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Dec. 27th, 2010

I actually wanted to write/post this last week, but most of the time I was so tired that I was happy if I managed to reply to comments in a semi-coherent fashion instead of just sitting there and blinking at the screen cross-eyed and brain-dead. There was a very interesting discussion about Ten and death, what kind of an impact John Smith's death in The Family of Blood had on him, etc. in elisi's journal here and here and sensiblecat's journal, here, and it got me thinking about other things too, because what also came up was the persistent and deliberate ambiguity of RTD's writing, his equally intriguing and frustrating refusal to deliver neatly tied up, immediately satisfying endings.

I keep coming back to Elton's speech at the end of Love and Monsters, which I think in many ways sums up the quintessence of RTD's DW. The brilliant and the terrible, painful things, how they're mixed up until they can't be separated any longer, all part of the same thing—life—, and the question of whether it's worth it in the end. (The end of the Casanova mini series is much the same: 'the seducer and the monster' and 'that stupid daft man and all his adventures', and of course it's both true, both are part of the same person, the same life.)

Which brings me to the (apparently slightly paraphrased) Stephen King quote about how 'salvation and damnation are the same thing.' Now I stopped reading Stephen King a long time ago (the last novels I read were Needful Things and Gerald's Game), so my perspective might be skewed because of that, but somehow this is not a motto I associate with King's writing. King tortured his characters too relentlessly for my taste, and was too busy scaring his readers. I eventually quit reading him because his brand of horror felt ultimately sterile to me; it didn't open any doors in my imagination. When I think of Stephen King, 'salvation' isn't a word that immediately comes to mind.

On the other hand the damnation/salvation equation is something that very much reminds me of Clive Barker's novels, where the lines between humans and monsters, good and evil, reality and imagination, so often blur, and the world really turns out to be a place that is 'so much stranger than that', 'so much darker', 'so much madder', but in the end also better, or at least richer, than it was before. There are a lot of differences, of course. Clive Barker is much more spiritually inclined, whereas RTD is much more realistic, and ultimately concerned with writing stories about humanity, rather than venturing into the truely alien and fantastic—which incidentally I think is the reason why Ten always was so very human; I'm not sure RTD could have written a truly alien Doctor, or would even have been interested in writing one. But there are some similarities, although I can't quite put my finger on it. I think. Which isn't saying much, because my brain still refuses to think very clearly and isn't actually going anywhere with all this, except hopping from one tangent to the other.



Lastly, on a still somewhat related note, I bought this small book with a couple of short stories by Anton Chekhov a while ago, at the end of which there is an appendix with excerpts from some of Chekhov's letters where he talks about writing, and there's one that I liked particularly: You are right in demanding that an artist should take an intelligent (*) attitude to his work, but you confuse two things: solving a problem and stating a problem correctly. It is only the second that is obligatory for the artist. In 'Anna Kareninа' and 'Evgeny Onyegin' not a single problem is solved, but they satisfy you completely because all the problems are correctly stated in them. It is the business of the judge to put the right questions, but the answers must be given by the jury according to their own lights.

(*) The German translation says 'bewusst' ('conscious', 'aware'); the Russian word can mean both.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
elisi
Dec. 28th, 2010 12:30 am (UTC)
Never read any Stephen King (except for Misery, which we read in school, and it didn't make me keen on reading more) and am sadly unfamiliar with Clive Barker, so I feel rather ill-equipped to reply to your post. But this:

RTD is much more realistic, and ultimately concerned with writing stories about humanity, rather than venturing into the truely alien and fantastic—which incidentally I think is the reason why Ten always was so very human; I'm not sure RTD could have written a truly alien Doctor, or would even have been interested in writing one.
I think it's very telling that when RTD's Doctor is at his most alien, he is also always at his most human. WoM being the perfect example of course. Dunno if that helps at all...
solitary_summer
Dec. 28th, 2010 10:58 pm (UTC)
I think it's very telling that when RTD's Doctor is at his most alien, he is also always at his most human.

*nods* I thought sensiblecat's meta was really interesting, and looking at it from a Watsonian perspective she's right, what is killing Ten is trying to do, and more importantly, be, something impossible. From a Doylist perspective, on the other hand, RTD clearly wants him to be human, because the human problems are central to his writing. The longer the story goes on, the more human-centric it becomes, until Ten in the end in his 'death' is as human as it's possible for him to be.

I love this fandom and its discussions. :)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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