So, my true confession is that the first nomination I put forward as ‘representative episode’ of the Ninth Doctor was totally Dalek, and I later changed it to Father’s Day because almost everyone else (hi, Kat!) had chosen Dalek, and it annoys me to do what everyone else is doing.
Plus debate is more fun, right?
The Ninth Doctor blazed on to our screens in 2005, grinning and holding hands and running and bopping along to music and wearing a black leather jacket, and Doctor Who was never the same again. Nine years earlier, Paul McGann requested to play the part with a buzz cut and leather jacket, and was poured into a 19th century jacket and a long curly wig. Fandom (and the perception of fandom) wasn’t ready for it yet, just as they weren’t QUITE ready for that snog with Grace Holloway.
But in 2005 we were totally ready for leather jackets and hand holding and quips that acknowledged there were gay people in the world, and KISSING.
Okay, not everyone was ready for the kissing part. But how awesome that the first Doctor kissage on screen in the Eccleston era wasn’t with Rose at all but Captain Jack? I digress.
I chose Father’s Day because it’s such a crucial point for Rose and the Doctor – and because the story is far more about her than Dalek is, and I agree very much that this season is all about the companion’s story. We see the progression of their relationship to the point that he is willing to bend the laws of time for her – and then see that relationship severely tested when she takes the opportunity to BREAK the laws of time, and breaks his trust in her too.
We get family stuff – Jackie and Mickey and Rose as we’ve never seen them before, with the bonus character of Pete who only appears once in this season but represents so much about Rose’s past and why her life kind of sucked before the Doctor waltzed into it (cough, anyone noticed how similar the Doctor and Pete are? Particularly between the Doctor and Rose/Jackie’s fantasy version of Pete…). The Doctor has some wonderful lines that shows he’s not as anti-human as has been suggested up until now – and while he doesn’t completely save the day (another element characteristic of this season, where the Doctor inspires others to be the ones who do the saving) he certainly has a few grandstanding Hero Moments.
While this season has plenty of space and historical action, it’s really the contemporary humans who are the focus, and this episode has that in spades. A piece of horror and emotion, with very ordinary people facing the worst thing they can imagine – the destruction of their world. Father’s Day is not only genuinely good Doctor Who, but it showed that Doctor Who could be excellent drama, too. While Dalek is undoubtedly the episode of the season that most fans take the greatest pride in, I suspect that Father’s Day is the episode that showed the millions of Doctor Who viewers at the time who DIDN’T identify as fans that the show was for them, too.
The other big issue of this podcast episode was of course BRINGING THE SMUT.
I think there is definitely a frisson of flirtation through this season, and that it’s more on Rose’s side than the Doctor’s but he definitely participates, particularly from The Empty Child onwards. There’s a sense of competition in this Doctor that seems to flare up whenever there is a fit bloke around, and that affects how he interacts with Mickey and Adam as well as Jack (though Jack is complicated, of course).
As I said with the post on Ten, I don’t think there is actual shagging at this point (though once Jack arrives it is a FAR more convincing theory) largely because I prefer stories of a romantic nature to progress at a reasonable pace, and the way it creeps up on you in this season to the point where Rose is completely in love with the Doctor and he is on his way to realising that, is actually pretty awesome all on its own.
As with Amy, I don’t think Rose is seriously after the Doctor in her early episodes, it’s more that thing that happens in your late teens and early twenties where a LOT of people you come across represent a ‘maybe what if…’ sort of vibe. You can be attracted without wanting to date, flirtatious without intention. If Series 1 is basically Rose’s equivalent of a gap year, then the Doctor is totally That Bloke Who Is Wrong For Me But Maybe Right For Right Now.
I am getting more and more convinced with the fan theory Lynne mentioned that the Doctor’s regenerations at least subconsciously might be guided by his perceived failings or desires in the current incarnation, and I do think at least partly the Tenth Doctor was created in response to the odd-not-quite platonic relationship he had with Rose at the time. It is a love story of sorts but I don’t think it’s what most people think of as a linear love story, and I think that it’s a more interesting story if the love that is so important in this season is at least partly platonic (mostly on the Doctor’s side). I don’t seriously think that if Rose had tried to pash the Ninth Doctor halfway through the series that he would have been especially receptive to it – if nothing else, this is a Doctor with PTSD and intimacy issues!
A polite “no thank you” as he offered Jackie seems most likely, or perhaps a polite kissing back (as with the farewell to Jack) and then changing the subject and pretending it never happened.
Having said all that, HAND HOLDING IN THIS SEASON LET’S DISCUSS YOU! If “dancing” is a metaphor for sex in a certain two parter in this season and come on, that’s not even a question, then what does hand-holding represent? It feels so familiar when the Ninth Doctor grabs Rose’s hand for the first time and says ‘run’ but the truth is that there was very little hand holding in the old days apart from That Paris Story which is, let’s face it, as romantic as Doctor Who ever got before regardless of whether you think Romana is too good for him.
When Peter Davison, the youngest of the Classic Era Doctors, took on the role, there were a whole bunch of seriously saucy publicity pictures (thank you, JNT), and yet in the show itself he was firmly encouraged away from any casual touching at all, so as not to imply Hanky Panky. Likewise, for all Leela’s revealing leather outfit was intended ‘for the dads,’ the chemistry between her and the Fourth Doctor in the way they spoke to each other was so lacking in flirtation that it felt like he hadn’t even noticed she was female until she complained about the frock in Weng-Chiang.
I’d love to see someone collate a vid of hand holding in Doctor Who, but I really don’t believe there was that much of it before Rose. Did Ben and Polly hold hands, actually? Ian and Barbara? Two and Jamie certainly did…
In any case, whoa, the handholding adds a level of intimacy to this season, a combination of old-fashioned jolly hockey sticks chumminess and actual City of Death style romantic tension, all wrapped up in a veil of deliberate innocence. In a TV era where sex scenes are commonplace, it was refreshing and served as such effective (dare I say it) foreplay that the kiss at the end of the season, when it arrived, was hardly a surprise at all.
I’ve talked on Verity before about how most kisses in the RTD era were ‘promo-bait’, gratuitously non romantic smooches designed to tease the viewers rather than to actually move the story forward. But when you look at that snog in the Parting of the Ways… I don’t know how anyone can read that moment as purely platonic, regardless of their feelings on the general asexuality of the Doctor. He approaches her with such genuine enthusiasm, and I am sure the transference could have been achieved with a firm handshake instead…
Never fear, Platonians! Neil Gaiman has provided us with an alternate possible reading for this scene, which is that the Doctor is only hot for Rose when she has TARDIS all over her. Actually, that possibly explains the River Song marriage too…