Some time ago, someone — I think perhaps Anna — mentioned to me a post that she had read where an old-school Whovian was expressing the confusion that I feel many of us OSW (for short) feel at the angst around the departure of companions in the new series.
I can’t remember where this post was or who wrote it or even reliably who told me about it. If you are either of these people — or this post, gone sentient and websurfing on your own — please leave me a comment so I can credit you appropriately.
I don’t have a conclusive answer to this — who has the conclusive answer to anything Who-related? — but I do have some thoughts.
Chief among them is the fact that the series was resuscitated and is currently being run by fanboys. Huge, ginormous, garguantic lolloping fanboys. And I say that with the utmost of love, respect, and devotion because they brought my Doctor back to me. How could I do anything but wish alternately to break their kneecaps and worship them sexually?
Anyway, not the point.
The point is that the show is being run largely by people who remember the old series and the discomfort — hell, the outright distress — we all felt when our favorite companions departed unmarked. The Green Death (Jo Grant), anyone? The Invasion of Time (Leela)? Dalek Invasion of Earth (Susan Foreman)? Terror of the Zygons (Harry Sullivan)? War Games (Zoe and Jamie?) The Hand of Fear (Sarah Jane Smith, the first time)? Hell, you didn’t even get to say goodbye to Romana I because they cheated and regenerated her between seasons!
These were people we spent a lot of time with and were emotionally invested in and they just sort of…go. It’s very quiet and very British but a little unsatisfying.
Okay, admittedly, so the Doctor has a whole ‘I will suck it up’ moment as Jo departs with her Welsh environmentalist but — still, it’s not a lot. And the first Doctor does have his lovely “…just go forward in all your beliefs” speech but… And Sarah Jane — hell, we’d spent whole Doctors with Sarah Jane (practically)! And, yes, if you read between the lines there’s a lot going on in her last scenes in the TARDIS but you’ve got to squint! And that’s even with knowing that Lis Sladen loved being Sarah Jane, enjoyed her time with the show, and was happy working with both Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker which says a great deal for any woman’s resilience of spirit. And ability to keep her temper.
But for those of us who grew up loving some of these companions and really attached to them, it’s rather nice for a change to have the Doctor seem to at least notice that someone has left the TARDIS.
And, yes, the angst does hit rather operatic levels at times — my opinion on Rose Tyler is an open secret and I have a feeling that Oswin Oswald may be trending in the same direction but here’s hoping — but it’s good to have the companions coming and going feel like something, like it matters: to the Doctor, to the TARDIS, River, hell, even if just to the writers.
I think this is all part of the new Who approach in bringing consequences to the story: Choice A is made, therefore Thing B happens. And I’m not saying that this always makes for great — or consistent — storytelling or character development because it doesn’t. But it does make for a new trend in the show which is lovely to see at least 90% of the time. Because for every time I thought, ‘God, Rose a-fucking-gain?’ there was ‘So he does still think about Donna’ or ‘He remembers what he did to Jack.’ It’s nice to know that those characters are being recognized more fully in the show for what they do.