We are coming to the final two parts of the Audience Identification Figure series where we look at how the companion represents the audience. It also attempts to look at what we can learn from those companions. Unfortunately, we’re coming to the hardest part because of the writing of Steven Moffat, who loves a good complicated story, but forgets that characters need some definition. For instance, Clara works as a few different people during her time with the 11th and eventually to the 12th Doctors.
With Matt Smith, we really only have three companions to speak of. Amy is something of a conundrum. She lives in a great big house all by herself, even as a child. But even ignoring the child version, her adult self has seen therapists (of whom she has tried to bite) and is in many ways a mental case. Her mental fortitude, or lack thereof, is a direct result of her interaction with the Doctor from a young age. She does get leveled off by her boyfriend/husband, Rory, who accepts her quirkiness although there is definitely a healthy degree of fear involved. He’s often afraid of her and, although it’s played for laughs, it’s not really a good depiction of what a healthy relationship should be. Amy grows, but she always remains in control of “her boys”. As the audience we may love Amy (how could we not?) but as an identification figure, did Moffat think fans were all a bit off? In need of therapy? Or was this a take on female fandom, since she and Rory are a package deal? In either case, it’s not a good image. Are we manic? Quirky, perhaps! Do we need a “normal” significant other to level us off? And Rory, though he definitely has moments of heroism, is often too subservient to Amy. Also, not really a sign of a healthy relationship. Neither one should be subservient to the other. Don’t misconstrue, as an adult, I see it for the comedy it is and love them as most fans do, but taking a step back to look at that relationship, it does leave something to be desired. On the other hand, they both learn, grow and mature because of the Doctor’s involvement in their lives. Amy overcomes her need of therapy when the reality she believed as a child is proven to be real. And through that involvement, Amy and Rory get together, get married, get a home and a car, even have a kid, albeit one heck of a weird one. We even see how Rory’s dad fits into their lives even if Amy’s remains something of a mystery. While they may not have a model relationship, they do change for the better until their sorrowful goodbye. Audience identifier? Perhaps not. Proof that the Doctor can help us grow? Certainly. Amy is very much a best friend to the Doctor, so maybe that’s really what it takes to travel with the Doctor these days. It was certainly implied with Donna that all the Doctor really wants is a good friend. For the Doctor, caring is just as important as having an open mind, and Amy and Rory definitely tick those check boxes!
But then there’s Clara. The Doctor meets Clara as an enigma; a puzzle that needs to be solved. She’s already been so many different people that the Doctor doesn’t know who this “final version” of Clara is. She’s not Oswin, nor is she an 1800’s nanny. She does seem to be intrigued by him too, but she’s more lackadaisical about it, returning home like she’s in the early stages of a relationship and she’s not committed to moving in yet. That might not be a bad message, but the attitude is wrong for a companion. Over her eight stories with Smith, she’s learning and growing but it’s really down to solving a mystery. By her 4th story, the Doctor explains the mystery that he’s trying to solve which makes her aware that she’s something special, which is exactly the worst thing that could happen to her because she’s already rather full of herself, as she confirms in the first episode of Peter Capaldi’s era. On top of that, she’s very controlling. Amy was a babe in arms by comparison! There’s no question that she calls the shots. (One wonders what Steven Moffat’s home life is like considering his female companions all have that one thing in common!) What her time on the TARDIS probably tells us is that being unique is a good thing. We can be different and be accepted, but her uniqueness was beyond her control, so that takes away from some of the merits of the message. We do see that she loved her family, but she’s largely unattached to anyone. So what does it say of the audience? Unattached loners who boss people around? Not to mention, Clara is determined to be like the Doctor, a quality we will address heavily in the final part.
It seems Russell T. Davies understood the companion far better than Steven Moffat does. We hit an all-time high by the end of RTD’s time at the helm but have stepped down to control freaks who have no family to speak of and very few friends (who are not also their regenerated daughter, or a few babysat kids). I don’t think the old Audience Identifier works anymore, because I can’t believe Moffat sees the fans this way. Amy and Clara improved the TARDIS aesthetically by leaps and bounds, but did little as audience identifiers.
Maybe things would change when the Clara mystery was solved… ML