I’m a huge fan of Doctor Who, both the classic and current TV shows. I love the show more than almost anything. But I’m not blind to its faults, and there’s one thing that’s been eating away at me for a while now.
I really hate the way Rose Tyler and Donna Noble left the TARDIS.
Early in the second season of the original Doctor Who program, Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter and very first companion, left because she was growing up, had fallen in love and wanted to help rebuild Earth after a Dalek invasion. One of the Doctor’s longest running companions, Jo Grant, left the Doctor’s side because she’d found a new purpose in life, a calling of her own. She left to travel with Professor Clifford Jones up the Amazon river in search of new ways to counter pollution and food shortages. Romana, one of the more popular companions, also left the Doctor when she found a path of her own, helping to lead the Tharil race to a peaceful coexistence with its former slaves. Another long-running companion, Tegan, left when she felt she’d witnessed enough violence, death and destruction while traveling with the Doctor. The Doctor has had companions who you couldn’t imagine ever leaving, but they eventually did, and the writers of the show found interesting ways of having them leave.
In the current show, the Doctor has had two companions, Rose Tyler and Donna Noble, who were engaging and inspirational. Both started as “nobodies”–women stuck in dead-end jobs, living with their parents, not quite sure what they wanted to do with their lives–and grew to be adventurous women who showed themselves and the people around them just how clever, caring and strong they really were. Both Rose and Donna told the Doctor they never wanted to stop traveling with him. But of course, they did stop.
Rose was literally snatched away from death and taken to a parallel Earth that she could never leave, pining away for the Doctor, who it was clear she was in love with. Eventually, she was able to come back to our dimension, and when she returned to the parallel Earth, it was with a duplicate of the Doctor who was as human and mortal as Rose., so that she could live out her days with her true love. Yes, we had a woman who grew strong and independent but ended up basing her entire existence on being in love with a man. The only reason she left the Doctor was because she was forced to and the only reason she could be happy away from him was with a duplicate of him.
Donna helped save the universe, in part because of her own cleverness and tenacity and in part because she was magically made part-Time Lord from the Doctor’s DNA. But apparently humans aren’t meant to be part-Time Lord and her brain was on the verge of total collapse–until the Doctor removed all memory of himself and of Donna’s adventures from her brain, leaving her exactly as she was before she met him. And the trick was, she could never see him again or be reminded of her adventures or she would die. We were given a woman who became bold and self-assured and then we got to watch it all taken away from her.
Really? It’s now the 21st century and television drama has generally gotten more sophisticated, but the best we could do with two female characters was forcibly remove them from their adventures in the most ludicrous and insulting way possible? Rose couldn’t have decided to leave the Doctor by choice to have her own adventures? Donna couldn’t have chosen to find her own way by helping people in need? They couldn’t have done like another strong woman companion from the current show, Martha Jones, and simply decided, “I’ve had enough for now. I need to be on my own and do my own thing.”?
It bothers me to no end that the writers and producers of Doctor Who didn’t come up with better exits for two great characters. It bothers me to no end that in an otherwise brilliant TV show, two interesting, engaging and potentially inspiring female characters were given the shaft.