Sophia Myles and David Tennant in The Girl in the Fireplace

Russell T Davies Reacts to “Soapy” Doctor Who Complaints

April saw Who bigwig Russell T Davies appears for the third time in Toby Hadoke’s “Who’s Round” podcast where he attempts to amass an anecdote for every episode of Doctor Who.

During their exploration of Series Two they touch on the “snog” between the Doctor and Madame de Pompadour in 2006’s Girl in the Fireplace, leading Toby to ask whether RTD has “a sympathy” with the fans who would prefer a less soap opera tone. He doesn’t…

I absolutely think [fans with criticisms] are wrong. I can understand where it is coming from, but it doesn’t mean I like where it’s coming from. You are looking at a major character in his own show that’s on for 50 years and you’re denying him a full life. You can’t do that.

Plus, I have to say, what a load of fuss about nonsense! If you added all the kisses and the love lines I think you’d have about 40-seconds of material! Seriously, think about it. It’s not much, it’s tiny. And it very rarely changed the direction of a story. But mainly it’s so alive. You have to let it move on.

Hmm. No Russell. This is a matter of taste but I feel the kissy-stuff did change the series in quite a profound way – the Doctor and Rose loved each other. That’s huge. It’s an entirely different dynamic and agenda for the series’ central characters. RTD has previously been clear that after the tragic love story of two perfectly matched people separated by a dimensional void at the end of Series 2, he wanted to try the unrequited love story with Martha fancying the Doctor.

RTD did inject emotionally-involving stories into the show and made it about people and their experiences more than about sci-fi and space opera – and I believe that’s a large part of why the show is still around. It was first and foremost a drama about people and secondly a sci-fi romp. Good. But –and I’ve said it before– I personally feel his mistake was to overly involve the Doctor in the lusty side of things.

It’s one thing to make him a lonely god who turns down an invitation for Christmas dinner and secretly (or openly as though summing up the plot for the camera) yearns for an ‘ordinary’ life. It’s quite another to turn him into a hipster-geek James Dean in space (though, in fairness, that would also be good telly…).

But what does ‘soapy’ mean here? RTD refers to the kisses and love-stuff which I’m quite clear about. I think that’s what the companions are for and the Doctor should stay sexually out of it. Less horniness more mysteriousness. But did the constant returns to Rose’s estate, getting a slap from Jackie etc. and involving Martha’s family get a bit much for fans?

I’m not so sure – a big part of what RTD did was contrasting the whole of time and space with the banality and ordinariness of Rose and Martha’s home life. It was quite clear that Martha was fleeing her rather fraught family issues when she stepped aboard the TARDIS with a guy she’d developed a rapid crush on. But the fact that the Doctor could have reciprocated her feelings and fallen in love with her irks me a bit. I have to pretend it’s not really there so I can believe it’s Doctor Who (apart from Daleks in Manhattan which I pretend is a completely different show).

The best pairing EVER in my opinion is the Second Doctor and Jamie – the buddy movie of the Classic era. After that the Scooby and Shaggy pairing of the Fourth Doctor and Sarah-Jane Smith. No canoodling, just best mates having adventures. Sorted.

What do you think? Did the Russell T Davies era play too much like a soap? Was there too much domestic strife or too much kissy-kissy with the lead character? Did the Doctor need “a life” or was he better off being mysterious? Set us right below…


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