The Shipping Forecast

September 21, 2014

Some corners of the universe have bred the most terrible things. Things that act against everything the BBC believes in – in fact they’re a bit more *Channel 4*. For those of you from distant, probably less rainy places, that means they’re kinkier and more deliberately subversive.

I refer, of course, to Doctor Who Shipping. And not in the sense of the Shipping forecast – another impenetrable and bizarre British institution. The actual Shipping Forecast involves regions of sea having names plucked from the depths of the English language (Fastnet, Viking, German Bight and Dogger to name but a few). A prim BBC radio caster reads out the weather conditions for any nautical types thinking of taking a boat out. For sailors it must be like a fevered sports commentary but to the uninitiated it sounds downright strange. Nevertheless it’s found a place in our hearts and proves that any Brit with a radio is potentially a mad man or woman with a box…

I wonder whether I’m alone in finding the loved up pictures of the Twelfth Doctor and Clara a bit off-putting?

No, I refer to the other “Shipping”. The online practice of creating new relationSHIPS from pairing off otherwise platonic on-screen characters, perhaps even deadly enemies, in a more or less lusty romance. Of course it might not just be pairs – who knows – I haven’t conducted a survey [ahem]. And, like the Shipping Forecast, it can be downright strange.

Key examples might include Sherlock Holmes and Watson (perhaps not such a leap given the deliberate onscreen nods to others mistaking them for a couple), Sherlock and Moriarty (OK getting a bit weird), or the Doctor and the Master (come again?!)…

One home of such fiction-bending creativity is Deviantart.com – the gallery site where all manner of artists’ work can be uploaded for display and comment. And in it’s murky depths you will stumble across all manner of smoochy phantasmagoria…

credit to mistressainley.deviantart.com

Credit to mistressainley.deviantart.com

 

Now this phenomenon has been around for a while and takes on a variety of guises from innocent suggestion to frankly pornographic – so go careful. Doctor Who has been of interest to the Shipping community (is that a thing?) for quite some time, with Clara and the Eleventh Doctor being put through their romantic paces.

Now I can sort of understand this. A big theme in NeWho from the outset has been the flirtation and potential for romance between the Doctor and his companion whether it was falling for Rose, Martha’s unrequited love, Amy’s slightly aggressive advances, the TARDIS being called a snog box, River Snog (NOT a typo) and the Doctor standing in as Clara’s boyfriend at Christmas. It’s not entirely surprising that those romantically inclined types with some artistic talent would create worlds where those tensions were realised.

However my own forecast for Who-themed Shipping in Series 8 after the arrival of the Twelfth Doctor was that it would surely come to an end? We have an older doctor and almost certainly a less flirty and more avuncular hero. We might have expected the dynamic to be more teacher-pupil, parent-child or two mates who care about eachother but won’t be tempted by a roll in the hay the night before their wedding.

I was wrong. I was wrong and these artists work fast. We already have a wealth of Series 8 inspired images (or Deviations as they’re known on the site) only four episodes in. This one is my favourite – not really Shipping but it seems to convey Clara and the Doctor’s different take on hugs, his fear of being a new person, his distance and her promise to help him. And they look like buddies…

But what kind of person, what kind of raunch-obsessed mind would think to put the Twelfth Doctor and Clara together in a steamy lip-locked embrace?! Of course. I was forgetting teenagers…

*Shudder *… Now I must say a couple of things. Firstly I’m being unfair – I have no idea of the age of the respective artists and nor is it relevant. Hormones can work their mysterious magic whatever age you are. Secondly, there’s nothing fundamentally objectionable about these images – they are of consenting adults depicted in a romanticised hyper-reality. This goes for any such couples whether straight, gay or between different species providing they’re sef-aware and able to consent.

Vastra and Jenny are written as though they were two human characters and the inter-species relationship they have on-screen is a particularly interesting way to challenge prejudices around relationships in general. There’s a long history of taboos around gender and race in this context and in certain parts of the world those still exits. The South East Asian censorship of the oxygen-sharing kiss between what is ostensibly two women in Deep Breath is an example. Deviantart has this covered

But there is something a bit uncomfortable about some of the more wanton depictions of the Doctor and his companions – and it makes me wonder why. There is one obvious case where characters who are intended to be related are shipped in a way that implies incest – that’s a fairly widely shared taboo in most cultures (as far as I’m aware) so we can see why that might make us feel uncomfortable.

credit to kataoi.deviantart.com

Credit to kataoi.deviantart.com

But I wonder whether I’m alone in finding the loved up pictures of the Twelfth Doctor and Clara and this one of Jamie and the Second Doctor a bit off-putting?

So why is this? If there’s nothing wrong with e.g. the two actors behind those characters starring in a totally different show where they played characters who might be lovers, why might we shift uneasily in the face of these shippings?

I think it may be something as simple as their being true to the characters. Russell T. Davies commented about Rose’s decision to stay with the meta-crisis Doctor in Journey’s End that it wasn’t really what she would do. And it felt kinda uncomfortable – she hadn’t fallen in love with the new Tenth Doctor, she fell in love with the original one. Why would she walk off with this new chap? And I think these images pose the same problems – Jamie and the Doctor, and Clara and the Twelfth Doctor were not lovers, they’re best friends. It’s different.

Or is it? None of this should stop people being creative on the internet – that is, after all what it’s sort of for. Perhaps it’s not even that it’s not true to the characters but because I’m an old curmudgeon and believe in the old-school “no sex please, he’s the Doctor” model. What do you think Kasterborites – are you fans of Shipping, or Shippers yourselves? Do you see the Doctor as a romantic character or separate from all of that? And what are your favourite images that convey the TARDIS team dynamic in Series 8? Tell us below…

P.S. there is some AWESOME Twelfth Doctor artwork out there

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0 comments on “The Shipping Forecast

  1. TimeChaser Sep 21, 2014

    My mind has just been blown…

    The artist who’s work was most featured in this article, Katoi, used to be a friend of mine. We even collaborated together on an original Doctor/Companion pair. I have to say, I’m certainly impressed with the quality of her art these days (if not always the subject matter).

    She’s not actually a teenager, more in her early 20s (a quick glance at her profile gives this info), but I guess that’s splitting hairs a bit.

    Well, that was an unexpected blast from the past for me this morning.

    • James Lomond Sep 21, 2014

      That’s weird 🙂 I should say while some of her subject matter does give me a brain cringe, she does some beautiful work – very talented.

      • TimeChaser Sep 21, 2014

        It definitely is weird, that out of how ever many artists doing ship, you picked her work, but I can see why. I hadn’t realized she was doing so much these days. Like I said, she was my friend, we haven’t communicated in years. But I always thought her work was very good.

  2. It’s interesting the timing of this article given a line of dialogue in Time Heist (which I will not spoil) that seems to have turned the whole “Twelfth Doctor is not interested in Clara” thing on its head for some people.

  3. Lucas W Sep 21, 2014

    I’ve never gone in for that sort of… Thing. I have to say that I personally find it off putting – in fact, after seeing some of the “deviations” on the world wide interlie, I shall never be able to look at 4 and Adric in the same way again. No offence to anyone who enjoys shipping and deviations, but I think it’s a bit… Urgh. Maybe I’m a bit of a prude, but I just find it a bit off putting in ways I can’t begin to describe.

    • Lucas W Sep 21, 2014

      In a way I suppose I worry for the people for whom a good, strong, solid friendship is so inconceivable a concept that they have to shoehorn sex and passionate kisses into the relationship.
      And also, the fact that every relationship has to in some way involve sex. This can be partially blamed on TV shows themselves however, because it is actually notable when Donna is just the Doctor’s friend, and how a point is made about 12 not being Clara’s boyfriend.
      I suppose my feelings can be summed up by: if two characters are in a relationship which is more than just platonic, then there is no need to ship them. If two characters are just good friends or even enemies, then why do they need to be placed somewhere they don’t belong?
      There you go, I said I couldn’t explain myself and I just did. Rather more forcefully than I intended to, so sorry about that. I don’t really have problems with people shipping characters, but it is a practice I shall never partake in.

      • CatPiper Sep 24, 2014

        I couldn’t agree more, Lucas W. But then I found the whole Doctor/Rose thing very uncomfortable, too. Much prefer ‘best friends’. I must be getting old………

  4. Ranger Sep 22, 2014

    I have to agree with Lucas W – these pictures make me uneasy because they are subverting already established relationships and all the connotations that come from that – ie we see the character in one way and these pictures just feel wrong to that character’s behaviour.

    It’s like the fan stories of sexual relationships between Frodo and Aragorn/Frodo and Gandalf, etc – if it had been originally written that way (Tolkien is turning over in his grave!) then fine, it would be true to the characters feelings and behaviour, but as it stands it just feels weirdly uncomfortable.

  5. Rebecca Sep 24, 2014

    One can also ship characters that are an established couple. It’s more being a fan of the relationship and the possibilities of it. That there already people shipping Twelve and Clara is really is no surprise. The fandom machine moves quickly.

    (For the record I ship Four and Sarah Jane, Ten and Rose, and Eleven and River.)

    An trust me, this is the tame stuff. NSFW doesn’t even begin to cover some of what is out there…and then there’s fanfic…

    😉

  6. Well Metacrisis Doctor was pretty stupid anyway. That Doctor was largely there to satisfy the Mary Sue. I wish people could accept platonic relationships.

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