The Other Mrs. Doctor Who

Susan Arendt | 3 Oct 2011 21:35
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Off-screen issues more than likely had at least a little to do with Romana's departure, but the character was problematic from the start. Being the figure that everyone looks to in times of trouble is a core defining feature of the Doctor's character; if you're just as well off asking whoever's standing next to him, it diminishes his narrative power. Let's be honest - as much as we love the guy, the Doctor can be a right royal pain in the ass, and it would begin to strain credulity for characters not to jump on a less irritating option, should one present itself.

Romana was just too much of a Doctor copy to work in the long-term, at least without overhauling the entire series formula. As a character, River Song has a lot in common with Romana, being just as capable, daring, and resourceful as the Doctor, but she has two advantages that Romana didn't. The first is that, until recently, she wasn't around all the time. She'd cross paths with the Doctor, stir things up a bit, then head back out into the cosmos. She never really threatened his position as de facto leader, despite the fact that she could do just about everything he could (backwards, in heels, no less), because everyone knew she'd be gone once the ruckus settled down. But River had something far more important working in her favor: This Doctor can get laid.

Despite making a habit of running around the universe with a bevy of scantily-clad hotties, the Doctor of Classic Who was as chaste as a monk, and the TARDIS remained a definitively hanky-panky free zone. The show is still considered family fare, but sex is very much a part of New Who. Rose, Martha, and Amy have all given serious thought to getting him naked, but the way River looks at him implies that she's actually done it (in the future, of course). The Doctor enjoys River's confident sexuality even if he isn't entirely sure what to do about it; the sexual tension allows for a character who can be the Doctor's peer without robbing him of his status as leader. Sure, the Doctor's in charge during a crisis, but when it's just the two of them, it's pretty clear who's following who.

It's this give-and-take of power that makes an extended relationship between them possible, and interesting enough to keep us watching. Will the events of "The Wedding of River Song" change that dynamic, or will their "battlefield marriage" be brushed aside like so many other inconvenient story arcs? So long as River doesn't wind up stuck in E-space, I'm calling it a win.

Susan Arendt knows that the Doctor's heart will always really belong to the TARDIS.

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