Fandom: Doctor Who
Spoilers: Err, the whole thing, really. Old School and New School, whee!
Note: Thanks to everyone that helped out with this. And I am really, really sorry about the title.
'I'll call you Romana.'
'I don't like Romana.'
'It's either Romana or Fred.'
'All right, call me Fred.'
Back in the day, we weren’t really encouraged to think that the Doctor was likely to be getting it on with one of his companions. Now that the Doctor is allowed to fancy people, it is a good and pertinent moment for us to consider an OTP of Doctor Who of Yore. I speak, of course, of the Doctor and Romana.
Now, explaining the series concept is... not that simple. Alien travels in time and space. In a phone box. With one or more people he’s picked up along the way. Every now and then the lead actor is replaced and we get a slightly different character who is still more or less the same man.
Yeah. But frankly you either get it or you don’t and if you don’t you probably won’t want to read this thing anyway. So, on we go!
'I save planets, mostly.'
As a character the Doctor can be quite difficult to pin down, but here’s a (hopefully) fairly uncontroversial run-down:
The Doctor is an alien, a member of a very advanced species, even if he doesn’t entirely like those people. This makes him privileged, and he couldn’t really do what he does if it wasn’t for that background. What he does is wander about in time and space, turn up where interesting stuff is happening to foil invasions and overthrow nasty regimes. He is clever and adaptable and funny and compassionate and a bit of a bitch sometimes and he causes trouble.
One thing about the Doctor is that fandom’s traditionally been a bit unsure about whether he should be allowed to have sex, to the point that it’s tended to be fairly common for people to claim that his named-as-such granddaughter isn’t actually related to him. Recent versions have tended to be a bit more open about though, and the new series is in favour of the Doctor having a sexuality, so there’s a bit of leeway in terms of reinterpreting what always came across as platonic relationships. It involves a fair bit of revisionism, yes, but that’s part of the fun!
The (main) Doctor in question for this OTP is the fourth, because he’s the one who travelled with Romana. But clearly all Doctors and all Romanas are in love.
'I suppose I am. I've never really thought about it.'
The Real World idea behind Romana is this: what if the Doctor got landed with someone who was his genuine intellectual equal? What if it was someone who wouldn’t be impressed by his fancy ways? As it progresses, there is a sense in which Romana is just the Doctor with tits, to the point where in one story they’re actually wearing near enough the same clothes.
Mostly the Doctor’s travelling companions just get sort of picked up as wanders about. They’re curious, or they’re misplaced, or they’ve just got no place else to go. Romana, however, is sent to the Doctor from Gallifrey to help him find bits of a Magic Plot Crystal. (No, really.) Romana is more sheltered than the Doctor. Younger, less rebellious-for-the-sake-of-it, rather more self-disciplined, less random. And she has better dress-sense. Initially she’s lacking in practical experience, but she soon picks it up as she goes along. Discovering that her full name is Romanadvoratrelundar (“I’m so sorry, is there anything we can do?”), the Doctor decides to shorten it to something, like maybe Fred. She is quite with Fred as a name, but he calls her Romana instead.
We actually get two Romanas. The first is the arch and somewhat haughty brunette. She knows the Doctor resents her presence, and she looks down on him a bit as being her intellectual inferior. And to be fair, he probably is. The second is the slightly less normal blonde. (At which point I should probably mention that both of our alien duo are prone to completely changing bodies if they die or in Romana’s case as some sort of fashion statement. So it's not just two aliens, it's two of the same sort of alien. They could make babies!)
“Of course we should interfere! Always do what you're best at, that's what I say.'
Tom Baker and Lalla Ward got married in Actual Real Life and it bleeds through into the characters. God, does it bleed through. This despite the stated intention of various people that both characters should be presented as asexually as possible. Not that Romana I didn't also have a whole heap of vibe going on, but generally there seems to be a tendancy to assume their love properly starts after she regenerates into Lalla Ward. (Though I totally reckon that at the very least the Doctor had a massive crush on Romana I. Bless!)
In Destiny of the Daleks (AKA The one where she ends up dressed as the Doctor) Romana, for no apparent reason, regenerates. The Doctor seems a bit put out by this. And rightly so, for she was wonderful enough already. To get him to agree to her new (and plagiarised) look, she puts on the Doctor’s clothes. Because he’s a bit of a narcissist sometimes. She only changes out of those clothes to put on a pink version instead. (Thus starting a Romana-as-the-Doctor trend that hits its peak when she basically takes over for a bit in Horns of Nimon.) This is also the one where he gets incredibly upset because he thinks she’s dead.
One thing we know from new Doctor Who is that 'holding hands = sex', which leads us nicely to City of Death. What happens in that one? Well, apparently there’s a plot of some sort, but the truly significant bit is how much time the Doctor and Romana spend running about holding hands. There is not much reason for them to be holding hands, they just are. I mean, for true, it’s a vibe. We may not want to think too much about why Romana's dressed as a schoolgirl in this one, but we can still quite happily bask in the vibe, right? And with the happy casualness about time breaking a bit and the hand-holding and the fact that they go to a museum together? They are so totally on a date. And that date is Paris, 1979 ("more of a table wine, really"). Because they can do that. They can just go anywhere they want and run about holding hands while saving the world at the same time. People tell me that the Doctor and Romana are not in love, but I'd say that City of Death says otherwise
The unfinished Shada is another one where they... well, they just look so happy and comfortable together. They talk in ways that confuse everyone else and they spend some time together in a wee boat thing (which is the technical term, yes). Yet again, they act like they're just on a date when all this stuff starts happening around them. Because these are the sort of dates where you probably have to stop an alien invasion before you can get round to opening a bottle of wine and talking about philosophy.
The Leisure Hive has them going to the seaside and Romana’s incredibly melty/speculative look at the end when the Doctor’s holding a wee baby. The interesting thing about this one is that the leads apparently hated each other during filming, and of course the production team would never under any circumstances be suggesting that Romana would like to be making wee baby Time Lords between episodes. Which leaves us with a whole heap of The Vibe.
She leaves in Warrior's Gate, becoming one of three women who get a robot dog to remember the Doctor by. (Okay, so my show is on crack. Your point?) But she's off to free some lions from slavery, thus essentially having gone off to be the Doctor in another universe. And then soon after he dies
Oh, and I didn't even mention the Australian computer ads where a 1980s home computer dispenses the advice "MARRY THE GIRL, DOCTOR." (No, you really couldn't make this stuff up, could you?)
'Doctor, I don't want to spend the rest of my life on Gallifrey - after all this!'
Then what happened was that Gallifrey Went Boom in the Time War. Though it's never specified, this presumably means that Romana is dead.
This does lend some extra angles to the OTP though, since the Doctor is now the only one of his species and has even more reason to be sad about his Dead Time Lord Girlfriend. And, of course, killing one half of an OTP is something you can work around. *handwaves* She might not be dead. She might be in Sheffield or something. Let us cling to the uncertainty.
"Brilliant! I wish I'd thought of that!"
"Oh, you will, Doctor, you will."
Feargal Sharkey said that a good heart these days is hard to find. Two good hearts are presumably even harder to find. With Doctor/Romana you have four good hearts, which is pretty damn impressive, no? You get to skip past a few of the things that can make Doctor/companion pairings a bit squicky - Romana's easily his intellectual equal, with a rather more disciplined mind. She's not awed by the whole 'powerful alien' thing, partly because she's one too. She doesn’t think he’s special, at least not for the reasons people usually think he’s special. Not to get too lame about it, but it’s like they’re the only two people in the ‘verse who could possibly be these two people.
And, yes, The Vibe. This is that rare beast known as 'unintentional heteroerotic subtext'. They just go together to well. Romana is clever and interesting and is very often brought out as ‘the best argument in favour of a female Doctor’. There are points at which dialogue is switched just between them and it’s not a problem because they really on the same wavelength. What would they talk about? Oh, anything. Everything. They wander about the universe, occasionally in their own little world where stuff happens and they sort the stuff out and then have a cup of tea or something. It is indeed a bit twee, but twee can be fun sometimes.
For me, it just all clicks beautifully. You have Romana, who gets sort of freed from her background and… well, she does get rather ruined for Gallifrey. (There’s a tendency in spin-off media for her to go back and be President there, but I just handwave that.) She does outgrow him over time, which was really sort of inevitable from day one. And then on the other side of it, the Doctor finally gets someone to talk to who will totally follow what he’s saying and actually get which bits of him are strange rather than just alien. Added to that you’ve got the whole thing where it’s, in a way, playing off his own rather shaky relationship with their home planet. So fandom-wise I like it because it's a pairing that gives you a lot to work with. You can write a lovely story about them having tea and scones in 18th century Dorset and being very happy together, or you can focus on the horrid trauma of her possibly-violent death. It's all good.
And they have a robot dog. You can't tell me that doesn't prove something.
To get back to the sexuality thing, yes, we were not generally encouraged to see love in old school DW. Random companions might leave to marry people they'd only just met, but the Doctor was held to be 'above that sort of thing'. So when you start extrapolating from the bits of canon that contain the Doctor/Romana
'Will Romana be all right?'
'All right? She'll be superb!'
Now, this used to be a very gen fandom, and most of the shipping we have now is Doctor/Rose. But I'd say that Doctor/Romana manages to do rather well all things considered. Here's a couple of links that should see you right:
otp_probably is the LJ community dedicated to the pairing, which is open to things like fic and icons and so forth.
Over at who_otp you can find this delightful list of what fic the fandom's producing for various pairings, including of course Doctor/Romana
A Teaspoon and and Open Mind is your one-stop shop for Doctor Who fanfic in general.
It's not much, I know, but we're a niche 'ship and we can live with that. Or hold hands with it while running around European capital cities.