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I wasn't really planning on getting into this discussion, in fact I was planning to keep out of discussions about SM's DW entirely, but. (Why does there always seems to be a 'but'?) IMO it's not so much what happened, it's how it happened. I don't think anyone is seriously trying to argue that Nine or Ten never killed anyone, considering that the fact that they did was a huge leitmotif during both their arcs.

But as I see it RTD tried to make a point of giving every death a certain weight, even if it was the death of the villain. Ten especially almost always had a moment where he found something beautiful even in the monsters trying to kill him. You were always aware that what ended was a life with all its possibilities and complexities, even if it was a life with a lot of wrong choices and few chances to get it right to begin with. Margaret Blaine was probably the best example of that, and going by The Writer's Tale he originally tried to put more of Davros's backstory in Journey's End, making the parallel between him and Ten, the war background in both their lives, more obvious. Almost every death was accompanied by the regret that things hadn't gone differently. Even with enemies like the Daleks, who don't have free will or individual thought, and no purpose but to hate and to kill, killing was never entirely off-hand or without consequences. Of course Nine and Ten killed. But they also both struggled with the consequences of that throughout their arcs. Nine in some ways recalls Stephen Bannerman from RTD's The Grand, coming back from the trenches of WW1, struggling with what he'd seen, the guilt of what he'd done, the guilt of having survived, and how killing had changed him; incapable of just picking up the life he'd known before the war, incapable of leaving the war behind. Dalek was all about the danger of becoming what you're fighting, and so was Boom Town and The Parting of Ways. Ten, and this, I think, comes out strongly especially towards the end of his arc, was so extremely distrustful of guns and violence because he didn't trust himself. He'd seen what the Time War had done to the Time Lords, how it perverted them so much that he had to kill them all along with the Daleks, and consequently he saw the seeds of that everywhere, especially within himself.

Sometimes there was no other solution, but it was very obvious that killing should not ever become something one should get used to or desensitised to. As far as I remember it was never portrayed as cool or stylish, or used as the butt of a joke, and I don't think that over the run of RTD's DW it was ever treated this... casually. If anything, RTD took it to the other extreme. The Doctor kept getting pitched against creatures like the Racnoss, the Carrionites, the Sycorax, the Daleks, or the Sontarans, who were determined to destroy or enslave the entire human race, had basically no individuality, very little complexity and very obviously absolutely no interest in the Doctor's offer. But even so, even then, there was a moment when you pitied them, when you were supposed to pity them, where you were supposed to realise that this might have been necessary, but was nothing to be applauded. It's probably no coincidence that even on the less family-orientated TW in CoE Jack, for whom killing had become something of a non-issue over all that time, is confronted with what exactly it means to take a life when it isn't someone nameless or faceless.

Which I think is a good thing. The older I get, the less fond I am of the casual, aestheticised violence we get in movies and on TV all the time, and the occasional break from that was nice.


What really got my attention in Day of the Moon wasn't even the way Eleven finally got rid of the Silence, because my interest in the episode, such as it was, had rather fizzled out by then; it was the complete lack of Eleven's reaction to Amy shooting the girl in the spacesuit. Leaving aside the problem that Amy had no way of knowing whether it was even the same person that killed the Doctor, which maybe isn't something that would occur to you unless you'd watched B5, the fact remains that the Doctor's companion shot a little girl in order to protect the Doctor, which I thought was a pretty dark moment. That she missed (or did she?) changes nothing about that, because she hadn't intended to miss. When she says later that she was glad she'd missed, this is still followed by, 'but you killed the Doctor', as if that was all the justification she needed. I can't even imagine what Ten would say to that, how he'd react. Rose in The Parting of Ways maybe came closest to doing something like that, but saving the Doctor is only part of her motivation, and is tied into a wider argument of trying to do the right thing. She ends up saving a lot more lives than his when she evaporates the Daleks, and even so it's still a complex enough moment.

Something else I found jarring was the sequence of River shooting the Silence; again maybe not even so much the fact that she did it, but how she did it; how the scene was filmed. Ten was genuinely shocked when Davros confronted him with the fact that he let his companions do the killing from him; Eleven just blithely delegates the shooting with barely a token protest. ('And I shouldn't like that. Kinda do, a bit.') The semi-sexual banter while talking about killing ('... but she'll definitely kill the first three of you.' — 'Oh, the first seven, easily.' — 'Seven? Really?' —'All right, eight for you, honey.' — 'Stop it.' — 'Make me.' — 'Maybe I will.') is really hard to reconcile with Nine or Ten. I'm not sure I would even have noticed something like that on another show, but in this case, coming from this character, I found such an overt sexualisation of violence rather off-putting.

On to the part that I have to admit I didn't actually pay a lot of attention to before it was pointed out to me. I've read the argument that the Doctor's actions merely amounted to a threat, as the Silence needed only to run and get off of Earth and no one would get hurt, but in the context of the scenes with the angry people in the bar and Nixon's guard aiming their guns at the Silence it didn't really look like that, and I certainly didn't get the impression that Eleven cared in the least whether or not the Silence would get killed or not. Thousands of generations, programmed to be mindless killers. (Or at least that's what he says. Is the programming passed on genetically? Or does everyone have to watch the recording of the moon landing?) And even if just one human being was made a killer against their will, without knowing about it, without being able to make a conscious decision about it or even remembering it, that's one person too many. Ten would have killed the Silence, if there were no other way. And angsted about it afterwards. But he wouldn't have turned the human race, or as much of it as watched the moon landing, into killers, or potential killers. The human psyche is complex and easily manipulated—planting a subconscious 'kill on sight' command into so many people's brains doesn't strike me as a particularly good idea.


There's of course the possibility that all this is intentional. One could argue that Eleven is a reaction to Ten's rejection of the gun Wilf offered, even at the price of a world full of Master clones, because he was so afraid of becoming something as dangerous as the Master himself, or even more dangerous. I'm also vaguely wondering if SM picked up the theme of the dark Doctor from Amy's Choice, who chose the image of old people with monsters hiding inside them for himself. But if it's that, shouldn't there at least be a bit more of an obvious hint? As it is, it's impossible to tell whether the Doctor of Day of the Moon is dark on purpose, or just accidentally dark because with SM clever plot twists trump consistent characterisation.


Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
topaz_eyes
May. 1st, 2011 09:36 pm (UTC)
Thousands of generations, programmed to be mindless killers. (Or at least that's what he says. Is the programming passed on genetically? Or does everyone have to watch the recording of the moon landing?)

People have to watch the recording, because the message to kill the Silence is subliminal, as the Silence themselves are. Though the Doctor notes that people down the generations would watch the moon landing recording at some point in their lives, so it'd be like a repeated meme.

There's of course the possibility that all this is intentional.

I am hoping it is intentional. I couldn't help but notice the opening scenes in "The Impossible Astronaut" were direct callbacks to Ten at the beginning of TEoT, i.e., running away from his death. If only because I don't want to think it's simply about Moffat sacrificing characterization for plot points.
solitary_summer
May. 2nd, 2011 09:45 pm (UTC)
Now I'm wondering if I ever watched a recording of the moon landing; at least I don't have a conscious memory of that...


I hope it's intentional, too. At the same time, he did (in my opinion) sacrifice characterisation for plot points at least in The Girl in the Fireplace, so I really don't know what to think. Granted, it's his show now and he doesn't have to stick to someone else's characterisation any longer... I just wish things were just a little clearer.
coldwater1010
May. 1st, 2011 11:31 pm (UTC)
I always thought that Ten, especially, and by extension the show had a kind of contradictory,even hypocritical, attitude to all the violence and killing that happened around him. On the one hand you'd get a lot of handwringing and lecturing about, in particular, human's predisposition to resort to guns and violence even when they responding to a violent, unprovoked attack against them, on the other I couldn't help wondering what he thought all those cool, badass guns his companions increasingly started to run around with were supposed to be for. And I felt the same thing about the show. On the one hand there seemed to be a message that killing was wrong, which for me was good, but sort of rendered hollow, by all the increasing images of the companions running around looking cool while weilding their big ass guns.





solitary_summer
May. 2nd, 2011 09:12 pm (UTC)
My memory might be faulty, but other than in the S4 finale, was there really so much running around with guns and looking cool? And that only led up to Ten's crisis when Davros accused him of using people as weapons, so it clearly was a plot point.

I don't think the message was simply that killing is wrong, rather that sometimes killing might be necessary, but that even then it's a tragedy and not something that should ever be done unthinking or unquestioned. And, as I said in my post, it shouldn't become something casual, because it changes the person who does it. Ten was very, very aware of that.

I wouldn't call it hypocritical; it's the kind of eternal moral dilemma that we see in international politics all the time. Stand by and watch people being killed, or interfere at the cost of killing ourselves?
coldwater1010
May. 4th, 2011 02:28 am (UTC)
My memory might be faulty, but other than in the S4 finale, was there really so much running around with guns and looking cool? And that only led up to Ten's crisis when Davros accused him of using people as weapons, so it clearly was a plot point.

I can think of a few instances before that and the Mickey/Martha scene in Ten's final episode comes to mind. And I definitely see a trend of increasingly on the one hand having all this hand-wringing about how guns and killing are bad being ironically juxtaposed against the companions running around with big assed guns being all cool and bad-assed. It didn't have to happen all the time, but it happened enough that I certainly felt like the images presented didn't always support the argument. I just don't see RTD as above those kind of images that make guns actually seem pretty cool, especially in later seasons and I see a similar trend in Torchwood.

solitary_summer
May. 4th, 2011 10:45 am (UTC)
Well, Torchwood isn't a family show, and arguably Gwen in CoE is another example of guns being (somewhat) cool (At the same time... did she actually kill anyone? 'She shot your wheels. What kind of terrorist shoots your wheels?'), but the story on the whole has a much stronger ethical focus than the first two seasons.

The thing with RTD's stories is that they are true to life in the sense that they are complicated and rarely clear-cut. It's never just 'this'; it's always, 'this, and...', or 'this, but...'. I actually struggled with this quite a bit myself, but it's clearly a deliberate choice in his writing.

And as for Martha and Mickey, RTD originally planned on having them in TW S3, and even if that didn't work out in the end, it might have influenced their characterisation in that scene.
(Deleted comment)
solitary_summer
May. 4th, 2011 10:21 am (UTC)
Sometimes I really hate what the last ten years did to the world and where we're going. What I'm afraid of most of all is that none of all this is reversible. So many things have become acceptable, bit by bit, and you see the pictures of all the young people celebrating in the streets, and they've all grown up in this fear and hate dominated atmosphere...
azalaisdep
May. 10th, 2011 09:23 pm (UTC)
Something else I found jarring was the sequence of River shooting the Silence; again maybe not even so much the fact that she did it, but how she did it; how the scene was filmed.

Yes, absolutely. The elegance and grace and kick-ass sharpshooting... as she kills again and again and again. In the trailer it looked stunning, and it was stunning, until you took a step back and realised what was being celebrated. What my children remember about that episode is "Doctor Song shooting all the baddies."

And as you say, the Doctor's reaction to it felt very un-Doctorish indeed.
solitary_summer
May. 12th, 2011 08:21 pm (UTC)
In some ways it's so jarring because it's the kind of choreographed shooting scene one is so used to from movies that in a different context it wouldn't stand out at all, but on this show it feels wrong somehow to just think of it as 'kickass' and move on...
azalaisdep
May. 12th, 2011 08:56 pm (UTC)
It was very un-DW-ish. Not so much the fact that a bunch of aliens got offed, but that it was shot in that lingering, violence-as-porn, movie style and that the Doctor got off on it. You're quite right, it's standard Hollywood fare. But since when has our beloved little British show played by Hollywood rules? [grump, grump]
solitary_summer
May. 12th, 2011 09:02 pm (UTC)
and that the Doctor got off on it

This especially. I have no opinion about whether the Doctor is (or is supposed to be) asexual or not, but for him to effectively get turned on by the thought of River shooting the Silence? Yikes.
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