Doctor Who & The Companions: It Was Always a Love Story
The Doctor needed a companion because the heart of Doctor Who is about the romance between them, which became more overt in the new show.
The latest Doctor Who compilation video on the BBC's official YouTube channel is a 51-minute selection of clips with companions picked by fans. They feature some of the most emotional recent moments as well as a few classic moments from the old show. There's the Second Doctor's (Patrick Troughton) fatherly talk with Victoria (Deborah Watling) as she mourns her father, who was killed by Daleks. There's the moment at the end of "The Hand of Fear" where Sarah Jane Smith (Elizabeth Sladen) left the show, then her return to the new show where she met the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose (Billie Piper). There's the Tenth Doctor's pained relationship with Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman), and so on. You could do worse than spend nearly an hour watching the video to relive those moments.
What the video makes explicit is that the Doctor's relationship with their companions has always been a romance. Sometimes it was a surrogate father-daughter love story like with the Second Doctor and Victoria and the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie). That central relationship was what got audiences emotionally invested in the show for sixty years. The old show held that at arms' length because, in the old days, directly dealing with emotions was something the British avoided. It just wasn't the done thing. Thus the romance was always subtext, except for the times when they leaked out because of how the actors played it. it was Russell T. Davies' revival of the show in 2005 that made the romance explicit. The romance was never sexual, of course, since Doctor Who is a family show aimed first at kids. Rose finally admitted she loved the Doctor when they were separated forever. Steven Moffat introduced River Song (Alex Kingston) to make the Doctor an overtly romantic figure at last.
It was really Chris Chibnall who pushed the Doctor's romance with a companion in a surprising and groundbreaking way – the first LGBTQ romance the Doctor had with her companion. Jodie Whittaker pushed for "Thasmin" when she saw what fans were 'shipping on social media, and while some fans were disappointed that the Thirteenth Doctor never kissed Yaz (Mandip Gil), their romance was possibly the first asexual romance depicted on television. Whittaker was playing a nonbinary, asexual character who loved a woman as the lead in a Science Fiction series, which is a breakthrough in representation. It makes all the flaws of Chibnall's run go away because fans are left with that relationship.
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