The Doctor’s Newest Companion: Mary Sue

The Doctor’s Newest Companion: Mary Sue

By: Brit McGinnis

CAUTION: Contains major spoilers, including those from past episodes.

 River Song Spoilers

Like many Doctor Who fans, I was extremely impressed by “The Name of the Doctor.” It wrapped up the Impossible Girl plot very neatly, and had plenty of action and new monsters to delight. The return of the Great Intelligence was a brilliant move, as well as resolving the loose ends of River Song. Brilliant stuff!

Most of all, though, “The Name of the Doctor” is my favorite episode so far of Clara’s run as the Doctor’s companion. We’ve spent so much time discussing and wondering how she’s the bloody Impossible Girl, she hasn’t had enough time to be a real companion. We can move past the fact that she’s oh-so-special and start having adventures of some weight with her and the Doctor.

Though of course, that’s being optimistic. Goodness know that Clara will probably still end up being special in the end. She is a companion, after all.

Clara, Doctor Who's latest companion

Clara, Doctor Who’s latest companion

I’m sorry, but I’m sick and tired of every companion being Shiny People Destined for Epic Greatness. Ever since Rose became a companion in 2005, the show has indulged in deifying the Doctor’s companions, and it’s become a joke. Some were more poorly played out than others, like Rose becoming Bad Wolf through pure deus ex machina. Or Donna, brilliant, strong, middle-class Donna, having half a Time Lord brain shoved onto her at the very end of her run.

More than an odd plot device, it’s insulting to only feature companions with superpowers. It means that, unlike the old-school incarnations, the writers of modern Doctors don’t want their hero to get too close to normal humans. In order to truly travel along with him and be initiated as “real” companions, apparently they must become Shiny at some moment. Even Rory, spouse to The Girl Who Waited, became the Centurion through the power of love. Why? He was entertaining on his own, and was the perfect counterpoint to Shiny Amy.

Rory Doctor Who

Though personally, I found him a bit of a drip.

But making Shiny Companions is more than just a device that legitimizes the Doctor traveling along with humans. It’s a marketing tool. What group of people inspired the newfound success of Doctor Who? College-aged women. To appeal to this crowds, the writers create characters that are extremely relatable to who is most likely to be a new viewer. Then by giving them super powers (or rather, access to bloody Cracks in Time), you manage to bond the character to the target audience permanently. They want to see what happens to this character on whom they’ve projected their hopes and desires. It’s a brilliant marketing move, but it’s led to occasionally ridiculous plot-lines.

I know what’s coming next: “But what about River Song? She’s special too!” Well, yeah. She’s the Doctor’s love interest; she had to be special in some respect because, as we’ve said before, it’s impossible for the Doctor to fall in love with a normal person. Rose had to become Bad Wolf before any part of him acted interested in her, and the highly devoted Martha never once obtained. And as far as I’m concerned, River Song isn’t the character designed for the audience to relate to. She constantly changes, is intentionally aloof, and is cryptic by very definition. She isn’t as touchy as the other ladies in the Doctor’s life, so she can be Shiny and get away with it.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m totally in favor of new fans coming to Doctor Who. The fact that my local bookstore now sells Sonic Screwdriver pens is a bloody miracle. The Doctor Who recaps by Lindalee Rose are inspiring to anyone who knows anything about the show.

I died watching my first Lindalee recap. Her Screwdriver revived me.

I died watching my first Lindalee recap. Her Screwdriver revived me.

What I don’t appreciate is the simplification and pure dumbing down of this beautiful, culturally epic show for the sake of attracting new audiences. I don’t need the Doctor to have a Shiny Special Companion that I can relate to and feel like equally badass by proxy. I don’t need a Giant New Monster every week. And for the love of Daleks, I don’t need overly saturated cinematography every week that resembles my Instagram feed more than Season Two episodes I’ve saved on Netflix. And I fear that by resorting to Mary Sue companions, the show will start down a path of popular appeasement that will eventually lead to a sacrifice of the show’s character. I hope that even as he tries to speak to the world, the Doctor will not lose himself.

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