Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

( I. Doctor Who S1: Everything has its time and everything dies. )

( II. Doctor Who S2: We forget because we must. )

( III. Torchwood S1: It's just bearable. It has to be. )

( IV. Doctor Who S3: Rage, rage against the dying of the light. )

( V. Torchwood S2: That's what I come back for. )

( VI. Doctor Who S4: We always have a choice. )

( VII. Torchwood Children of Earth: So, tell me, what should I have done? )

VIII. Doctor Who 2009/10 specials: Lived too long.

The Next Doctor lines out the two paths Ten will have to decide between for the remainder of his story, after he chose to disentangle himself from the painful complications of human relationships—because people leave, because they break his heart, because he loses them, and, unspoken but obvious after the S4 finale, already when he refuses to take Jackson Lake with him when he confronts the Cyberking, because they run a high risk of dying ('Jackson, you’ve got your son. You’ve got a reason to live.') The connection between the Doctor and Jackson Lake is obvious. Jackson Lake for a time became the Doctor hiding from the pain and loss in his own life and, recognising himself in the Doctor's story and the loss he suffered, took on his pain instead, and like him is trying to save others. The similarities with Miss Hartigan, in whom the suffering found a different, destructive outlet, are not as readily apparent, but she also shares many traits with Ten: the passion, the imagination, the anger, the ego, the arrogance and the willpower, and like the Doctor himself at this point of his journey she is alone, cut off from all real contact with humanity, surrounded only by the Cybermen and Cyber-creatures. When the Cybermen promise her that she'll be free of the emotions that tormented her all her life, she doesn't want this any more than Ten did in The Age of Steel, and she is indeed strong enough to hold on to them. Her reaction when she becomes Cyberking and sees the universe with new eyes is very, very Doctor-like: 'I can see the stars. The worlds beyond. The vortex of time itself and the whole of infinity. Oh, but it’s glorious', and, baffling the Cyberman: 'There is so much joy in this machine.' Her mind dominates even them, and Ten, who at the end of the story says to Jackson Lake, 'Just this once you’ve actually gone and changed my mind. And not many people can do that', absolutely recognises this connection between them when he does something that isn't so very differently from what Davros did in Journey's End and kills her with a moment of self-knowledge.

In The Age of Steel the Doctor rejected the offer of a life without pain and grief, telling Mr. Lumic that this would be tantamount to killing him, but he didn't have an answer any longer when in Journey's End the Supreme Dalek mocked his despair over the destruction of the Tardis ('Then if emotions are so important, surely we have enhanced you?') He'd already been reluctant to take Donna with him in Partners of Crime, outright admitting that he'd almost destroyed Martha's life, although neglecting to mention that the next prospective fellow traveller got herself killed before she could even set foot in the Tardis, and after he had to leave her behind in Journey's End, he began to deliberately minimise possible sources of further grief, insisting on his decision to travel alone both at the end of The Next Doctor and Planet of the Dead. It's a very human reaction, but one that in his case quickly starts to unravel the carefully balanced system that helped him keep his power,—himself—in check. The Runaway Bride was the first episode that explicitly addressed the possible dangers inherent in the Doctor's loneliness with Donna telling him that he needed someone to stop him, but even before that Sarah Jane had already done the same in School Reunion, and Rose in Dalek. Turn Left proved Donna right, Waters of Mars proves her right once again, and Ten himself, when he told Rose that the human Doctor was ‘too dangerous to be left on his own’, already knowing that he would go on travelling alone, conveniently ignored that as recently as in The Fires of Pompeii he'd finally agreed with Donna and admitted that sometimes he really did need someone to stop him. Without a human companion, the lingering issues with power and death that have always been part of Ten's arc emerge almost immediately in full force.

Planet of the Dead sets the scene, transporting him to a planet that every instinct is telling him to get off of immediately because, even if he doesn't know it yet, he's surrounded by nothing but death, caused by creatures with a 'perfect design' he even admires, but also a complete indifference to the life they erase, turning planet after planet into a desert. He manages to escape from that at the last moment, only to recieve the prediction of his own death, this time in much less uncertain terms than in Planet of the Ood. But before this can become an issue, it's the imminent death of other people that pushes him to his breaking point and beyond. In Waters of Mars there is no one to stop him until it's too late, driven to the end of his endurance when he's confronted not just with the possibility of death, but the certainty of it, and isn't allowed to run away, but has to watch the events unfold, death after death. The story of the sisterhood in New Earth at the very beginning of Ten’s story demonstrated that there is potential for terrible actions even in compassion and the desire to save lives, and out of the very same reasons he now crosses the last line, finally brushing aside the laws he had felt himself bound by so far, and with the best intentions becomes something immediately unpredictably dangerous.

In The End of the World Nine said that everything had to die; Ten, who had always been less inclined to accept this, got his memento mori once every season: from Sarah Jane in School Reunion ('Everything has its time. Everything ends.'), the Face of Boe in Gridlock ('Everything has its time. You know that, old friend, better than most.'), and Ood Sigma in Planet of the Ood ('Every song must end.') In Waters of Mars Adelaide delivers this message in the most direct and brutal way possible, shocking him out of his conceit when he wasn't willing to listen to arguments any longer. Her death is easily the most complex of the deaths in DW, because in many ways it is suicide rather than one of those heroic self-sacrifices, but at the same time it's not an act of despair, but an act of will. This is not Father's Day, the fate of the world isn't immediately at stake. She doesn't know yet what consequences the Doctor saving her will have; they might be enormous, they might be minimal. But for Adelaide, who didn't want to die either when she first learned that she would, it isn't just about the immediate consequences for her family; her mind instantly jumps to the implications the Doctor's act might have for humanity in general, and the potential danger of someone claiming that much power. Her death is an act of human protest against someone who has started to set himself above all the rules, above humanity, with no one to stop him; who very literally claims omnipotence, but also insists on meddling with human lives, both rescuing and, as Gwen implied in CoE, withholding help in judgement, effectively handing out both life and death.

Even if it's the Doctor's lack of help Gwen tried to explain there, not God's, her statement is essentially only one more attempt to reconcile the reality of suffering and evil with the concept of a good, just, and omnipotent God, and it’s probably no coincidence that the task of explaining the Doctor's absence falls to Gwen, whom Suzie accused of having a faith that never left primary school, and who a few years earlier, before she met Jack and discovered Torchwood, probably would have tried to understand why God wasn't helping in a situation like that. But although such an explanation might have become necessary after DW progressively built up the theme of the Doctor as some sort of saviour god, most obviously maybe with the use of religious themes and imagery in the S3 finale, this still doesn't make him a god. Leaving aside the obvious narrative necessity, in a universe that may or may not be infinite his absence might be explained by any number of reasons that have nothing to do at all with '[turning] away in shame' and passing judgement on humanity, or even events fixed in time. However, once he becomes someone for whom, as he says, there is nothing he can't do any longer, the events of CoE, and not just that, everything, every single moment, past, present or future, because there are no laws any longer to stop him from going back into his past, becomes his responsibility, and his non-interference would turn him into the kind of god that Gwen implicitly made him—one that deliberately turns away in disgust while children suffer, who choses who lives and who dies, and this god would indeed be a monster. The Time Lords resolved this dilemma by swearing 'never to interfere, only to watch', a rule that the Doctor ignored, which from the start put him in a potentially precarious position vis-á-vis humanity, but his actions in Waters of Mars turn this latent problem into an acute one. The consequences and fundamental injustices that would arise from the situation he creates there are more unbearable than the indifferent brutality of coincidence and the logical brutality of consequences combined, and what Adelaide does when she shoots herself is claim human autonomy back from this, insisting that after all it is also for her—and for humanity—to decide that the Time Lord Victorious is wrong. If Ten starts playing at being a god in earnest, he'll not only entangle himself in the theological problems humanity has been debating for millennia, but the show's atheism and humanism will turn on him too, and at the end of Waters of Mars his, 'Isn't anyone going to thank me?' is uncomfortably close to Miss Hartigan's disappointed, 'My people. Why do they not rejoice?', when people ran from the Cyberking screaming in fear.

Adelaide showed him that he can't escape from the reality of death as part of life, or should attempt to erase it, but when he sees the Ood standing in the snow at the end of the episode, he still attempts to run at least from his own death, and once again it's the knowledge of what is going to happen that drives him to this reaction. Nine complained a bit when he suddenly found himself likely to die in a cellar in Cardiff in The Unquiet Dead, but the determined 'No!' with which Ten is now running from a certainty rather than just a possibility is new. However, even while he's trying to buy himself more time and leave death behind, it is already beginning to overshadow his life and thoughts, and when he tells Ood Sigma about all the things he did, the places he travelled to avoid his summons, it sounds forced and false; the genuine joy is gone, replaced by a deliberate imitation of his usual enthusiasm. So far his love for life and travelling, the joy of discovery, have always more than balanced the streak of despair that Martha, who went with Ten through the darkest times, did recognise: 'All those things you've been ready to die for. I thought for a moment there you'd finally found something worth living for.' Even then his reply had been that there's always something worth living for, and the answer seemed sincere, because there was absolutely no doubt that he loved life, whether he had anything to live for or not. The balance only tipped in the confrontation with death that Davros forced upon him. In The Next Doctor this certainty is gone, and in The End of Time Ten's mood is maybe best characterised by his conversation with Wilf in the cafe, especially when Wilf tells him about Donna's unconscious sadness: 'She's making do', and his only reply is a dejected, 'Aren't we all?' He's trying to run, first from pain, then from death, but the running has taken over his life and left him with little to live on.

But in The End of Time he's not alone in this. All the villains of the story in one way or another refuse to give in to the inevitability of death. The one with the comparatively best intentions, Mr. Naismith, who wants immortality not even for himself, but for his beloved daughter; the Master, who preferred death to life with the Doctor in S3, but at the same time—much like TW's Suzie—planned his return from it and now ressurects with a litany of 'Never dying!', but with a body that is born out of death and can do nothing but die. And of course the Time Lords, who didn't just, in Jack's words, create one psychopath, but have become corrupt and monstrous almost in their entirety, wanting to ascend beyond the limits of the physical body and the physical world and its laws, 'free of time and cause and effect'. Even in Waters of Mars the Doctor only wanted to bend the laws of time to his will; the Time Lords intend to abolish time, the one thing that still binds them, entirely. Rassilon kills the female Time Lord who dared point out the perversion of the Time War—'millions die every second, lost in bloodlust and insanity, with time itself resurrecting them to find new ways of dying, over and over again, a travesty of life'—and suggest (recalling Nine in The Parting of Ways) that 'perhaps it's time', screaming that he would not die and let a billion years of Time Lord history perish. His focus is entirely on the past; he may strive for eternal life, but he's also lost any concept of a definition of life that goes further than merely avoiding death. And in the middle of all this there's the Doctor and an old man, whose reply to Ten's genuinely scared but at the same time almost comically grandiose announcement that he's going to die is a simple, 'Well, so am I, one day', and whom the Doctor would be proud to call his father.

Being a Time Lord doesn't give Ten any claims to superiority, moral or otherwise, any longer when the Time Lords have proven themselves just as prone to corruption as humanity, and the only difference between them and the last of mankind a hundred trillion years in the future, at the end of their history, desperate and willing to do anything for the price of survival, is the amount of power they possess and the sheer scale of their plans; Rassillon is no better than Lady Cassandra, Mr. Lumic or Prof. Lazarus, just more monstrous. The story has finally come full circle, and it not only validates the Doctor's decision to end the Time War, but also shows that the Time Lords had not been collateral damage or innocents, but in the end every bit as dangerous as the Daleks themselves. In S1 Nine's struggle had been not to become like the Daleks he blamed for the fate of his people, full of anger and hate and too ready to kill; now it becomes obvious that all this time the Doctor—Ten maybe more than Nine—was also trying to avoid the pitfalls his own people had fallen prey to. Having seen what the centuries-long Time War did to them made him extremely aware of the danger of corruption through war and killing. He sees the seeds of what perverted the Time Lords, the violence and the endless war, everywhere, and since in the end he was forced to destroy them to save the universe, there is little room for a middle ground in his mind when he recognises the same potential for destructiveness in humanity. This is the root of his uncompromising dislike of weapons as well as his extreme reaction to Harriet Jones's decision to have the Sycorax ship shot down, and of course his treatment of Jack, whose immortality gives him at least partial freedom from consequences and makes him even more suspect in the Doctor's eyes, and more likely to overstep the bounds.

But most of all it makes him suspect himself, because he, after all, shared the Time Lords history, he has their power, and he fought in the same war as they did and ended it with an act that in and of itself was scarcely less enormous than what they'd been planning. When Wilf offers him the gun to kill the Master before the Master can kill him, he refuses to take it because, 'That's how the Master started.' He's seen what the Time Lords became, how killing infected and changed them beyond recognition, he's seen where the Master's choices led him, and he takes these examples are a mirror and warning for himself ('Wonder what I'd be without you.') In The End of Time there is more rational (self-)reflection in his relationship with the Master than there was in Last of the Time Lords; he isn't as driven by loneliness and guilt as he was then. In many respects they are very much the same in this story, two fallen Time Lords running from death, dreaming of a glorious past in an industrial wasteland, but even while the Doctor still wants to help the Master, his lines are firmly drawn ('All that eloquence. But how many people have you killed?'), and he certainly isn't willing to risk the danger of replacing the Master with himself. Especially after Waters of Mars he is very aware of the temptation of power and afraid of what he might become, so much that even when Wilf confronts him with his responsibility for the people on Earth he still doesn't trust himself enough to take the gun.

In The End of Time the lines between the Doctor and humanity blur completely. The arrogance of the Time Lord Victorious never entirely disappeared after Waters of Mars, and it fully resurfaces when he rages that he is so much more important and worthy to live than Wilf, but at the same time there are also moments of genuinely felt humility that are unlike both Nine's blatant rudeness and Ten's tendency to set himself up as a parent or teacher. This emotion shines through again and again in his long conversations with Wilf, especially when Wilf is shocked to hear that the Doctor has lived for nine hundred years, while dozens of generations of humans lived and died and slowly struggled forward through history: 'We must look like insects to you', to which the Doctor's replies, 'I think you look like giants.' And already Ten's realisation that even as a Time Lord he might not be able to cheat death as much as he'd like to after all, his genuine fear of it, whether it's a final death before he has the chance to regenerate, or the regeneration that still means the death of his current personality, something that is perhaps even harder to bear for someone with his ego, make him very, very human.

The Doctor always loved humans, but the ultimate trial is for him to recognise that he is no better than they, and in the end he finally does what so many of them have done over the four seasons of the show, die so that another person can live, even if he's still only partially resigning himself to mortality. And because he gave in to the temptation of power so much that he even tried to change the laws of time to avert and avoid death, because he crossed the line well and truly in Waters of Mars and is still standing dangerously close to it, he has to do it quietly, without fanfares or grand gestures. The universe has already been saved, humanity's future is assured at least until the next catastrophe; now it's only a life for a life. More than that, an old man who doesn't even want the Doctor to die for him, and offers him this last way out. Ten doesn't give in immediately, but in the middle of his outburst about the unfairness of life and death, where the anger and arrogance flare up again and he one last time rebels against the injustice of a universe that refuses to reward him, he comes to himself, sees what he's on the verge of becoming, and realises that he has lived too long, that even though he doesn't want to die, even though there are still so many things he could do, the time has come.

Considering that the Doctor isn't human at all, and Jack hasn't really been that either for a long time, the endings of their stories are deeply human, circling around issues like mortality, emotions, power, decisions, and consequences, and on a very fundamental level this is what it means, what it is to be human, in the 21st century or any other. After he lost his mortality in The Parting of Ways, Jack's struggle with and for his humanity above all meant coming to terms with a life he didn't choose and can't get rid of, and finding a way of living it. Closely related to this is the necessity to acknowledge the consequences of his actions, something that immortality at least to an extent removes him from, but the tragedy of CoE once more cruelly reminded him of. The Doctor's, especially Ten's, main issue has also always been death, but he fights against the mortality that Jack craves, against the necessity and unavoidability death, and in Waters of Mars he is once again forced to accept it as part of the universe, and finally in The End of Time also for himself. Both he and Jack have a long journey behind them when they briefly see each other again in that bar, a journey during which they encountered almost impossible decisions and had to make terrible choices, and that in the end brought them to a moment where they had to face themselves, what they are, who they are, and what they are capable of. Both were confronted with the consequences of their actions, helplessly entangled in the chain of cause and effect the Time Lords wanted to free themselves from, and in the end, after Pompeii, after Waters of Mars, after Journey's End, there isn't anything left of the Doctor's superiority towards someone he once considered wrong; in the end he is only concerned about Jack making the same mistake that he himself made after losing Donna, believing that it's easier and less painful alone. In Gridlock the Face of Boe told Ten that he wasn't alone, which, if it only referred to the Master had been as much a warning as a promise, and if referred to the fact that he wouldn't need to be alone if he only opened his eyes and looked at who was standing beside him, profoundly misunderstood by the Doctor. But maybe at the end of his own journey he finally understood it, because the message he gives Jack in The End of Time is essentially the same. And it's an important one for both of them. The Doctor's story especially shows that the contact with humanity is vital for him, and that it's his companions who give him the necessary perspective and keep him from getting dangerously lost in the big picture of time and space, but Jack's arc makes it equally obvious that he needs this connection to the fabric of human life, not just as a moral compass, but because he, unlike the Doctor, needs to be in love with a person before he can be in love with life or the world. And as the Face of Boe told Ten in New Earth, time and time again he'll need someone to teach him to look at the universe with new eyes when he's grown tried of it. Both of them, the Time Lord and the man turned immortal, at least indirectly need the confrontation with the finiteness of life, this connection to humanity that Jack lost for such a long time and the Doctor rejects with every regeneration.

The end is where we start from.


Sep. 7th, 2010 12:23 pm (UTC)
Re: (1/2) Yes, my response is so long it needs two comments.
About River's fate...

First a couple of points: 1) Moffat already knew that he was going to take over the show when he wrote the Library episodes. 2) RTD never edited Moffat's episodes (they discussed how they'd fit in with the overall arc and other technical points etc, but RTD literally didn't know what happened until he read the scripts).

So - everything that happens reflects Moffat's Who, and River truly is a 'from the future', arriving too early, not fitting with the world view, or the show, we know.

And Moffat's Who *is* very different. As this meta so exquisitely points out RTD's Who is all about what it means to be human. Moffat's is about stories. And viewed in that light River's fate takes on a very different meaning. Because River is the keeper of the Doctor's story, and she (or a electronic memory of her) ends up in a Library, her last scene one where she reads from her diary to children... Now think of Eleven by Amelia's bedside, telling the same story - the story about the daft old man who stole a magic box and ran away. They are storytellers, and at the same time they are the story ("That's a fairytale." "Oh Doctor, aren't we all?").

And also - she always says yes. (I'm writing fic about this btw.) Sorry about nattering on at length about something so off-topic.


solitary summer

Latest Month

January 2016


Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow