The Power of [love for] the Doctor

We delve into the heartache and heartbreak of the 13th Doctor’s final outing in the TARDIS as she fights for her existence and simultaneously tugs on the heart strings, as her and Yaz bid farewell.


CW: Spoilers for Power of the Doctor

It’ll be no surprise that we’ll review all the best #Thasmin bits of this episode, (as well as look back at some others), as we’d be a crappy queer magazine if we didn’t elevate the queer elements of a television programme where they might have or have not successfully landed the perfect queer ending. However in that analysis, we have to ask ourselves, what would a perfect ending look like ? And then we have to ask ourselves, what would a perfect ending look like on Doctor Who? We know the timelord wont be around to fulfil their companion’s every hope and desire, and they would of course outlive them. So what’s the next best thing ?

I’ve said since January when I first reviewed Eve of the Daleks, that the story of the timelord is never an easy one. Their inevitable departure would end with the regeneration and perhaps other losses.

She probably does love her ………………. she has to face her feelings, but she already knows it won’t end well, her time is coming, and that brings us back to love and loss; scary, heart breaking and very very real.

TQ January

The fans of the Sapphic ship have been battling with alternate opinions since the New Years day special, fending off deniers who actively refuse to see the subtext come out of the closet onto the screen, and still claim they are ‘just good friends’, and there was ‘never anything between them’, yet any normal person would see the chemistry whack them in the face. That’s how slow burns work, they accelerate towards the end, even if they were only hinted at briefly before. So in looking back on this episode and this era let us take stock of exactly what we do have to take from it.

Bury your gays is well and truly buried

There was no death of an LGBTQ+ companion, of any companion; for all the Sapphic vibes in the episode, all the lesbian companions lived, for once. The bury your gays trope well and truly buried in this era. Even all the straight companions made it out as well. Some even by choice, as Dan skips out of the episode early.

The Doctor declared her feelings for Yaz Queer Doctor confirmed

The Doctor confesses her feelings for Yaz.

Legend of the Sea Devils gave us confirmation that the Doctor did in fact reciprocate Yaz’s feelings, and this gave us the validation sorely needed from a huge franchise demonstrating that it can be done without the usual noise of homophobia, and done delicately. The main website now even acknowledges it boldly. The careful way in which the feelings of the two women were handled, was a sight to behold as we held our breath waiting for the Doctor to come out with it.

The end scene in Legend of the Sea Devils set us up for the end nicely, with the time lord giving her usual mantra about the transience of her life, but we were teased with the hope that there might be little bit of a pay off in the finale. The nuances of queer love being felt to its fullest in this episode, with the complications of their lives, and the pressures of the premonition that TIME gave her on Atropos, a mirror to real life queer complexity and difficulty shone through.

It was perhaps heart breaking to watch, but this is perhaps where Yaz starts to understand her Doctor better.

Can we just live in the present.. of what we have.. while we still have it?

Yaz’s personal arc

The change from a young bored police officer to an independent woman, who kicks ass, and takes names, and flies a TARDIS and comes out, and falls in love with her best friend, is an arc that we can perhaps get behind. There has maybe been better understanding from Yaz after the talk on the beach; and maybe that’s been her choice, we don’t know what kind of conversations they had after that, as there was a clear time jump between the two episodes.

She has come to terms with her own feelings, she has realised that her feelings were in fact returned, despite not thinking that she’d ever be good enough for this blonde alien, and so perhaps now she has a choice to make. Either wallow in self pity and longing or make the most of it, knowing now that she can be a bit braver in her conversations with the Doctor. The scripts and even the dialogue suggest that these two love each other deeply, despite the cosmic sized roadblocks.

The dynamic between them seems to shift in the Power of the Doctor, with Yaz taking less bullshit than she had previously done and falling into a groove with the Doctor where they are equals, and there’s nothing left between them now that they’ve been honest with one another. They communicate silently more than they ever did before. The Doctor still tries her usual avoidance of explanation when things are frantic but Yaz is having none of it.

Yaz saves the Doctor from forced regeneration

The high points for me with Yaz’s arc in this episode is the way in which all her previous experience comes to good use in saving the Doctor from her forced regeneration, which is the heart breaking teaser scene we’ve been subjected to for months. As the young companion flies through time and space formulating a plan, with a little help from another hologram of the Doctor, she traps the master and saves the day, their poignant reunion as they touch hands on either side of the glass case, a heart in your mouth moment if you’re a bit of a romantic.

The Queerest scene ever we did , actually , get a small kiss !

There may have been some emotional trauma stopping us all seeing the detail in this particular scene, god knows I didn’t catch it all until the following morning, having tried to focus through the tears, but it’s definitely there. When Yaz runs to the fatally wounded Doctor and carries her to the TARDIS, it has to be one of the queerest and most intimate scenes I’ve seen with them both. Blink and you might have missed the soft little peck Yaz gives a semi conscious Doctor’s cheek on a wide shot, as she carries her body into the TARDIS , holding her in a close intimate hold , the Doctors face buried in her neck, wounded and vulnerable.

BBC.com

The love they have for each other blindingly evident in all of these intimate scenes, and yet we’d not fully appreciated them until the end. This scene was a proper ‘wow’ moment for me. The kiss, (albeit probably one of comfort), was there, as subtle, tender and caring as it was, not obvious, but there all the same, much like the queerness of their relationship, just there , with no fuss.

Representation is importantThe love story we all wanted a resolution to

The scene above isn’t what we had all been vying for, had it been a close up, perhaps, but the real closure we needed was in the end scene between Yaz and the Doctor. We had been teased with a beautiful emotional scene, and it was in it’s own way, and i’m sure we will learn to appreciate it without our hearts breaking wide open one day.

There was a wide variety of opinions on the lack of a clear ‘romantic’ kiss goodbye at the end. The lack of an “I love you” seemed out of place, considering all that already been said, and all the build up, but perhaps it wasn’t needed ?

I think it was obvious enough how much the Doctor & Yaz loved each other. I think if they’d have both explicitly said “I love you” in a romantic sense it would have taken away some of the empowerment from Yaz. It would have left her with a longing & such an awful grief.

@iknowjojo

We surmised that perhaps the reason the Doctor had held back in Legend of the Sea Devils was because the finale would give us the pay off we had been waiting for, a clear visual sign that the love they shared was a romantic love. And while the majority of less toxic whovians can see that they love each other, it felt invalidating for this not to be more explicitly noted through a scene where they kissed.

People felt they had been given so much with Legend of the Sea Devils and to have it ripped away and sidelined felt devastating and invalidating, where we so often don’t get our happy endings or payoffs in the same way heterosexuals do.

I’ve had my head in the clouds and online falling into this, knowing now that it ends without things feeling any different to the sad stories I watched in my teens. I thought I’d be able to say – look, look how things are better! And I don’t feel I can.

Twitter user

What we do know is that the final scenes between the Doctor and Yaz were beautiful in their own right. The Doctor reassuring a stricken companion at her impending regeneration. “You know what this means?” She says, perhaps nodding to the conversations they’ve had offscreen about what was going to happen and why. The gaps sure to be filled by the fanfiction writers.

“It’s alright Yaz” the Doctor reassures her devastated companion.
One more trip? (One more date ! )

The actors have been quite forthcoming about the storyline as we’ve approached the end, with Jodie Whittaker describing her ‘honour’ at being involved in a [queer] ‘storyline that had such an impact on people’. She talked about the “deep love and connection,” between Yaz and the Doctor that was inherently different to other companions. DWM

The way in which Chris Chibnall loved to leave suggestions up in the air as to what happens in between episodes is well known. We know they had lots of adventures in between ROTD and Flux and they have clearly had lots of conversations in between Legend of the Sea Devils as their dynamic has shifted, albeit to a more angst ridden one. The funny moment between them came when the hologram of the Doctor wanted to apologise for upsetting Yaz, a conversation you could possible imagine them having in the everyday.

Goodbye Goodbye Goodbye.. you were bigger than the whole sky.

BBC.com – The final date

This scene was the one that did it for me. Beautifully shot. The whole world at their feet. But they can’t have it. A human and an alien. In love. Eating ice cream. Gorgeously epic and simple at the same time.

Twitter User

I normally wouldn’t use quotes from our straight allies, but this one felt enough to qualify as how it felt overall even for me, and he is a massive thirteen fan. The totality of their relationship really didn’t come down to whether they kissed or not, despite most of us wanting it more than oxygen, and in the real world as opposed to fiction, this politically would have been a huge step forward for the show.

What we got instead was the sense that their love for each other was enough for both of them to speak volumes without words. Even “I’ve loved being with you Yaz,” was her way of saying what was hard to say. Jodie Whittaker described the characters arc as lonely and self sacrificing.

“There’s a real loneliness to it , but in that there’s sacrifice. Because you know the worst bit’s coming, and you don’t want to do that to somebody. And I think for both of them trying not to say goodbye will be really emotional.”

Jodie Whittaker- Behind the scenes

They both are sacrificing their need to be together even before this regeneration event, the Doctor knows that seeing her regenerate will be hard and she doesn’t want to hurt Yaz, and in the same vein Yaz doesn’t want the Doctor to feel any more pain than she is and knows from her recent interactions with other companions that she, herself will be ok.

Maybe they didn’t have enough time to to express everything we wanted to see, but it is clear from all the reviews, the actors themselves, and their colleagues that the deep love that the characters had for each other is what made them walk away in the end. They loved each other so much that they needed to, in order to save the other from a world of hurt. An act of love in the last moments.

Perhaps our own selfish need to have them ripped apart amidst ugly tears, after a fairy tale snog under TARDIS interior lights as they make their dying declaration of love, despite knowing intrinsically already, would have healed our hearts, but what about the devastation it would reap on the characters in the long term. The Doctor got a fond farewell rather than a devastating goodbye, and went onto her regeneration hopeful. And Yaz, well Yaz got to hold her head up high, still alive to tell the tale of the woman that fell to earth and fell in love with her, knowing that she was, in Mandip Gill’s own words, “surrounded by love” by her friends old and new.

We wanted the fairy tale, because we haven’t ever seen it, explicitly in a program like this for ourselves, we wanted Yaz to not die, because bury your gays is a dangerous trope, and we also wanted a healthy end for them both, rather than one wrought with pain. Yes there is still longing, but it goes to their enduring love , beyond friendship, because Yaz is in love with the Doctor and the Doctor feels the same way, she told us all at Easter. We kind of got all of them, even if it didn’t necessarily look the way we wanted it to.

The Alternate Ending (adjusted from a BTS photo by @joodle_doodle )

The Power of the the Doctor is now available for streaming on BBC IPlayer

2 thoughts on “The Power of [love for] the Doctor

  1. Beautifully put!

    Early in the episode when Dan leaves, he asks if he upset the Doctor. Yaz says she’s not one for goodbyes. More toward the middle of the episode, we see 13 re(de)generate, with her final word being to cry out Yaz’s name. What she was thinking in that moment was not shared explicitly, other than she was crying out for the person she was closest to. The person watching is the Doctor’s person, and she is Yaz’s (THOVD.) When 13 comes back, she knows Yaz saved her, and knows what Yaz must have been through to do so. Knows that Yaz had to watch the love of her life be torn away. In the end, the Doctor chooses to regenerate privately, without Yaz, to spare her seeing something like that (again.) Yaz, in kind, spares the Doctor of a goodbye. In the end, they chose acts of love, even though they knew it would hurt, because they wanted to spare each other any more pain.

    ❤ </3

    Liked by 1 person

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