Dr Who has a mythic arc to it, with epic battles with worlds at stake, but it’s also a fairy tale. It always was. There is the eponymous hero (with not 1000 but) 13 faces. He has special devices to solve problems (like psychic paper) and unique abilities, which puts in a category similar to that of Hercules. Like Hercules, he is not a god, but sometimes very like one, with all the responsibilities and faults that entails.
The Doctor possesses superior knowledge, is aware of past, future and present, can heal and fix things and finish a war, is at home and a stranger everywhere he goes – all this we know and accept. Yet what kind of hero would he be, without his enchanted weapon (ok sonic screwdriver), which open sesame-like, allows him into almost anywhere? And what kind of hero would he be without his magic carpet, I mean Tardis?
I would say he would barely be the Doctor at all without his Old Girl. The Tardis, or more clearly She, takes him where he needs to be and is in a symbiotic relationship with him. She is ensouled, she spans time and space and wants to see the universe. Their’s is a true and pure love because they’re made of the same stuff and have the same goals and purpose. The Tardis is alive for the Doctor and with the Doctor, while he senses her pain and when there are things wrong with her. All this has been alluded to, or could have been inferred from previous episodes, but Neil Gaiman made it gloriously personal and poetic in The Doctor’s Wife. This is the fairytale Steven Moffat was banging on about last year but never quite materialised for us: the story of the Hero and His One True Love.
And the Tardis is no a mere conveyance, but the receptacle of the Doctor’s entire life. Much like Serenity, She is home when there’s no longer any other home to go to (since no one can take the sky). On this certain Firefly Capt’ns would agree: it’s love that keeps them flying, even when ancient bits keep falling off.
Why do so many of us anthropomorphise our vehicles? My old car was called Bertha and she was red in the sun so I had to buy her. She had character and she spoke to me (often grumbling about needing a service), while her ancient sturdiness saved my life. These relationships (because that’s what they are) are meaningful to us, there is communication and the Doctor/Tardis relationship is a bond unlike any other, except we understand somehow, because we have homes and some of us get slightly sentimental about our vehicles because they take us places. Sure they cost money and break down but there is a kind of freedom in having them.
So this Home/Vehicle dual nature cannot help but have a kind of romance. In fact, most of the allure of The Doctor is not so much him, but with his lifestyle (despite his immense charisma and great hair). Who has not dreamt of travel and yet also missed those personal comforts that make a place home? When the transport is home, as Toady once discovered in Wind in the Willows, you can’t resist the call of the road. And in essence this notion is nothing more than a metaphor for all of us on Earth, who are indeed travelling through time and space together.
And those deeper meanings, the metaphors, they are the point of all good fairy tales and myths. Just imagine: the Tardis as a symbol of Earth…doesn’t that invite use to re-examine our relationship with it?