Despite the fact that the Doctor claims he’s above relationships, Doctor Who does feature some pretty intense love stories.
The will-they-won’t-they trope is actually a pretty fundamental element of the modern series. It’s a bit like Batman saying he doesn’t use guns shortly before shooting someone in the leg and saying it doesn’t count because it wasn’t a kill shot.
But we digress. We’ve collected all of the Doctor’s greatest love affairs, not counting the unrequited stuff (sorry Martha) or the examples of platonic love (not that you’d remember it, Donna), to prove that the timey-wimey Time Lord has been a bit bendy-wendy with the truthy-wuthy when it comes to his romantic feelings.
Cameca (Margot Van der Burgh)
The Doctor’s double hearts started beating for someone as early as the very first season, with the sixth serial introducing the concept of a romantic subplot for the First Doctor. Awkward age-gap aside, it’s actually a pretty sweet story.
When the Doctor offers to share a cup of cocoa with Cameca after she spills some beans in front of him, he doesn’t realise he’s accepting a traditional Aztec marriage proposal (look, the Doctor hasn’t always been super smart) and is pretty shocked when he finds out the truth.
Obviously the marriage doesn’t go ahead, but the serial is remarkable for how it ends – Cameca gives the Doctor a seal to remember her by, and he leaves it behind… before going back for it.
This is obviously a symbolic reveal that the Doctor did have feelings for Cameca after all, and wasn’t ready to let her go. Awww.
Jo Grant (Katy Manning)
This one’s a little bit tenuous, as the Doctor and Jo Grant’s relationship was almost 100% platonic, but there was something a bit weird about the Doctor’s reaction to her decision to leave the TARDIS.
He was fine about the idea of her going off to explore the Amazon with Cliff (who she said reminded her of a younger version of the Doctor), but when it was revealed they were also planning to get married, the Time Lord reacted badly, mumbling something about having to make a phone call.
Then, when he was handed a glass of champagne to toast the happy couple, he downed the drink in one and left before the toast was raised. Sour grapes?
Grace Holloway (Daphne Ashbrook)
When Hollywood got its hands on the Doctor, a romantic subplot was inevitable, with the 1996 American TV movie’s eighth Doctor getting significantly more saucy.
He gives human (medical) doctor Grace Holloway a kiss of celebration following his regeneration, before giving her a proper romantic kiss after she turns down his offer to become his latest companion.
As Grace herself says, “I finally meet the right guy and he’s from another planet.”
Rose Tyler (Billie Piper)
Far from moving away from the relatively unsuccessful eighth Doctor’s shift into a more openly romantic dynamic, the first showrunner of the modern era, Russell T Davies, positively embraced it.
Rusty was perhaps influenced by The X-Files’ Mulder and Scully (Davies has compared Torchwood to the series) and Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s Buffy and Angel, as both were popular sci-fi / fantasy shows with impossible relationships at their core.
But whatever the inspiration, Rose’s romance with Chris Eccleston’s and especially David Tennant’s Doctor transformed the show’s tone.
She was the first companion to say “I love you”. As a result, romantic love stories, including the rejection of romantic love, went on to be one of the most significant elements of the show.
But of all the subsequent romantic plots, this is probably the purest. Tennant very clearly loves her back, allowing her to be with the cloned version of himself, knowing that both would be happy with the arrangement.
Madame de Pompadour (Sophia Myles)
Inspired by The Time Traveller’s Wife, Russell T Davies described new-Who’s second season episode ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ as “practically a love story for the Doctor… It’s very understated, very beautifully done, but it’s nonetheless a Time Lord falling in love and Rose’s reaction to him falling in love with someone else.”
That ‘someone else’ is Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV’s mistress, played by Sophia Myles, the central figure in an episode that many rate as one of the very best of the new series.
Sadly, she died before she had the opportunity to travel with him, with Tennant’s moving performance perfectly expressing the sadness the Doctor feels as a result of the loss.
Amy Pond (Karen Gillan)
Amy clearly at least fancied the Doctor, just as Martha Jones did, but did The Doctor return her feelings?
We’d argue yes, and that Matt Smith’s Doctor’s relationship with Pond was a cross between his feelings towards Rose and Martha, with the closest direct comparison being Jo Grant (compare the proposal scene involving the third Doctor with the wedding sequence involving the eleventh).
There’s plenty of evidence: he gets competitive with Pond’s partner Rory in ‘The Vampires of Venice’ and ‘Amy’s Choice’, and when confronted by the Kovarian Chapter, he’s annoyed by the implication that he loves Amy.
River Song (Alex Kingston)
If the Doctor has a ‘The One’, it’s River. He has been married a couple of times – to Queen Elizabeth I and Marilyn Monroe – though he left both at the altar, so we can’t say whether the weddings took place because of love or circumstances.
His marriage to River Song is different, however. It’s the closest the Doctor has ever come to an equal partnership, and it’s clearly based on love.
The relationship itself takes place mostly offscreen, but ends with one of the most beautiful scenes in the show’s history. In fact, they had two endings if you include River’s last day with him (which, appropriately enough, came at the beginning).
You can watch the ending ending (ie the meeting before River’s last day with him) above, but be prepared to blub when the Doctor “smiles his smug little smile and saves the day” one last time.
Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman)
Yeaaaah, the Doctor definitely had romantic feelings for Clara, with the ‘Impossible Girl’ being the closest to Rose Tyler in terms of where she sat in the Doctor’s heart.
Matt Smith’s Doctor wanted to be her boyfriend, kind of, and while the relationship suffered a major setback when he regenerated into an age-inappropriate version of himself, he still felt the same way.
That’s what makes this relationship especially interesting: it’s the only example of the Doctor being in love with someone who doesn’t return his feelings. Sucks, doesn’t it, Doc?