Warning: This post contains MASSIVE SPOILERS.
It was the hashtag #ClaraDeathParty that set me off.
And later, the taunting of a fan who was in mourning, with comments like “She’s a fictional character, get over it.”
I think to myself, not for the first time, goddamn Whooligans.
The term “Whooligan” (as opposed to “Whovian”) came about with the 2005 revival (I refuse to say “reboot,” it’s not a reboot if you just pick up where you left off) of Doctor Who.
Whooligans are fans whose fandom begins and ends with Their Doctor, as long as that Doctor is Nine or later. They refuse to watch the older episodes for various reasons, usually boiling down to a lack of trouser-tingles for the actors who portrayed the Doctor back then.
Anywho. The reason I bring this whole Whovian-vs-Whooligan split up is because of what I’ve seen since the episode “Face the Raven” aired.
In “Face the Raven,” an innocent man is condemned to die by the mayor of a refugee village, and Clara decides to take his place. She’s operating under the belief that whatever condemned him in the first place can be resolved in time. She’s been assured she is under the mayor’s protection, and beyond that, she is under the Doctor’s protection.
But this is a situation where even the Doctor cannot save her. And he does try. He threatens to bring the entire world crashing down around the mayor’s ears if she doesn’t lift the sentence.
Clara tells the Doctor that “your reign of terror will end the first time you hear a baby crying,” and then they say their farewells, and it’s heartbreaking.
And Clara Oswald – Clara Prime, in fact – dies.
This is where the nasty little trolls crawl out from under their rock to celebrate. They celebrate Clara’s death, they say “maybe now the show can be good again.”
I don’t personally like having factions in my fandom. It makes for tension and fandom is my escape from tension.
But when I see shit like “Thank goodness Clara’s dead, I hated her anyway,” it’s often usually followed by “I can’t wait for Moffat to go” or “I hate Capaldi” or “Bring back Tennant” type statements.
And that’s when I want to bring out my 5-pound Peter Haining Doctor Who compendiums and clobber some Whooligans over the head.
Look. I get you don’t like everything you see. Them’s the breaks, especially when you’re getting into a show that’s been around in one form or another for 52 years.
I get that you might even loathe a character at times. I’m no great fan of Rose Tyler, for example, and I’m glad she’s gone, because she would have ended up just like Clara if she’d stayed. Think about it. She’s reckless, she’s convinced she’s indestructible, and where Clara thought she was being just like the Doctor, Rose thought the Doctor was just like her. They’re both blind to the very real dangers their travels put them in, and I absolutely believe that were it not for Pete Tyler’s blind leap of faith, Rose Tyler would have been dead.
And the Doctor tried to prevent that. He sent her away from the battle and she came back(against his wishes) and nearly paid with her life. He sent her away again after that, and she came back again, and finally he had to give her his own half-human clone just to get her to stay put. (People are angry to this day because he didn’t say those “three little words,” but if you’re repeatedly putting yourself in mortal danger and someone is repeatedly gently removing you from said mortal danger to safety, they must love you at least a little, you know?)
He told Clara he was worried about her recklessness, and she kept blowing him off until she got herself into something she couldn’t blow off.
The Doctor: This is my fault.
Clara: This is my choice.
The Doctor: I let you get reckless.
Clara: Why? Why shouldn’t I be so reckless? You’re reckless. All the bloody time. Why can’t I be like you?
The Doctor: Clara, there’s nothing special about me. I am nothing, but I am less breakable than you. I should’ve taken care of you.
Clara: I never asked you to.
The Doctor: You shouldn’t have to ask.
Back to the Whooligan debate.
We have lost Companions before. Rory and Amy were lost to the Weeping Angels, but they got to live out their full lives, just in a different time period, their family fractured. (Remember that River Song is their daughter, and the Doctor their son-in-law. Wibbly-wobbly.)
Rose, of course, lost to the alternate Earth with copies of her original family.
The Brigadier, from old age. (He counts, damnit. Three/Brig was a bromance for the ages.)
Jamie and Zoe, their memories wiped, returned to their own times.
“But Sporky,” I hear you saying, “Those people didn’t die before our very eyes! We didn’t get to SEE! It doesn’t count!”
Ah-ha, but there’s one more.
And here’s where the fandom sorts itself into two neat piles, because there’s nary a Whooligan who will recognise that name.
Back in the day, when the Doctor was portrayed by Tom Baker, aka “the one with the Scarf,” there was a young man named Adric, and he lived on a planet called Alzarius over in E-Space.
Well one day Adric stowed away in the TARDIS and thus our fourth Doctor found himself with three companions, as he’d also collected the wayward air hostess Tegan and the orphaned Trakenite Nyssa previously. Things were ok. They more or less got along. But then Adric invited himself on board, and things got tense.
The newcomer was a bit of a brat. Part of that was likely because he’d never met anyone outside his own little village before, but part of it was because he was a genius and he knew it. He was a math genius, and he was so excited to have other geniuses to bounce off of that he ended up annoying the living daylights out of the Doctor and Nyssa. Nyssa just withdrew, Tegan shouted back, the Doctor was probably swearing in Gallifreyan under his breath and hoping the TARDIS didn’t translate any of it. It was not a happy time.
During the story “Earthshock,” Adric finds himself on a ship that is doomed to crash into the Earth. Everyone else has evacuated, including the Doctor and the other companions. (No, the Doctor didn’t ditch him – he tried to get Adric to come too, but Adric refused.)
The controls are locked, but Adric is convinced he can break the lock in time by reprogramming it. However, a Cyberman shoots at him and destroys the keyboard so he can’t finish his calculations.
The Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan can only watch helplessly as the ship crashes, and Adric dies.
Even though Adric was not a beloved character, they still ran the closing credits in silence, with only a shot of his broken badge, in tribute.
There may have been Adric death parties. I don’t know. We didn’t have the internet back then. What we did have was a sense that what we’d just seen happen was Not Okay.
The Doctor has always been a magnet for random people, and whether they get along or not, he still feels responsible for them. “I have a duty of care,” he tells Clara, more than once.
So when a Companion dies, it’s because something went massively, horribly wrong. Something so awful that not even the Doctor could fix it – and this is the guy who rebooted the universe, after all.
Even annoying old Adric was granted a modicum of respect, a moment of silence, by Whovians, because in our bones we know that Companions are not supposed to go out like that. Not ever.
Shame on you Whooligans celebrating Clara’s death. And if there are any Whovians joining the Clara Death Party, double shame on you, because you really ought to know better.