Doctor Who and Extended TARDIS Time: What Happens When There’s Too Much Exposure to The Doctor? Part 2

By Tai Gooden

Does prolonged exposure to The Doctor have a negative effect on a companion? Part one of this discussion explored the companions of the Russell T. Davies era. After the Tenth Doctor regenerated, the show also appointed a new showrunner. Steven Moffat took the reins and gave the Eleventh/Twelfth Doctor’s companion more importance than ever.


Amy (& Rory) and Eleven

The Eleventh Doctor started his incarnation with a burning TARDIS, which landed in the yard of his next companion Amelia “Amy” Pond. Out of all the modern companions, The Doctor and Amy’s relationship spans the longest amount of time in Earth years, but their TARDIS time together wasn’t continual. Amelia was seven years old and praying to Santa Claus for help with a mysterious crack in her wall. Her prayers for a policeman were answered when a newly regenerated and very alien incarnation of The Doctor showed up. The Doctor told her to wait a few minutes while he took the newly repaired TARDIS for a test run.

He inadvertently returns 12 years later and discovers that Amelia has grown up to become Amy Pond, a teenager who works as a kissogram. Amy was ostracized by most people in her community because of her belief in a magic “raggedy man” who travels in a blue box. As a child, she only spent a couple of hours with The Doctor, but he had a profound influence over her life. She wrote stories and made drawings about The Doctor, often sharing them with her childhood friend Rory Williams.  Amy felt abandoned by The Doctor (and her dead parents), so she built up an emotional wall around herself and didn’t allow anyone to get too close to her, including Rory, by adulthood her fiance.

After saving the world in 20 minutes, Amy has to wait another two years for him to return again but finally gets her overdue chance to travel in the TARDIS. The first couple of stories featuring Amy showed her being reckless and making impulsive decisions without thinking about the consequences. For example, “The Beast Below,” Amy is on her first adventure and proudly ignores all “Keep Out” signs as she digs into trouble. But, her intelligence shines as she helps Winston Churchill and Professor Bracewell save the world from being exposed to an army of Daleks by tapping into their emotions.

Amy’s backstory and unique relationship with The Doctor as the first companion to meet him as a child made her different from her young contemporaries who had heart eye emojis for the Time Lord. But, that didn’t mean she wasn’t attracted to The Doctor. After several adventures together, including a brush with the Weeping Angels, Amy tried to physically seduce The Doctor when he returned her home on the eve of her wedding to Rory. The Eleventh Doctor counters this by inviting Rory into the TARDIS.

Unlike Rose, Amy was not as possessive over her turf in the TARDIS and welcomed Rory without a grudge.

However, their adventures began to test Amy’s relationships with both The Doctor and Rory. In “Amy’s Choice,” the trio found themselves faced with different alternate realities – one where Amy and Rory established a normal married life and another with The Doctor. The baddie in the story, Dream Lord, secluded Amy and asked her to choose between Rory or an adventurous life with The Doctor. In the end, she killed herself in one of the realities because of her love for Rory. This episode was a pivotal breakthrough in terms of her personal development and the trajectory of her relationship with Rory. Amy discovered the power in her choices, the deepness of her love for Rory, and the value of her life both with and without The Doctor.

Amy’s love for Rory was the grounding force in her life that helped her not become too wrapped up in The Doctor’s world. Amy admired The Doctor, but she also got to see Rory’s valiant qualities develop and appreciated what he brought to the team. Their ability to travel together with The Doctor brought them closer together because of their shared experience. When Rory was beginning to be wiped away from existence in “Cold Blood,” the Doctor tried to have Amy hold onto memories of him but she lost concentration and didn’t remember him. The Doctor shouldered significant guilt over losing Rory and continued to take Amy on adventures.

As they became a duo again, Amy and The Doctor’s similarities made them an interesting team. They were eccentric and adventurous, which made for lots of laughs and chemistry. Both of them shouldered some of the weight from their pasts but they learned how to become more open with their emotions. Viewers began to see a less guarded Amy who expressed a myriad of emotions as she met the tragic Vincent Van Gogh and reunited with Rory in “The Pandorica Opens” after he waits for her for 2,000 years. Amy was stubborn, loyal, and fiercely determined to find a solution – both strong traits needed to survive with The Doctor. However, she always managed to find balance in her life and started the beginning of season six leading a normal life with Rory.  It was the first time in modern Who that a companion wasn’t “all in” and tried to balance two worlds. Amy seemed to have it all – love, happiness, and adventure.

Amy’s arc with The Doctor became complex than previous modern Who companions. Fans watched The Doctor leave a message for Amelia to search for Amy and release her from the Pandorica. Amy became a woman who was kidnapped by Madame Kovarian, a leader of the Silence movement, and gave birth to a child conceived in the TARDIS who was half-human/half-Time Lord. Amy’s daughter was brainwashed by Kovarian to kill The Doctor. In, “A Good Man Goes to War,” the child turned out to be River Song, the woman known as The Doctor’s wife and Amy’s childhood friend in a previous incarnation. The Doctor also broke Amy’s faith in him in “The God Complex” when they faced a foe who killed by feeding on a person’s faith. This was an emotional ride for her character because she had always had agency in her travels with The Doctor and now things were happening to her which were beyond her control. Amy went through a myriad of emotions during this time – shock from finding out the Doctor’s part-time lover was her daughter, anger over her child being ripped away from her, and sadness because she didn’t have the chance to raise her child. River and The Doctor tried to comfort Amy and explain that River’s previous incarnation, Melody aka “Mel,” was raised by Amy because she often guided her as they grew up together. Once again, there was guilt on The Doctor’s side because he was the primary reason behind Amy’s kidnapping and River’s life as a trained assassin.  However, Amy was not going to remain broken and exacted her revenge against Madame Kovarian for corrupting River, telling her that River got her cunning nature from her mother.

As their time goes on, Amy and Rory started to travel infrequently with the Doctor in favor of maintaining a normal life. However, they couldn’t manage to permanently break ties with The Doctor, who had become attached to the couple. After The Doctor helped them save the world from mysterious cubes in “The Power of Three,” Rory’s father encouraged them to continue their travels as long as The Doctor brought them back safe. Unfortunately, the married couple would never return to their normal lives, due to Rory being touched by a weeping angel, a predatory alien race which resembles statues, in the following episode. The Weeping Angels were known for creeping up on a victim in the literal blink of an eye and sending them back to the past to die as they consumed the person’s future energy. “The Angels of Manhattan” saw Amy and Rory once again making an executive decision without the Doctor. They committed to create a paradox and destroy the Angels. Their plan worked, but one last Angel took Rory back to the past in front of Amy, River, and The Doctor.  Amy had to make a choice and she allowed herself to be touched by the same angel so she could die with Rory in the past. Amy remained married to Rory and became a successful writer, thereby still having a great life. She had autonomy on how she ended her travels with The Doctor, even though she broke his heart.

Amy’s long tenure in The TARDIS proved that a companion could travel with The Doctor long term and experience inconceivable trials but the story could still end with a semi-happy ending for the traveler.


Clara and Eleven

Losing Amy and Rory emotionally rattled the Eleventh Doctor, prompting him to go into hiding until he met a mysterious woman named Clara Oswin Oswald from 19th century London. The Doctor was sulking in his TARDIS in the cloud until Clara brilliantly passed a one word test administered by his friend Madame Vastra to earn his help. He was woken up out of his emotional slumber by this woman from days past who is as dashing and driven as he was before losing his friends. The plot thickens when she died at the end and he discovered her name is the same as a woman he met (but never saw) in an earlier adventure with Amy. From that point forward, he was curious about why versions of this woman keep popping up across time and set out to find the modern version of Clara.

When the contemporary Clara Oswald first meets The Doctor in “The Bells of Saint John,” she wanted nothing to do with the bizarre Doctor. This version of Clara was also resourceful and helped The Doctor bring down the Great Intelligence’s plan to upload people’s souls through an alien Wi-fi network. She took on traveling with The Doctor out of pure wanderlust and curiosity and he was intrigued by the mysterious woman. Clara was a woman who seemed secure in her life, yet her background was much more of a mystery than her predecessors. Each adventure slowly chipped away at Clara’s true identity, revealing in their second adventure (“The Rings of Akhaten”) that The Doctor was at her mother’s funeral. When she questioned him about it, he said she reminded him of a friend who died and Clara became upset, calling him out for using her as a replacement. She leaves the TARDIS but they soon reconcile.

Like Martha, Clara did not need The Doctor to help her find purpose or to validate her importance.

The school teacher was relatively smart and a loner, but there was not a lot of development for Clara in her first season, so fans knew she would her story would take time. In “The Name of the Doctor,”she had different versions of herself helping all of the past Doctors (excluding the War Doctor), thereby making her the “Impossible Girl.” This (sort of) made her the longest running companion in the show and the only one who had experience with all of the Doctors. The big mystery was solved and Clara’s cleverness was appreciated, but her character progression in the TARDIS was still unclear. She was there and going on adventures, but she didn’t seem to be changing in any way.

Clara played an important role in the Eleventh Doctor’s final story “The Time of The Doctor.” After attempts to send Clara back to Earth to protect her as he fought thousands of alien enemies on Trenzalore, The Doctor was aging quickly and expected to die because he had no regenerations left. Clara spoke up and defended him to the Time Lords, begging them to help The Doctor by granting him another set of regenerations. It worked and The Doctor was able to stop the war using his regeneration energy. Interestingly, as The Doctor gives his final soliloquy before regeneration, it was a vision of Amy Pond he sees, but he wishes Clara well. He abruptly becomes the Twelfth Doctor, leaving Clara stunned and confused. This was the second time that a regeneration takes place in front of a companion and it once again had an interesting affect on the companion/Doctor relationship.

Clara and Twelve

The Twelfth Doctor’s first series with Clara was a difficult, yet necessary journey in terms of both character’s development. The Doctor had become a man starkly different from the gangly, eccentric one he was as Eleven. Twelve started his journey as an aesthetically older, darker man whom Clara found it hard to bond with because she wanted the old Doctor back. In their first story, he tended to insult and confuse Clara but she still believed in his ability to save her if she was in distress. At the end of the episode, she got a phone call from the Eleventh Doctor shortly before their last encounter, who encouraged her to stay with him.

As trouble brewed with a mysterious woman named Missy, Clara found herself increasingly frustrated with the Twelfth Doctor and his extreme lack of a moral compass. She became a much more opinionated, outspoken companion and frequently challenged The Doctor’s choices. At the same time, she begins to fall in love with a fellow teacher and ex-military man named Danny Pink. As she slowly built a relationship with The Doctor, she struggled to balance her romance with Danny. When The Doctor came to Coal Hill School as a caretaker, Danny found  himself caught up in the action and was shocked at how Clara fearlessly plunged into dangerous situations.

“I know men like him. I’ve served under them. They push you and make you stronger until you’re doing things you never thought you could. I saw you tonight. You did exactly what he told you, you weren’t even scared, and you should have been.” -Danny Pink

Danny warns her to let him know if The Doctor started to push her too far. However, Danny also said he would leave her if she didn’t tell him the truth because he wanted to “help” her. This made his offer as a supportive shoulder an issue because 1) Clara didn’t ask to be protected from her decisions and 2) giving her an ultimatum made Danny as problematic as The Doctor. After admitting her love for Danny, Clara’s relationship with The Doctor took a dramatic turn in ‘Kill the Moon” when he abandoned her and one of her students at a lunar colony, forcing her to make a decision about whether she should kill a creature emerging from the moon or allow it to live. Clara felt as though The Doctor had pushed her too far and took solace in Danny, telling the Doctor to never come back to her again. Danny asks her to leave The Doctor alone, but Clara is far too addicted to the thrills of time travel and ends up lying to both men so she can lead a double life. She was being pulled in two different directions and felt like she had to constantly lie and sneak to have what she wanted in life.

The Doctor’s imprint on Clara is perhaps the strongest yet as she took on many of his traits. She acted as The Doctor in “Flatline” when he became stuck in his TARDIS, using the sonic screwdriver and a companion named Risgy to solve the mystery. And, when she decided tell Danny more about her life in the TARDIS, he died in a car accident. She turns on The Doctor and starts throwing his TARDIS keys into lava in an attempt to make him change the past. “Dark Water” shows how The Doctor’s dark, manipulative side is reflected in Clara as she lured him to a volcano and put a sleep patch on his neck. He refused to go back and save Danny, citing a time paradox. The Doctor reversed the sleep patch on her and was hurt by her betrayal of him, but he continued to help her try to locate Danny in the afterlife. It was a selfish and cruel move by Clara, who showed no remorse for her actions against The Doctor.

At the conclusion of the series, Clara is furious over Missy orchestrating Danny’s death and attempts to murder her, but The Doctor insists on doing it himself to protect Clara. The Doctor assumes Danny has been saved and declares he is going to return to Gallifrey, but Danny is still deceased. Clara chooses to lie to The Doctor again and allows him to leave partially from her guilt about how she treated The Doctor over Danny. Constant lies to protect someone’s knowledge or spare feelings has been a trait of The Doctor and now Clara was using his own tricks against him. Series 8 gave fans the character development they requested and showed a darker, more conniving side of Clara Oswald. The Doctor and Clara reunited for a Christmas adventure, where Clara found herself under the spell of a dream crab. After defeating the dream crabs, Clara’s interest in traveling with The Doctor became renewed and they began a new chapter in their relationship.

Series 9 Clara showed Clara becoming dangerously immersed in her adventures with The Doctor. After a rocky period, the pair had found their rhythm and Clara held her own even better than before as she came face to face with Missy on her own. The Doctor starts leaving her to her own devices more often and she does well each time, easily leading groups and solving complex situations. But, her behavior became increasingly risky as she starts to take more chances alongside The Doctor, forgetting that she was still mortal while he had a new set of regenerations. Her faith in The Doctor also played a role in her impulsive behavior because she assumed he would always find a way to save her if she was in distress. She was starting to play a dangerous game that was noticeable to The Doctor, who kept telling her to exercise more care with her actions.  

Clara starts to challenge the Doctor less when it mattered the most. For example, his decision to bring a young woman named Ashildr/Me back to life who would be the cause of his separation from Clara. After battling Zygons, sleep dust, and a myriad of other creatures, Clara met her demise in “Face the Raven.” In an attempt to save Risgy, she took the deadly Chronolock and placed it on the back of her neck, assuming either she or The Doctor would find a way to rectify her impulsive action. The Doctor and Clara discovered it was orchestrated by Ashildr/Me and there was no way to save her. The Doctor wanted to take revenge on Ashildr, but Clara convinced him to not do it and allow her to face the consequences of her actions.

Clara’s death was the first one for a companion in the new series and was a reminder of what can happen when a companion has too much faith in The Doctor.

Clara was suffering from the traumatic loss of Danny, and she paid the price with her life. Her loss was shocking to many fans, but the blow was lessened when The Doctor forces the Time Lords use an extraction chamber to retrieve Clara from her time of death. He hoped to take her far away, but he had to remove Clara’s memories to help her survive. However, in one last act of Doctorish defiance, Clara altered the device so The Doctor lost his memory of their time together. In the end, Clara partnered with Ashildr in her own TARDIS and decided to take the long way around to Gallifrey – a fitting end for the most Doctorish companion of all.


Twelve and Bill (and beyond?)

Now, the Twelfth Doctor is on an adventure with a new companion, Bill Potts. Series 10 is only a few episodes in, but Bill has quickly become a fan favorite. She’s a Black queer woman who constantly questions The Doctor. They share a student/teacher relationship and Bill is well developed despite her short tenure so far. It is unclear if Bill is in it for the long run or if she will leave after one season like Martha Jones, but fans are interested to see how her arc will run. Like her predecessors, time may have a negative effect on her development as a woman, or she might find herself having it all in the end like Amy Pond. And, with Chris Chibnall taking the reins over the show in 2018, something unprecedented may happen with Bill. Either way, the companion journey with The Doctor is imperfect, impossible, frustrating, liberating, and fantastic.

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