Doctor Who Companion Retrospective Part 3: Mickey Smith
“Oh my God: I’m the tin dog.”
Mickey Smith, a character so vivid at the start that his girlfriend couldn’t tell he’d been replaced by a talking mannequin. By the end of his time on the show, he was saving the universe.
Mickey was, in the first series, forced kicking and screaming into the feminine role in his relationship with Rose. He had to wait, and wait, and never know where Rose was and whether she was coming back for him. He was also too scared to dare risk this role, refusing to the Ninth Doctor’s invitation to the Tardis.
Like Rose, Jack, and the Doctor himself, Mickey was primarily driven by love at the beginning. He did what the Doctor asked of him because he loved Rose, who loved the Doctor.
But unlike the others, Mickey loved his friends and girlfriend more than they loved him. He helped, he got along with the Doctor, but he was extraneous, the third wheel, and he knew it. He could be neither Rose’s patiently waiting girlfriend nor her companion boyfriend—he would only ever be her plus one.
Then in the alternate universe, he was given a chance at another path. He could be a leader, he could help his friends and care for his grandmother. He got the chance to grow up, out of his subordinate role in every other relationship he’d ever had, and to “become a man.”
For a time, Mickey’s coming of age story was the most complete of anyone’s in the show. It is a masculine story of leaving boyhood behind, but that makes it no less valid. Mickey stopped letting other people write his story and became his own driver.
Then came the Journey’s End, and Mickey stopped being a character and became a motivationless loose end plot. Why did he leave the alternate universe? His gran died, so I guess the rest of his life there was invalidated. Why did he marry a woman he never actually had an onscreen conversation with? They were both single at the end of the story.
Once again, a perfectly good journey ruined right at the end.
For better or worse, Mickey was also the predecessor of Rory Williams. Mickey was left behind by a girl who didn’t seem to love him, he was brought along as a plus one, and he always felt overlooked by Rose. Rory was in a similar fix at his beginning, but was saved from Mickey’s fate by virtue of the Eleventh Doctor. Eleven saw the Ponds as a single unit, and also saw Rory as making Amy much less dangerous in a sexy sense. He wanted them along together, he wanted them to be together, and he honestly never questioned whether they might actually belong together.
That Amy and Rory love each other very much is obvious, but the fact remains that they would not be together if not for the Doctor. He wrote their story, he controlled a big chunk of their lives, but because the Doctor loved Amy and by extension Rory, Rory never felt the same inadequacy Mickey did. Rory and Amy were stronger than Mickey and Rose, and so Rory held on through the tin dog stage and was rewarded with the Doctor’s love. Rory never considered breaking free as Mickey did, and for better or worse he never wrote his own story.