It’s February, and that means it’s the season of love. Apparently. And while romantic relationships between characters are ubiquitous in Hollywood movies and TV series, some of them are better at establishing these relationships than others. Because after all, it’s not enough to just have your characters jump each others’ bones. There’s gotta be some development, hints and feelings and dashed hopes, all leading up to the big hook-up. Sometimes they just say screw it, and that’s how we end up with these, 4 of the least developed relationships in sci-fi’s small screen history.
4. Farscape — Chiana and Jothee
Chiana’s an interesting character, one who makes a lot more sense when you realize she was never intended to be a recurring character, much less a main cast member. To their credit, the writers did an amazing job working this unexpected twist into the show, and one of the ways they did that was by developing a good relationship between her and D’Argo. Of course, then they went and threw it all away by having Chiana hook up with his son, Jothee, who’d barely been aboard the ship for a few episodes before this happened. There’s practically nothing leading up to this, and while it’s clear that Chiana mostly did it because she was anxious about things getting serious with D’Argo, it still kinda comes out of nowhere. The only real reason, it seems, that she chose Jothee was because he was the most recent male to board Moya. It’s a really frustrating moment when you’re watching the show, because all that build up is burned to the ground as a result. Worse still, Jothee disappears after this and, aside from a brief appearance in the wrapup miniseries, is never seen again.
3. Battlestar Galactica — Apollo and Dualla
Some season 4 spoilers here. You’ve been warned.
This one might not be so bad, were it not for a little thing called context. See, Dualla was a fairly minor character, and she didn’t get much screen time prior to this relationship with Apollo. But, she was in a relationship with a guy named Billy. And poor Billy, well, he died. While saving her from some terrorists, no less, and right after asking her to get married. Which seems like it’d be tragic… except we barely see her react to this. At all. In fact, while she’s upset when the body is directly in front of her, the very next scene has her promising to stay with Apollo. And by the next episode, she and Apollo have started a relationship and Billy is NEVER mentioned again. But hey, it might serve to explain why she suddenly and just as inexplicably kills herself 2 seasons later (they try to make it seem like lost hope, but it’s such a hollow excuse). It seems poetic, in a way, that Apollo is almost as unfazed by her death as she was by Billy’s, although it sure as hell wasn’t intended.
The writers try to make their relationship work, but there’s so much emphasis on Starbuck and Apollo’s relationship that it ultimately got in the way, and well, sudden suicide is a convenient way to end a relationship if you live in TV land. Too bad Starbuck was dead, too. But then, what more could you expect from a show that was already starting to self destruct before its awful finale?
2. Star Trek TNG — Troi and Worf
Once upon a time, Worf went to another universe. Actually, he went to a lot of universes, and in one of them he was in a relationship with Troi. Which makes sense, in a way. I mean, after all, in an infinite number of universes, that had to happen in at least one of them. So, when Worf gets back, he figures, “what the hell, why not?” and gives it a try. They spend a few episodes trying to develop this out of nowhere, but it clashes so heavily with the established Troi/Riker and there’s just so little chemistry there at all that once Worf moves to DS9, it’s totally forgotten, and the only relevance that it bears to any of the TNG movies is a rather subtext-laden line from Worf at Troi and Riker’s wedding in Nemesis.
Star Trek is not very good at building relationships in general, unfortunately; I could have filled this whole list with Trek couples that pop up out of nowhere, like Chakotay and poor Seven over on Voyager, or that one single episode where Archer is attracted to T’Pol in Enterprise (which has been blamed for singlehandedly killing the show), or Rom somehow attracting Leeta on DS9. I could go on, but I think that’s enough, eh?
1. Doctor Who — Martha and Mickey
And to top the list off, we’re at Doctor Who, which has often been criticized for weird relationship moments itself. And Doctor Who‘s out-of-nowhere relationships extend back into the classic series as well, like revealing that Peri is living with King Yrcanos, whom she’d only met for all of fifteen minutes, as a way of retconning her death. But we’re here for the biggest undeveloped relationship from the revived series, and that has to go to Mickey and Martha. Mickey was first introduced as Rose’s boyfriend, whom she abandoned as she fell for the Doctor, and over time he eventually grew to accept this and traveled with them occasionally. Martha also fell for the Doctor, but the Doctor was still obsessed with Rose, so that never went anywhere for her, and she eventually left of her own free will. We saw her engaged at one point, and working for UNIT and helping out Torchwood, until the End of Time special, at which point she and Mickey are inexplicably married and hunting aliens together. They’d only met once, very briefly, as the big crossover team flew the TARDIS and Earth back into place during “Journey’s End.” They didn’t speak, then, nor did they even so much as walk off in the same direction. This has the very unfortunate implication of just pairing off the two black characters without much thought just because of their race.
My only possible explanation here is that, like most of the Doctor’s former companions, they were so changed by their experiences that they found it nearly impossible to relate to most people, and found that common bond on which to build a relationship. But none of that is shown on screen, so instead we’re left with a headscratching scene of the two together which is almost confusing enough to take you out of that otherwise emotional montage entirely.
Those are four of the least developed relationships I’ve seen on TV. Are there any other poorly done relationships like these that you’re aware of? Let me know in the comments, or on Twitter @RetroPhaseShift. Next week, it’ll be happier news with 4 of the best developed relationships. See you then!