Adric: The Boy We Love To Hate
UPDATE: It’s back! The article about Adric that some were so outraged about that they said that the Review the Who website was “…the worst website in the history of websites!!!!” and described the writer as “The very worst of Who fandom…you make the whole of fandom look bad.” With the redesign of the site, I begged/pleaded/bribed Richey to put the Adric article back up and so here it is.
When the site was in its previous incarnation, I wrote an article about my top three Regenerations. In this article, it was pointed out to me by Richey that I may harbour a slight hatred for Adric. Now don’t get me wrong; the hating of someone and the word hate itself can be misused if the signs given are misread. I may give off the impression of hating Adric for the sheer fact that every time I hear the Manic Street Preachers song “Motown Junk”, I change the line from “I laughed when Lennon got shot” to “I laughed when Adric blew up”. But what is there to actually like about Adric besides his fiery death? To get to the bottom of this you have to watch the eleven stories that he features in, discounting the two episodes featuring cameos as he brought nothing or very little to those stories (of course, some may argue that he brought very little to Doctor Who at all).
There is an old fan myth that during the regeneration scene of the Fourth Doctor into the Fifth, it had to be re-shot several times because Tom Baker, instead of delivering the line “It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for,” kept saying “Adric, you’re a cunt and always will be.” And even when Tom Baker had delivered the correct line, it took another six takes before Peter Davison would sit up without punching Matthew Waterhouse in the throat. The very existence of such a myth indicates that one commonly held attitude permeates the entirety of Doctor Who fandom; we all love to hate Adric. The first problem with Adric is that he is almost immediately set up as the one character we always despise in science fiction, that being the smart arsed teenager who gets to travel on the cool ship and go on cool adventures. This same mistake would be repeated some years later by the makers of Star Trek: The Next Generation when we meet the abominable Wesley Crusher. Every time Adric opens his mouth to deliver some exposition that nobody else could possibly have worked out, we’ve all wanted to smack him upside the head. As fans we imagine that we’d be as cool as The Doctor if we were his companion, almost like Captain Jack is in the new series but without the RTD gay agenda (I’ll add here that this is a can of worms to open and I’m already 3 essay’s behind on my History degree before going into that subject). But Adric isn’t cool on any level. He’s the classic child prodigy that everyone hates because he thinks himself to be better than everyone else, including the main lead in the show. Why is this a reason to hate Adric? Because essentially he is trying to prove himself as smart as The Doctor and that translates to us as the height of arrogance. And he always fails, even when he tries something clever like a double cross, which only makes it worse that he keeps on trying!
Now I should say here that there is nothing wrong with having an intelligent male companion, in fact there have been some brilliant companions in the past like Ian, Steven and Jamie. But Adric is different for he is a teenage boy and therefore, unlike the older male companion who knows enough in life to know that he may not know everything, the younger boil-on-the-arse companion is at the stage where he thinks he knows everything but really knows nothing. Unless his knowledge comes from a particular subject that he is skilled in, like Adric’s mathematical genius (or like Wesley Crusher’s ability to know everything), then his attempts at seeming wiser than his years serve only to make him look like an irritating child trying to be like the grown ups in the room. Of course, this only seems to apply to the teenage boys in science fiction, for if there is a teenage girl (I say teenage girl, they are normally 18/19, look cute with glasses on then turn into sex goddesses with them off) who is smart and knows a lot, we let it slide because of their implied sexiness. A good example of this in Doctor Who is Nyssa, who has a strange cuteness about her, but after Adric dies and Tegan buggers off for a while then she starts becoming sexier, until Terminus when she turns into a sex symbol the more her clothes fall off. I emphasise that this is just something I’ve noticed and in no way an indication of sexism. Still, it certainly doesn’t help that Adric is about as attractive as scabies.
“But surely,” I hear you cry, “a little teenage arrogance cannot be enough to hate the guy?” And you’re right because with Adric you get a lot of hate for your money. Adric starts off being the boy who stows aboard the TARDIS to escape his planet, making him something of a victim so we empathise with him at this point. But once he’s aboard he turns into the whiniest and sulkiest person in both N and E Space. It’s almost like there was a switch on him which was rotated to whinge overdrive when he slipped aboard the TARDIS and only the Fourth Doctor‘s scarf was long enough to temper it. However, when we reach the Fifth Doctor era and the crew of Adric, Nyssa and Tegan we then get the switch turned from overdrive to never-going-to-stop-whinging-unless-you-stick-him-in-a-spaceship-and-smash-it-into-a-planet-65-million-years-in-the-past. And for the uninitiated, I make no apologies as I see this as less of a spoiler and more of a reward for watching. A classic example of Adric’s incessant bitchin’ (yes, I used that term when I cannot pull it off at all in real life) is in his last story, “Earthshock”. The first episode is devoted to massive amounts of whinging as he moans to The Doctor that he gets little attention compared to Tegan and Nyssa, yelling like the spoiled brat that he is. “I want to go home!” he wails like a 5 years old in ASDA. And to be honest, if I was The Doctor then Tegan and Nyssa would get more attention over Adric any day. Well, Nyssa would. Tegan can be annoying at times. The point is that every time Adric goes on a tirade and moans his fat head off, it pushes the audience further and further away from the image of Adric as a likeable companion. Even if you were to put the arrogance and the moaning aside, there is one aspect of Adric that makes it near impossible to find a redeeming quality about the boy. It is shown so many times in the stories he is in, almost like it’s being rubbed in our faces, that it makes me wonder why he’s even allowed to travel with The Doctor in the first place.
Adric is a turncoat.
Time and again we’ve seen him team up with The Doctor’s foes and switch sides, only to switch back again later. A small example can be found in “State of Decay” when he sells out Romana II to Aukon, later claiming that this was the plan all along to try and ensure escape for himself and Romana (yeah right, we know what happened there; you saw that the Vampires were losing and switched sides again, you little bastard!). The most blatant example of his turncoat nature is in “Four To Doomsday”, where he sides with the three Urbankans (Monarch, Persuasion and Enlightenment). It’s only after the true nature of their plans is revealed to Adric by The Doctor that he comes back to his side, because he now knows that the Urbankans will lose. Some of you will no doubt be reading this and screaming “What about Turlough?!” but I can discount Turlough from being this bad as, although he was working for the Black Guardian at the start, he would later gain The Doctor’s trust and friendship to become one of the few companions in the 1980’s with any depth to them. Adric doesn’t treat The Doctor like a friend who you’d follow into times of trouble or adventure. Adric is more like that person you let hang with your group because you feel sorry for them, who then shows his gratitude by getting you beaten up because he wants to join another band of people who may be cooler than you. In other words, Adric has no loyalty to the group that chose to take him in, rather he looks out for himself in the face of poor odds.
So what we have with Adric is someone who really isn’t that likeable to start with, someone who over the course of his adventures you hate more and more because he doesn’t try to redeem himself in any way and who gives us nothing to like about him until his death scene in “Earthshock”. But even then it’s not because his death is meaningful or offers redemption for the character – it’s because it’s funny! It is a death of someone that over the last eleven stories we have grown to hate! We cheer the fact that finally the little creep has gone for good and that, even in a show about time travel, there’s no chance in hell that he’s ever coming back. Adric’s time in the show has set a benchmark; no matter how hard they try, the writers cannot create a more annoying companion than him (they did come close with Adam though. So glad he was dumped back home after one episode). Throughout Doctor Who there are enemies that we will all mock and dislike and bit characters no fan will say offered any enjoyment to an episode, but nothing can unite fandom in such a way as mutual hatred for one smart mouthed little boy with a Beatles haircut.
Written and edited by Alexander James Wilkinson