Author’s Note: This one’s for the Whovians.
Arthur’s Note: To any teechurs who have Arthur in there class today, Arthur has an upset stumack and is to not do any homewerk for about a week becuz of his upset stumack. Thank you, Arthur’s mum
Never ask me to list the modern Doctor Who companions in a “favorite-to-least-favorite” ranking. I only say this because when I put Martha Jones in that last slot, it’s automatically assumed that I hate her, I’m a racist, and I think she should be thrown into the Medusa Cascade after having sat through a ten-and-a-half-hour Judoon poetry session.
None of this is true, of course, as despite where I would rank Martha, I honestly feel that she was a brilliant companion and got shit done. However, when up against the others – Rose, Donna, Amy, Rory, and Clara – Martha is left having drawn the shortest of straws; with a three-way tie for first between Rose, Amy, and Clara. (Hm… should’ve chose my wording better… I’m gonna need a minute…)
But why am I talking companions? Well, being a Whovian – as I very specifically stated this specific table-flip was directed toward – you would already know that this past Saturday [23 April 2016, for you archaeologists reading this from the future] was a landmark in the Whoniverse, as the newest companion was announced.
In a special two-minute clip, we see the Twelfth Doctor (played by the fantastic Peter Capaldi) running through corridors to evade a horde of Daleks, accompanied by a young woman with a shock of black hair, bright eyes, a Prince T-shirt, and mint trainers. They turn a corner and hide so that the Doctor can assess the situation; in the meantime, this newcomer to the Whoniverse is making assessments of her own: “They’re fat, they can’t get through the door.” She proceeds to perform a version of verbal ping-pong with the Doctor, in a fashion we’ve not witnessed since… well, we’ll get to that, shortly.
The clip ends with the two further evading the Daleks, but ultimately finding themselves trapped and surrounded by Daleks (oh!, but not before a classic “We have to get… back to the future!” delivery). As the video slows down, our two heroes turn to face the camera, and text on the screen excitedly proclaims: Introducing Pearl Mackie… as Bill!
I am constantly finding myself both grateful and excited to be a part of this fandom, if I’m being honest. I mean, here is a show that has gathered such a following over its fifty-plus years that when announcing a single new character to its roster, has fans sitting, with ferocious dedication, through a professional sports match simply to see the highly-anticipated, two-minute-long clip making said announcement. Now me, I didn’t sit through a sports match, but I did spent thirty minutes on Twitter, refreshing the page every thirty seconds in hopes one of the several nerd accounts I follow would post a link to the video and I would soon be in the know.
It brings to mind a similar situation, back when they officially announced that Peter Capaldi was going to be taking over the coveted and sacred role as the Doctor. I had to work, the day of the announcement, and I had taken pains to contact friends who were just as excited as I was about it, persuading them to text me the moment the announcement was made. To their credit, they followed through and almost at the same time, my phone blew up with messages from my Whovian friends, as ecstatic as I was that Capaldi was going to be the rebellious Gallifreyan.
That same excitement was with me as I watched the announcement clip three times in a row. I could see why Mackie was chosen, based on the dialogue she had against Capaldi’s Doctor, and I’m thoroughly intrigued as to how her character fits in with the rest of the Doctor Who canon.
Now, to the Whovian fandom’s credit, a majority of comments I’ve seen regarding Mackie’s casting and the little bit of her character we saw in the clip have been positive and welcoming of the new companion. However, there are those particular comments, here and there, which reek of “Troll! In the dungeon!” and make every attempt to poo-poo on the excitement of this casting call and the direction in which it looks they are taking the character. Most of the comments I’ve seen have accused the characterization to be ripped from the pages of the “Donna Noble era”; an era in which it seems a solid line is drawn within the Whovian fanbase.
In the almost-decade of which I’ve been a Whovian, I find myself no longer surprised when people tell me, sparing no part of their vernacular to cause, how much they absolutely abhor the character of Donna Noble. That being said, I also no longer find myself surprised when said people are no longer on my friends list and [original text removed to protect the innocence of the author – honest, we don’t know where those new speed bumps came from or how they got there so fast or why they make a sound like muffled screaming when driven over; we blame the government with tax-related excuses and budgetary blah-dee-bloop].
To be fair, I can almost understand why Donna Noble doesn’t strike a particularly positive chord with a section of the Whovian fanbase: she doesn’t immediately get suckered into joining the Doctor on rollicking adventures in the TARDIS after first meeting him, she doesn’t particularly ask his permission to come with him when she does decide she wants to see the rest of the universe, and she doesn’t take any of that old-fashioned guff from him. Ultimately, Donna Noble doesn’t cast any kind of romantic expectations on the Doctor – to the point where, ironically enough, the two are assumed to be an old married couple. (Not for nothing, but if you ever want to hear a fun fan-theory I have as to why they’re assumed as “related”, hit me up on Twitter [@m3jcnv] or on the Gmail [email@example.com].)
Oh, and in case it didn’t translate through the text, the beginning of that previous paragraph was meant to be just oozing in sarcasm. Why? Because, to be absolutely fair, I expect Donna Noble to be such an unloved companion by some, due to the fact that at its very core: she doesn’t need the Doctor. From a fan point of view, the role of the companion is to be that gateway character, the one with which the audience can immediately identify – why d’you think they’ve pretty much all been human since the 2005 resurgence? It’s fun, as a fan, to put yourself in the metaphorical shoes of the time-traveling alien’s traveling companion; sure, you can try to put yourself in the trainers of said time-traveling alien, but even with the changing face, there’s still a kind of finite set of parameters into which you can fit the role. With the idea of being a companion, the fan can see themselves as how they are in reality, or better yet: how they wished they would be in this world of fantasy. They could be a version of Rose Tyler, working in a shop until one day a man from the stars tells them to “Run!” shortly before said shop gets destroyed in an explosion; or they could be a version of Amelia Pond, whose imaginary friend from childhood comes back when they’re older and takes them on adventures talked about all those years prior. There’s a kind of romantic need for adventure, to allow a stranger the opportunity to whisk you away and take you places you could never imagine.
Truth be told, while it does sound romantic, it also sounds incredibly lazy. But Donna Noble… well, she was completely content with the way her life was going when the TARDIS accidentally latched onto the Huon particles in her system, transported her onto the TARDIS, and as such crash-landed her into the Doctor’s world. Instead of the starry eyes of a Rose Tyler or Martha Jones, Donna’s eyes seethed with contempt and inconvenience. It was her wedding day, and she didn’t have time for any other adventures, thankyouverylittle. Even when it was revealed that the whole “wedding” thing was just an elaborate plan for world domination from a great, big, bug-looking creature called a Raknoss, she wasn’t swayed from her content life on Earth to travel with the Doctor.
It may be simplistic, it may be generalizing on some kind of obtuse scale; but when a big reason why people don’t like Donna Noble is because “she’s not as pretty as the others”, that’s when it translates to, in my head, as “she’s fine not traveling with the Doctor, while I would travel with him in a heartbeat… because he’s so hot!” Again: generalizing. But, as I say, it’s that level of relatability that the companion role holds; Donna Noble sets a new standard for that role, but ironically enough, for a show like Doctor Who, whose core message is that of accepting change, there’s a level of its fanbase that fails to get that message and fits against it at every turn.
Look, people: the fact of the matter is that Doctor Who, with its time having been on television screens, as well as in audio and book form, is an insanely easy program to enjoy. If you don’t like one aspect of the show, but liked another aspect better – watch the better of the two! Why put yourself, and eventually others with your commentary, through a negative experience from which you’ll gain nothing but [again, this section has been redacted – why does that speed bump look like it’s wearing trousers? government spending, amiright?]?
I personally love the fact that it looks like we have yet another companion who will question the Doctor, but purely on the basis of “Are you sure this is right? ‘Cause I don’t think it’s right… Are you really sure?” instead of trying to one-up him in superiority. It will be a nice change from the Clara Oswald dynamic (which I also enjoyed, especially with how they wrapped it up in Series 9) and as we don’t know really anything about “Bill”, I expect we’ll see the dynamic build between the Doctor and Bill as our knowledge of the character will build in parallel.
And, on a final note: we’ve only seen two minutes of this new companion, folks. I know the Internet these days is content with forming a complete opinion of a thing based on its two-minute-or-less representation through teaser trailer, but can we. Just. Not? If we see a teaser trailer thing, and the thing doesn’t interest us, how about we move on to something that does? If we see a character that seems like she’ll fit the mold of another character type, one we didn’t necessarily enjoy when that character type was around, how about we just skip that character’s run? If we read a well-written essay-type thing calling us out in our bull-headedness, how about we just admit our failings and not [christ on a cracker, Andrew!, how many of these are we going to have to remove from this?!]?
I know there are those who are looking forward to this final Moffat-run series; personally, I don’t feel he’s steered us wrong with what he’s had in front of him, and his involvement in casting these past several years has been spot-on. In Moffat I trust, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how Pearl Mackie’s Bill will hold up in the ranks of the companion echelon. Who knows, she just might end up in that three-way with Rose, Amy, and Clara.
With that, I leave you with the wise words of one Jayne Cobb: I’ll be in my bunk.