Doctor Who! Who Really Cares? It’s The Companion Behind The Doctor That Makes The BEST Doctor

Who companions

Since speculation among Doctor Who fans about the 12th Doctor has ended (with Peter Capaldi picked), we now are left with the question “What will this more mature actor bring to this role?”  Most Americans don’t really know this actor’s work other than he played the dad in the Doctor Who episode “The Fires of Pompeii”. CAP However, most English actors are superb with their accents that sound so smart and make acting seem natural. This only leads me wanting one more thing. My wish is that the 12th Doctor’s companion brings humor and depth to future episodes like some of my favorite companions.  Here are some of my favorite and not so favorite companions.

What a wild, wonderful ride we had on the TARDIS until Clara Oswald, the stodgy, sensible (in other words: boring) governess, happened upon our lives. Gone is the rapport so desperately needed to keep the Doctor human. Gone is the banter that keeps us wanting more of the Doctor and his companions. Be it Rose’s dewy-eyed stare and less than average intelligence that points out the weakness of being too serious. Or Donna Noble, a strong-willed woman, who establishes a relationship based on humor and friendship. Or most spectacularly the Doctor’s wife, Dr. River Song. The latter embodied the essence of what a superior man should strive for in a relationship, which is not a robot, but someone with a brain and a wicked sense of humor. Song’s first minute of screen time delighted and intrigued us and kept us wanting more from finding the ancient writings translated to “Hello Sweetie” to “spoilers”. She literally had us at “Hello”.

c2

Well, the only thing left to do is to reminiscence about the prior companions that made watching Doctor Who a treat instead of feeling like a church sermon. Once, the preaching starts about the Time Lord’s curse of superiority, it’s time to call it quits.  If we really want to hear about how bad mankind is we only need to watch our local news. In the meantime, here’s a plea to showrunner Steven Moffat. Please keep us riveted with more wonders like flying sharks that lunge surprise attacks, or a Scrooge that changes his history by viewing his past. We want more imaginative stories like having River Song marrying the Doctor so she could ultimately save him in a twisted scheme where she seemingly killed him to preserve space and time. Make us scream for some spoilers by creating a chemistry between the Time Lord and his companion. It brings the Doctor down-to-earth as a person, not just in the physical sense with the TARDIS.

Gwen McLernon

Matt Smith Leaving Doctor Who

who and tardisWell, it has just been confirmed, Matt Smith, the Eleventh Doctor in the long-running Doctor Who TV show, will be leaving the program later this year. His final appearances will be in the 50th anniversary special and the annual Doctor Who Christmas special.

Matt Smith’s departure is a real surprise to many Who fans that have come to love his goofy portrayal of the distaff time-traveling alien. He injected wild energy and enthusiasm into his role as the last Time Lord. His tenure was marked by some behind-the-scene readjustments as Steven Moffat took over as the showrunner for Doctor Who. When asked in an interview about Smith leaving Doctor Who, Moffat could only praise him, saying “The Doctor can be clown and hero – often at the same time – and Matt rose to both challenges magnificently. And even better than that, given the pressures of this extraordinary show, he is one of the nicest and hardest-working people I have ever had the privilege of knowing.”

amy pond and dr

After some growing pains, the show seemed to find its voice and won over many fans, this one included, who looked forward to seeing Smith’s rapid-fire line deliveries and antics. I really liked how he and the show connected with American culture like him donning a cowboy hat and having episodes solidly based in the U.S. Many of the Eleventh Doctor’s episodes stood out like “The Doctor’s Wife” and “The Bells Of Saint John”. Some of the stories weren’t that great but that wasn’t Smith’s fault and he had some memorable Companions like Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and now with Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman), who is staying with the show.

who and claraWhile some of us may be saddened by Smith leaving the role of the iconic Time Lord, the ever-changing nature of the role itself will open up new opportunities for someone else. For anyone who’s not up on Doctor Who lore, the Doctor is an alien that has the ability to change his appearance whenever he is close to dying. This neat plot trick was developed way back in the ’60s when the first actor to play the Doctor (William Hartnell) left the program. It’s really convenient that the character is an alien since the regeneration has allowed new and interesting interpretations of the Time Lord.

As to who (pun intended) will replace Matt Smith, well casting agents are probably busy right now pestering Steven Moffat for auditioning their clients. Rumors are already going wild with the idea of a woman to take over the role to Damien Lewis to even David Tennant (the Tenth Doctor–now that would be a bizarre twist!).

who and daleks

It’s doubtful that anyone can copy Smith’s irascible and eccentric interpretation, nor should it be done. The replacement should be given the chance to add his (or her) own spin to this legendary sci-fi hero. That’s the beauty of Doctor Who.

Annette DeForrester

 

An American Doctor Who

The first time the Eleventh Doctor wore a cowboy hat in the Doctor Who episode “The Impossible Astronaut”, an idea began percolating in many heads. That is what if the character were to be remade as being distinctly American? In other words, do a version of Doctor Who that predominantly takes place in the U.S. instead of London with an American cast–or at least actors playing Americans.

Many classic American TV shows were actually based on British ones like All In The Family and The Office, and Syfy is now airing an American version of the U.K. genre hit Being Human. So would an American Doctor Who work? Of course, the idea sounds blasphemous to many die-hard Who fans but it could be pulled off, and more importantly, would demonstrate the show’s universal concept and appeal.

An American Doctor

With that stated, what would an American Doctor Who be like? The concept would be basically the same; it would be about a slightly daffy humanoid alien who traverses time and space with Earthling Companions. It could have the same plot lines and background. The Doctor would still be near-immortal, lonely and slightly odd, only this time he would have an American accent. Plus he would also  have relationship issues with his female Companions. Yes, there would be episodes that take place in England and the rest of Europe but in the same ratio as current Doctor Who episodes take place across the pond. It really doesn’t matter where the show takes place since the Doctor travels anywhere in the universe.

Police boxes are very British so the Americanized TARDIS can’t be based on that. How about a vehicle? And try something outrageous like an RV. It would fit in with the eccentric nature of the Doctor and be a tip of the hat to the Back To The Future films. Needless to say, the RV would be bigger on the inside…

Bigger on the inside…

As for the Doctor himself, well this Americanized Time Lord would have the basic personality traits of the Doctors seen in the BBC version. But he would have an American twist. He would be adorned with clothing from various eras in U.S. history. Just look at the current Doctor in the episodes “The Impossible Astronaut” and “A Town Called Mercy” where the Doctor sports a cowboy hat. The American Doctor could wear a cowboy outfit throughout a season or two. Then when he would regenerate he could take on the personality of a surfer dude and run around with tropical shirts and a Panama hat. Throw in some cargo shorts for good measure. Have him take on the aspects of a biker with a heavy leather jacket. It would work, look at how cool the Ninth Doctor looked with his leather jacket and jeans during his brief run on the show. Or adorn the Doctor in a mishmash of styles that would be part hippie, part cowboy, part yuppie and part something else.

The would-be Doctor and his Companion.

There wouldn’t be a shortage of actors who could play the Time Lord. If Doctor Who made the transition into a full-length film then it’s easy to imagine Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, or Johnny Depp playing him. But for the small screen, the producers could offer the role to someone who can do drama and comedy. The show isn’t a straight comedy but the current show does have a humorous bent. For that reason, they can hire French Stewart to play the Doctor. Bryan Cranston is another good choice if they want to have the character seem a bit older, which would be more in spirit with the first few Doctors. Besides, having Cranston traveling in an RV would be nice nod to his show Breaking Bad. One advantage for producers with the Doctor being a metamorphic alien is that if an actor wants to leave the show, it would be simple storywise to replace him. Although it is easy to imagine that an actor would stay with the role much longer than in the U.K.

The Doctor and his buddy Companion drive off to new adventures.

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José Soto

New Doctor Who Companions Scenarios

The Doctor and the Ponds

Showrunner Steven Moffat announced on December 15 that the Ponds, Amy and Rory, will be leaving Doctor Who, well I can’t help wondering, what’s next? This is sad news but at the same time, you can appreciate that change means creativity so goodbye is inevitable.  It’s a bittersweet time.  We will miss the camaraderie and hope for occasional visits, but shaking things up a bit might be fun, too.

 So I am sure that everyone has their own theories about who should be the new companion, but here are three possibilities that I’ve come up with and I am sure that just as the universe is infinite so are the possible companions for the Doctor.  My imagination led me here.  It will be interesting to see if there are any similarities between Steven Moffat’s companions and a simple fan.  Who would you pick for the esteemed Doctor?

 Scenario OneStrange Puppy Love:  A middle-aged women from New York City and her pre-teenage daughter travel with the Doctor along with their Pomeranian.  However, the women thinks she is dreaming and that the Doctor is actually the Pomeranian transformed into a man, who’s name happens to be Doctor Sandy. Coincidentally, he is sometimes called the Doctor.

Foxy Lady as Doctor Sandy. Photo by Olivia McLernon

She become flirty with him and laughs at herself because she thinks she is only dreaming this and that she is flirting with her dog.  The daughter knows the truth but needs the doctor to show her and her mother around time and space because her mom is a historian and is trying to write a book.   With her daughter’s help the mom is getting over her writer’s block and has all kinds of interesting historical tidbits that never would have occurred to her before and comes in handy in the Doctor’s adventures through time. 

Some of these tidbits could include her helping the underground railroad during the Civil War. There she helps the Civil War Judge’s wife, Mrs. Piatt by giving her the idea to use a lawn jockey holding an American flag to signal her husband’s absence. Or aiding Sacagawea as she guided Lewis and Clark. At the same time, she is floored by Sacagawea’s hardships and begins to appreciate her own life and time. Then she could wind up in the early 1960s and meets Rachel Carson while she writes Silent Spring. The mom encourages her and helps her see her legacy as she will soon die of breast cancer.

Continuing the time journeys in the 1960s and ’70s she becomes part of the inspiration for songs like “Space Oddity” and” Go Ask Alice” much to the chagrin of the Doctor.

 Scenario TwoThe Red Widow:  Every companion that the Doctor travelled with always was light and pretty much excited to be travelling, except for Donna in the beginning.  What if the Doctor gets roped into a support group that doesn’t really do much to support each other and have been stuck in a rut for a couple of decades? To shake things up a bit, these people come from Australia (or anywhere else but Europe).

Some members of the group are upset over a lack of interest, drive and desire, except for one fellow, let’s call him Mack.  He is the extreme opposite.  He’s a knife-wielding Crocodile Dundee type who has been down in the dumps about the environmental protection acts of every species in Australia that has forced him to become a semi-vegetarian, as he cannot hunt as often as he likes.  

In the course of time traveling with the Doctor, he happens upon a hybrid version of the red spider-like Racnoss (the Red Spider Empress that tried to turn Donna into spider food for her brood and killed her no-good fiancé in “The Runaway Bride”).  This chelicerata/humanoid is the result of a human-Racnoss union, that didn’t end so well for the human.  However, this new species aren’t quite as lethal and can pass for normal humans (except for their abdomens).  However, when they mate, the urge to kill their mate is still strong but this varies. 

The Racnoss

Some have been able to resist this primal urge, but it is difficult to tell who can control the urge and who can’t.  The safest course would be to avoid them, but it is difficult to tell if they are hybrids, unless they are undressed because their abdomen is the only difference.  All this uncertainty and violence has made Mack come alive again. He is thrilled to be part of a hunt again, even if he is the prey.  He has become buddies with the few male spiders left who chose not to mate for fear of death.  They run an underground railroad for males who wish to escape the Chelicerae (fang-like claws) of entrapment and ultimately death.  The Doctor ultimately leaves him on Chelicarae

 Scenario ThreeCool Hand Luca:  A young girl, Luca, gets into trouble one night by throwing rocks at some cars’ windows in the Brooklyn hood.  She is about to be arrested when the Doctor intervenes knowing that if she does get arrested, her life is over at this point and he because that she is the female equivalent of the story, Cool Hand Luke.  Like Luke, if she goes to jail, she will become influential to her jail mates, but she will create resentment from the prison guards who will ultimately cause her early demise. 

He tries to give her some hope for her future and show her that she could contribute to the wonders of the universe.  Along the way, he discovers that she does actually have some amazing talents.  She can talk to the TARDIS and can maintain and fix it better than he can.  Her tough exterior and manner can often distract enemies while he searches for their weaknesses and the TARDIS can see that underneath all that hard armor Luca has a soft side, not unlike the TARDIS itself.

Gwen McLernon

Christmas With The Doctor

Steven Moffat has continued the traditionally awesome Doctor Who Christmas specials that began with the sensational “Voyage of the Damned” written by his predecessor, Russell T. Davis.  This episode was based on the 1974 book, The Voyage of the Dammed, written by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts.  The book describes the fate of Jewish refugees who were forced onto the MS St. Louis ocean liner and were denied asylum in both America and Cuba in 1939.  Back to Doctor Who, the episode describes the bitter ex-corporate tycoon who is out to create the most collateral damage thereby bankrupting his former corporation, while in the process killing everyone on board and the Queen of England by crashing into her pad.

Now we move on into the Steven Moffat era of true Christmas spirit by recreating A Christmas Carol with a 2010 special also called “A Christmas Carol.”  Moffat not only captured Charles Dickens’ original spirit of good triumphant over greed; but he then updated and amazed us with technological and psychological leaps that kept us glued like a kid eyeing the biggest gift under the tree.  Adding flying sharks and opera singers made it even more mind-blowing, but the greatest feat was travelling back in time in the life of Kazran Sardick a Scrooge-like character. Thus, reversing the focal point in Sardick’s past so that it changed reality and altered his present-day self and saved the lives of the Doctor’s companions.  It’s wickedly complex, magical and a bit sentimental, but that’s why we love it so much. 

Finally, the latest in the series of Christmas Stories, “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe,” based upon C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  Miracles happen, so we do feel that the Christmas spirit has been kindled.  However, the similarity to the original story is not as pronounced or profound as we would have liked.  Featuring widowed Madge Arwell and her two children there were no cute characters (unless you count Matt Smith) or beautiful, bewitching evil witches.  The only evils ones were men who wanted to harvest trees by killing them with acid rain and WWII tragedies of missing airmen.  The evils of being lost at war (although this did relate to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) and of acid rain seemed too far removed from the original very deliberate mind-altering ice queen.  Alas, the only comparison that we could make is that it left us feeling cold and missing the warm relationship with his companions. 

In fact, we started reminiscing about past companions and how in the end it just didn’t work out.  Martha Jones loved the Doctor but realized that it was never going to happen, Rose Tyler got stuck in another dimension, Donna Noble was forced to forget the Doctor because her mind would blow up if she didn’t and finally there was Amy Pond and her mysterious daughter, River Song.  We couldn’t see any future there because Amy was married and needed to stop dragging her husband over time and space and River Song said the beginning was the end so where does this leave us now? If he comes back does time stand still again?  So we were already grieving that loss more than the loss of the characters in this year’s special.  But just as the Doctor saved Madge’s family, she saved him by saying he couldn’t let them think he was dead.   So another Christmas miracle happened just about the time we were contemplating that a new non-emotionally attached companion (in other words a man) would be the best answer to travelling around deep, cold space.   He arrived at Amy’s TARDIS blue door and she announced to “Mr. Pond” that the Doctor was there, the ice inside our hearts melted, too.  Everyone (including the Doctor) cried tears of joy and we knew that the Doctor could make his way with his current companions, especially now that he is reunited with River Song as his wife and soul mate for a very long time to come (or the end of time, once again). 

Gwen McLernon