Or, as intriguing
put it when prompting, the TARDIS's relationship with the Doctor and what her POV might be.
Now, before I get down to details about this most quintessential of Doctor Who
ships (in every sense of the word), first a word about which canon I'll acknowledge. Not the novels, because I haven't read a single one. Not the audios, because while I love me some Big Finish - and sometimes more than the tv show - , the audio canon on the Doctor and the TARDIS includes Zagreus
, and I just can't cope with the state of affairs between the Doctor and the TARDIS in Zagreus
. (They have a temporary very bitter breakup. This is just not on.) Also Zagreus
has the TARDIS being downright misogynistic, disliking the female Companions as rivals, which is also not on. (Other audios don't have that, though she does dislike one specific female Companion, Charley, for which there are Reasons.) In conclusion: as far as the TARDIS and the Doctor are concerned, I accept only tv canon.
Of which there is plenty, all 40 something years of it, and more recently even includes an episode in which the TARDIS does get to voice her pov, the sublime The Doctor's Wife
, written by Neil Gaiman. (Which is probably while the TARDIS, temporarily trapped in a human body, has some slight resemblance to Delirium of the Endless.) Stating categorically that as far as she's concerned, the Doctor, aka her Thief, didn't steal her, she stole him, and she's not intending to give him back, ever. Basically, they chose each other, the Doctor and the TARDIS, all the way back in Gallifrey. They were both looked at as somewhat disrepetubable embarassments by the Time Lords for the majority of DW canon, too; practically every other Time Lord in Old Who canon refers to the Doctor's TARDIS disdainfully as an old fashioned model that should have been out of circulation eons ago. As for their opinion on the Doctor's driving skills... speaking of which, in One's day the Doctor has almost no control over the TARDIS' destinations at all, and this changes throughout the show until the present where he can do precision landings. Not that this always works; ask little Amelia Pond. Which brings me to the part in The Doctor's Wife
where Eleven says somewhat accusingly to the TARDIS that she's not very reliable and she returns that while she didn't always bring him to where he wanted to go, she always brought him to where he needed to be, which he acknowledges to be true. This, in combination with the fact that the TARDIS is always aware of present, past and future simultanously would indicate that she does have her own agenda as to where to help and where to stay away from. Did she always, even during the days of the First Doctor? Possibly; she already was an out of date model then, i.e. older than the Doctor, who was for all his physical looks still young for a Time Lord, and learning. Whichever is the case, I find this very important in their relationship. The Doctor/Companion relationships all have some give and take, some are more balanced than others, but Romana - who as a Time Lady can steer the TARDIS - aside, the fact remains the Doctor is as Rose Tyler puts it in her second episode "the designated driver", which automatically makes them reliant on him to get home (or not), or anywhere. But in his relationship with the TARDIS, it's the other way around. Ultimately, she decides where they go (or not). He can't do anything against her will.
If the Doctor's relationship with his people is highly ambiguos, consisting of running away and being anything from a criminal on trial to the very temporary President to their destruction to their savior and back and forth, I'd say the TARDIS's relationship to the other Time Lords is even more so. For starters, they intended to retire her and never let her go anywhere else before she ever met the Doctor. And when the Second Doctor is captured by the other Time Lords, forced to regenerate and partially mindwiped to ensure he won't be able the TARDIS to time travel for the duration of his exile, the TARDIS herself is similarly treated. For the majority of the Third Doctor's era, she's crippled, though he tries relentlessly to repair her. (Mind you, their symbiotic relationship and shared exile sufferings don't exclude the Doctor cheating on her
for the first and last time of his lives. Whatever the TARDIS made of that fling with Bessie, though, we don't know.) I could see the TARDIS minding the non-existence of other Time Lords post Time War mainly for the Doctor's sake, not because she actually cares for the species (and given her awareness of all eras at the same time, it's even possible she knows they're not really extinct). Though the lack of other TARDISes is another matter; when she sees their remains in The Doctor's Wife
, she calls them her sisters and is visibly shaken.
(Sidenote: other TARDISes spotted in Old Who - who did have a functioning Chameleon circuit - don't show up enough to display personality or allow a guess as to their relationships with the Time Lords. Though I will say the Rani's TARDIS wins easily for "most elegant looking", which fits the Rani. Also the Master uses his TARDIS for something the show actually calls a "Time Ram" - I kid you not - parking it interlocked with the Doctor's TARDIS in order to mess with the Doctor in "The Time Monster". How "our" TARDIS felt about that one, no one can tell, but if she ever was sentimental about the Master, which I doubt, she certainly wasn't anymore after he put her through being a paradox machine.)
The Doctor and the TARDIS are both (more or less) unique and the last of their kind in New Who, which only heightens their bond. Does it also reduce the TARDIS' options? Not necessarily. True, if she ever grew tired of the Doctor, it's not like she can have her pick among other Time Lords, but then she didn't have that in Old Who, either, because, see above re: disdain. Whereas the existence of River Song in New Who proves that the child of two humans can mutate into a being enough like a Time Lord to both regenerate and to steer the TARDIS, whereas Journey's End
demonstrates "normal" humans, several of them, can steer the TARDIS as well if shown how. So it remains the TARDIS' choice to stay with the Doctor, as he stays with her. Bad Wolf at the end of Parting of the Ways
is an amalgan of Rose and the TARDIS, and it's as much the TARDIS' desire to save the Ninth Doctor as it is Rose's that drives her. (I'd say the kiss as energy transfer is also driven by both.) Whereas when the TARDIS is almost gone in the middle of the following season, the Tenth Doctor provides her with a part of his own life energy to revitalize her. It's a more blatant and literal visualisation of their bond than in Old Who, but its existence is nothing new.
So if the TARDIS sees the Doctor as hers - which, going by "my Doctor" in Parting of the Ways
and "my Thief" in The Doctor's Wife
, she does -, what does she make of the Companions? Also hers? Rivals? Friends? Moving furniture? I'd say it depends on a case to case basis, speaking solely from tv canon. She and the Doctor don't necessarily agree on aesthetic preferences (see "Rory
is the pretty one?!?" from Eleven in The Doctor's Wife
, in a scene which btw also demonstrates the TARDIS doesn't necessarily think of the Companions by name; names generally don't seem to be her thing). The fanon says she has a particular soft spot for River Song, and I can certainly see why; River was conceived in the TARDIS who presumably is co-responsible for her Time Lord resembling biology, and the TARDIS certainly always is there to save her when required, with the exception of little Melody but that's another season 6 plot problem. Otoh there are two examples where the Doctor says the TARDIS reacts hostile to a Companion; Immortal!Jack Harkness in Utopia
and Clara in the second half of season 7. The TARDIS-Clara aversion was brought up a couple of times but never went anywhere as a plot point; I strongly suspect it was simply thrown in to make Clara more mysterious since the point where it was dropped entirely was as soon as we got the explanation for why various versions of Clara had shown up before. On a Watsonial level, I can fanwank that the TARDIS was aware of Clara splitting up into various selves at one point in her timeline and that this felt to her as unnatural as Jack's being a fixed point in time does. Of course, I've seen plenty of fans declare Ten is simply projecting when saying "even the TARDIS ran from you" to Jack in Utopia
, which is possible, but it's worth noting that the TARDIS takes off before the Doctor even regenerates in Parting of the Ways
(but after having made Jack immortal in the first place), and that she certainly didn't make any effort to drop the Doctor back into his timeline before Utopia
. Would it be unfair for the TARDIS to react against a condition she herself is responsible for? Absolutely, just like it's unfair from the Doctor to avoid Jack until Utopia
and even there until they end up talking in the radiation chamber. But then, would a flawless being without any faults and biases pick the Doctor, who certainly has both in his various incarnations, to travel with and bond herself to? I doubt it.
Generally, I get the impression the TARDIS is fine with the Companions living and travelling with her, but that she's not invested enough to miss them once they're gone. Does she see them as competition for the Doctor? Nah. They have such short life spans (Romana and now Jack aside), and besides, they communicate with him so differently. It's a bit like imagining one partner in a marriage being jealous of their spouses' toys or pets. Which can happen, yes, but it's hardly the norm or even very likely if the marriage is strong.
Which it is. Note that I say "strong", not "healthy". The Doctor and the TARDIS are the picture of co-dependency. The show has given us some alternate time lines where the Doctor is truly dead. Both in Turn Left
and The Night of the Doctor
, the TARDIS responded to this by slowly dying herself. Not because no one else could travel with her (see above); because she evidently chose not to continue without him, if he was truly irretrievable. He's her Thief, and she won't ever give him back. Or up. ETA
: And of course I have to include the canonical Doctor/TARDIS song: The December Talking Meme: the other days