Sonic Screwdriver -->

Sunday, 31 March 2013

The Doctor's Most Valuable Tool

Not counting the TARDIS and his intellect, there are three things that the Doctor just couldn't get by without. And I'm gonna be mean and hide the not-so-obvious one behind the pagebreak. It does contain spoilers.

Sonic Screwdriver

The Doctor with the Sonic Screwdriver in Doomsday
Fun fact: scientists have invented a device that can move objects with sound. First and most important is the sonic screwdriver. Although it doesn't work on wood and can be disabled by some hairdryers, it's been invaluable since it became more prominent in the revival series. It is "harmless... doesn't kill, doesn't wound, doesn't maim." It's simply successful at what the Doctor tries to be: something that helps and never hurts. But the Doctor does hurt and that is part of his most valuable tool.

Psychic Paper

The Doctor uses the Psychic Paper on Shakespeare
Making its twenty-sixth screen appearance in The Power of Three., psychic paper has been indispensable for the last three doctors, though far less reliable than ol' sonic. In Army of Ghosts, we see the psychic paper fail for the first time when Rose uses it on Rajesh, a Torchwood employee, who then tells us that he, like all members of Torchwood, has a basic level of psychic training. Very soon again we also see the paper fail when the Doctor uses it with William Shakespeare in The Shakespeare Code because Shakespeare is too intelligent for it to have worked. But it plays on the mind, which leads me to the Doctor's most valuable tool.


Since the introduction of the Silence, memory is being played upon heavily. Just like the Silence, the Doctor uses memory as a weapon.
"If you're sitting up there in your silly little spaceship, with all your silly little guns, and you've got any plans on taking the Pandorica tonight, just remember who's standing in your way. Remember every black day I ever stopped you, and then, and then, do the smart thing. Let somebody else try first."
-The Eleventh Doctor, The Pandorica Opens
No one steps forward. In fact, all the alien races above leave, right then and there. The Doctor is only "The Oncoming Storm" because of what he has done in the past.
As a telepath, and a quite skilled one at that (at least in his tenth body), he has the power to erase memory, to essentially change who we are. Memory is at the center of what each and every one of us is. That, the power to do and un-do, is the Doctor's ultimate tool--and weapon.
More often than not, he uses it as a tool like he wants to, like in the Stonehenge speech (above) and with the Sycorax:
"No second chances. I'm that sort of a man. By the ancient rites of combat, I forbid you to scavenge here for the rest of time. And when go you back to the stars and tell others of this planet, when you tell them of it's riches, it's people, it's potential. When you talk of the Earth, then make sure that you tell them this: It is defended!"
-The Tenth Doctor to the Sycorax, Christmas Invasion
In Asylum of the Daleks, Oswin Oswald deletes the daleks's data on the Doctor to save him from the ones in intensive care who wake up and recognize him. When he gets back to the Dalek Senate, none of the daleks remember him either because she didn't just delete those specific dalek's records, she deleted the entire specie's record. The daleks referred to the Doctor as "Ka Faraq Gatr" in their native language, meaning "the destroyer of worlds". Now that the daleks have no memory of anything the Doctor did to them, in effect, they have no reason to want to exterminate the Doctor anymore. Of course, that doesn't mean that the daleks are going to stop in their quest to kill all other forms of life in the universe, so I think we can be sure that the Doctor will become an enemy once again. From a production point-of-view, the daleks are so important that they aren't just going to disappear like that.

While the Doctor uses others' memories to defend whatever it is he is currently protecting and sometimes to hurt others when he wants, he is not immune to the power of memory. The most brilliant characters are seared with scars and he is no exception. The Doctor has 1,200 years of memories. The pain he has felt, the losses he has suffered aren't equal in him to the happiness and love.
One heavy memory he carries is of manipulating Captain Adelaide Brooks into taking her life directly after saving it in his penultimate adventure, The Waters of Mars. It haunts him in The End of Time and made him question is own will to live. Asking himself if  "time lords live too long" is an obvious thought of suicide. Later in the episode, he hears Wilf knock four times and thinks that he is about to walk into his death, and after some anguish, does enter the chamber to absorb the radiation, and is surprised when it does not kill him right away. Thoughout the entire episode, he takes immense risks that put himself and others in mortal danger because he "knows" that he is going to die.

The easiest way to hurt the Doctor, really hurt him, is to use his emotional vulnerability as a weapon. School Reunion demonstrates just how easily he can be manipulated by his desires. The Krillitanes are using human children to solve the Skasis Paradigm, which would give them control over all of time, space and matter. When the leader, Mr. Finch, finds the Doctor about to ruin his plan, he offers to share with him the power from solving the paradigm. The Doctor is almost swayed by the idea, as it would give him the ability to bring back Gallifrey and the Time Lords. Sarah Jane brings him to his senses, reminding him that all things have to end, and he refuses. Mr. Finch went right for the Doctor's biggest weakness, and even almost won.

The Silents knows how to use memory as a weapon, too. Under the premise that they have been on earth since the dawn of time, every Doctor we have ever seen had known the silents, but had no way of remembering them because they are memory-proof. When you look at them either directly or in a photograph, you remember very time you've seen a silent, but forget everything as soon as you look away. In an encounter with a silent, they can speak to you and tell you to do something, and although you won't remember the encounter, you will remember what they said as a post-hypnotic suggestion. It's like Inception.  Their plot is to kill the Doctor, as "silence will fall when the question is asked" is a prophecy of the Silence. It's awefully hard to fight something when you can't remember them, but the Doctor was able to use it to kill the silents in one AU by broadcating a video of a silent saying "you should kill us all on sight" during the 1969 moonlanding, but they are still present and a threat in his home universe, stopping at nothing to eliminate the Doctor before Silence falls at Trenzalore, which we can expect to happen in the 50th Anniversary Special.

For more on the Doctor's Psychology, click here.