First impressions count for Stacy Embry.
Have you ever wanted a second chance for a first meeting? In Doctor Who, it's possible. Thanks to the TARDIS. But what about the show itself? What about the many companions who travel with the Doctor? As an audience we meet them, these carefully constructed characters, planned by the production team. Do our first impressions predict our reaction to any given companion?
I instantly loved Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor, but thought Rose Tyler was a tart. She was flirty and, frankly, seemed dim and low class. Of course, the Doctor had a rougher edge, so I grew to appreciate them together. By the time he saved her because she "needed a Doctor" in Parting of the Ways, kissing the time vortex out of her, I was devastated when he regenerated away from her. Not romantic, per say--or at least not yet, they fit in class, tone and value. This was a real authentic bond and that was beautiful.
And then in the course of a single episode, Rose confirmed my first impression when she promptly immediately fell in love with David Tennant's Tenth Doctor. With his classy reign and manner above her station, he was a swashbuckling hero in his jammies who gave "no second chances." Rose swooned. Reeling from the regeneration, supposedly, here she was fawning in a fan girl drool saying he was "exactly the same man", but completely becoming a smitten kitten. She seemed to have forgotten the Ninth Doctor, so even when Ten said "fantastic" at the end of The Christmas Invasion, there was no recognition from her. They traveled, as Tennant said, "as boyfriend/girlfriend" over the rest of her tenure, but then she took the Meta-Crisis Doctor as a consolation prize, and there she was again... just tarty to me. In The Day of the Doctor, as the Moment, she was openly classless, even vulgar opposite the regal War Doctor. I never got over the first impression and argue today, she was the dim tarty character I predicted she was in Rose.
Donna, however, grew on me. My first impression was right. Spunky, independent, native intelligence and rough. However it was lovely that she had no interest in the Doctor and yet they got a rhythm immediately. Her tenure was funny, smart, confusing and in The Fires of Pompeii, she was heartbreaking. She even made the Doctor think about his impact... and when he saw her as Doctor/Donna, he was horrified at himself for risking of her life. Donna was always the woman who refused her first invitation to travel with the Doctor. Ultimately searching him out, traveling with him, and then forgetting him gave my first impressions validity. She was strong and didn't need the Doctor to be successful - okay, the lottery ticket perhaps, but as a woman she was definite and an individual.
Martha, Mickey, Jack...even K-9, were fine. They literally made no impression on me. I didn't like or dislike them. They were utility characters that allowed Tennant to dominate the screen. Only other standout is Sally Sparrow, and Blink is just about the perfect episode acted by the most ideal Carey Mulligan. And no words could ever capture Jackie Tyler. She is probably my favorite non-companion returning character.
And then came Amelia Pond. I separate Amelia, the child, from Amy. I loved Amelia... stunning, quirky and honest. She was not the sassy child, but somehow stayed broken and hopeful. She was everything I wanted to see, and then when we got the whining overbearing Amy I was frustrated. From the moment the Doctor came back and awoke from being hit on the head in The Eleventh Hour, Amy Pond grated on my ears. Absolutely lovely - she was bossy, mean-spirited in her ignorance of everyone but herself, and just kinda dumb. I lived in constant hope she would leave the show. The episodes where she appeared in a reduced role, replaced by either River, Craig or even Churchill are the best of seasons 5 & 6. In small doses, she was fine. As the principle character she always stayed too harsh.
Over the course of seasons 5/6/7.1, I put the ability to tolerate her at Rory's, feet. He loved her, and with him I could see something less controlling and harsh and ultimately a glimpse of the broken Amelia that he healed. For me, it was when she said good-bye in The Angels Take Manhattan, with no hesitation because he was her life, that I believed "together or not at all." I even cried at the beauty of their duel plunge from the roof of Winter Quay. All in all, she was the shrew, but it was okay.
I have to say her appearance in The Time of the Doctor sickened me, but I did think it made sense for her to be there, to release the Eleventh Doctor. But there she was again with this superior expression as she descended the stairs taking me completely out of the moment. Before you attack my opinion, hear me... it worked well, but poor Clara had to stand there confused whilst watching him hallucinate.
Which gets me to Jenna Coleman. The ideal companion, she impressed me as a "genius that sounded a tiny bit sexy" in Asylum of the Daleks and every re-introduction reinforced that she was lovely, real, brave, feisty and loyal. Complex for me in season 7.2, I agree she came into her own in season 8, but that was just my first impression being validated. By the time she was the doctor in Flatline or Dark Water, she was masterful at it. Yet, the vulnerable barmaid and "souffle girl" has never left her. I would probably come back to her face as they ride the motor bike in The Bells of St John to distill her character. She admires Eleven, has the classiest stance on a bike, and Matt Smith's Doctor is both showing off and comfortable in a way he never was before. They fit. Then with Peter Capaldi's Twelfth in Last Christmas there were perfect echos, there in Santa's sleigh as she hugs him and he finally relaxes into it. There is a discomfort in Twelve too, but the moment on the bike with Eleven had some too. That desire to be at peace shows how Clara has met all the incarnations and really knows this man.
I guess I don't want a second meeting of any of these companions. Clearly my first impressions worked well for me. Guest stars are the same, I have an immediate opinion that limits them to the world of that episode. Some brilliant, most utilitarian in their use, but all in all, the casting in Doctor Who is outstanding. Whether I like them or not, the companions are well-defined from day one and I appreciate that clarity. Unlike here in America where the leading character dominates thus making the secondary character less developed, Doctor Who honors the companions by letting them shine.
So, what were your first impressions and how well did they get confirmed or denied as you watched the series unfold? I'd love to hear where we agree and disagree. I enjoy getting to hear your thoughts and appreciate your time in sharing them. I gave my impressions of Rose, Donna, Amy and Clara... so now its time for yours!
Risk-adverse, Stacy would not even enter the TARDIS in case it suddenly
set to motion. Yet, gentle reader, she feels compelled to clarify that
she writes opinion or editorial pieces. By using logic and reasoning,
she always hopes to coherently provoke honest discourse.