul McGann and ‘that kiss’ for bringing us to the point that we’re having this discussion about sexual attraction in Doctor Who. ;)

    But really, chemistry does not have to be sexual. The Fourth Doctor and Sarah had wonderful chemistry, as did Seven and Ace. And Ace is really when writers of the classic series began to get serious about fully developing a companion’s character and back story. And they didn’t have to do it by making her all ga-ga over the Doctor. It was a mentor-student relationship, like Four and Leela but more rounded and with hidden depths.

    While the odd romantic relationship for the Doctor isn’t entirely out of the question, I’ve always preferred the Doctor and River to anything else, because of their complicated timeline. That sort of thing allows the character to have some romance but still keep it true to the essence of the series.

    • James Lomond says:

      Thanks for mentioning Ace and the 7thDoc, TimeChaser – totally agree. They were my Doctor/companion combo and I think I became a fan largely because of the brilliant chemistry between Sylv and Sophie on-screen. The Jazz-blocking-Cyber-transmissions scenes on the hillside in Silver Nemesis were perfect. And as you say it was non-sexual. Of course that didn’t stop Ace expressing her sexuality in Curse of Fenric in distracting a guard, but the Dr-Companion relationship was about something more important than lust!

  19. DonnaM says:

    It’s not sexual chemistry that makes a female character “better rounded” it’s good writing and acting. Few companions before RTD took charge of creating them actually had the first part to fall back on! I may have picked the odd hole in his plots but Russell writes humanity really, really well. If he’d just cut out the “Rose and the Doctor are in luurve” and “Martha fancies the pants off him but he’s pining for his One and Only” nonsense, he’d have nailed it perfectly for me.

    It’s not just her excellent name that makes Donna my favourite of the new series companions! Tennant and Tate had a fantastic rapport, the characters were believably best mates travelling together because they both loved it, and that, for me, is how it should be.

    I’m not anti-romance in Doctor Who: I’m simply anti Doctor/Companion romance, because it becomes sickly, cloying and detracts from the rest of the show. The Doctor can flirt with anyone and anything he chooses – female, male, human or alien, I won’t turn a hair. However, the show isn’t about love or sex; it never has been, and it never should be. There’s more than enough of that rubbish on the telly already!

  20. Ian says:

    I think Davison has become a total sell-out to New Who’s embarrassing deconstruction of a once great, unique character into just another horny twit. And all to appeal to a certain demographic.

    Moffat’s take on the character has always been utterly warped too and given how chummy they are I’m unsurprised (if disappointed) that Davo has started spouting this drivel too.

    • joan kelly says:

      I agree with you Ian.

  21. authorman94 says:

    While I do respect Davison quite a bit, I do disagree with him on this. I’ve always the companions in the Classic show were fleshed out at times, and more than just damsels who needed rescuing. Even Victoria, the closest the show’s gotten to a damsel in distress, often helped out in aiding the Doctor. Of course, for more overt examples, there’s Barbara, Leela, Zoe, Nyssa, and my favourite companion personally Ace. I also felt their personalities could be explored on the show, like Ace’s was from “Ghost-Light” to “Survival”, Nyssa in “Logopolis” (especially when she sees her planet destroyed, great acting from Sutton on that), Peri in “Mindwarp”, but this is just me, no offence to anyone who disagrees.

    As much as I like Who, I’ve thought the romance in the new series just hasn’t worked for whatever reason. I get why it’s there and don’t dislike it, but personally, I’d go back to two best mates travelling around the universe together rather than two people with unresolved sexual tension. The only time I personally think it’s worked was with Paul McGann and Daphne Ashbrook in the TV film because those two felt like they had chemistry, although is mainly mitigated by a plot that gives the romance no time to develop. But this is just me, I’d just prefer a return to the two friends in a blue box approach than the whole romance thing.


  22. More sex, bit every kind of sex…

    I loved the capital Jack character and the way he was fliterous with the doctor, the way the doctor took that naturally… Would love to see the same kind of chemistry he had with his female companions towards some male character too. Making the doctor totally straight seams a set back for me

  23. Bradondo says:

    Although you start by saying you don’t intend to take PD’s comments out of context I really feel that you do. He’s not saying there should be overt flirting or sex appeal, but that human beings are sexual creatures and if a character is to feel full and well rounded that part of our nature should be addressed. I also don’t feel he was saying this was only applicable to female companions as you assume. In some of the examples you use to bolster your argument I think you missed the boat as well–Donna was explicitly not interested in 10, but her feelings were addressed in no uncertain terms–the idea of her sexuality was explored, whereas in the 80′s JNT era the companions were presented as though all of them were asexual. Wouldn’t it have been somewhat natural for Adric to have some unrequited feelings for Nyssa? Perhaps Nyssa could have had a subtle student/teacher crush on the Doctor? These ideas, met with the most subtle treatment could have given some much-needed shading to those characters. You also use Jamie as an example, but he was perhaps the flirtiest of all classic series characters–we knew he had a sexual identity and it helped to make him more believable. Sarah Jane was a character who sublimated her sexuality to some extent in order to stress her strength in the male dominated 1970s society from which she came, which demonstrated that she and the writers were aware of her sex appeal but chose to underplay it to reveal that side of her character. I agree that the RTD era did a great job of being inclusive of different sexual prefence identities and would like to see a bit more of that in the current show, but I think the bulk of your argument comes from a mis-reading of PD’s statements. The problem he refers to really started and ended with John Nathan Turner, who tried to sanitize the programme to appease the critics and ended up draining away much of its nuance.

    • James Lomond says:

      Hey Bradondo, thanks for the comment. Dammit, I knew someone would pick up on that! First off- yes, I believe PD’s comments were fairly light-hearted and are a jumping-off point for an interesting discussion more than I believe him to be a deplorable misogynist monster. ;) That said- I don’t think I really do take them wildly out context. He is explicitly talking about both expression of (mild) sexual interest from the Doctor toward the companion and explicitly about that being reciprocated by female companions. I’m not (I hope) saying that companions should have no libido in their id…

      As far as I can see there are several underlying questions- 1) whether and in what way the Doctor’s sexuality should exist/ be demonstrated, 2) whether the Doctor should have a sexual *anything* between him and his companions (i.e. those who are essentially in his care/ are largely dependent on him) and 3) whether there is an unwarranted focus on straight female sexuality.

      While I think PD’s comments are light-hearted and in themselves fairly innocuous I think they do point to a broader set of issues that are important. I agree Jamie was very flirty (as well as [ahem] dead sexy) and that contributed to a fuller character. Same for Donna’s flirtiness/ oggling. My point was that the sexuality was not active between Jamie and the Doctor and the character was no worse for that. What I was trying to say -and perhaps not managing- is that while a companion’s sexuality can be an important (though not essential) part of their on-screen character, it isn’t necessary for there to be a reciprocal ‘tension’ or anything between them and the Doctor. Particularly as that would render the character of the Doctor basically just another human (and yet another heteronormative cultural vehicle- but it was the 80s and I won’t harp on about it). I prefer Space-Gandalf to human at the heart of my Who.

      PD’s saying -jokingly- it’d have been fun to snog the ladies (down boy- not on DW), and at the same time making the valid point that there was a lack of depth/ something to the characters. He then perhaps questionably suggests sexuality was missing and then unfortunately links the two and essentially implies that something sexual and heterosexual between the male lead and the female supporting characters would have improved the supporting characters. That’s the particular part that I think should be debunked or at least discussed.

      • Natalie says:

        you are my hero. you have been able to convey so wonderfully what i have been struggling to find words to explain to my nuWho friends who complain about about the companion relationships from classicWho. I stutter and fumble thru my opinions but have never been able to clearly convey the brilliance of the writing that didn’t depend so heavily upon teenage angst. they just call me an elitist (which i think is unfair) and refuse to watch classicWho (which i think is worse elitism). I shall now point this whole article and discussion to them and i hope it will help broaden their minds a bit ^_^ thank you!

        • Bradondo says:

          Obviously with so many companions to choose from you could find examples that both strengthen and weaken your argument, but the best companions were fully realized people, up to and including their romantic and sexual desires. It certainly wasn’t as front and center in the programme’s mix as it is today but when a companion worked well in the old series it isn’t hard to find that element in their character. I’ve been watching all of classic who in order and it was there from the start. Ian and Barbara had a simmering romance off-camera, I am convinced. It’s never explicitly stated stated but the excellent writing and performances make it clear without making it a focal issue. How about Jo Grant? No one can convince me she wasn’t in love with the Doctor. She eventually married someone whom she called a younger version of him, and the Doctor’s covert exit and sad, lonely drive from her engagement party suggests that he may have harbored more than fatherly feelings for her. These are the kind of emotional complexities we did not get for at least the first few seasons of the JNT era and that’s why PD’s companions seem so one dimensional. I agree with several readers above that Ace represented one of the richest and most satisfying arcs of the classic era, but unfortunately the BBC had pretty much deserted the show by then. :( I’d like to see the current show dial back on the snog-talk and give us more subtle cues, but I don’t find that the focus on romantic relationships really hurts the show or the character. The Doctor was already a grandfather when we met him, so he’s not some asexual cipher. I feel t’s well within character for him to get a little randy every now and again!

          • Natalie says:

            you’ve made my point. that was the brilliance of the writing of classicWho. Your opinion was that romances were going on all over the place but pretty much all of it was offcamera and not explicitly referenced within the show. My opinion is that its there if you want it to be there and its there if you don’t. It allowed something to be held within the mind of the audience. nuWho leaves nothing to the imagination. it hefts it in your face and obscures everything else sometimes. as for susan and the doctor. just having a grandfather does not make me think of the doctor getting randy. thank god. when i see the doctor kiss rose or whoever, all i see is them kissing Hartnell and it just makes me wince.

        • Bradondo says:

          My comment about the Doctor getting “randy” may have been a bit facetious…. ;) Still, each incarnation has brought different aspects of the Doctor’s overall personality to the fore, so why wouldn’t an ostensibly younger, more energetic version come equipped with a bit more libido? I also feel that his longing for companionship in a romantic way is in large part a reaction to the horrific losses he’s suffered over the course of his past few regenerations. As I said before I’d like to see the hanky-panky dialed back a bit (which I believe will happen now they’ve more or less wrapped up River Song’s arc), but I suppose my point is that I appreciate the understated approach of the old series yet can also appreciate what they’re doing with it now. Is one better than the other? I can’t say for certain. I do think the current trend suits MS’s more impulsive take on the character, but I suspect Peter Capaldi will bring somewhat of a return to the more fatherly, protective Doctor-companion dynamic. Cheers and thanks for your comments! :)

      • Bradondo says:

        It certainly does deserve discussion and I’m glad we’re doing it. :) Part of what makes Who fans special is that we can have these friendly debates (and I’m always up for a friendly debate!) yet still respect each other’s point of view. It’s also a testament to just how well made our favorite programme is that we can find so much in it to debate about! After reading your “rebuttal” I think we’re pretty much on the same page here anyway. Cheers!

        • James Lomond says:

          Totes. We are the best sicfi fans. Eva. ;) And Ian/ Barbara? Sexual tension?? MASSIVELY. They had a whole Mulder/Scully will-they-won’t-they thing going on. The only point where we diverge Bradondo is the randiness in the Doctor. But then I think there’s maybe a distinction to be made between romance/ companionship and sex/ libido. Whereas the 1st Doctor and Cameca in the Aztecs had something lovely and personality/ chemistry based, the comment from the 11th that Clara’s skirt is ‘just a little bit too short’ I can’t help but find creepy. And it’s particularly that kind of lusty/ physically desirous mindset that I think should be avoided in the Doctor’s character. If you asked me why I’d struggle. It might be that it’s a family show or it might even be that it was important to me that the Doctor wasn’t just another macho hero and that (for me, anyway) macho and heterosexuality were rightly or wrongly linked. Anyways. Much as I enjoy Alex Kingston’s performance and the character of River Song, I’ll be glad when all the Doctor-snogging is over!

          Natalie, thanks, that’s very kind. Problem with Classic Who is, compared to NuWho, it’s a bit slow-moving. And that’s such a shame as Jamie/2nd or Ace/7th are such wonderful on-screen relationships. Even Hartnell’s goodbye to Susan (if you can get past the 60s portrayal of timelady loved-up angst) is an incredible piece of television and acting. And it’s so shocking – Jackie smacking the 9th in the face when he effectively abducts Rose for a year is nothing compared to the 1st locking his Grandaughter out of her home and abandoning her (!!!)

          A lot of people think City of Death is a good introduction to Classic Who for the doubtful- and you could point out to your friends that Tom Baker and Lalla Ward (Romana II actress) did get married shortly afterward if that helps ;)

  24. Drew Boynton says:

    Peter was just angry that the Fifth Doctor didn’t get to spend more (ahem ahem) time with Peri. ;)

    • James Lomond says:

      Bingo. ;)

  25. Howard Railton says:

    There’s too much sexualisation going on in the modern show. With so little time to tell a story they spend a lot of what little time they have on a load of salacious innuendo and snogging for no good reason.

  26. Carla Luz says:

    Oh, please. The Fifth Doctor had a perfect chemistry with The Master, tho.

    • Bradondo says:

      I loved the interplay between Ainley and Davison, especially early in Davison’s tenure. As they used him more and more, though the character of the Master started to lose some of his menace and become a more stereotypical hand-wringing, moustache-twirling sort of villain. Ainley always kept him interesting, but I think the writers were letting him down as they started to take the character more or less for granted. By the way–if you read Peter Davison’s full comments in context he’s not really saying he wanted more sex: he was making a point about the producers’ ban on showing ANY kind of affection between the Doctor and his companions and how this made it harder for the writers to create believable characters.

Please be aware that all comments are subject to adherence to our comments policy.
Back to Top ↑