Let’s talk about sex. In particular, sex involving the Doctor. Or, you know, just love and romance in general. The topic of my fourth headcanon exposition is the Doctor and love, romance and sexuality.
The question of the Doctor’s sexual preference, or how (and if) the Doctor feels sexual or romantic attraction, is a nebulous one because we’ve never really got anything that could be described as a straight answer. Before the 1996 TV Movie, in which Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor kissed Grace Holloway, there were no suggestions that the Doctor experienced love or sexual attraction at all, apart from the occasional very subtle hint which may not have actually been hints at all*. We did know, at least, that the Doctor, in his first incarnation, had a granddaughter, Susan, so, logically, at some point he had to have had children and a wife or lover.
In the revived series, though, we’ve been hit hard and fast with pretty unambiguous evidence that the Doctor does, indeed, experience love or romantic attraction of some kind. The Tenth Doctor fell in love with Rose, became smitten with Reinette (Madame de Pompadour), Astrid Peth and Lady Christina de Souza, and began a fledgling romance with Joan Redfern (albeit as a human). The Eleventh Doctor and the Twelfth Doctor both loved River Song. The Eleventh Doctor clearly had a crush on Clara (“a mystery wrapped in an enigma squeezed into a skirt that’s just a little too tight…”), and there have been subtle suggestions of romantic tension between the Twelfth Doctor and Clara**.
So, my interpretation of the above is that it’s pretty clear that the Doctor experiences romantic attraction. It used to be the general presumption among the Doctor Who fandom, at least until the 1996 TV Movie, that the Doctor is asexual, in that he doesn’t experience sexual attraction—which would be consistent with the proposition that he still experiences romantic attraction, because asexuals can still feel romantically or personally attracted to someone, although not sexually or physically attracted. None of the evidence negatives the idea that the Doctor is asexual—in his various attractions he has always displayed an attraction or infatuation that is personal but not necessarily sexual or physical, i.e. we never saw the Doctor sneaking peeks at Rose’s bum or checking out River in her tight, revealing outfits.
I would propose that the Doctor is asexual, but for the complication of that one line of the Eleventh Doctor’s about Clara (“a skirt that’s just a little too tight…”). You could reason it away by suggesting it was just a throwaway line, that the Doctor was just babbling, as is his usual manner, but somehow I don’t think the Doctor would know to make a comment like that if he hadn’t noticed that Clara, er, not to put too fine a point on it, has a very alluring figure which is particularly pronounced in the tight dresses she wore in Series 7. At the same time, there’s the issue of how the Doctor had a grandchild***, and therefore children, if he didn’t at one point have a wife or lover with whom he conceived those children. In short, the Doctor must have had sex.
I’m concluding that the Doctor does experience sexual attraction, but I don’t think to the same extent as humans do. I’m inclined to think this would be a product of the Time Lords’ evolution: beings that have such advanced lifespans, that can live “practically forever, barring accidents” would very quickly overpopulate and ravage their own planet, and go extinct, if they had the same hyper-charged sex drive as we short-lived humans. But, at the same time, they would also go extinct if they were a completely asexual species with no natural impulse to reproduce. I’m thinking that a latent or negligible sex drive evolved in the Gallifreyan species alongside its ultra-extended lifespan to ensure its survival. The other possibility is that, like Tolkien’s Elves, Time Lords have a normal sex drive in youth but which quickly wanes after peak childbearing age, leading to a condition for the rest of their lives of virtual asexuality, although we could assume that, even then, some latent sexual attraction remained (evolution is rarely so neat and tidy).
Either of those theories could account for the Doctor’s history of onscreen romances and attractions, I think, and I don’t necessarily have a preference for either. The point is that, in my headcanon, Time Lords’ sexuality differs greatly from human sexuality for evolutionary reasons, with the implication being that, the Doctor, as a mature Time Lord, doesn’t experience sexual attraction to the extent humans do, although he’s still perfectly capable of experiencing romantic love and personal attraction.
What do you think of my headcanon? What do you think about the Doctor’s sexuality?
* I.e. Jo Grant and Sarah-Jane Smith. I personally ship Four and Romana.
** Disclosure: Whouffaldi shipper.
*** There are fan theories suggesting that the Doctor’s relationship with Susan wasn’t actually biological, that Susan is the Doctor’s “granddaughter” in some other sense that didn’t involve the Doctor conceiving children with someone. There is also the pseudo-canon of the Virgin novels (i.e. Lungbarrow) that suggests that Time Lords don’t actually come into being through sexual reproduction, that they are artificially conceived through genetic “looms”. I’m ignoring all this and assuming that Time Lords do reproduce the same way as us (given that they have the same parts as us, as confirmed amusingly in Deep Breath) and that Susan is the Doctor’s biological granddaughter.
Admin note: Maybe you’ve noticed my absence over the last two weeks (I’d be flattered if you did!). I’ve just got back from a holiday to Melbourne this week, which I kind of needed badly, and enjoyed very much. So now I’m back, and my regular (erratic, disorganised) posting schedule should resume normal service!