Companion Tropes 14
If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. But it probably won’t be a teddy bear’s picnic, or a bear attack, for that matter. Bears rarely attack humans, and the number of fatalities from bear attacks in North America per year can usually be counted on one hand. You’re more than ten times more likely to die of a wasp or bee sting, and more than 100 times more likely to die of hypothermia. Some form of transportation claims around 50,000 lives a year. So a swipe from mama bear is not all that likely… unless you threaten her children.
The same principle tends to apply to most humans: generally peaceful and harmless, but we will unleash fury if our children are ever in danger, and that brings us to a particular kind of character that pops up very often in television and film: the mama bear. Doctor Who has more than one of them, but the best example is probably Jackie Tyler.
In her first appearance in Rose, she is quick to go on the attack for her daughter, trying to get her to sue for compensation when Henrik’s gets blown up, although money is obviously a big part of her motivation. After the Auton attack, Jackie’s first thought is to tell her daughter “don’t go out of the house”. But her mama bear fury is really unleashed first in Aliens of London, when her daughter returns after an absence of a year. Her response is to physically attack the Doctor: “stitch this!” She is also quick to report the Doctor to the authorities, believing it is the best thing to do in order to protect her daughter. But there is an even more significant mama bear moment that might pass you by if you’re an international viewer: Jackie brings in tea for her friend and for Rose, but doesn’t offer tea to the Doctor…
I’m not going to make him welcome.
O…. M… G… There is probably no worse insult known to a Brit than to deny a house guest a cup of tea. This mama bear is seriously angry.
In World War Three, Jackie tries to pin the Doctor down to guarantee Rose’s safety. It’s an impassioned speech from a mother who is terrified of losing her only daughter:
JACKIE: Since that man walked into our lives, I have been attacked in the streets. I have had creatures from the pits of hell in my own living room, and my daughter disappear off the face of the Earth.
ROSE: I told you what happened.
JACKIE: I’m talking to him. ‘Cos I’ve seen this life of yours, Doctor, and maybe you get off on it, and maybe you think it’s all clever and smart, but you tell me. Just answer me this. Is my daughter safe?
Of course, Jackie has to finally come to accept that this is Rose’s life now, and there is nothing she can do to protect her when she is with the Doctor, but when she can help Rose she’s sure going to do her best. In The Parting of the Ways she turns up with a truck to bust open the TARDIS console, so Rose can get back to the Doctor. In Doomsday she refuses to leave Rose, even if it costs her her life:
ROSE: No, I’m not leaving here.
JACKIE: I’m not going without her.
PETE: Oh, my God. We’re going!
JACKIE: I’ve had twenty years without you, so button it. I’m not leaving her.
ROSE: You’ve got to.
JACKIE: Well, that’s tough.
Even in Rose’s absence, Jackie continues to try to protect her. Just look at her reaction to finding a photo of Rose in Elton’s coat pocket, in Love & Monsters:
Let me tell you something about those who get left behind. Because it’s hard. And that’s what you become, hard. But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that I will never let her down. And I’ll protect them both until the end of my life. So whatever you want, I’m warning you, back off.
In Journey’s End, we see what Jackie is capable of when her daughter is in danger. First she shows up with a massive gun and, together with Mickey, blasts some Daleks out of existence. Then, when she sees Sarah Jane surrendering to the Daleks, she reasons that doing the same thing will get her to her daughter. She doesn’t give it a second thought, laying down her weapon and walking out in front of the Daleks. Nothing’s going to stop this mama bear from getting to her daughter.
So when the Doctor gets hit by another angry mother in The Lazarus Experiment and says “always the mothers” perhaps he is learning an important lesson about human nature. How many young women has he whisked off into space with him over the years? How many furious mothers have been left behind? Maybe one day he will have to face his most dangerous enemy yet: the combined forces of his companions’ parents. There will be nowhere to hide… RP
Jackie is a very good reminder of how more easily Jodie’s Doctor can get along with the families of her companions. Camille really gave great life to Jackie and I’m glad she’s reprising her now in the Big Finish universe. Thanks, RP.
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Jackie Tyler really grew on me. And it feels like such a natural element to add to the companion – a mother.
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A lot of the classic series companions were orphaned in one way or another. It’s as if the writers thought there needed to be no ties to keep the companions on Earth, in order to go off with the Doctor. Very odd, when you stop and think about it, but there’s a clear pattern.
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