(Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS for the end of the Sandman series. If you're planning on reading it and have not yet done so, skip this post, please.)
I doubt I would ever have put this together but for the coincidence of re-reading the final couple of Sandman collections the same week I saw "School Reunion." There was a lovely echo between the two, of love unrequited (in a romantic sense), even unspoken, but appreciated.
Not to mention the theme of a change in how much mercy one can give; and then with "Girl in the Fireplace," the moment where a promise kept spells personal disaster (after a fashion).
The first, most obvious similarity, the one which made me *facepalm* because it took me so long to see:
Dream regenerates. Like all of the Endless, he doesn't live just once, and when he dies, another aspect of himself takes over the Realm of Dreams. And like the Doctor's new self, Dream-Daniel is quite a change from Dream-Morpheus. White-haired and -robed, instead of black; much more sensitive to others; still noble and proud but now a man who understands mercy.
In fact, the Doctor's regeneration from Nine to Ten produces an exactly opposite change. "I'm so old now," Ten says. "I used to have so much mercy."
Whereas Morpheus barely understood how to forgive, much less take merciful action (no second changes, indeed); and Daniel's first major act as Dream is to show unadulterated mercy to the woman who set out to kill him.
The second similiarity has to do with how others see him, with relationships:
From the collection The Doll's House:
'Why did you hunt me?' [Dream] asked her. 'Why did you flee?'
'I hunted you because I love you more than mortal man has ever been loved by a woman. And I fled you because it is not given to mortals to love the Endless. Only disaster can follow from this.'
Reinette is the lucky one, in a sense; the Doctor invaded her life, saving her and enriching that life, and she never had to think about the fact that not only is the Doctor not human, but he is larger than life, larger than any of his companions.
He's not quite one of the Endless, but although a companion may love him (in fact, I imagine all do, in their various ways), no one can own him. There's no such thing as an exclusive relationship with the Doctor, because he is too large for that.
I'm not saying the Doctor doesn't love each of them in return--he absolutely does, and with two hearts there must be a lot of love to go around. But a companion can really only be that; someone to share a portion of time with.
Dream loves Nada (the woman in the quote), but she's not the first nor the last, and that is all by virtue of his status as one of the Endless. They can meet only briefly.
(Actually, I'm tempted to try doing a detailed comparison of the story of Dream and Nada, and "Girl in the Fireplace.")
The last similarity points up something I adore about both characters:
Dream and the Doctor both seem to have a great sense of responsibility. Things are wrong; they must set them right, especially if it's something that falls under their specific realm anyway. And when it's a personal responsiblity, a promise, for instance, made to one specific person--they'll keep that promise come hell or high water.
Dream comes to Nuala when she calls to him, as he promised he would. The consequences are his death, the loss of control in his realm.
The Doctor comes to save Reinette, stranding himself in the past. Now, he gets a free pass back, paying only with a certain amount of grief, but the moment struck me as almost exactly the same. Do it, keep the promise, no matter what happens next.
I don't really have a conclusion here--but any thoughts or discussion from the flist or further would be welcome!