Thursday, January 2, 2014

Everybody Hates Clara: Why The Impossible Girl is Really The Impossible Girl to Like



I'm noticing a large trend amongst Doctor Who fans that I know:  Everybody hates Clara.  My girlfriend calls her weak.  Others call her uninteresting.  Some say that she still needs something to do.  And yet...why?

In her short span of time on the show so far, she has:

-Saved the Doctor, Rory, and Amy from the Daleks
-Forced her way into the TARDIS and the Doctor's heart when the Doctor didn't want any friends
-Figured out how to locate Miss Kizlet's headquarters
-Defeated Akhaten
-Talked an Ice Warrior warlord into showing mercy on the Earth
-Saved the Doctor from the Great Intelligence, assuming she would die in the process
-Talked the Doctor into saving Gallifrey
-Got the Time Lords to give the Doctor a whole new set of regenerations, keeping him from dying permanently

And that's not counting the 4 episodes in the middle there that I honestly don't care enough about to remember.  She's actually...an incredibly strong companion.  And yet, yeah, I kind of feel what you all feel too.  I haven't bonded with her yet.

Part of this, I think, is because she's following Amy Pond.  At two and a half seasons, Amy has clocked in as, not only the longest running companion of the revived series, but the longest continuous companion in the series since Tegan Jovanka travelled with the Doctor from the 4th Doctor's last episode in 1981 until one of the last 5th Doctor episodes in 1984.  I was fucking born in 1984.  That means it's been nearly 30 years since anyone's stuck around as long as Amy Pond.  And even in the revived series, Rose, the next longest running companion, managed to wedge herself so firmly into viewers' hearts, that it took someone as strong and amazing as Martha Jones to convince fans that anyone else could take the companion role.  Still, none of the companions since Rose have made people forget her.

But then Amy wasn't travelling alone with the Doctor.  Rory was the first full-time male companion to travel with the Doctor since Turlough, who literally left the TARDIS one episode after Tegan did back in 1984, those few months before I was born.  1984 was also the last time there was more than one companion travelling with the Doctor full time.  And don't give me any shit about Captain Jack or Mickey.  I mean full-time.  The Ponds created a unique dynamic that we haven't seen in the TARDIS in 30 years.  And 30 years ago, the male and female team travelling in the TARDIS together weren't popping out babies, either.  Amy, Rory, River, and the Doctor were literally a family.  Mother, Father, Daughter, Son-in-Law.  The TARDIS has never been a home to something like that before, ever!  Moffat created the most tight knit team to ever grace the screens of Doctor Who before:  a girl who literally grew up with the Doctor's memory, the boy she grew up with, and their daughter, who they also grew up with.

Then they leave and are replaced with one girl.

Seriously, how is any one person supposed to live up to everything that Amy, Rory, and (to a certain extent) River built in this show for the past few years.  How were we possibly supposed to go back to the old formula of Doctor and companion?

Well, I give Moffat credit, because he tried to create a companion with as much of a tie to the Doctor as Amy ever had.  A companion who has literally known the Doctor for all his lives, she just didn't know it yet.  And neither did he.  And therein lies the problem.

What I think people have been mistaking for weakness of character this past year is actually a lack of chemistry.  Jenna-Louise Coleman is an excellent actress playing an excellent companion who has absolutely no chemistry whatsoever with the Doctor.  And that was on purpose.  It wasn't really until "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" that the Doctor fully came to realize that, whatever was happening with Clara, she had no hostile intentions towards him.

DOCTOR: Well, there's no point now. We're about to die. Just tell me who you are.
CLARA: You know who I am.
DOCTOR: No, I don't. I look at you every single day and I don't understand a thing about you. Why do I keep running into you?
CLARA: Doctor, you invited me. You said
DOCTOR: Before that. I met you in the Dalek Asylum. There was a girl in a shipwreck and she died saving my life, and she was you.
CLARA: She really wasn't.
DOCTOR: Victorian London. There was a governess who was really a barmaid, and we fought the Great Intelligence together. She died and it was my fault, and she was you.
CLARA: You're scaring me.
DOCTOR: What are you, eh? Are you a trick, a trap?
CLARA: I don't know what you're talking about!
DOCTOR: You really don't, do you?
CLARA: I think I'm more scared of you right now than anything else on that Tardis.
DOCTOR: You're just Clara, aren't you?
This is the whole problem!  Up until then, he literally thought she might be a trap.  He had to keep her at arm's length because, for all he knew, she was just a really pretty Dalek.  So he avoided really bonding with her.

We're only about 5 episodes in to Clara and the Doctor starting to trust each other.  What's their excuse for those 5 episodes?  I don't know.  The first two sucked ("The Crimson Horror" and "Nightmare in Silver") and then the next three had a lot of plot to get through.  There wasn't a ton of time to really start to delve into Clara's character.  Clara's first scene in "The Day of the Doctor" was the most chemistry I've seen between those two at all.  When she first arrives in the TARDIS in that episode, and a little bit in their walk through the museum, I finally started to see two people who knew each other and cared about each other.  And just as they're finally starting to click, guess what?  It's time for a whole new Doctor.

Luckily, what that means is that Coleman has a whole new Doctor to create some chemistry with.  Great!  I hope she does it, and I hope she does it fast.  But I hope that Whovians everywhere can give her a little bit of a chance.  She's doing the best she can but, up until just a few episodes ago, she had to play a girl who was a plot device first and a character second.  She needs some time to slow down and really show us who Clara is and how she relates to the Doctor.  So far, she hasn't had much of a chance.

3 comments:

  1. Part of it is she follows Amy. If she had a full season, her character would have been more developed. She just came at the worst possible time. Prior popular companions leaves mid season, then the actor playing the Doctor leaves at the end of the year. Now, a new Doctor comes, and he will get most of the time having his character developed for the viewers, leaving her again to just take crap from fans.

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  2. Wow, my circle of friends has a WAY different view of her than your circle. Personally, she is my favorite companion of the entire reboot (just barely overtaking Donna and Rory) and she is my wife's second favorite (behind Rose). I think she is easily the best actor they've had on as a companion, and most everyone in my circle of Who fan friends adore her.

    Mostly I love her because I'm happy Amy is gone. I liked her character's arc on the show, but as an actor, Karen Gillan was atrocious. It might just be because I coach performance as a living, but every time Karen had to actually show emotional range, I found myself yelling at the TV and I could never connect with her as a companion (but I adored Rory, so I dealt with it).

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  3. I honestly don't *hate* her, I just wish I knew more about her personality and was able to see what makes her special and different from the others aside from her storyline. I hope we get to see more of her, the real her, in season 8. "Bubbly personality masking bossy control freak" mustn't become an informed trait but a basis from which character development can begin in ernest.

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