16 September 2015

After Clara

"See you don't need the Doctor!"

Is it time to rebalance the Doctor / Companion dynamic?
It now seems an open secret that Jenna Coleman will leave the series at the end of this forthcoming season becoming the longest running companion of modern times. However the main issue many have is not so much the length of her tenure rather the significance her character has taken on. Ever since Rose Tyler it’s been the case that the companion character is very much seen as a co-star to the Doctor. They have their own story properly seen through rather than the old tradition of running away from monsters or having to be rescued. It is a refreshing more modern approach and has inspired some of the best drama the series has ever had. The question now is whether, with Clara, this has gone too far.

Russell T Davies’ penchant for ordinary companions doing extraordinary things reached its full extent with Donna and some say it went too far back then even if it did provide an emotional finale. Steven Moffatt has run even further with this aspect, having the Universe apparently recreated from Amy’s memories something that seems to tip the balance towards her being a more important character than the Doctor.
However Amy seems like Dodo compared to Clara Oswald whose significance to the Doctor and by implication the series seems to outrank many of the previous Doctors never mind companions. Not only has she been present through every part of the Doctor’s timeline but she advised him which Tardis to take when he left Gallifrey. Then she manages to come up with the inspiration to hide rather than destroy Gallifrey. Not to mention her behaving like a different person in each of her previous seasons. No doubt some anomalies might be explained this season but the point is that she has become an all -encompassing super character who the series seems to revolve around. This has over tipped the equal status afforded the Doctor / Rose dynamic and means we were quite prepared to believe she could be the Doctor in that opening bit in `Death in Heaven`.  That would have been ok- I’m not against the idea of a female Doctor- but instead she is just the cleverest companion there ever was.
What people also maybe forget is that there was a purpose to previous companion’s jeopardy. It made the series feel as if anything could happen, it amplified the danger and the menace. Without that some episodes can come across as being too smug. Its clear neither he Doctor nor Clara are in much danger and neither are most of those around them. They’ll sort it out. Of course the Doctor- and his companion-did always sort things out but never so casually. If Clara met someone like Sutekh it would surely have little menace as she’d simply reply to his threats with witty banter.  
This is no criticism of Jenna Coleman herself whose performances have been excellent. In fact where it not for her ability we would be even less inclined to believe in Clare’s ongoing abilities and character contradictions...
Just as has happened with the Doctor, the producers need to change the picture with the next companion. Peter Capaldi’s older, spikier Doctor is a good contrast after two younger energetic types. So after two companions who are not as they see, have almost other worldly qualities and are also witty and intelligent it is surely the right time to try something different?

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