Can you believe it’s been ten years since The Stolen Earth aired? Neither can we!
Something we love in particular about this series are the companions all uniting in a team effort to help the Doctor. An interesting side of this is how the female characters are are written, characterised and how they interact with one another. There have been lots of companion team-ups over the years, so we thought we’d take a look at how our favourite space girls interact with each other…
Rose Tyler was always a feisty character, but her reactions to some of the Doctor’s other companions are a bit harsh. When the team meet Sarah Jane Smith in School Reunion Rose isn’t happy that the Doctor has been close to any woman before her, and well, fair enough at the shock – he hadn’t even told her about them! Rose’s reaction to Sarah Jane results in her exhibiting some pretty nasty behaviour, even getting them both caught up in a ‘I’ve fought cooler creatures than you!’ argument.
‘I don’t mean to be rude or anything, but who exactly are you?
Sarah Jane Smith. I used to travel with the Doctor.
Oh. Well, he’s never mentioned you.
Oh, I must’ve done. Sarah Jane. Mention her all the time.
Hold on. Sorry… Never.’
This attitude is repeated in The Girl in the Fireplace when the Doctor slightly falls for would-be companion Madame de Pompadour and Rose responds by sulking and acting like a child with Mickey. As much as we disagree with the way Rose behaves towards these women, it definitely makes her feel more real. It feels natural that she’d be jealous or shocked and then act up, as teenage girls often do!
By the time Turn Left arrives, Rose seems happy to interact and be pals with Donna in order to get to the Doctor. However, in The Stolen Earth she’s still acting bitter and jealous towards Martha and other women who are there for the same reason. Is this because she knows the Doctor only has platonic feelings towards Donna but is unsure how he feels about the others? It feels a bit odd considering she’s (meant to have) grown up a fair amount since Doomsday, leaving us wishing that she’d been developed to welcome other women and not pit them against herself. C’mon Rose, you’re better than that!
Martha has a generally kind and positive attitude towards women, particularly when meeting other companions. At the beginning of her time in the TARDIS though, the tension created by Martha’s feelings towards the Doctor and his grievance over Rose meant that she felt some bitterness towards her. ‘Good old Rose…’ But can you blame her? Being consistently compared to another woman can’t be good for anyone and mixed with unrequited love…
‘Rose’d know. A friend of mine, Rose. Right now, she’d say exactly the right thing. Still, can’t be helped. You’re a novice, never mind. I’ll take you back home tomorrow.
This theme continues when Martha has to watch the Doctor’s human counterpart fall in love with kind-of-companion Joan Redfurn in Human Nature. Although it’s an impossible situation to imagine yourself in, she’s incredibly prickly towards Joan, and that’s not because she’s terrified of the Family of Blood finding them, she’s jealous.
Russell T Davies hits us up with some character development and by the end of series three, and throughout series four Martha is finally written to LOVE HERSELF. This gives her the space and confidence to support other women, and is even ecstatic when the Doctor and Rose reunite ‘He found you!’. We love queens supporting queens!
Happily, Donna is incredibly welcoming and kind to all other companions she comes across. Meeting Martha in The Sontaran Strategem, she treats her with the utmost respect and reassures her that the Doctor has talked about her – frequently, when Martha is a bit put out at being replaced so quickly. Donna also happily points out to the Doctor at how Martha has moved on and blagged herself someone who loves her.
‘I’ve heard all about you. He talks about you all the time.
I dread to think!
No, no, no. No, ne says nice things. Good things. Nice things. Really good things.
Oh my God. He’s told you everything.
Didn’t take long to get over it though. Who’s the lucky man?
What man? Lucky what?
She’s engaged, you prawn.’
Something to ponder on is that the Doctor actively assumed they would both fight over him, when actually they’re practically BFF’s on the spot! Talk about presumptuous. At the end of The Poison Sky, Donna actively tells Martha to stay on the TARDIS and travel with them – can’t imagine Rose doing that with as much gusto! In addition to this, her reaction to Jenny, a one-off companion in The Doctor’s Daughter is also one of complete loyalty and commitment to making sure the Doctor is emotionally okay. She really is his best friend.
She does slip up a bit however, with her introduction to River Song in The Silence in The Library. Unlike Amy in series 5, Donna is very much irritated by River’s mystery (aren’t we all) and snaps: ‘What are you talking about? Are you just talking rubbish? Do you know him or don’t you?’ It’s not so much River’s obvious close relationship with the Doctor that annoys Donna, it’s just someone she wouldn’t get on with in reality. Be that in a planet that’s a library or the M&S on Chiswick High Road!
Women vs Women
The root of this ‘women vs women’ problem centres around men. It’s a typical trope for the writing of women, that their want and need for men is put above all else, even each other. However, Russell doesn’t use it in a way that is detrimental to the characters; he instead uses it to develop them. Rose, Martha, Donna and Sarah Jane all support each other as they grow and realise that the common problem is the Doctor. Once they understand that, their behaviour changes. And we think this makes them more believably human and incredibly relatable.
It’s also a big reflection of the Tenth Doctor, his hold over people and how he moulds them. Once we see the ‘children of time’ finally team up to help him save the day, every woman stands out as their own, very individual character. After their shining moment, they go back to their day to day lives, stronger than ever before. The exception to this is Rose, who seemingly can’t live without the Doctor. Whilst this is a romantic idea, it’s a shame that this was added on to the story of someone who didn’t have the best relationships with alot of the women we saw on screen (bar her mum!).
We’re here for women supporting women, always.