I finished watching the UK Queer As Folk the other day (only 15 years late to the party), and found myself a little puzzled both by the ending, which sees the sybarite Stuart Jones and his repressed best friend Vince Tyler embarking on an American tour terrorizing homophobes, and by the adulation of Stuart himself, who is habitually obnoxious throughout. It wasn’t until yesterday, when I was mulling over some dialogue of Vince’s as the pair are preparing to ditch their old lives and go on adventures, that it fell into place for me:
London though? London’s rubbish. Kids go to London….I’d go out. Straight ahead and out. Keep moving. You can’t settle down if you don’t ever stop. I’ve been thinking about this for years. Press the button, dematerialize, step out, new planet.
And of course he uses the word “dematerialize” because he’s a Doctor Who fan, talking about the show all through the series, watching bits of episodes, even receiving K9 as a gift from Stuart just as Sarah Jane did from the Fourth Doctor. But that analogy is the key both to the ending and to the Stuart/Vince dynamic.
It’s obvious in hindsight: Stuart is the Doctor, and Vince his companion.
Stuart hasn’t quite run away from home; he can go back anytime, he’s ten minutes away, and his lucrative PR job gives him enormous freedom, but he still avoids his well-meaning but slightly boring parents and keeps from them even the most basic facts about his life. Instead he has adventures (sex, mainly) with a seemingly endless parade of companions, and when he’s through with them, he’s really through. He’s effortlessly cool, but also prickly, quick-tempered, and often cold, just like the Ninth and Tenth Doctors. He’s more likely to manipulate you into doing what he wants (Cameron and Nathan, for example) than to ask outright. Even if you’ve known him since you were a child, he’s as likely to keep you hanging on as to give you what you think you want. And if he has a redeeming quality, it’s an almost frightening devotion to justice: a willingness to step over the line to punish people who’ve done wrong as he sees it. He’ll steal you away from your verbally abusive father; he’ll threaten your about-to-be-bereaved mother; he’ll drive through a plate glass window or set a car on fire. He’ll even — in what’s more of a Jack Harkness move — carry a handgun and use it to scare the shit out of an unwary big-mouthed redneck. He may be fickle, he may be a pain in the ass, but if he’s got your back, there’s no right he can’t make with two wrongs.
And if you’re his one true companion, he’ll love you, but he won’t ever sleep with you. It’ll be unrequited, and somehow that’ll be better. As much as Vince wants Stuart, he also knows this, and he says so at the end of the first series. And even Ten/Rose is unrequited; the most she gets is a copy. If you’re River Song, his wife but still a peripheral companion, you can sleep with him, but if you’re Rose, Martha, Donna, Amy Pond, Clara…forget it.
In this light it’s obvious what’s happened at the end of the series: they’ve gone off in the TARDIS together to see other times and places, an indelible duo, dropped out of the world, leaving jobs and responsibilities behind, off to find adventure. In this light, it’s awfully hard to blame them.