Sunday, February 12, 2012

Love Doctor

Valentine's Day is bearing down on us once again! Last year I looked at the worst companion romances in Doctor Who history because I'm a cynical single bastard. I'm still a cynical single bastard, but I'm going to take a slightly happier tack this year. Enough with the companions, let's take a look at the many, many loves of the Doctor himself! Let's start with the obvious, and work backwards, shall we?

River Song

River, as you probably already know if you're reading this blog, first encountered the Tenth Doctor in Silence in the Library. First from his point of view, at least; last, from hers. There's a strong implication right from the start that their relationship is romantic; River knows the Doctor's name, and the Doctor says there's only one time in his life he could share that with someone - his wedding? His death? His series finale? We're not told, but when River resurfaces in the life of the Eleventh Doctor the sparks really start to fly, and by Day of the Moon she's tasting Time Lord tonsils. She may or may not have married him in The Wedding of River Song - she technically married a robot, but he was inside it, after all. Whether that was the happy day or not, all signs point to River Song, at some point in their knotted timelines, becoming the Doctor's wife. Speaking of...


Men and their toys, huh? The Doctor's relationship with his TARDIS has always been intimate, but the story The Doctor's Wife took that to extremes. There had been intimations that the TARDIS was in some way or another sentient since all the way back in the third story ever, 1964's The Edge of Destruction, but this story finally made it explicit. All that console-stroking pays off when the spirit of the TARDIS is sucked out of the police box and put into the body of Idris, an attractive young woman. Idris may not literally be the Doctor's wife, but it becomes clear that the bond between the two is stronger than any romantic relationship the Doctor could ever develop.

Marilyn Monroe

The Doctor met Norma Jeane off-screen during the events of A Christmas Carol, and although he claimed to have only accidentally accepted her marriage proposal, he went through with it quick enough when he couldn't drag his companions Kazran and Abigail away from their own romantic festivities. He must have gotten cold feet, though - when she called the TARDIS looking for him, he claimed the marriage was invalid. She rebounded pretty well - their quickie wedding happened in 1952, meaning she consoled herself by jumping into the arms of Joltin' Joe DiMaggio.

Of course, if the Doctor really did marry Marilyn, that would have made him a bigamist when he got hitched to River. Or maybe a trigamist, thanks to...

Queen Elizabeth I

The Doctor has had multiple encounters with Queen Elizabeth I across multiple media, most of which are referred to only obliquely without actually being shown. In The Chase, the First Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki spy on good Queen Bess with their new Time-Space Visualizer, as she apocryphally instructs William Shakespeare to write a play about Falstaff in love.

A sequential string of Doctors spend some time with the Virgin Queen, according to various licensed novels and audio plays - the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn pay her a visit, the Seventh Doctor makes her acquaintance, and the Eighth Doctor takes his companions Samson and Gemma to court. Whether Elizabeth knows all these Doctors are one and the same man is unknown, but for some reason she decides to elope with the Tenth Doctor in an untold but probably highly disturbing adventure. He implies that the sobriquet "Virgin Queen" is no longer accurate - look at those pictures above, think of David Tennant, and consider that for a moment.

Joan Redfern

The Tenth Doctor's already looking like a bit of a man-whore, and we haven't even gotten to the biggies yet. The Doctor and Martha met Joan Redfern while hiding from the Family of Blood in Human Nature. The Doctor had wiped his own memory and turned himself human in what seems, by the end of the two-parter, to be a vast overreaction to the situation. Joan was a nurse at the school where "John Smith" was teaching, and the two fell in love. To stop the Family, John turned back into the Doctor, and Joan viewed the man she loved as having died. Of course, you either know all this, or I've just spoiled one of the best Doctor Who stories ever, but you know what you're getting into when you read a list like this on the internet.

Human Nature was based on the book of the same name, which starred the then-current Seventh Doctor and his companion Benny. At the end of the book, Joan gives the Doctor her cat, Wolsey, who travels in the TARDIS for a time. After the Seventh Doctor regenerates into the Eighth, he seeks out Benny (who had since moved on) and gives Wolsey to her. Regeneration always causes personality changes major and minor in the Doctor - the Eighth Doctor was less dark, less mysterious, more straight-forward, more open with his companions, even open to romance in a way he hadn't been before. But it still must have been odd for him to suddenly realize that he didn't want his cat anymore.

Madame de Pompadour

The Doctor, Rose and Mickey met Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson aka Reinette aka Madame de Pompadour while on board a 51st Century spaceship with very user-unfriendly time-travel capabilities. The Doctor's clearly in love with Reinette, and while the whole thing is very romantic it's also stone cold mean towards Rose. Seriously, am I the only one who thought that? I'll get to Rose two entries from now, but so much of their relationship is spent dancing around the whole "I love you but I can't love you because you're a human and I'm a Time Lord" thing, and then he just flat out invites Reinette to move in with them. If I were Rose, I would have thrown Madam la Pomplamoose right back in his face when I was on that beach in Norway. 

Jabe Ceth Ceth Jafe

Jabe was a representative of the Forest of Cheem and a descendant of Earth's rain forests encountered by the Ninth Doctor and Rose at The End of the World.  The romance factor here is minimal - the Doctor and Jabe didn't get beyond some light flirting before she went up in smoke (only Who can prevent forest fires, and he was busy). But their relationship, coming as it did in the second episode of the new series, was the audience's first inclination that this new Doctor might not be as asexual as many of his previous incarnations. Which was no doubt a comfort to...

Rose Tyler

Rose, of course, was the first companion of the revived series, and traveled with both the Ninth and Tenth Doctors. Rose had a profound influence on the Ninth Doctor, and his next regeneration seemed tyler-made for Rose (see what I did there?). Rose's relationship with the Ninth Doctor was intense but not particularly romantic - she was still on-and-off with boyfriend Mickey, and had minor flirtations with secondary companions Adam and Jack. But her relationship with the Tenth Doctor quickly deepened into something more. The Doctor can never quite admit to the full depths of his feeling for Rose, but he does give her his human clone as a lovely parting gift, a happy ending...I guess? He still looks like David Tennant, so I guess I'd settle for that too.


For all you obsessive Whovians, or those of you who aspire to be, let me be clear right off the bat - Emma doesn't count. Emma was the companion of an alternate version of the Ninth Doctor, played by Mr. Bean's Rowan Atkinson, in the 1999 charity comedy special The Curse of Fatal Death. The Doctor and Emma had fallen in love, and the Doctor was planning to retire so they could get married. After an encounter with the Master and the Daleks caused the Doctor to regenerate into Joanna Lumley, Emma broke things off, an inexplicably poor decision even by this gay man's standards. The Curse of Fatal Death was written by somebody named Steven Moffat, who was never heard from again and whose crazy ideas about the Doctor getting married would certainly never be taken seriously outside of a comedy special.

Iris Wildthyme

Iris Wildthyme is an eccentric Time Lady whose TARDIS is smaller on the inside than it is on the outside. Her origins are shrouded in mystery - even to herself - but in most of her recent appearances she seems to hail from a planet in a parallel universe which may or may not be a version of Gallifrey depending on whether the Doctor has been licensed from the BBC for use in that particular adventure or not. The Doctor tends to find her infuriating although he will reluctantly admit to a fondness for her; she claims that he's madly in love with her, and occasionally hints at a prior torrid affair. Iris has appeared in various spin-off novels and audio plays, although her first encounter with the Doctor is unrecorded. The earliest Doctor we've seen her with is the Third; the fact that her current incarnation (the Sixth Iris, as it were) is played by Katy Manning, the same actress who played his companion Jo Grant, lends a whole new metatextual level to Jo's goodbye scene that I'd rather not think about.

Charlotte Pollard

Charlotte "Charley" Pollard was a companion of the Eighth Doctor in a series of original audio plays from Big Finish Productions. The Doctor saved Charley from the doomed airship R101 in the year 1931 and the two became travelling companions and the best of friends. Charley fell in love with the Doctor, and the Doctor showed signs of possibly reciprocating. They worked out their relationship issues in the excruciatingly boring story Scherzo, in which the Doctor was angry with her for following him into exile in a parallel universe because he had sacrificed his freedom for her but then he acknowledged his feelings and they almost had sex but then something happened and there was a monster that I think symbolized their potential child or something and I guess they decided to just stay friends? I couldn't tell what was happening when I listened to it the first time, I'm certainly not putting myself through that again just for a lousy blog post. Charley is a great companion and actress India Fischer is marvelous, but her storyline is completely incomprehensible. After leaving the Eighth Doctor's company, she winds up anachronistically travelling with the Sixth Doctor, towards whom she is, for some reason, much less romantically inclined.

Professor Bernice Summerfield

Benny Summerfield is Doctor Who's original time-travelling archaeologist. She first appeared in the novel Love and War where she replaced Ace as the Seventh Doctor's companion. After Virgin Publishing lost the rights to Doctor Who, they continued the range with original adventures devoted to Benny. Big Finish Productions began producing original audio plays with Benny stories before gaining the rights to Who, and they continue to produce stand-alone Bernice Summerfield adventures as well as the occasional Doctor Who crossover, all starring Lisa Bowerman as the Professor. Benny is a fantastic character, and Lisa Bowerman is brilliant, and she deserves multiple blog posts all her own. She's in this one due to the novel The Dying Days (and not just because it's where he gives her his ex-girlfriend's cat - see above). She had parted ways with the Seventh Doctor some time back, but he showed up on her doorstep shortly after regenerating into the Eighth. As he's saying good-bye after a shared adventure with the Ice Warriors, she grabs him, throws him onto her bed, and, well...the Doctor dances. The scene ends discretely, of course, but it's still the first depiction of the Doctor having sex. (Well, the first officially licensed by the BBC. Your Fifth Doctor/Turlough fan-fiction doesn't count.) It's a little odd, given their close but completely platonic friendship up to that point, but I suppose if my good friend Sylvestor McCoy suddenly changed into my new friend Paul McGann, I'd be tempted too.

Doctor Grace Holloway

Nowadays, the Doctor is pretty much expected to kiss all his companions at some point - I'm surprised Mickey got away without a lip-lock. But back in 1996, when the newly regenerated Eighth Doctor planted one on his new friend Doctor Grace Holloway in the made-for-TV movie Doctor Who, fandom was outraged in a way that only fandoms can be. It's fairly tame by the new show's standards - he first kisses her impulsively in a moment of happiness. She later makes her feelings for him explicit, shouting the excruciatingly awful line "I finally meet the right guy and he's from another planet" in response to absolutely nothing while riding on the back of a motorcycle, possibly just because the writers thought it would sound good in a commercial but probably just because this movie is terrible. They share a more clearly romantic kiss in the final moments of the film, when he invites her to travel with him in the TARDIS and she declines for no reason whatsoever. This is another example of Grace's motivations being unclear to me. If the Doctor showed up on my door in one of his better-looking bodies and was all, "Would you like to travel with me in my TARDIS and have adventures and also crazy space sex?", my response would not be, "Nah, I'm good. I've gotta work in the morning." I doubt yours would be either. Although this would be the only TV outing for either character, Paul McGann continues to play the Eighth Doctor in original audio adventures from Big Finish, whereas rights issues have kept Grace from appearing anywhere but a couple of comic strip appearances in Doctor Who Magazine. No big loss.

The Second Romana

The real romance here was an off-screen one. Tom Baker, who played the Fourth Doctor, and Lalla Ward, who played the Second Romana, were married shortly after she left the show, and legend has it that the romance bloomed while the two were on location in Paris filming City of Death. Whether that romance bled into their characters' relationship is open for debate...

... but the two do spend an awful lot of the story skipping through the streets of Paris holding hands for no discernible reason.

The First Romana

Whether you think there was anything going on between Romana's first incarnation and the Doctor rather depends on whether you consider this little Christmas sketch, filmed as part of an in-house Christmas present for BBC staff, canonical or not...

 I like to think so.


In the first season story The Aztecs, the First Doctor, Barbara, Ian and Susan arrive in 15th Century Mexico. After Barbara is mistaken for a goddess (long story, long brilliant story), the Doctor is taken to the Garden of Peace, where he meets Cameca, an elderly Aztec widow. The pair are instantly taken with each other. Seriously, look at his face as he watches her walk away.

He is admiring himself some fine Aztec booty. The Doctor inadvertently proposes to Cameca (he misunderstood a local ritual), and although he's a bit thrown by how quickly things have gotten serious, there's the feeling that it's more because he knows he can't stay with her than that he's actually disturbed by the prospect of marrying her. Cameca helps her beloved escape into the tomb in which the TARDIS has been sealed, even though she knows it means saying goodbye.

She says farewell, giving him a brooch to remember him by. He's not happy about the situation - here he is after she departs.

Romana subtext aside, this is the only real on-screen romance for the Doctor in the classic series, and William Hartnell makes the most of it. He clearly has genuine feelings for Cameca, but knows that a relationship is impossible. If he didn't have a granddaughter and two humans to cart around, I suspect he would have been quite content to spend the rest of Cameca's life with her before resuming his wanderings. I wonder if the Eleventh Doctor still has that brooch?

Cameca is the first on-screen romance for the Doctor - but she's not the last entry in this list.


We know the Doctor had a family. The very first episode introduced his granddaughter Susan; the Second Doctor mentioned a family, long lost, to Victoria; and the modern series has had him mention being a father and a husband (in tones somewhat too serious to suggest he's talking about any of the ladies above). So the question has always remained - who was the Doctor's first wife? Who was the mother of his children? Who was Susan's grandmother?

The TV series has never answered this question, but the licensed original novels have. Sort of. Pay attention, this gets complicated. Way back in the ancient days of Gallifrey, there was a ruling triumvirate of legendary Time Lords - Rassilon (recently resurrected in the person of Timothy Dalton), Omega (from The Three Doctors) and the Other (don't bother, he's never mentioned on the TV show).

The Time Lords were cursed by the sisterhood of witches known as the Pythia to be forever barren - no more children would be born. Rassilon invented "Looms", great machines which would weave fully grown Time Lords from genetic material, as a way to perpetuate the species.  All Time Lords since then were born from these Looms with the bodies of adults but the minds of children - the Doctor, the Master, Romana, everybody.

When the Doctor first stole his TARDIS and fled from Gallifrey, he had no family in the conventional sense - no wife, no children, no grandchildren, just a House of cousins woven from the same Loom. His first trip in his new ship took him to Gallifrey's ancient past - something expressly forbidden by the Time Lords' laws. He landed in a time of great civil unrest, and rescued a young girl named Susan. Susan was the last child born on Gallifrey, and, although they had never met, she insisted that the Doctor was her grandfather. He didn't understand why, but sensed a connection between them, and fled with her in his stolen TARDIS.

A couple of regenerations later, the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa and Adric, in the novel Cold Fusion, encountered an injured Time Lady in an ancient TARDIS. Not knowing her name, they called her Patience. Turns out Patience was the wife of the Other and the grandmother of Susan. In this and other novels, we gradually learn that the Other, in order to escape the persecution of Rassilon's reign, hurled himself into a Loom, where he was ripped apart, his genetic material eventually being reconstituted as the Doctor. Patience recognized her husband, just as Susan had recognized her grandfather so long ago, even if he had no memory of his prior life.

Or...maybe not. The tie-in novels written in the time between the classic and new series are confusing, to say the least. The writers were trying to bring a sense of mystery back to the Doctor's origins, so everything was ambiguous, nothing was stated conclusively. The account of Patient's origin I've given here is the most common interpretation, but by no means the only one. And the new series has most definitely put paid to the idea of the Looms - we've seen a child version of the Master, and a fully-grown newborn Doctor would have had a pretty hard time fitting into that crib from A Good Man Goes to War.

So the Doctor's first love remains a mystery, but our favorite Gallifreyan heartbreaker has had no shortage of potential partners since then. Happy Valentine's Day, and may both your hearts be filled with love! Sexy, sexy Time Lord love!

1 comment:

  1. Personally I think Susan wasn't actually his Granddaughter, but a friend he made on Gallifrey. I think 'Grandfather' was perhaps a nickname, considering that he doesn't choose a name similar to Susan.