The original director of Doctor Who, Waris Hussein, recently criticised the current show for being too sexualised. While things are certainly different to how the show was in 1963, different things are now acceptable and expected – the sexualisation of the Doctor’s companions has hardly been a recent facet of the programme.
The notion of there being a female character acting as “something for the dads” was something that was certainly around in the 70s and 80s; Tom Baker’s Doctor being accompanied by the barely-clothed-and-in-leather savage Leela who was of the breed of (not actually) “strong female characters”, in that she had a knife and killed people (until the Doctor told her to stop doing that).
However, despite the historical precendent, it is difficult to disagree with Hussein completely. Until recently, the Doctor was accompanied by “Sass Dispenser with Legs” Amy Pond, who, despite actress Karen Gillan’s best attempts, only proved to be a real character for about 10% of her time in the show, the rest of her time spent quipping like a Not Going Out reject or doing utterly tasteless things such as trying to get off with the Doctor in front of her husband at her own wedding – “We haven’t even had a snog in the shrubbery yet!” Yeah, cos you just got married to your husband, Amy…
And now we’ve got Clara who, so far, has fared a lot better than Amy in terms of writing, and has also benefited from a more grounded, naturalistic performance from Jenna-Louise Coleman. Clara ‘Oswin’ Oswald has a fairly complicated mystery surrounding her, as you’d expect from showrunner Steven Moffat by now.
Basically, the Doctor’s met her, or someone just like her anyway, three times now – in the future, the past, and the present. The first two times she died, the third time she started travelling with him, and he’s trying to work out who she is. Does anyone else miss the companions who the Doctor was interested in, respected and loved just because of who they were as people rather than how “timey-wimey” their plot arcs were?
Nevertheless, recent episode The Rings of Akhaten by Neil Cross gave Clara a believable family context within a few scenes, and via some admittedly dodgy plotting, she saved the day by being emotionally engaged with the memory of her dead mother. It’s very difficult to imagine Amy Pond achieving anything like that. However, Steven Moffat’s episode The Bells of Saint John, this Clara’s debut, has been the least competently written, character-wise.
A flirty vibe between the Doctor and Clara isn’t a bad thing, but only if it’s developed believably throughout the series; Moffat’s sledgehammer approach isn’t quite so logical or intelligent, with Clara immediately suspecting the TARDIS of being the Doctor’s “snog-box”. Despite being a more promising and believable character than Amy Pond already, it is with a due sense of nervousness that viewers await the rest of the series, both for Clara, and for the dramatic build-up to the show’s 50th anniversary,