Published on July 30th, 2014 | by James Lomond
Are You Happy That The Doctor Will No Longer Be Flirting?
Sex, dear reader. With a new Doctor’s debut episode hurtling towards us from the near future, the age-old questions about what kind of character the Doctor should be are rising from the murky depths of fandom. And front of the queue is sex…
Not sex sex, of course but implied sexual attraction – flirting. Since Russell T Davies’ triumphant re-imagining of the series in 2005, the Doctor has not only flirted with a number of women (and a tree and Captain Jack), he has outright snogged them and stated his appreciation of his most recent companion’s short skirt.
If you said this to a fan from 1989 just after the show was taken off the air, lower lip trembling and tears dripping from their chin, they wouldn’t have believed you. A majority would, I think, have told you “then that’s not the Doctor.” But we’ve seen it. It’s happened and the buffy-inspired New Who has gained a whole new international fan base and in particular, lots of previously rare female fans. And it most definitely is Doctor Who…
Capaldi might just bring us some fire, some ice and some rage… and if that means he’s not going to flirt and comment on short skirts, I’m all for it!
However Peter Capaldi recently said in an interview for the Sunday Times Magazine,
“There’ll be no flirting, that’s for sure. It’s not what this Doctor’s concerned with…”
Hang on a minute – the 2005 season finale involved a universe-saving cosmic snog. The second involved trans-dimensional heartbreak and an un-uttered, “I love you” and the sixth series finale involved a universe-saving marriage-snog montage… I’d say it’s very much what the Doctor has been concerned with!
Capaldi, like Davies and Moffat, is a fan from the Classic era. And while some have argued that the Doctor has always had sex as a part of his life (he had a granddaughter and got engaged to an elderly Aztec lady etc.) I don’t really believe that. He was sexist, yes – especially in the 60s and 70s – but he was never sexual. Not until Paul McGann’s kiss in 1996 though even that erred on the side of joyous celebration rather than carnal desire. And I’ve argued before that there are reasons to keep sexuality away from the central character in the series.
What’s for definite is that Capaldi’s Doctor won’t be paying close attention to Clara’s hem-line,
“It’s quite a fun relationship [between the Doctor and Clara] but, no, I did call and say ‘I want no Papa-Nicole moments.’ I think there was a bit of tension with that at first but I was adamant.”
For those Kasterborites too young to recall the brilliant Papa-Nicole advertising campaign by Renault, it involved a wealthy father and daughter in the South of France who were politely oblivious of the love affairs each knew the other was having (and which relied on the speedy yet discrete Renault Clio). While it wasn’t about a potential couple flirting there was something subtly flirtatious about the relationship. At the very least each acknowledged the fact that the other had a sex life in their one-line exchanges. Take a look:
And just because I can’t resist, here’s Reeves and Mortimer’s take on Nicole’s eventual wedding:
Back to business. An article in the Radio Times has indicated from a mysterious ‘inside source’ that there was never any disagreement and Moffat was all for a change of direction. The Radio Times were told,
“There was never any intention for a Doctor and Clara romance. It was a shared intention of Steven and Peter not to have a romance.”
So there’s a question-mark over where the new direction has come from. Perhaps there was always agreement that it would be different but the Beeb were not keen for an absolute veto. Who knows. It does beg the question of how much the new slant is because of the very visual Papa-Nicole age gap between Capaldi and Jenna Coleman compared with Smith’s Doctor, and how much is for the sake of a fresh start.
But MORE importantly – what do we think about this? There are those who see the Doctor as a romantic figure. As Moffat has put it: the perfect boyfriend. Some have foretold a mass exodus of younger fans who will miss the simmering flirtation and heart-wrenching love stories. Others are confident that the companions and other characters can carry that side of things (the Ponds, for example) without the Doctor being a sexual character per se. In fact there are those – Capaldi included, it seems – who think the character shouldn’t be concerned with sex at all.
Tennant was a brilliant Doctor and built on the huge success of the first series, he wasn’t really “fire and ice and rage”.
A lot of this falls down to what we think flirting means and what kind of character we want the Doctor to be. Personally my view of the Doctor is of a more avuncular, Merlin-like character. The wise-old-man archetype. I’m all for a return to the good old days of adventures between best mates, one of whom happens to be an ancient alien madman. Flirting – while essentially harmless – does imply a sexual attraction or desire. When I think about the character of the Doctor and what he thinks when he looks at his companion, I want him to be thinking about how much they have to learn, how brave they are, how amazing they’ll find the universe, their hopes and fears and everything – except for how sexy they look in their mini-skirt. I have no objection to flirting on telly and characters having a real sexuality, but the Doctor feels like a special case…
Recall how the semi-psychic school boy from series 3’s Family of Blood described the Doctor,
“He’s like fire and ice and rage. He’s like the night, and the storm in the heart of the sun. He’s ancient and forever… He burns at the centre of time and he can see the turn of the universe… And… he’s wonderful.”
Now, forgive me, but while Tennant was a brilliant Doctor and built on the huge success of the first series, he wasn’t really “fire and ice and rage”. He was more a clever, cheerful wise-cracking snog-puppy with cool hair. And that might even do as a description of Smith’s (also brilliant) Doctor. He was occasionally a bit cross but he certainly wasn’t “the storm in the heart of the sun”. Now – when Capaldi donned the Doctor’s costume for the Sunday Times photo-shoot, the interviewer noted,
“His eyes are firing lasers around the studio and, well, he’s no longer the very relaxed, very happy Glaswegian will-o-the-wisp. He’s a full-on Gallifreyan nutjob. But in a good way.”
While it’s too early to comment on Doctor number 12, I think (I hope!) Capaldi might just bring us some fire, some ice and some rage… and if that means he’s not going to flirt and comment on short skirts, I’m all for it. Flirting can be delegated!
One way of seeing things is that we’ve had a love-and-kissing Buffy phase which has brought a new fan-base to the show. And now the world is ready to be re-introduced to the Doctor as he used to and arguably should be. Another way of seeing it is that a tried, tested and loved formula is being thrown out with unknowable consequences. We shall soon find out!