Fictional characters who shaped my life (not in any order): Mickey Smith
I never had much interest in Doctor Who, but I watched the premiere of Rose in March 2005 anyway. There had been so much advertising about it, it was impossible to miss. (Doctor Who is big business in Britain). One of the adverts featured Rose talking to us, the audience, about her life. “Should I stay here with my mum, my job, my boyfriend, or should I go off with the Doctor and have adventures?” The answer was obvious. But when I actually watched the show, I saw Mickey and thought, “Oh, that must be the boyfriend. He seems nice. I hope he doesn’t get hurt too much.”
I’ll be the first to admit that Mickey wasn’t a good boyfriend in Rose, not at all. He was self-centered and unmotivated and cowardly – but he wasn’t a bad person, I could tell, so I worried rather more about his wellbeing than I suspect I was supposed to. As Rose and Nine ran gleefully past Big Ben with Mickey still in mortal danger, I remember turning to my dad and asking, “Wait, don’t they care about Ricky or Nicky or whatever his name is?” Heh.
I still don’t know if we were particularly meant to care about Mickey in Series One, or at least the first half of Series One, but I cared about him terribly. I think I wrote the first ever fanfiction with him as the main character (I posted it just before Aliens of London, but I could be wrong on that.) and after that I kept writing, story after story after story. Something about the idea of being the one left behind, the one who totally fucked up their Call To Adventure, massively appealed to me. It still does, in fact. Mickey grew into his Hero’s Journey, but I appreciated that it took him so much time, and that he had so many very human fuck-ups along the way.
Almost ten years on and Mickey’s almost forgotten, even among Doctor Who fans. I don’t think he deserves that, I think he was geniunely one of the best people, companions or not, we ever saw on the show. Think about it- Jackie Tyler spends a year harassing him: Mickey risks his life to save hers, then becomes her best friend. The Doctor spends a good long time calling him ‘the idiot’: Mickey steadfastly ignores him and even becomes his friend too. (Which is more than I would have done, frankly.)
When people ask me who my first Doctor Who Companion was, I say Rose, because, well, the show I came to love opened with her episode. She was a very good and very worthwhile hero. But Mickey Smith, in all his non-heroic, human glory- he was my first companion.