Do We See A Future With Erica On Doctor Who?
Or has she merely blinded the Doctor with science?
The concept of consent has gotten a lot of attention in the past few years, particularly in how it relates to sexuality and rape culture. Now consent has gotten some attention from Steven Moffat, and unsurprisingly, in not such an awesome way. I could go into how the bulk of this episode (co-written by Moffat and Peter Harness, author of "Kill The Moon" and last season's Zygon two-parter) is an argument either for or against the very idea of enthusiastic consent, in which the gross creatures who want to put their hands on us demand "pure consent," on threat of death. And that the consequences of lack of consent fall on the person being touched, said consequences being swift as well as fatal.
But all that's way above my pay grade, so shall we talk instead about the Doctor's new girlfriend?
Erica's entrance into the Whoniverse isn't particularly auspicious; who uses her handbag as a doorstop with her reading glasses inside? But like the Doctor, the real world is less her thing than the realm of pure science is. When she enters the lab, she's clearly well-liked and competent and knows what she's doing, unlike a certain doomed coworker of hers I could mention.
Besides, the accident with her reading glasses has to happen somehow; it mirrors the breaking bottle that symbolizes Douglas's hung-over state and helps sets the stage for how those two minor accidents lead to a slightly less minor accident that threatens to end all life on Earth. You know, as accidents do.
But back to Erica. She's clearly available, as shown by the way she interacts with Douglas, as not-awesome as he is. But when she realizes what Douglas has done, her first concern is to keep his accidental creation from venting into the atmosphere and sterilizing the entire planet. She knows better than to waste time mooning over the puddle of expired salad dressing that it's turned him into.
Enter, as always, the Doctor. Now, he hasn't always been particularly interested in appearances in the usual sense, especially in his current body. Even with River, he couldn't seem to tell whether she was looking spectacular or merely great at any given time. So would he notice anything about the way Erica looked, even if she weren't swaddled in a full-body hazmat suit at the time, which she is? And even if he weren't blind, which he is? Probably not.
But even if love at first sight isn't the Doctor's speed, the fact remains that the first thing he does after meeting Erica is to get rid of Nardole. Which he claims is for Nardole's protection, but after all, we only have the Doctor's word for that, and it doesn't protect Nardole anyway. However, if the Doctor's real goal is to be alone with Erica, he has accomplished that neatly.
As usual, the world-threatening problem at hand prevents the Doctor from getting his game on as quickly as he might like. But one moment, he's pummeling his three brainstems for a solution ("Stupid Doctor, stupid, stupid, stupid--"), and the next, he's hit on one. And that's not all he's hitting on.
Because then he's congratulating himself: "Handsome Doctor! Adorable, hugely intelligent, but still approachable Doctor!" As if (a) handsome and adorable are the opposite of stupid, which they often are but not always; and (b) he's not the only blind person in the room. Yes, it's true that the Doctor can sometimes seem turned on by his own cleverness, but I don't think that's all that's going on here.
Because then, when Erica realizes that he's going to use the ethanol that the bacteria itself produces to blow up the lab -- and the bacteria itself -- he pretty much asks her out right there: "Seriously, what are you doing after this is all over?" We don't see whether she answers because we cut back to the pyramid, but in their next scene, he's predicting that his plan will not only succeed but end with her having a crush on him. Even as he's setting the charges, he's chatting her up over the intercom about whether she always wanted to be a scientist, and we know he digs scientists. And then, after he's planted the bomb, he's promising a second Presidential plane for his "glamorous assistant, Erica." The combination of not only calling someone "glamorous" but remembering her name after only being told it once indicates that the Doctor seems to have fallen pretty hard.
And why not? For us, River's been gone a year and a half. But for the Doctor, it's entirely possible that he's been watching over Missy for the last millennium in real time. Even for him, that's a significant period of mourning. And it's not like he and Missy are going to feel That Way about each other. Plus there's the fact that his current companion may be the least likely romantic partner for him that he's ever traveled with, up to and including Rory. There's no reason for him not to start putting himself out there again. Sure, he's busy preventing the end of the world, but when is he not?
Alas, the Doctor's victory over the Monks is short-lived: his blindness prevents him from escaping the lab he's just wired to blow. So Bill decides to surrender Earth to the Monks rather than let the Doctor get incinerated by his own cleverness. As fire consumes the room he's just exited, the Doctor is similarly consumed by fear of what this might mean for the world. He, and we the viewers, are left with a cliffhanger. The Doctor doesn't know what the Monks' next move is, or what they want, or what they're going to force humanity to do.
Or, most importantly, whether Erica is going to want to date him, or be allowed to. I mean, we know he's going to save the world. The Doctor's love life, however, is a much less sure thing.