In honor of the new, first female Doctor, and the first new episode of Doctor Who since Christmas, I decided to revisit previous Doctors and their adventures. Naturally, I started by thinking about which episodes I felt I needed to watch of most recent Doctor, Peter Capaldi, and remembered… Danny. Pink.
SPOILERS AHEAD: Doctor Who Seasons 7.5-10
It’s taken me more than a couple years to be able to admit this out loud, but…
I hate Danny Pink.
For those of you who don’t know, Danny Pink (played by Samuel Anderson) serves as the love interest for Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) in the 8th Season (Series 8) of Doctor Who. Now, there are already many different opinions on Season 8. I firmly believe that there should have been one more season with the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, paired with Coleman, then you get two of Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi, and companion Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie). Although Clara had chemistry with both Eleven and Twelve, I think it’s safe to say that she really clicked with Eleven.
Yes, there was flirting between Eleven and Clara, but there was also a deep understanding and friendship there as well. The chemistry between Smith and Coleman is undeniable and she is able to keep up with his manic portrayal. Between Seasons 8 and 9, there were episodes that showed chemistry between Coleman and Capaldi as well, but of a very different kind. Here, the friendship was much closer to that of Tenth Doctor, David Tennant, and Companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate), one without any flirtation, just best friends and platonic soul mates. This was a great chemistry, but former Doctor Who show-runner, Steven Moffat, just seems to get completely bogged down by the romance element.
Following youthful Eleven’s Regeneration into the much older Twelve, there is a definite shift in the dynamic between Clara and the Doctor. No longer is there that flirty element, but instead the new incarnation of the Doctor demonstrates jealousy and a lack of understanding and social graces.
Now, had Danny Pink had the same joie de vivre that Eleven seemed to possess, perhaps I wouldn’t be so bothered, but Danny Pink is cynical, bogged down by his time spent as a soldier. Clara is inquisitive and adventurous by nature. She loves to explore new times and places. Danny Pink is a sourpuss. Previous possible love interests of female companions (ie Mickey, Rory) eventually joined the adventures with the Doctor, becoming just as enraptured with time and space as their female love interests (Rose, Amy) or at the very least, supported them. Danny Pink is not supportive.
At the end of Season 8, Danny Pink is hit by a car and dies. It occurs off screen, but as far as we know this is just a random though unfortunate Earthly occurrence. His death effects Clara for the remainder of her time as companion and ultimately leads to her death, as she becomes increasingly impulsive and reckless in the face of such a loss.
The chemistry between Coleman and Anderson is strained and lacking, so already it’s difficult to understand how they were together– especially considering how Danny Pink was never supportive and actively discouraged Clara traveling with the Doctor. But how did Clara love this guy THAT much? Like, I can understand his death having impact. Heck, if it was explained as survivor’s guilt, then that would be just fine. But, no. This is supposed to be heartbreak.
Moffat has an unfortunate habit of forcing a connection between the audience and a character. He introduces characters telling you they are important and that you should care about them, without letting that build organically. It happened with River Song (one of two characters inspired by The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger), and perhaps that is what is happening here.
For a long time, I tried to respect his choices; Moffat was show-runner. He’d done a lot of interesting and creative things for Doctor Who. But every time I think about Season 8, all I can think of is Danny Pink and how annoying he is. Then I think of Clara’s death and get even more annoyed because it was directly influenced by Danny Pink (she even says so!). People are iffy on Capaldi, but while those two seasons may not get the same recognition some of the others do, they aren’t bad. Capaldi is a callback to older, crotchety Doctors, such as First Doctor, William Hartnell. I actually really like him in the role and he has some really interesting stories, but Danny Pink. He just seems to loom like a shadow, tainting some of the stories with his sour attitude, discouraging remarks, and cynicism.
He is ants at a picnic.
With a new Doctor on the horizon– one that apparently will be free from romantic entanglements– we will be getting to know the Doctor all over again. A female Doctor is a bold choice, as is having three companions right off the bat (two male, one female). The show is going through a major change with not only a new Doctor, but a new show-runner (Chris Chibnall, Doctor Who, Torchwood), AND a new composer.
Let’s hope there isn’t another Danny Pink anytime soon.
Doctor Who returns tomorrow, Sunday, October 7, 2018 and is expected to air at the same time as the BBC One broadcast in the UK. In that case, watch it on BBC America at 1:45 pm EST, with a repeat broadcast later in the evening.