Steven Moffat seems to have something against traditional companions. It’s not enough to introduce a new girl and have the Doctor invite her to travel with him because he gets lonely by himself. Moffat’s companions have to have something extra. They have to have a mystery attached to them.
This habit first became apparent with River Song. She knew the Doctor’s future and the Doctor’s name. The Doctor cryptically stated that there was only one time he could reveal his name to someone. This was designed to let viewers know that River was someone incredibly important to the Doctor’s future. It was done in a ham-fisted manner but it was at least something new: a companion who meets the Doctor out of sequence. That that vaguely interesting idea was tangled up with what appeared to be Steven Moffat’s teenage fantasy was a drawback but there was hope River would progress into something interesting.
She didn’t, of course. She predictably became the Doctor’s wife (though not in the episode of that title, that would be too simple) and failed to be written into any episodes that use of her non-chronological interactions with the Doctor for anything other than allegedly scintillating and-or hilarious intro sequences capped off with the words “Hello, sweetie”. The potential was there but Moffat blew it.
To clarify I’m not saying that River could have been the best companion ever or that giving the Doctor a time travelling wife is the greatest idea ever. If the concept became overused (and it could be argued that it has been already) then it would be just as boring as everything else in Moffat’s bag of tricks. My point is that had she been used in a more creative fashion River Song could have been involved in some innovative and memorable episodes of Doctor Who.
Following River was Amy. She was never characterised terribly well but Moffat did at least make a few token tries at the start of her time on the show. Her defining attribute was intended (I think) to be her undying love for Rory. Unfortunately Karen Gillan played the role with such an air of icy pomposity that this never came across. We were told about how she and Rory loved each other but never had any reason to believe it.
Waiting outside a box for two thousand years doesn’t show love. It shows an incredibly needy human being (or Auton replica). No wonder Amy walked all over Rory and tried to cop off with the Doctor mere hours after getting married.
Moffat’s attempts at giving Amy a history didn’t really succeed because he was more interested in furthering the crack-in-the-wall plot. That’s the main problem with Amy. She was written to be the focal point of a hazily defined story arc about time collapsing rather than a character in her own right. Her second series saw her involved in a similar plot: witnessing the death of the Doctor. She got to stick around for that because Moffat required a companion with an established rapport with the Doctor. Not because audiences had warmed to her or because she’d established a particularly good on-screen connections with Matt Smith, but because she already had the job.
By all appearances this trend is continuing with Clara. She is not a character in her own right, she’s in the show to be a part of an ongoing mystery for the Doctor to solve. Moffat’s not even made the token attempts to give her a backstory that he did for Amy. She’s four episodes in (as a regular character, six if you count her guest appearances) and we know nothing about her beyond the fact that she worked as a nanny and has somehow become splintered across time.
This approach is problematic mostly because it doesn’t give us a reason to care about the characters. The Doctor’s a wacky boffin with a short attention span and a love of the word “Geronimo” and Clara is a vacant, pretty-faced riddle who snarks her way through adventures without exhibiting any awe or wonder at what she’s seeing. It’s not that Moffat’s writing things too complex to be followed, it’s that it’s not worth following what he’s writing because the characters don’t deserve it.
The man himself has stated in interviews that everything regarding Clara’s nature will be revealed by the end of the season. That’s a mercy. Hopefully we can take this as evidence that he’s learned not to carry these things on for years (see River Song) because nobody beyond the superfans (those people he’s adamant the show shouldn’t be aimed at) cares enough to follow all his clues.
I want the next new companion to be more character than gimmick. At this rate the only way I’m going to care about Clara is if she’s revealed to be a Jagaroth.