Imagine, if you will, that you have a friend. You and your partner have known him for years, perhaps you were all friends at school or university. He is clever and funny and a little bit odd looking but still attractive in a curious sort of way. He lives abroad now so you only see him every few years, but you keep in touch by email and Facebook and you’re very fond of him.
He’s back in the country so you’ve arranged to meet him for Sunday lunch at a quiet country pub. But your car’s brakes fail on a bend in the road and you end up smashing into a tree. You and your partner are knocked out but although your six year old daughter is conscious in the back, she can’t undo her seatbelt. The quiet country pub is located on a quiet country road – how long will it be before someone drives past and helps?
Thankfully, your friend is only a few minutes behind you. He stops, at first not realising it’s you. He scoops your daughter out of her seat and carries her to safety away from the car, then rescues you and your partner – he can smell petrol – dropping your partner to the ground at the same moment the car bursts into flames. He goes with you to hospital and stays long enough to make sure you’re all going to be OK, but then he has to go.
For the next 15 years you, again, only see your friend sporadically – once at a wedding (your daughter stayed with her grandparents), you went to dinner somewhere fancy in London (your daughter was at a sleepover), he dropped in when your daughter was away at university. But today he’s come by again and your daughter – recently graduated, clever, pretty, feisty – throws herself at him. Unbeknown to you, she’s spent her life dreaming of the man who dropped out of the sky to rescue her and her parents at the time of their greatest peril.
What do you want your friend’s response to be?
a) That he’s very flattered, but explain to your daughter that she doesn’t love him, she loves an idea of him, probably intensified by the trauma she suffered during the crash. And, er, that it might be an idea to get some counselling for that.
b) Brilliant! Where’s the nearest bedroom?
And this is why I feel rather uncomfortable watching episodes of Doctor Who like The Girl in the Fireplace, or the Big Reveal that River Song – the Doctor’s future lover – is actually Amy and Rory’s daughter, the daughter the Doctor is clearly going to spend this autumn chasing around the universe attempting to save.