Sometimes I wonder about my influence on Moggie. I've just convinced her to do her "persuasive research paper, topic unspecified" on Doctor Who. The Fifth Doctor is her favorite as well, and Moggie has developed something of a fascination for Turlough, for whatever reason Moggie ever does anything, so I suggested that if she could find a topic somewhere in there to write her paper on, it would A) give her an excuse to go watch a lot of old TV again, and B) give her instructor something to read that wasn't yet another paper on how weed is awesome and should be legal.

I don't know what thesis she's going to use, but the one I suggested involved treating the series as modern myth and dissecting the role of the Doctor's companions in the narrative from an anthropological point of view, with bonus opportunity to quote Joseph Campbell for academic brownie points. She rejected a thesis of "fuck you, Turlough is awesome" on the grounds that it was too colloquial, plus formal papers aren't supposed to address the reader as 'you', so I told her perhaps she should turn it around, and analyze the interactions from the point of view of whether the companions served the narrative purpose for which they'd been picked up.

There were a whole passel of people traipsing through the TARDIS during the Fifth Doctor's era. Several of them had been picked up by the Fourth, right before he inconsiderately fell off of something very tall and regenerated into a man nobody had been properly introduced to. The Fourth Doctor was rather vague at the best of times and tended to pick up traveling companions almost entirely by accident -- most of them had to outright ask to go with him, aside from Romana, who was supposed to be his parole officer but threw that over as it turned out that being his accomplice was much more fun.

The Fifth Doctor, in contrast, tended to ask people to come with him because of some circumstances that made him think, essentially, that he oughtn't be leaving them alone. He very much wanted to be magic for the people traveling with him -- he saw them as wanting something, and he spent a lot of his time trying to give it to them, in between saving entire planets from explosive destruction. It worked surprisingly often, for a lot of the one-off characters he met in his travels, but the state of his companions was somewhat rockier, and sometimes complicated by what the Doctor himself wanted. Which, unsurprisingly, was mostly not to disappoint people, or be left alone.

Two of the companions he inherited from the Fourth Doctor were Adric and Nyssa, both of whom were stranded rather far from their planets of origins. Adric was a native of a planet from a parallel universe, and couldn't have gotten back even if he'd wanted to, as the Doctor barely got out of there in the first place. He was a teenage boy, brash and loud as many teenage boys are; the fact that he wanted approval from someone he thought of as older and more awesome was apparent to everyone except the Fourth Doctor, who tended to be rather oblivious. The Fifth Doctor was quite aware of it, if not always successful at remembering it in time to say nice things. Adric, unfortunately, wanted more approval than anyone outside his own head could usefully give him, and it drove him to do a lot of dangerous things, up to and including sacrifice his life to carry out a typically-dangerous Doctor-ish plan. This is one of the few times a companion has died in the series -- normally they're written out by choosing to leave the TARDIS and settle somewhere they've just been adventuring -- and the guilt really does not do particularly nice things to the Doctor's head.

Nyssa joined the Fourth Doctor as well, right after her father was killed by the Doctor's archnemesis the Master, and her entire planet obliterated by same. The Fourth Doctor took her along largely because she physically had nowhere else to go, but the Fifth Doctor seems to have been aiming to give her a family and a place to belong. Their on-screen relationship reads very much like father/daughter to me; it certainly doesn't end as disastrously as it might have, but he does seem rather crestfallen when she grows up a bit and opts to stay in a fairly dangerous place by herself, because she thinks she'll be able to help there. The reminder that he can't be her place to stay forever, and that the odds he'll be around enough to continue being family to her are slim, is unpleasant.

Tegan Jovanka was an Australian lady who was attempting to get to Heathrow and her new job as a stewardess when she literally blundered into the TARDIS thinking it was a real police box. Tegan did not particularly want to be along for the ride at any point; the one time she chose to keep traveling was when she found herself back on Earth, unemployed and apparently unable to avoid being chased by alien menaces even at home, and decided it was at least slightly safer if she were standing behind the Doctor when these things showed up. He spent a ridiculous amount of time and energy looking for something, anything, that would make her think that traveling all of space and time was a wonderful experience. Not only did he never find it, but eventually they ran into Daleks, which are the opposite of all that is happy and relaxing in the entire cosmos. (The Doctor typically gets very upset when things die, Five even more than some of the others, but he does not hesitate to empty an entire clip of real bullets into an uncased Dalek. He has dealt with them before, and they are not friends.) That one did end rather catastrophically, on an emotional level. Tegan told him point blank that it was not fun anymore, she was not going on any more trips, and then ran without letting him say much of anything about it.

Kamelion was a shape-changing android thing they encountered on Earth, and the Doctor picked it up almost solely because it had previously been in possession of the Master. Kamelion never got much play as a character, and it turned out that the Doctor's efforts to save it from evil were entirely in vain. The prop was such a PITA -- it was a real animatronic mannequin, that was complex to control and prone to malfunctioning -- that it was only ever used in that first story, and in the subsequent story in which it is revealed that the thing had secretly been in control of the Master the entire time anyway. The robot requests, rather politely given the circumstances, that the Doctor destroy it, as it rather likes the Doctor and has no confidence whatsoever in its ability to continue to not wreck his life.

And then there's Turlough. The Doctor picks Turlough up on Earth, where he is pretending with rather limited success to be a schoolboy. The gimmick was that Turlough was an exile who had been sentenced to grind the rest of his life away on Earth, but hated it so thoroughly that he was willing to make a deal with a terrible evil cosmic force to the effect that he'd kill the Doctor in exchange for transport off the God-forsaken rock. Turlough turns out to be even less successful at cold-blooded murder than he is at remembering not to mention that he knows what a transmat capsule is or that he's got an excellent idea of what all the alien ship controls do. The Doctor is almost certainly aware that Turlough is not actually from here within a few minutes of meeting him, and has at least the broad outlines of why the boy wants to come with him by the time they leave. It becomes increasingly apparent that he's let Turlough travel with them because he thinks the great cosmic force has taken unfair advantage of a scared kid, and that he's much more desperate, traumatized, and/or lonely than he ever was evil.

The funny thing is, out of all these things the Doctor is trying to give all of these people, Turlough's the only one he even kind of succeeds with. Mostly what he was trying to magic up for the boy was a sense that someone in the universe gave a damn whether he lived or died, and after a bit of a rocky start, Turlough does seem to come around and actually believe this. It probably helps that the Doctor seems to have unofficially decided he's second-in-command, teaching him a rather large amount about how the TARDIS worked and how she flew. (There was actually some trouble writing for the character, because he was meant to be intelligent and from a place significantly more technologically advanced than Earth. Much of the narrative function of having the companions around, is so that the Doctor has someone to shout breathless explanations to, and Turlough didn't need many of them. They do better in the audios -- being written by fans for fans, the audience frequently doesn't need the explanations either.) By the time they land somewhere from whence Turlough can manage to get himself home, he's at least trying to hang onto the idea that he's not a worthless toad who doesn't deserve to get his life back.

Yes, I spend entirely too much time thinking about these things.

Comments