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Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Rise Of The Companion

One thing that sort of flew by the wayside over the last little bit is that yours truly is now officially a published author.

I'm not entirely sure how I forgot to mention this, but yep, one of my articles actually got published in 'Enlightenment' magazine -- the official Doctor Who fanzine of the Doctor Who Information Network.

For those who may not have heard of it, 'Enlightenment' is considered one of the longest running Doctor Who magazines and is currently celebrating it's 25th anniversary.

My article appeared in issue #157 (in case you were wondering).

Pretty darn cool, if you ask me.

For those of you who might not have had a chance to check it out, I'm going to re-print my article here.

Also, if you haven't been watching, you should definitely check out the new Doctor Who.

Brilliant, brilliant stuff.

The Rise Of The Companion
by Brandon C Laraby

When moving from the eighth incarnation of Doctor Who to the ninth, regeneration was the easy part. Replacing a beloved Doctor that had become a veritable master of multimedia – well, that’d be the trick.

Though the Eighth Doctor had only ever graced our television screens that one time back in ’96, he’d gone on to live a long and full life through literally hundreds of adventures that had played out across a myriad of novels, radio dramas and comic strips. This upstart new Doctor would have to be something special indeed if he hoped to compete with that legacy. More importantly, if he hoped to find a way into the hearts of fans both old and new.

Perhaps the greatest coup for the fledgling show would come in the form of one Mr. Christopher Eccleston, a lauded theatre, film and television actor who’d played everything from an insane war general in 28 Days Later to The Second Coming of Jesus Christ himself. He would bring a gravitas to the character as well as much-needed buzz, an excuse for those unaware to find their way to the show. But that would guarantee promotion and nothing more.

To complicate matters, the coming of the Ninth Doctor also heralded a new status quo for the series, which had to be re-tooled from the ground up for a new generation of viewers, one that had yet to meet the genetic horror of the Daleks or the relentless march of the Cybermen. And so in order to bring about the change required, our Eighth Doctor would find himself changed as well – though how, exactly, we would never be told.

Our Doctor could no longer be a byzantine character full of derring-do and thoughtful wit; instead he would be updated, ready to tackle the imaginations of current viewers and the complexities of the modern world. Thus our Ninth Doctor emerged from a place of pathos: the lone survivor of an interstellar Time War, now a pulsing dichotomy of melancholic refugee and free-range manic dervish.

His heart now shrouded in darkness and loss, our Ninth Doctor looked at the human world around him and saw himself as a man apart – an alien both realised and lost. He became one who regarded problems with a crooked and suspicious eye, who “didn’t do domestics” and cursed like a sailor.

Not exactly an easy man to love.

It was a gamble, to be sure – one that could’ve easily scuttled old fans and new alike… for how does one find compassion for such a man?

Yet that was the true brilliance of writer and imaginative force Russell T. Davies. By creating a Doctor so tragic and flawed, he allowed us to peer inside our hero like never before.

Through these flaws, his distance and pain, we were allowed to understand his true need for companionship.

Rather than through exploits and high adventure and last-minute flashes of brilliance, we would find love for our Doctor through the love of the one who travelled with him, a dimension heretofore unexplored within the realm of the Doctor/companion relationship.

This time it would not be just a human or alien tag-along. This companion was someone who would need to touch him deeply, who would be challenged to reignite a dormant spark within and fill the yawning abyss in his hearts. Someone with whom the audience could relate and, through them, come to understand this strange and alien ‘Doctor.’

Yes, Rose Tyler would not have it easy.

And yet, for one with so much riding on her shoulders, what was remarkable about Rose was just how unremarkable she was. Not a wild woman or a freedom fighter or a combat pilot, Rose was a struggling young woman unsure of her direction in life, lost in a sea of personal expectation and disappointment. Or, to put it another way, another stroke of genius from Mr. Davies.

This utterly normal, unthreatening girl would be our guide, one whom we could latch onto and live through, a safe harbour in the storm to come – whether we found ourselves 5 billion years in the future watching the final fate of our planet, or running from an army of flying human-Dalek hybrids.

Through Rose Tyler we would find ourselves closer to home than ever before, because instead of creating a sprawling narrative about the fate of the Earth or some introspection on the nature of humanity, these two people – so utterly lost and alone in a world that made no sense to them – would craft a tale of friendship and camaraderie.

And ultimately, we would follow them and love them and, when the time came, mourn them.

Though the Ninth Doctor would only live a short time, certainly when compared to the long lives of other Doctors, his attitude was one that reverberated somewhere deep inside us.

For who has not felt the sting of loneliness or the longing to be understood, to find a true friend who, no matter what our outlook, could find compassion and strength for us when we ourselves could not?

In providing our Ninth Doctor with not only an equal but a true friend, Russell T Davies breathed new life into the series and ignited within us our own need to explore and understand the unknown, ensuring that, no matter where this Doctor or the next would lead us, we would gladly follow.


Rich Baldwin said...

Good article, man. And congrats on the publication!

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