I’ve had a bit of fun lately looking at the audience identification for each Doctor. For those who have not read the former posts, I never accepted the BBC’s notion that the companion represented us. I always connected with the Doctor and allowed context clues to fill in whatever gaps cropped up. When there was something I really didn’t get, the companion asked the question before I felt lost. Maybe I was one of those kids who sat quietly in class waiting for someone a little gutsier to ask the meaning of something; I can’t recall. But it seems the BBC was convinced the companion represented us. What did that say for us during Patrick Troughton’s era?
We saw Ben and Polly come on board two stories prior to the arrival of Patrick Troughton and they continue in much the same way as they started. They were the Mulder and Scully of Doctor Who. Polly isn’t picky as she accepts the evidence in front of her while Ben tends to be a bit belligerent, reluctantly accepting things like how a box can move in space but not in time. He’s also doubtful when the Doctor regenerates that this is the same man he had been traveling with up until that point, but in that instance, even the Doctor refers to himself in the third person, so Polly is the one who comes off seeming a bit too gullible. No, Polly, there is no Easter Bunny! But the sailor and the hippy are a great team and they definitely cared about one another. If the BBC wanted us to look at them to understand what it took to be traveling companions of the Doctor, they did not do a bad job! Sadly, so much of this era is lost, that we may never know how they really came across on screen, but from what we can see, they made great companions and at least if they were the audience identifiers, they didn’t feel a far stretch removed from who we were. They covered a range.
Then came Jamie who may have single-handedly changed what it meant to be a companion for all time. Certainly the best up until this point, and that says a lot considering we’ve had some truly amazing companions before him. Jamie was the Doctor’s best friend. They were two blokes just handing out. He may not have been the Doctor’s equal but that didn’t matter at all. They were just really good friends who had fun and explored the universe together. Jamie didn’t let his lack of knowledge get in the way of hanging out with his friend and the Doctor was rarely condescending to Jamie, beyond occasional playful jibes. But was he qualified to represent us? Were the BBC of the mindset that we were people out of our own time… outlanders, if you will? (There was no way I could resist that!) Did they see the viewer as clueless as Jamie, accepting everything in life with a happy “oh, aye!”? One would hope not, but I’ve learned a lot about the 60s lately, and it was certainly a different time. The BBC did like to say we were meant to identify with the companion…. You be the judge. I can’t complain though because who didn’t love Jamie? At least there was no customs or border control for the TARDIS. These days the old “dagger in the sock” ploy would not go over well. (Maybe if people tried the excuse that they identified with Jamie, they might get a free pass!) And Fraser is an incredibly nice man too. If someone had to associate me with a companion, I’d be hard pressed to find better.
Unfortunately I can’t say the same for Victoria. We may have loved Victoria because she was innocent and sweet; she was the sort of person we wanted to protect, but maybe not identify with! Who wants to be the poor, lost, orphaned innocent? But then again, many Doctor Who fans in the States were the outcasts (don’t be offended, reader, I was too). Those dispossessed misfits who didn’t have a clique of their own might actually have felt like Victoria a lot; maybe she was similar to us more than we knew at the time. Wait… no! While Americans chose their own orphanage from the British parents, American fandom didn’t really become big until several years after Victoria so I can’t see the Beeb taking credit for that identification. No, once again, I think it came down to identifying with the Doctor.
What about Zoe? Zoe might have been a fun comparison for the 60s fan. To some extent, anyway. I think many of us grok Zoe the same way we grok Spock but does that mean we are like either of them? She was introduced as a far better looking Vulcan than our enterprising friend from across the pond; logical, intelligent, but ultimately cold. As the Doctor once told her, logic (my dear Zoe) merely enables one to be wrong with authority. She warms up to us and we warm to her but I should hope the BBC didn’t think all of the fans were cold logicians, secretly planning to resurrect the Cybermen. I’m talking to you, Kleig! She was adorable and sweet, and she was super intelligent. This might have made her an amazingly good role model for girls because, while Wendy was beautiful, she wasn’t initially written as the damsel in distress. It actually showed that women could be beautiful and intelligent. (We may know that inherently but that doesn’t mean it was being depicted on Doctor Who up until this point!) While she may have dipped into the damsel archetype she was typically one of the gang and her intellect defined her. I still think that while people would have looked at her and admired her (both physically and mentally) it was still the Doctor that people were connecting with. But what do I know?
I think most probably wanted to be the Doctor, traveling the universe like the cosmic hobo that Troughton’s Doctor was. We can see ourselves in him more than the companions because the Doctor is like a horoscope; he can be written to fit anyone. Intelligent and silly. Brave and funny. Scared and childlike. A formidable opponent who hid his intellect behind a twinkle. He was a drifter, on his own with his ever-evolving band of misfits. Open minded, curious, caring, and magical. I think this Doctor was totally identifiable. And if you didn’t identify with him, you wanted to travel with him; not as one of those other companions, but as yourself. You watched the show all the while thinking, “how would I manage to get out of this scrape?”
We get a complete companion reboot with Jon Pertwee. Maybe we can see what happens with a Doctor that is essentially earth-bound his entire tenure. Perhaps a series of modern companions will update the outlook a bit. Time will tell; it always does! ML