Posted 29 September 2008 in Doctor Who by Catriona
In honour of the controversial ending to season four of Doctor Who, I want to run through, in a diffuse and undirected fashion, something that’s been bothering me for a while.
I want people to stop telling me what criteria I need to meet before I can call myself a Doctor Who fan.
Sure, no one’s actually telling me this in person, but I’m seeing blanket statements more and more often, and they’re frustrating me.
I was surfing around the other day, looking for a version of Tim Bisley’s rant about The Phantom Menace from Spaced so I could quote it in a comment thread, and I came across another version of this statement on a blog I’d never visited before.
I’m not going to link to the blog, because that’s not important: the author is entitled to their opinion (which is, in a nutshell, what this post is about), and it was just one more iteration of the comment that’s been bothering me.
And that comment, paraphrased, is this: You’re not a fan of Doctor Who unless you get all gushy about the Doctor’s relationship with Rose.
Well, I don’t get particularly gushy over the relationship, but I see no reason why my fandom should be constrained or questioned as a result.
Why am I not particularly invested in that relationship? Many reasons.
Partly, it has to do with the fact that I found Rose thoroughly whiny at the end of season four, and lost much of the sympathy I’d previously had for her as a result.
But partly it has to do with the fact that Rose’s relationship with the Doctor opened up the subsequent unrequited-love angle for Martha and the argument, which I still see posted on various sites, that obviously Donna is in love with the Doctor: everyone is in love with the Doctor.
This argument, to me, has shades of another old chestnut that I despise: Men and women can’t ever really be friends, because sex keeps getting in the way.
I can’t count the number of ways in which that statement frustrates me, but here are a few:
- it’s patronising: not everyone is locked into a mode of thought where a sexual relationship is the only possible relationship.
- it’s deeply heternormative: what if one member of the pairing is gay? What if both are? And what on earth does this suggest about our friendships with people who aren’t heterosexual?
- it suggests we should live in a climate of trepidation, suspecting that everyone we meet wants something from us that they’re hiding behind a facade of friendship, and if we ever acknowledge that facade, the whole friendship will crumble.
- where do married couples or couples in other forms of long-term committed relationships fit in here?
It seems to me that Rose’s relationship with the Doctor has opened Doctor Who up to this type of reading. I can’t fathom how it is possible to read Donna as in love with the Doctor, but no text is translucent, so presumably people are pulling something out of it that I’m not seeing.
But this is only my personal problem with the programme. When I watched it as a child, there was no suggestion of this in my mind. (With the possible exception of Romana.) The Doctor has companions, and they travelled the galaxy together, and we all wished we could travel in the TARDIS one day. If anything else was going on, it was going on behind closed doors, and I, for one, never thought about it.
Looking back, I think that was one reason why I liked the show: it was one of the few shows out there that didn’t subscribe to the “men and women can’t be friends” mentality.
Well, those days are over, as far a large proportion of Doctor Who fandom is concerned.
And that’s not the issue with which I have a problem.
I’m not attempting to assert that my view of the programme is the only true and right one.
Fandom is not monolithic.
There are as many different ways of being a fan as there are different ways to read a text, and there are as many ways of reading a text as there are readers (provided the text is of sufficient complexity. I don’t know how many ways there are to read Spot books—though I did once have students demonstrate a brilliant reading of a Spot pop-up book through the conventions of Gothic literature, so maybe I shouldn’t be so restrictive.)
You experience great joy out of being a Rose-Doctor ‘shipper? Great! ‘Ship away!
But don’t dare tell me that if I don’t subscribe to your view of the text then I’m not a fan.
I’m a fan of Doctor Who.
I’ve been a fan of Doctor Who my entire life: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t watch this programme, growing up in the household of parents who started watching the programme in 1963.
I was an open fan of the programme back when Doctor Who fans were unilaterally perceived as anorak-wearing weirdos (though I ascribe no particular virtue to this on my part: I never have been cool).
I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again: Doctor Who is blood and bone to me, the only television programme that I’ve ever felt exists under my very skin.
So I don’t gush over the Doctor’s relationship with a recent companion.
Why should I feel compelled to abandon a life-long fandom on those grounds?