Sonic Screwdriver -->

Thursday, 26 December 2013

The Time of the Doctor (Seth's Take)

Hi there! Remember me? Seth, classic-series aficionado. I've been gone a while, school and such, but I'm back now! I'll do another post catching you up on my opinions on the things I've missed--the fiftieth and so forth--later, but that can wait, because we've got this much more immediate thing to discuss.

"The Time of the Doctor" is not a perfect episode. Not even close. Vast swaths of plot are taken care of with narration--fine when covering three-hundred years, less so when covering the tail end of a battle, and jarring in both cases when the episode otherwise refuses to commit to the narration. Clara's constant ditching is a touch bothersome, though it's saved by her role in the ending. The town of Christmas is criminally underdeveloped.  And moreover it looks like we're getting another [incredibly mild obscenity redacted by editor request] mother, a cliché I thought I was done with when Davies left.

But beyond that, this might be the second-best regeneration story ever, behind only The Caves of Androzani. Like that one, it's funny and self-effacing in all the right places, but has some serious heart behind it and its dramatic moments absolutely kill. But more importantly, and not at all like Caves, this is very solidly the Doctor's story. If it falters in other areas its only because the focus on our protagonist is so strong and so completely committed. At the heart of this story is the Doctor's complete conviction and devotion to saving a small town and the only known way to bring back Gallifrey. It does well here in developing a duality of character, one whose concerns are both big and small, who sees nothing as unimportant or unworthy of his seemingly limitless compassion or concern.

But it is also the story of a raging egotist. The easiest way to save Christmas would be to pack up and leave, so that his enemies have no reason to attack the town. Every bad thing that happens to the people around the Doctor is a direct result of him guarding that crack, even as he talks about how every life saved is a victory. He sends Clara away, sure, but that's it. He makes no attempt to remove any other bystanders from the situation. He feels guilty about it, sure, and does his best to make sure no one gets hurt, but he ignores the obvious solution. He's lost sight of the big picture and has become overwhelmed by his own goals.

And moreover, he ignores what Clara sees, and what makes her the ultimate hero here. Because to the Doctor, the Time Lords aren't huge, or at least materially huger than Christmas. They're people, they're his people, they're something he has to defend. But what the Doctor's lost sight of is that the reason he has so many enemies is that he has immense power and unlike the other Time Lords has chosen to use it. But Clara gets it. She gets that the Time Lords don't need defending, not now, not really. If anything they're in a position to help him.

And so she does what no other character, certainly no other human, has ever managed in all of Doctor Who's fifty years, one month, and two days. She gets the Time Lords to budge. She can't make the Doctor see past his principles, but the Time Lords? The most stubborn, immobile, isolationist society in existence? She gets them to break their rules of non-interference and change history, all for the sake of saving the biggest affront to their way of life. In this moment she becomes not only more perceptive but more persuasive than the Doctor on any number of his best days. He gave up on trying to argue with them ages ago. But the Time Lords have no quarrel with Clara. They shut up and do what she says.

Which brings us to the actual regeneration. I was terrified when the Doctor started blasting Dalek ships out of the sky with regeneration energy. I've always hated the big fiery regenerations and this was the biggest and most fiery yet. So I was relieved to see that the story doesn't end here, that the Doctor gets a quiet little scene on the TARDIS with a heartfelt speech espousing the positives of change.

Russel T Davies tried to literalize the Fourth and Fifth Doctor's regenerations, in which they saw the heads of past companions circle above him cheering him on. The reason the infamous "farewell tour" fails is that it misses the important part isn't the companions themselves but the memories. The fact that they're in the past now, perceptible only as visions. Revisting them physically removes the idea that they're impermanent, gone--they're clearly not, the Doctor's visiting them! And moreover it tries to make this a morose moment when it doesn't have to be. In Russel T Davies' mind, change is something to mourn, a form of death and the thing to do on its cusp is try to reclaim it.

Moffat fixes this not only by bringing back the hallucinations but by reaffirming the value of memory. That Eleven can't stick around forever is something to celebrate, because it leaves us with fond memories and brings the exciting possibility of something new. Not a goodbye, but a hello.

So yeah, in short, I loved it. It's rip-roaring and adventurous and sad and funny and everything you want a really good Who story to be, with an added thematic richness that makes it all the more satisfying.

Like What You See?

Join Us On:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please be kind while commenting. Vile comments will be removed upon their discovery.