PLEASE BE AWARE THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE DEALS WITH ISSUES OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE. THIS CAN BE A TRIGGER ISSUE FOR SOME READERS. PLEASE TAKE CARE WITH THE FOLLOWING CONTENT
This coming Christmas I won’t be watching the Doctor Who special, and I probably won’t be watching Doctor Who ever again. As a Brit you have a ‘Doctor’, mine was Tom Baker, the scarf covered, floppy hat wearing, nutcase with the jelly babies and some of the darkest scripts ever to have the audience hiding behind the sofa.
Like a lot of fans, my Doctor informs my opinion on how the character should be. Perhaps the most iconic episode for Tom was the Genesis of the Daleks; the Doctor sent to prevent the creation of the Daleks. The Doctor fails because he questions his right to snuff out of existence an entire species. It’s an abiding part of the Doctor’s mythos as a teacher, a hero and an impassioned man of principle as he tries desperately to protect all life. Throughout the show’s 50 year history the Doctor has been a hero because when faced with the simple answer of pulling the trigger, dropping the bomb or sacrificing others he goes out of his way to save everyone, even the villains, if he can.
As a fan I REALLY wanted to like the new series; the show has gone from strength to strength since the BBC brought the Doctor back. However, something is not right in the House of Who and it’s something serious. The relationship between the Doctor and Clara is an abusive one. I don’t mean that the Doctor is impolite, I mean that this incarnation of the Doctor is manipulative, controlling and contrary to many of the key values the Doctor has come to represent.
This is not an accusation I make lightly, and it is because I am a Whovian that I find this whole thing so upsetting. So please allow me to take you through my logic, as I pick some points from the most recent season:
- In Deep Breath Clara wants to leave, to go back to a normal life, but the Doctor refuses to let her:
DOCTOR: I’m not your boyfriend.
CLARA: I never thought you were.
DOCTOR: I never said it was your mistake…
DOCTOR: Who gave you my number? A long time ago, remember? You were given the number of a computer helpline, and you ended up phoning the Tardis. Who gave you that number?
CLARA: The woman. The woman in the shop.
DOCTOR: Then there’s a woman out there who’s very keen that we stay together.
CLARA: I’m sorry. I’m, I’m so, so sorry. But I don’t think I know who you are any more.
DOCTOR 11: …however scared you are, Clara, the man you are with right now, the man I hope you are with, believe me, he is more scared than anything you can imagine right now and he, he needs you.
- When Clara starts seeing Danny Pink, the Doctor actively interferes and tries to break them up – Even though he knows from the episode Listen how closely Clara and Danny’s fates are intertwined:
DOCTOR: ‘Robbing a bank. Robbing a whole bank. Beat that for a date’.
- Coming to a head in Caretaker when the Doctor admits that he’s taken it upon himself to decide if Clara’s potential boyfriend is good enough:
DANNY: It’s all right, it doesn’t matter. I don’t need him to like me. It doesn’t matter if he likes me or hates me, I just need to do exactly one thing for you. Doctor, am I right?
CLARA: What? What one thing?
DANNY: I need to be good enough for you. That’s why he’s angry. Just in case I’m not…
It’s not for the Doctor to judge is someone is good enough for his companions. A friend would warn a loved one if they thought they might get hurt, console them if it is the wrong choice, but it’s not for the Doctor to control who Clara does and doesn’t see, especially considering the events in Deep Breath.
- In Mummy on the Orient Express he actively ignores Clara’s request to just be friends and to stop going on adventures by tricking her into a dangerous adventure and again trying to interfere Clara and Danny’s relationship.
- In Kill the Moon, the Doctor spends the majority of the episode undermining Clara in front of a child in her care, before simply deserting her to face a choice which looks like certain death (Blow up the Moon and Die, or allow the Moon to hatch and die on it), and not deserting in the traditional Doctor manner of “I can’t interfere but remember all I’ve taught you” etc. he just runs and turns up at the end of the episode to bask in the glory:
CLARA: Tell me what you knew.
DOCTOR: Nothing. I told you, I’ve got grey areas.
CLARA: Yeah. I noticed. Tell me what you knew, Doctor, or else I’ll smack you so hard you’ll regenerate.
DOCTOR: I knew that eggs are not bombs. I know they don’t usually destroy their nests. Essentially, what I knew was that you would always make the best choice. I had faith that you would always make the right choice.
CLARA: Honestly, do you have music playing in your head when you say rubbish like that?
DOCTOR: It wasn’t my decision to make. I told you.
CLARA: Well, why did you do it? Was it for Courtney, was that it?
DOCTOR: Well, she really is something special now, isn’t she? First woman on the moon, saved the Earth from itself, and, rather bizarrely, she becomes the President of the United States. She met this bloke called Blinovitch
CLARA: Do you know what? Shut up! I am so sick of listening to you!
DOCTOR: Well, I didn’t do it for Courtney. I didn’t know what was going to happen. Do you think I’m lying?
(Clara is crying with rage.)
CLARA: I don’t know. I don’t know. If you didn’t do it for her, I mean. Do you know what? It was, it was cheap, it was pathetic. No, no, no. It was patronising. That was you patting us on the back, saying, you’re big enough to go to the shops by yourself now. Go on, toddle along.
DOCTOR: No, that was me allowing you to make a choice about your own future. That was me respecting you.
CLARA: Oh, my God, really? Was it? Yeah, well, respected is not how I feel.
DOCTOR: Right. Okay. Er.
CLARA: I nearly didn’t press that button. I nearly got it wrong. That was you, my friend, making me scared. Making me feel like a bloody idiot.
CLARA: Oh, don’t you ever tell me to mind my language. Don’t you ever tell me to take the stabilisers off my bike. And don’t you dare lump me in with the rest of all the little humans that you think are so tiny and silly and predictable. You walk our Earth, Doctor, you breathe our air. You make us your friend, and that is your moon too. And you can damn well help us when we need it.
DOCTOR: I was helping.
CLARA: What, by clearing off?
CLARA: Yeah, well, clear off! Go on. You can clear off. Get back in your lonely, your lonely bloody Tardis and you don’t come back.
DOCTOR: Clara. Clara.
CLARA: You go away. Okay? You go a long way away.
- However, the crowning glory of this abusive Doctor and the moment that drove me to start working on this article was in Dark Water, where Clara, desperate at the loss of Danny goes to extremes with the Doctor, steals his Tardis keys in hope of forcing him to help. However, it’s all a dream. The Doctor, as Clara’s friend, rather than stopping her at the moment when she tries to apply the dream patch and ask her what’s wrong, let’s her think that she’s committed a hideous betrayal and then uses it to leverage their friendship:
DOCTOR: You betrayed me. Betrayed my trust, you betrayed our friendship, you betrayed everything that I’ve ever stood for. You let me down!
CLARA: Then why are you helping me?
DOCTOR: Why? Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference? Stop it with the eyes. Don’t do that with the eyes. How do you do that anyway? It’s like they inflate. Cut out the whining while you’re at it.
These are not the actions of a friend, these are not the words of a friend. Clara didn’t betray the Doctor, the Doctor put her through agony thinking she had hurt her friend, who then played the victim, took that pain and used it against her.
However, this is a work of fiction. Why am I so upset?
Doctor Who is a Flagship, Primetime, Family show and the Doctor has come to represent an amazing role-model with a history spanning 50 years. The Doctor is a Hero, not an anti-hero. The way the Doctor recognises merit over race, gender, creed, sexuality or species is brilliant. The series has a serious history of strong, intelligent, confident and formidable female characters Ace, Rose Tyler, River Song, Amy Pond, Martha Jones, Tegan, Jo Grant, Sara Kingdom, Polly, Sarah Jane Smith (with her own show continuing the traditions and principles set by the Doctor), and not forgetting Vastra and Jenny Flint. Not to mention great characters such as Wilf and Midshipman Frame, showing that anyone can be a hero at the right moment.
We are in an age where we are crying out for positive male role models. Teaching children and teenagers about relationships and the dangers of abuse has spawned a high profile government campaign and now emotional, not just physical, abuse is illegal. For the Doctor to go from someone who isn’t afraid to run-away from violence, loves to teach, to learn, has a belief in the sanctity of all life and prefers to think his way round problems wherever possible, to an emotionally abusive, controlling and manipulative creep is not something I can support.
Now, it could be argued that this particular story is about Clara’s journey and growing beyond the Doctor (This is the Impossible Girl after all). However, this isn’t the Impossible Girl Show, it’s Doctor Who. Clara isn’t the hero of the show. Further, if the show was post-watershed or if the themes were dealt with in a single episode or two parter I’d be fine with it. But this hasn’t been an overt character growth in Clara and the Doctor, it hasn’t been an overt theme, it has been an undercurrent of behaviour through a whole season, importantly Capaldi’s introductory season and it isn’t appropriate for a family audience.
So here’s a request to Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi, as a fan and from a parent of an amazing daughter to two others. Put this right. If a friend of your children treated them the way the Doctor has Clara this season you would advise them to cut that person loose and find a real friend. You have the power to return to me a true hero before you wreck an amazing institution.
For More Information, Help & Support with Abuse: