Oct 2 2012 5:00pm

Who Do You Love: Heart-Wrenching and Hilarious Love in Doctor Who

Ten and Rose in Doctor WhoIt is a fact, universally acknowledged, that a man with a time machine is in want of a companion. After all, travelling all of space and time is lonely. The Doctor on the surface seems like a child—dashing off to go save the world from monsters who seem like they could only be in someone’s imagination, and even in a recent admitting (quite exuberantly) that he still keeps a Christmas list.

But underneath the surface, the Doctor is essentially a romantic hero. He is the last of his race, he saves the world on what seems a daily basis and all of this combined makes his companions fall in love with him.

To be fair, this idea of love and the Doctor is only a recent development. In the Doctor of the 1960s-1980s, the companion (especially the female companion) was someone for the Doctor to save and eventually someone who helped keep the loneliness away. But in 2005, Russell T. Davies rebooted the series after more than 20 years on hiatus. Christopher Eccleston was the first Doctor in the reboot and introduced the woman who, to most fans, unequivocally captured the Doctor’s hearts.

Rose Tyler (Seasons 1 & 2, sporadically through Season 3 & 4)

David Tennant and Billie Piper as Ten and Rose in Doctor WhoAh, Rose and the Doctor. For hardcore Whovians, Rose is a major point of contention. You either love her for being able to love the Doctor, or you hate her because the Doctor isn’t meant to be romantic. Whichever way you swing on this issue, it can easily be argued that Rose is the Doctor’s one true love.
In the first episode of the season, Rose bursts in as mannequins chase her in the department store where she works. Of course, the Doctor swoops in to save her and offers to show her all of time and space. The beauty of being the Doctor’s companion is you can go off and have all of these adventures and come back as if nothing has ever changed. Except, everything has changed. In the case of Rose, the Doctor not only changes Rose, but he literally changes the universe she lives in. You can’t help but fall in love with a man who makes it possible for your family to be whole again—to drop you in a parallel universe where your father is still alive, where your mother is not such a harridan, and gives up his life and love with you for your benefit.

This is the tragedy of the Doctor and Rose’s relationship. Most of the companions who fall in love with the Doctor, the love is one-sided, but with the Doctor and Rose the love isn’t and yet they still can’t be together. Luckily, in the Whoverse, all can be done and a Parallel (and fully human) Doctor entered the Parallel universe and was able to finally get his HEA with Rose. It was one of the most heart-wrenching and satisfying moments in the Rose arc on Who. After all, as happy as viewers were to finally see the Doctor and Rose walk off together, it still wasn’t the Doctor. As heart-wrenching as it is to see your love walk off with someone else, it may be worse to see that love walk off with yourself, having the life you always wanted but could never have.

River Song (Season 4, Seasons 5-7)

Alex Kingston as River Song in Doctor WhoWhile we are still with the 10th Doctor, we are introduced to one of the most interesting characters to date. River Song is ambiguous and filled with timeless one-liners like “Spoilers” and “hello, sweetie.” These one-liners are much better when spoken in the wonderfully spunky tone of Alex Kingston, so please imagine that as you read.

River Song’s “spoilers” are what make her such a great addition to the cast. Unlike the rest of the companions who meet the Doctor for a brief part of his or their lives and run in the same relative timeline, River meets the Doctor backwards—her past is his future. It’s lead to some quite poignant moments, such as when River kisses the Doctor. She realizes that this is the first time he's kissed her and so it will be her last.

The 11th Doctor (played by Matt Smith) takes us back to the childishness and playfulness that had been lost during and River’s outlandish sexuality towards him is both awkward and hilarious. Here’s a taste:

The Doctor: River Song, I could bloody kiss you!

River: Oh well. Maybe when you're older.


The Doctor: [smugly, just after explaining how he determined where the mysterious phone calls to President Nixon were originating from] ...And Doctor Song, you've got that face on again.

River Song: [bemused] What face?

The Doctor: The 'He's-hot-when-he's-clever' face.

River Song: This is my normal face!

The Doctor [even more smugly]: Yes it is.

River Song: Oh, shut up.

The Doctor: [smiling] Not a chance.


The Doctor: Shout if you get into trouble.

River Song: Don't worry, I'm quite the screamer. Now there's a spoiler for you.

River Song in Doctor WhoBecause the Doctor really is a madman with a box, he doesn’t usually know how to receive sexual innuendo with most other characters (his time with Captain Jack Harkness was another hilarious, innuendo-filled storyline), but somehow with River it works. As with most Who arcs, this one has a more serious undertone. We always find River waiting for the Doctor in a cell, escaping a cell, or being returned to a cell. There was a great mystery surrounding this particular arc, since for much of Season 6 all that was ever revealed about her captivity was that she had killed “the greatest man she had ever known…”

River hasn’t shown up yet in Season 7, but in episode four the Doctor’s favorite gun-toting archaeologist will make her first appearance after the bombs she dropped at the end of Season 6. After all, with her marriage to the Doctor at the end of Season 6 and the exit of Rory and Amy (aka mom and dad) in “The Angels Take Manhattan,” she has to come in to try to save the day!

Amy and Rory (Seasons 5-7)

Amy and Rory in Doctor WhoAt the beginning of the 11th Doctor’s season, we’re introduced to the feisty Amy, who thought the Doctor was her imaginary friend when she met him as a child and is, with good reason, shocked to find out he is real. As companions always do, she goes haring off with the Doctor…the night before her wedding. During the first season and even as Rory became the second companion to the Doctor, there was still underlying tension as Rory second guessed the strength of his relationship with Amy. The writers heavily alluded to a relationship between Amy and the Doctor. On several occasions Amy would refer to the father of her child as being a brave man who would brave time and space to save her/her child (it should be noted for those who haven’t watched all of Season 5 and 6 that Amy is imprisoned in a Pandorica—yes, like a Pandora’s Box—and Rory waits for her as a cyborg… Oh, the shenanigans of Doctor Who).

By the very nature of Doctor Who, you have to make sacrifices in order to be a companion—this usually involves leaving a family member behind or choosing the Doctor/adventure over any current attachments. While Amy seems bored with her life in a small village in England, Rory is not. However, in the latest season of Doctor Who, we see the depth of true humanity of Amy and Rory's relationship. In the season opener, it is revealed that Amy and Rory are getting a divorce. The couple always seemed mismatched, but by the end of the episode, the crux of the issue is revealed: because of the experiments done on Amy by The Silence in Season 6, she can't have children. It's a very real issue, and while I don't think it was handled perfectly by the writers, it added a new stronger element to Amy and Rory's relationship.

Amy and Rory in The Angels Take ManhattanOf course, we can't talk about Amy and Rory without talking about their exit from the show. In the September 29 episode, “The Angels Take Manhattan,” we see the last of the Ponds. Now, if you haven't watched the most recent episode, there will be a ***major spoiler ahead.*** Amy, Rory, and The Doctor arrive in a pulp-inspired Manhattan and are faced with an Angel invasion. For those of you who may not know or have forgotten about Angels, they are one of the creepiest monsters in the series—they only move when you aren't looking and freeze when you have your eyes on them. The bonus is that once they “kill” you, all that happens is you are placed in a different time and you age to death. This is crucial in the Amy and Rory plot since Rory is nabbed by one of the Angels. Rory is already known as the man who waited millenia for Amy to be released from a jail meant for the Doctor and was about to face the same fate of waiting for, but never reuniting with, Amy. In a split-second decision, Amy chooses Rory and gets sucked in to the same time as Rory so they can age together forever. In the end, they choose each other over any adventures they could have with the Doctor.

In romance, love transforms the hero or heroine. Unfortunately for the Doctor, love seems to be toxic to him. The people he loves are either destroyed (in the case of River Song), separated from him for life (in the case of Rose), or choose to leave him in order to go on with a more normal life (in the case of Rory and Amy).


Jennifer Proffitt is a Midwest transplant to New York City. She spends most of her time reading and writing about romance, but you can follow her other adventures on Twitter @JennProffitt.

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1. avalon14u
You did not mention Martha Jones in your article. While she was not technically in love with the Doctor, I think she was his greatest and best friend. After all, she saved the world and the Doctor. Also, there is Donna Noble, another great friend.
Jennifer Proffitt
2. JenniferProffitt
I did think about mentioning Martha Jones because I actually do think she was in love with the Doctor and he was just too preoccupied with losing Rose to pay attention to Martha's feelings. The other side of that coin is that he knew Martha was in love with him and chose to ignore it to spare her feelings. I can't really tell you why I left it out—probably for space, but partially because I don't think I could have said much more about it other than "Martha was in love with the Doctor and he was not and that's why he's a tragic romantic figure." What do you think?

As for Donna, I actually did not include her in it purposefully, although a) she is by far my favorite companion and b) I already had something all written up and ready to be put in. I did not think her story was actually relevant to love in Doctor Who. While she has great familial love with her grandfather and showed the sacrifice of platonic love (both on her end and on the end of the Doctor's). A lot of people have remarked that Donna as a companion was returning to the roots of the companion as a best friend (rather than a love interest as with Rose and Martha). So that's my reasoning behind leaving Donna out, as much as it pains me.

Also, rather shockingly she really only had one full season as companion—which has nothing to do with your point or mine, just something I felt I needed to share since I felt like she was with us so much longer than that :P

I think you're right, each companion had great love for the Doctor, it just wasn't all the same. This topic is just so vast so I'd love to get another crack at it to include more companions and talk more about the love in DW. Thanks!
3. Miss_D
In all honesty, I was irritated by Rose/10 and was glad she left. I liked Rose a lot with 9 but I couldn't stand the juvenile behavior she had with 10. Meh.

I like River and loved both Donna & Martha. I feel like Martha gets a lot of crap overall from some in the DW fandom simply because she's not Rose even though she was great companion to the Doctor. It's always bothered me when I see her dismissed without actual explanations of why she's supposedly so inferior to all the other companions since the series rebooted with Christopher Eccleston.

I'm glad that the stories about 11 are less about his sex appeal like it was ad nauseum with 10. I've enjoyed the show a lot more because of that. And seriously, I like David Tennant but after a while it seemed like a farce to keep seeing so many female characters fall all over themselves about him during his run.
Claire Louise Thompson
4. Nefersitra
I hated Rose - because she was being presented as the Doctor's one great love and she was not, IMO, a very nice person. Why would an immortal being choose her? She was self-centred and she was very cruel to her boyfriend, Mickey (remember him?)

I also thought it was/is weird that they never bring up the very first Dr Who companion Susan (unless the Time War meant she never exisited or it's an up-coming plot point) especially as she was the Doctor's grand-daughter.
Jennifer Proffitt
5. JenniferProffitt
@Nefersitra, I think Susan definitely needs to be brought up. There was also an episode with the Doctor's Daughter (an episode of the same name with the 10th Doctor) so he has children and grandchildren out there and at some point or another, Susan and his daughter need to be at least mentioned, if not brought back into the fold for a few episodes.

@Miss_D I wasn't a HUGE fan of Rose and the Doctor. I much prefer the romps that he has—that's why I started watching the show, not because of the romance between them. I didn't hate Rose as a character but I never thought she was worth all of the trouble...
6. Lukhy
I love Rose and so want her to come back for the 50th epsiodes
7. JudyK
Love your blog entry!! I did the same this this year. Watched Doctors 9, 10 and 11 pretty much all at once! Loved it.
Jennifer Proffitt
8. JenniferProffitt
Hi, JudyK, thanks! Yeah, I just sat down and watched all of the episodes! I recently started watching the BBC America documentaries they're running on ALL of the Doctors and I'm starting to think I might watch earlier Who. Afterall at some point, the Doctor has to get it on since his very first companion is his granddaughter (that might be where River comes in! I know, I know, very naughty...)
9. Sayremercer
You should do one on Clara. I don't know how to classify their relationship. I feel like she had a ton of chemistry with Capaldi. I think he was deeply in love with her but they couldn't work, and it felt like a stronger love than Rose/Tennant. And very complicated. I would love to see that added in here, because Clara is a hard one to tackle and compare to the rest.

Don't think Martha or Donna belong in here.

Doctor 10 was always falling in love, like he was the most love-crazed out of all the doctors in my opinion. Like that time he met Madame Pompadour, or the time he met someone while Martha was his maid. He was pretty passionate. I mean, all the doctors are, but he was passionate in a more impulsive manner.
10. Sayremercer
Also, don't think Clara reciprocated the same feelings Doctor, but she was devoted.. It was complicated. which is why I really want you to write about it. Then there's the whole opposites/Missy/control freak/not control freak... thing. (Although I still have a hard time getting around how Missy could have known so much about Clara, and then throw in the time stream thing). THen it's sort of an inverse of Rose/Doctor because Clara was always saving the doctor instead of being saved, like Rose, which is pretty remarkable. Although people hold it against Rose when probably they shouldn't.
Jennifer Proffitt
11. JenniferProffitt
@Sayremercer, I actually read this great article about why The Doctor changed his age from Eccleston to Tennant--saying he wanted to age down to be closer to Rose's age. I agree that Donna doesn't really belong in a conversation about Doctor Who love outside of the fact that she helped the Doctor with some of his post-Rose emotional state. However, I think Martha was definitely in love with the Doctor, I mean look at the way she reacted over hearing about Rose.

And I agree that 10 was ALWAYS falling in love. Which is why I think 11 needed to be such a crazy man-child in response.

As for Clara... I hadn't thought about 12 and Clara... Clara and Danny, yes. To me, Clara is more like Donna in her relationship to the Doctor... I'll have to think about that!

As for Missy and The Doctor... Uh. I ship that so hard.
Jennifer Proffitt
11. JenniferProffitt
@Sayremercer, I actually read this great article about why The Doctor changed his age from Eccleston to Tennant--saying he wanted to age down to be closer to Rose's age. I agree that Donna doesn't really belong in a conversation about Doctor Who love outside of the fact that she helped the Doctor with some of his post-Rose emotional state. However, I think Martha was definitely in love with the Doctor, I mean look at the way she reacted over hearing about Rose.

And I agree that 10 was ALWAYS falling in love. Which is why I think 11 needed to be such a crazy man-child in response.

As for Clara... I hadn't thought about 12 and Clara... Clara and Danny, yes. To me, Clara is more like Donna in her relationship to the Doctor... I'll have to think about that!

As for Missy and The Doctor... Uh. I ship that so hard.
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