I do not like the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith). This can be complicated, because everyone has “their” Doctor. Mine was Nine (Christopher Eccleston). Ten (David Tennant) is a close second. But I don’t like Eleven, and I think he was objectively bad. Smith was at his best when the Doctor was not portrayed as a hero.
Smith excelled as both the rock star Doctor and the fussy old man. When he’s the rock star, he challenges entire species and they back down. In “The Angels Take Manhattan”, River Song (Alex Kingston) describes him as “An ageless god who insists on the face of a twelve-year-old.” When he’s the old man, he lies and tricks his friends to protect them. In “Journey to the Center of the TARDIS”, the Doctor says “Secrets keep us safe.”
These dual personalities work well together. The Doctor saves the day and takes a bow most of the time, but when he is frustrated he turns mean and cynical. He lashes out at his friends in “The Impossible Astronaut”, and at first refuses to help because he doesn’t like that they are keeping a secret from him. In “The Doctor’s Wife”, he speaks with the TARDIS for the first time in his long life, and within hours he has to say goodbye. He has a rock star moment, drops the façade to say goodbye, then covers up again.
While the Doctor behaves brazenly and lies constantly, he lives free of consequences. I don’t like Eleven because he has no character arc. A slight setback – not a loss – causes him to pout and whine. Amy’s and Rory’s “deaths” come with the knowledge that they lived long lives after they left him. For his diva old man personality to work, it needs to have consequences. Instead, the Doctor is always right and always does just the right thing. Almost no one ever calls him on it.
I don’t like Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) either. I rarely cared about her character. She and the Doctor do have an interesting relationship. As I said in my series 5 review, the Doctor likes Amy because she was a little girl when they met, and remains infatuated (not necessarily romantically) with him for most of series 6. But the Doctor is equally dependent on her. In “The Impossible Astronaut”, Amy convinces the Doctor to help when no one else can convince him. In both “The Power of Three” and “The Time of the Doctor”, the Doctor claims Amy is special because “You were the first face this face [the Doctor’s] saw.” I think the Doctor imprinted on Amelia Pond, which explains why he cares about her to the exclusion of everyone else.
Amy and Clara Oswald (Jenna Louise-Coleman) are the same character. Both characters are defined by their relationship to the Doctor. Amy begins to develop an independent personality, but is killed off before it takes hold. Clara’s personality and her entire existence depend on the Doctor. I like Clara more, but the writers designed her to be liked, not to be a person.
Try to describe both characters without referring to their job, their role in the plot, or their relationship with the Doctor. Amy is a snarky, rude child growing up reluctantly. Clara is bouncy, bubbly, and cute. Clara does not have a personality. She’s a Care Bear.
Clara is interesting, however, in “The Asylum of the Daleks”. She’s a Dalek resisting her programming. She helps the Doctor. I wish this version had survived and traveled with the Doctor, instead of the usual “cute girl with a crush” Companion we got.
Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) and River Song/Melody Pond are the best Companions. River has such a huge, bizarre backstory, but we see almost none of it. We see the beginning, when she is kidnapped by the Silence, and the end, when she “kills” the Doctor. I want to know how she went from psychopath raised by her childhood friends/parents, to the level-headed, time-traveling, TARDIS-flyinglady who married the Doctor. River’s kidnapping is also the only event with consequences. The Doctor fails to rescue her from the Silence, and River kills him. Amy convinces her to help, but River has to give up her regenerations to save him.
Rory acts as the adult and the moral center of the group. In “The Girl Who Waited,” Rory and the Doctor discuss quarantined patients with a fatal disease:
Rory: Are they happy?
The Doctor: Oh, Rory. Trust you to think of that.
Amy is trapped as well, but not in danger from the disease. This is my favorite episode of series 5-7, and I’ll talk about it more in the next article.
Rory also has a moment of awesome in “A Good Man Goes to War”, but I could not find a video of it. However, no list of Companions is complete without Craig so I found two videos of him. Ladies and gentlemen, Craig: