I Become Part of Events (The Christmas Invasion)

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Tennant based his characterization on fellow Scotsman
Graham Crowden's nuanced portrayal of Soldeed in The
Horns of Nimon
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It’s December 25th, 2005. We are in the long winter of years in which the winner of The X Factor gets to be the Christmas number one every year, choking the life out of what had previously been a rather pleasant cultural oddity whereby a motley of novelty acts, trash pop, and hit bands would fight it out for the honor of going on a music anorak’s list of Christmas number ones instead gets supplanted by The X Factor winning everything. So for the record, it’s Shayne Ward with “That’s My Goal,” but in this case it’s everything that isn’t number one, which is to say, absolutely every other song in Britain, that matters.

News, then. Doctor Who has been off the air for six months. In those six months, London was awarded the 2012 Olympics the day before a series of terrorist attacks hit the London transportation system, killing fifty-two people, along with the four bombers. Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, revealing a staggeringly poor federal response system. Jyllands-Posten published their infamously controversial set of comics depicting the prophet Muhammad, and Saddam Hussein’s trial began. While in the month of December David Cameron becomes leader of the Conservative Party, Harold Pinter wins the Nobel Prize in Literature for his work on The Abominable Snowmen, and the law allowing same sex “civil partnerships” takes effect.

Let’s go back to the issue of music, however. As I noted, the domination of The X Factor over the Christmas charts brought to an unsatisfyingly corporate end to a quaint British ritual. This construction, of course, ignores the fact that the British charts are already corporate, and, more to the point, endlessly prone to manipulation, most famously with what is widely believed to be the deliberate fudging of numbers to prevent the Sex Pistols from reaching number one with “God Save the Queen” in 1977. Nor is it prima facie the case that The X Factor produces worse number one singles than, say, “Mr. Blobby,” which was in fact the number one in 1993. No, what’s depressing here is the loss of the game - the sense that something that once belonged to the British public now belongs to Simon Cowell.

Ah yes, Simon Cowell. Now there’s an interesting figure. What is notable about Cowell is his ability to combine an unsparing ruthlessness with an instinctive grasp of populism. The result is someone who is jaw-droppingly good at engineering hits, and who has absolutely no compunctions about acting like that’s what he’s doing. The result is something aggressively soulless - a sense not just of utter conformity, but of the most mean-spirited and cynical conformity imaginable. Simon Cowell is a bully who believes he can dictate the nature of popular culture, and, infuriatingly, he repeatedly appears to be correct.

Given this, what jumps out most about The Christmas Invasion is the sort of sweetly nostalgic tone of it. Teased with a Children in Need special, and done with an enthusiastically festive tone, The Christmas Invasion is largely designed to be itself a big, slightly sloppy Christmas treat. This immediately opens up an interesting division that the episode has to navigate. On the one hand, Christmas cheer is defined in part by its recklessly sentimental sincerity. On the other hand, the Land of Simon Cowell is anathema to sincerity. Heck, in many ways the Land of Doctor Who seems hostile to sincerity - surely the sort of hyper-aware trope-savvy audience the series asks for is never going to unironically embrace any sort of emotional celebration, instead “savvily” recognizing Christmas as overblown and altogether naff.

It is no great spoiler to observe that Davies would completely reject this division. The entire point of Russell T Davies is that trope awareness does not mandate cynicism. Davies has no patience for loving things ironically. If Davies is going to write a big Christmas special then it’s going to be big and Christmasy, and that’s pretty much that. The tricky bit is going to be how he crafts that to work for an irony-soaked audience. The answer is fairly straightforward, at least in The Christmas Invasion: Davies decides that the audience’s big present is going to be the Tenth Doctor, and proceeds to spend forty minutes building up anticipation of it.

The structure of this is quite interesting. Notably, the tension isn’t whether the Tenth Doctor is going to be any good. We see him twice in the first ten minutes, and each time he’s perfectly entertaining. Add to that the Children in Need sketch and you’ve got more than enough information to conclude that the Tenth Doctor is, broadly speaking, going to work as a character. Instead the tension is one of simple desire: we spend most of the episode wanting the Doctor to appear, but have to sit through a half-hour long segment where he basically doesn’t save for occasional shots of him unconscious.

From a storytelling perspective, there are scads of good reasons to do this. It keeps the focus on the familiar characters - Jackie, Mickey, Rose, and Harriet Jones - and reiterates the ground the program is built on. It reassures the audience that this is the same program they were watching six months ago, even though the lead role has been recast. It grounds the real story - the phenomenon of regeneration - in a human element, namely Rose’s angst and anguish over losing “her” Doctor. And it hedges against the sense that we might not like the new Doctor by, effectively, forcing us to want him. And those forty minutes are fantastic, including a gloriously cheeky shot in which the Sycorax spaceship basically flies over the EastEnders title card in the most literal invasion of soap operas the series has done yet.

But it also means that in many ways the “real” story exists only in the final twenty minutes of the episode. The first forty minutes are really just there to make us fall in love with the last twenty, which are in turn there to get us to tune in four months later for New Earth. The Christmas Invasion is a story with a job to do, and it just gets on with it. But the nature of that job ends up defining the new Doctor in a terribly efficient and definitive way.

Eccleston’s Doctor was characterized in part by how he resisted the audience. From his brusque demeanor to the unorthodox choices of having him be a leather jacket-wearing northerner, Eccleston’s Doctor frequently pushed the audience away. Even in his first appearance this was the case, with him twice refusing Rose instead of allowing her (and us) access to his narrative. Eccleston was defined by the withholding of information and, to a lesser extent, of narrative pleasure. His big moments often involved the Doctor being ugly.

And for the first forty minutes of The Christmas Invasion, Tennant inherits that show. But in the last twenty we get something that we never really saw with Eccleston’s Doctor: twenty minutes of pure showboating. For the last twenty minutes of the episode we are freely invited to just love the hell out of Tennant’s Doctor while he grandstands like its Williams-era Tom Baker. This is not, to be clear, a problem. Like Tom Baker, Tennant has gobs of charisma and presence, and it genuinely is fun to watch him reel around on screen. Unlike Baker, Tennant is an actor and not a performer, and so eats up things like lengthy monologues. Almost as soon as he steps out of the TARDIS he launches into a ninety second monologue in which he’s dazzling, packing in over a dozen distinct moments where he changes what he’s doing with the character. Tennant is a meticulous actor whose modus operandi is making lots of very deliberate and conscious decisions, and accordingly he sparkles with long monologues. (This is part of why he’s so adept with Shakespearean material - he bypasses the difficulty of the language by packing his lines with visible emotional turns and reversals.)

But it is a marked change from Eccleston. Tennant’s Doctor is designed to be adored. Eccleston’s Doctor wasn’t. This is the crux of the difference. This does not, obviously, mean that Eccleston’s Doctor wasn’t adored, nor, for that matter, that everybody in the world loved Tennant’s, but it does mark the basic distinction between the two. Under Tennant, one of Doctor Who’s fundamental pleasures is supposed to be watching David Tennant. The star is himself the object of pleasure.

This risks an almost Cowellian cynicism. Tennant is designed to be loved, so much so that the story gives us no choice but to love him. If you fail to be thrilled and punch the air when Tennant strolls out of the TARDIS with a “did you miss me” then you have fallen outside the implied readership of The Christmas Invasion. The episode does not even consider the possibility that its audience will not be completely sold on the character. And to its credit, it was broadly speaking correct. Obviously with an audience in the millions it wasn’t going to be universally successful, but the fact of the matter is that Tennant’s Doctor hit it off massively with the British public. But so did The X Factor. There’s still something unsettling about being told that this is the new popular character. Under Eccleston the series had to earn our love. Now Tennant gets it gift-wrapped.

But it’s more complicated than that. The twenty minute lovefest culminates interestingly with the most seized upon line of the episode as the Doctor casually kills the Sycorax leader while coldly declaring that this new incarnation gives “no second chances.” It’s an odd moment. It’s smack in the middle of the “we all love the Doctor, don’t we” portion of the episode, and yet it’s also a chilling moment that, when you pause to think about, we really shouldn’t take pleasure in. The Doctor flat-out kills his enemy, with no hesitation and no regret. Yes, he’s provoked. Yes, it’s self-defense. But much like two of the more controversial lines in the Colin Baker era, his “just desserts” line in The Two Doctors and his “you’ll forgive me if I don’t join you” in Vengeance on Varos, the problem is that the Doctor seems to take some pleasure in killing, and to invite us to do the same. Because it’s nestled in amongst twenty minutes of near nonstop squee we don’t notice it, but it’s a jarring moment.

And, of course, it leads thematically into an even more jarring moment, namely his overthrow of Harriet Jones. What is perhaps most significant about this is that in a very real sense, Tennant’s Doctor dooms himself in his first story. The clear implication is that he’s changed history - Britain’s Golden Age isn’t supposed to end this way. This gap in history is subsequently exploited as the Master steps in to become Prime Minister, an event that in turn leads directly to the circumstances of his regeneration. Even beyond the basic plot logic, this sets up this incarnation’s major and canonical flaw: his arrogance. His decision to single-handedly overthrow Harriet Jones is made according to the same logic as the Time Lord Victorious.

Look, after all, at how he revels in it. He doesn’t just overthrow her, he shows off while doing it, demonstrating how effortless the overthrow of the entire government is. The point isn’t just overthrowing her, it’s humiliating her in the process. There’s an angry petulance to it. Indeed, one thing that jumps out is how carefully Davies balances the morality of it. On the one hand there was never any way that the Doctor was going to let Harriet’s action go. Over the course of the episode she goes from Fantasy Tony Blair, telling the President that he’s not her boss, to Thatcher 2.0, re-enacting one of the most infamous moments of her tenure. But so much of it is the Doctor’s fault, both tacitly through his absence and actively, given that he makes a scaremongering speech about how the human race is getting noticed that all but constitutes him telling Harriet that it’s not safe to let the ship flee. The problem is very much of the Doctor’s own making, such that even if we can’t imagine him letting Harriet’s actions slide, we can readily imagine him not screwing up so badly as to cause them in the first place. The tone of the scene is, in the end, more sympathetic to Harriet than the Doctor.

So while we take pleasure in Tennant there’s from the beginning a sense that there is such a thing as too much pleasure to take. We’re invited to love the character, but we’re also made aware that the character can go too far - that the things we love can be turned against us. The result is the most stunning example of starting as you mean to continue that we’ve ever seen in Doctor Who. Nowhere else in the history of the program has a Doctor’s first story matched so perfectly with their last one. This is the main theme of the Tennant era writ large from the start.

And, of course, this doubles as a metaphor for the series. As of the Tennant era Doctor Who is a known hit. It’s the biggest thing on television. (Remembering, of course, that there are always several biggest things on television at any given moment.) It also spent its entire first season being about television. Now, as it enters its second season, it remains about television, albeit with one substantive twist: instead of being about everything else on television, it’s about the fact that it is now a major center of gravity on television. The first portion of the Russell T Davies era was about establishing a place for Doctor Who on television. But now we have what must be, for someone who is as voracious a consumer of television as Russell T Davies, one of the most alarming fates imaginable: he’s found a place for his Doctor Who on television, and it’s the absolute center of it. And now the show makes a turn to being about working through the consequences of that fact.

Comments

George Potter 3 years, 11 months ago

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George Potter 3 years, 11 months ago

Huh. My comment disappeared.

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David Anderson 3 years, 11 months ago

I can't imagine Eccleston's Doctor having a sword fight. I'm sure he'd have pulled it off, but it's not something you'd expect to see the character doing.

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David Anderson 3 years, 11 months ago

I don't know that I'd agree when you say Davies has no patience for loving things ironically. Isn't that what camp is?
Further, irony isn't the opposite of sincerity. Austen loves romantic fiction ironically. Whedon loves girls in horror films ironically. They're both quite sincere.

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George Potter 3 years, 11 months ago

Trying this again:

"Tennant is designed to be loved, so much so that the story gives us no choice but to love him. If you fail to be thrilled and punch the air when Tennant strolls out of the TARDIS with a “did you miss me” then you have fallen outside the implied readership of The Christmas Invasion. The episode does not even consider the possibility that its audience will not be completely sold on the character."

And this became my very first alarm bell (though a faint and muted one at the time), that this revived show -- which I had been adoring almost whole-heartedly -- had the possibility of mutating into something that I didn't care for. I, quite simply, cannot be told that I must love someone or something, especially a showboat. I will, almost every single time, rebel to some extent.

To RTD and Tennant's credit, it took quite a while for that to happen. It didn't fully mature until the Series 3 finale, increased hugely with Voyage Of The Damned, and hit the breaking point with Partners In Crime. I decided to walk away for a while, and did so, until Moffat and Smith took over. I didn't watch Series 4 and the specials until the end of Series 5, once I'd been hooked once again, viciously so.

And I discovered my instinct was correct (so far as my own personal taste is concerned): with the exception of Moffat's two parter and The Unicorn And The Wasp, I found those episodes almost painful to watch. Even higher quality offerings like Midnight and Turn Left failed me for various reasons, mostly to do with something you've already mentioned -- showboating. Catherine Tate (a performer I find very grating under the best of circumstances) seemed to increase Tennant's propensity to showboat until the entire show began to remind me of a holiday variety special where they each took turns doing signature bits.

I'm under no illusion that these episodes are objectively bad, mind you -- and I have nothing smartass or insulting to say to anyone who loves them. If anything, I'm slightly jealous that others can love them and I just can't.

Excellent essay. :)

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Assad K 3 years, 11 months ago

Did'ja read 'A Big Hand For The Doctor'? :)

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Assad K 3 years, 11 months ago

Well, Dr Sandifer picks up my two major criticisms of the story.. the total demolishing of history by removing Harriet Jones and the 'No second chances' bit (as an aside - it was interesting how that little piece of characterization was greeted with pleasure by what seemed to be a majority of the commentators on OG. 'At last! A Doctor who is a badass!' was the exultation, though were we really looking for the Doctor to regenerate into the Punisher? Also interestingly, in his very next story the Doctor gives Cassandra a second chance....).

I never, ever, however, thought about how the Doctor removing Harriet Jones could have led to the Saxon premiership and thus his own 'death'.. Mind - blown!!!

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Assad K 3 years, 11 months ago

How did you enjoy 'The Waters Of Mars?' Just curious, as it was probably the only standout from the Specials (I have a guilty fondness for 'Planet of the Dead', but that's mainly for it's sympathetic take on UNIT, which was not how it always came up in Davies' era).

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Carey 3 years, 11 months ago

I genuinely can't understand the criticism of portraying the Doctor as a "showboater" as, with the exception of five and nine (and possibly eight, but he wasn't on screen long enough to really judge) all the actors have been "showboaters" of one kind or another, Tom and Jon especially. Even Patrick Troughton showboated when required.

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Matt Michael 3 years, 11 months ago

Great commentary. I picked up on the 10th Doctor's end being signposted at his start, and think its an undercurrent throughout the era that repays close attention - http://matthewmichael.org/2012/03/29/time-can-be-rewritten-but-probably-shouldnt-be/

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jane 3 years, 11 months ago

@Carey: I genuinely can't understand the criticism of portraying the Doctor as a "showboater"

Because this time, as Phil points out, the Doctor's showboating is linked very specifically to his arrogance, in a such a way as to paint it as a flaw. We're invited to critique this Doctor for his showboating. This, then, is the irony -- not the cynical hipster irony of insincerity, but proper dramatic irony, for the character himself isn't aware of his own failing.

And there is a kind of "painfulness" to this sort of drama, especially for Who fans, because so many of us have been exactly that person, the ones lacking the social awareness of how we come across and how that leaves us outside the social milieu. It's like watching Amy Jellicoe, Laura Dern's character on Enlightened, who believes she's someone terribly, terribly good, someone completely altruistic but secretly and unknowingly very self-centered and egoistic.

Previous Doctors showboated, but I don't think it was ever meant as a character flaw before. Before, it was always played as straight-up charisma.

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Prole Hole 3 years, 11 months ago

Even Pertwee, Jane? Isn't is arrogance and meddling that's specifically criticized in Planet Of The Spiders and for which he eventually pays the ultimate price? Indeed Tennant's sacrifce for Wilf in The End Of Time can easily be read as him coming to terms with his own character flaw, accepting it and giving up his regeneration for it in exactly the same way Pertwee's Doctor does in Spiders (allbeit without Tennant's "reward").

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Pen Name Pending 3 years, 11 months ago

Woah, I'm not alone! Usually I get criticized for not loving Ten. I came into the series after him, and so when I went through and watched what I had missed on BBC America's reruns, I had no problem with him. Then the reruns skipped "Gridlock" or something and I had to wait for them to cycle around again, which didn't happen until after the new year. In between there was then 2011 Christmas special, and BBCA was playing a marathon and I caught the end of The End of Time. The brief stuff with the Master and the Time Lords were great. The rest was a half hour about how great he is and how it won't be the same again. So it was hard to watch the rest of series 3 and 4 without seeing that as an underlying theme, and I still have a bad taste in my mouth and have barely rewatched any of the Tennant years because I know I won't enjoy them yet. I think he's a great actor ("Human Nature" being one of my favorites), but I can't stand the "Great Doctor" stuff. (Another problem I had was that Martha and Donna always seemed to be in the shadow of Rose.)

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The Lord of Ábrocen Landmearca 3 years, 11 months ago

Myself, the arrogance and smug righteousness was what caused me to finally step away from the series during the specials, having enjoyed Tennant's first two seasons and been greatly disappointed by much of his third. Amusing, I found the EXACT same thing in Smith's tenure, loving his first two and utterly loathing the latest. In each case, it was the writing that drove me away, not the Doctor or Companion, as whenever the series takes a turn for spectacle over substance or rampant humanism I get incredibly bored and wander off. Equally curious is that the decline (at least in my view) was precipitated by rubbish Christmas specials, 'Let's Faff About With A Dull Popstar On a Slanted Set With Some Assholes" and "Let's Name Drop Narnia and Do Nothing With The Concept Also Yay Mothers" respectively.

For the record, I thought The Next Doctor and Planet of the Dead were crap, Waters of Mars great, and that you could ignore the entirety of The End of Time except for the bits with Wilf and have a decent epsisode.

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George Potter 3 years, 11 months ago

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George Potter 3 years, 11 months ago

"I genuinely can't understand the criticism of portraying the Doctor as a "showboater" as, with the exception of five and nine (and possibly eight, but he wasn't on screen long enough to really judge) all the actors have been "showboaters" of one kind or another, Tom and Jon especially. Even Patrick Troughton showboated when required."

Two reasons, for me: the tone throughout Tennant's time, growing as the era progressed, of 'Don't you just LOVE this guy?!' And, as I said, the addition of Catherine Tate, who seemed to amp up Tennant''s tendencies and who was just as big of a ham herself. I find Tate almost painfully unfunny, and don't rate her as much of an actress to be honest. That was the combination of factors that made me walk off for a while.

But, hey, I didn't bother anyone with it. I didn't haunt the forums screaming about how the show was being destroyed or killing me with cringe-itis. Not only does that seem like a pretty boring way to spend my time, it would be rude to those who were enjoying the show during that period. Mostly I was just glad that mine WAS a minority opinion, so that the show would continue on and change into something that I did enjoy. :)

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Carey 3 years, 11 months ago

@Jane

Oops, sorry, I should have been clearer in stating that I was replying to George Potter and how he disliked the Doctor being played as a showboater, which struck me as odd especially considering the performances of Pertwee and Baker. The whole hubris plot that weaved it's way through the Davies tenure was obvious to me, and the character arc added to the programme in my opinion.

It's interesting people mention Planet of the Spiders in relation to End of Time, because the more I look at the Davies years the more they resemble the Letts years, but updated for the times. The obvious connection is how both eras are centred around the Earth (even when they go into space they explore the future history of humanity); but beyond that both their primary protagonists are portrayed as beneficial but flawed, and eventually brought down by their own arrogance. Both have sci-fi settings that are revistited (Peladon for the 70's, the year 5 Billion for the noughties). And then they surrounded the Doctor with a family. Admittedly metaphorical in the Pertwee era, with UNIT; but literal for all three main companions in the Eccleston/Tennant era. I don't know whether to congratulate Davies for being so clever as to identify something from Doctor Who's past and update it so well, or to congratulate Letts for being so ahead of his time. Or both.

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elvwood 3 years, 11 months ago

Testing, testing...

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George Potter 3 years, 11 months ago

(Second try with this reply, first one disappeared)

"How did you enjoy 'The Waters Of Mars?' Just curious, as it was probably the only standout from the Specials (I have a guilty fondness for 'Planet of the Dead', but that's mainly for it's sympathetic take on UNIT, which was not how it always came up in Davies' era)."

I enjoyed it up until the ending. The Timelord Victorious stuff was interesting, but I found the 'Adelaide Brooke commits suicide to preserve the laws of Time' bit utterly unconvincing, to the point of cursing at the screen. It's not just an overused ending for Davies -- I'd seen Midnight and Turn Left quite recently, after all -- it's that I simply didn't buy it at all in this case. Brooke was a strong, survivor type, who showed her determination to live throughout the episode. To have her kill herself to protect concepts she'd only just learned about just fell flat for me on every level.

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Froborr 3 years, 11 months ago

And, of course, it leads thematically into an even more jarring moment, namely his overthrow of Harriet Jones. What is perhaps most significant about this is that in a very real sense, Tennant’s Doctor dooms himself in his first story. The clear implication is that he’s changed history - Britain’s Golden Age isn’t supposed to end this way. This gap in history is subsequently exploited as the Master steps in to become Prime Minister, an event that in turn leads directly to the circumstances of his regeneration.

I said this before, but... no. Ten's actions here do directly create a space for Prime Minister Saxon, which in turn leads to the events of "The End of Time," but Ten's regeneration is just tacked on to the end of that episode; it doesn't follow causally from it. It's easy to think that it does, because it makes so much tonal and thematic sense, but the plot of the episode has already resolved, with Ten completely fine, and then the events that force him to regenerate occur. There's no logical in-story reason for the sealed chambers to work in that incredibly stupid and dangerous way, and the Giant Threat to the Entire Cosmos (tm) has already been defeated; it's not a necessary part of the story or a consequence of the Doctor's actions at all. Ten's regeneration is more akin to Six or Seven's than Two's, in that it is ex machina rather than a punishment for some flaw.

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jane 3 years, 11 months ago

@Prole Hole: "Even Pertwee, Jane? Isn't is arrogance and meddling that's specifically criticized in Planet Of The Spiders and for which he eventually pays the ultimate price?"

Planet of the Spiders is an outlier, though -- throughout his tenure, the production doesn't really try to highlight any problems with his character. It's more in hindsight, and even then PotS kind of fudges it with his declaration that it's his desire for knowledge that's in error, not anything to do with his arrogance or vanity.

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David Ainsworth 3 years, 11 months ago

What interests me the most about all this is that Davies both critiques and unironically presents Ten's personality and approach. If Ten also stands in for the series itself, then his years seem to hint at a kind of unsustainability, a curious replication of the feeling of some die-hard fans about the new series that a "popular" Doctor Who was no longer the show they loved. And to the extent that this approach permits Davies to critique past Doctor behaviors in justified ways, it also compels him to replicate or represent them again.

Is part of the unsustainability tied to the inherent requirement of an audience for "showboating?" The later thread of the Doctor as needing a companion who will stop him flies in the face of the readily establishable idea that the Doctor needs an audience to showboat for. Ten thus offers a catch-22, in the sense that he's grimly and quietly lethal on his own, broadly and comically a showboat with an audience.

That said, this new development leaves the Doctor more vulnerable than ever before, in part because he's so tethered and reliant upon others and in part because his many great strengths are deliberately portrayed in ways which demonstrate their dangers. The show's toyed with Doctor-as-villain many times before, but never before has that threat seemed so real. "No second chances" isn't just for the baddies, it's for everyone.

A visibly broken Nine has been replaced with a Ten who hides the fractures which Davies repeatedly stresses remain. In a different show, a different story, Ten could forget or rely upon the healing power of love and friendship.

What can you do if you find death abhorrent and unthinkable but your life fills up with burdens and guilt? Ten's tenure is "To be or not to be" writ large.

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jane 3 years, 11 months ago

Camp uses irony, but the *love* itself isn't ironic.

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David Ainsworth 3 years, 11 months ago

Those avoiding "The End of Time" spoilers should skip this comment.

I'm sure this conversation will continue through the Tennant years, but I actually think Ten's regeneration is an apt punishment for his many flaws. Ten's larger than life, a character who rejects peaceful happiness of a mundane life for heroism on an epic scale coupled with an egoism visible in a number of other Doctors but never so rampant.

If you asked Ten how he would prefer to go out, of course he'd want to die thwarting a Giant Threat to the Entire Cosmos (tm). Though the editing bobbles the point instead of underlining it, "The End of Time" gives the heroic death to the Master. Ten's suicidal behavior reflects his certainty that he's doomed and his determination to die like an epic hero sets him up for a beautiful fall when the moment actually happens.

I entirely shared and share your outrage about the contrivance of the sealed chambers. But I'm willing to cut Davies a lot of slack given the aptness of the situation he arbitrarily creates. An exuberant Ten, convinced he's beaten fate, confronted not with the "save everything" climax he so expected but a quiet and private choice. Him or me. It's hard for me to imagine any smaller stakes which would convince Ten to give up his own life.

So as contrived and unimaginative as the circumstances are, the characterization and the choices make up for them in my mind. We will, I sure, be discussing the long goodbye which follows the choice later; its self-indulgence undercuts the message behind the Doctor's death. But that message itself isn't simply about Ten being punished for a flaw, it's him coming to the full realization of that flaw. Say what you will about the circumstances; ultimately, the Doctor condemns himself to death when he realizes how much more he values his life in comparison to Wilf's.

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Prole Hole 3 years, 11 months ago

I'd go along with it being a late contender, certainly, but it sums up much of the Pertwee era concicely (well, as concicely as a rambling six-parther can), including the attitude of the leading man. I'd argue that there are plenty of episodes in his run where those issues with his character are highlighted (for example Inferno's conclusion, where his arrogant bellowing that he knows best comes close to replciating the very situation he's desperately trying to avoid) even if they're not necessarily "built in" the way they are with Tennant.

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BerserkRL 3 years, 11 months ago

I find Tate almost painfully unfunny, and don't rate her as much of an actress to be honest

Have you watched her own show? Her ability to vanish into different characters seems to me evidence that she's pretty damn good at the acting bit.

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Froborr 3 years, 11 months ago

Oh, I wouldn't call it "outrage" by any means. I don't think I've ever been outraged by Doctor Who; I'm a fan in the sense of liking the show, enjoying discussing it, and considering it one of the best things on television, not in the sense of having a deep emotional investment or deriving a sense of identity from it. (There are things for which I'm that sort of fan; Doctor Who just isn't one of them.)

And yes, as I said, it's thematically and tonally appropriate. It works for Ten to die to save one person, but I still don't read it as punishment because it neither occurs as a necessary consequence of his behavior nor is imposed by any sort of judging entity. Diegetically, it's a pure coincidence that it happens to be so appropriate to his character arc.

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BerserkRL 3 years, 11 months ago

What interests me the most about all this is that Davies both critiques and unironically presents Ten's personality and approach.

Agreed, and I think that's crucial. We're meant both to love the showboating and to find it worrying. I also think we're meant to sympathise with both Harriet Jones and the Doctor. Leaping forward to Moffat's tenure, I think we're meant to feel both positively and negatively about things like "Colonel Runaway." If the Doctor's flaws were purely and unmixedly flaws, they wouldn't be so tempting and dangerous.

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Ununnilium 3 years, 11 months ago

I enjoyed it up until the ending. The Timelord Victorious stuff was interesting, but I found the 'Adelaide Brooke commits suicide to preserve the laws of Time' bit utterly unconvincing, to the point of cursing at the screen. It's not just an overused ending for Davies -- I'd seen Midnight and Turn Left quite recently, after all -- it's that I simply didn't buy it at all in this case. Brooke was a strong, survivor type, who showed her determination to live throughout the episode. To have her kill herself to protect concepts she'd only just learned about just fell flat for me on every level.

THIS. This is my problem and the whole of my problem with that ending. (Well, that and the fact that it just didn't at all convince me that what he'd done deserved such a response.)

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George Potter 3 years, 11 months ago

Several episodes. I didn't even crack a smile. And I disagree.

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George Potter 3 years, 11 months ago

" We're meant both to love the showboating and to find it worrying."

That's all fine and dandy. But by the Series 3 finale I simply found it annoying.

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Pen Name Pending 3 years, 11 months ago

I think it would be okay if this was more understood, because I've seen fans who insist that Ten was always great and moral. (Though this veers into that "Can the Doctor be violent?" territory, or more accurately "Is he really a pacifist?")

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Adam B 3 years, 11 months ago

Those are the best titles for those two Xmas specials ever. I largely agree w your take on the general trajectory both Tennant and Smith's tenures have taken as well, though I prefer Series 4 to Series 2 overall. But your points stand anyway. I'm not far enough removed from Series 7 (and haven't revisited much of it yet) to know for sure, but my gut tells me it's the weakest of Smith's seasons, which is a shame because I think Asylum and Snowmen are brilliant, and that an extended version of Name of the Doctor could've been the best anniversary special we could hope for in the show's current reality (not that I'm anything but cautiously optimistic about the actual upcoming special, mind you).

There's something about The Next Doctor that makes me smile. I mean, it's certainly not particularly good, but my kids sure love the CyberKing.

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Chris Andersen 3 years, 11 months ago

I guess I come down on the other side to a lot of the commentary here. There seems to be a general consensus that the show-boating and arrogance was somehow new with Tennant whereas I feel that it is with Tennant's run that the inherent arrogance of the character of The Doctor is finally given its due.

The Doctor has both been a devil-may-care gadabout *and* a very dangerous person who won't hesitate to hurt you if he deems it necessary to do so. The one core ethical element I find in his character is that he *always* gives his enemies a chance to avoid being killed, even mass-murders like Davos and The Master. But he follows through on that with swift action when his helping hand is slapped away.

And the consequence of this is explored even more fully in the Moffat/Smith era, perhaps reaching its culmination in "A Good Man Goes to War" when River finally forces The Doctor to confront the consequences of his actions throughout the universe.

I love all of this and don't feel like I'm being told to enjoy The Doctor because I should enjoy The Doctor. I enjoy The Doctor because he is such an enjoyable character to explore.

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Pen Name Pending 3 years, 11 months ago

On a related note, "The Christmas Invasion", I think, has some intentional Iraq parallels (other than the noted Thatcher resemblance).

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Spoilers Below 3 years, 11 months ago

Though I know it's an attempt to be cheeky and piss off Tennant fans, I've always thought this alignment chart was rather clever, especially given the stunning violence and horror that the 10th Doctor is capable of, even above and beyond what we've seen before or after his tenure. (No pun intended. There either.)

http://i.imgur.com/ZzpmQXJ.jpg

Also, isn't the Golden Age of Humanity already thrown off course as of the Daleks and Satellite 5 last season, though? Eccleston seems completely thrown for a loop when he arrives and finds it a news obsessed dystopia. Or should we chalk that up to "he already did what he did to Jones, which lets the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe take over years and years later, even though we haven't see him do it yet from his perspective" time travel syndrome?

I mean, I would buy it, given that the You Are Not Alone bit is mentioned in the show's brief even before the reboot began, and Davis is nothing if not meticulous.

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Nick 6 months ago

"Though I know it's an attempt to be cheeky and piss off Tennant fans, I've always thought this alignment chart was rather clever, especially given the stunning violence and horror that the 10th Doctor is capable of, even above and beyond what we've seen before or after his tenure. (No pun intended. There either.)"

...That's just about perfect. *grins*

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Wm Keith 3 years, 11 months ago

I suspect that you were not particularly bothered. Myself, I haven't seen much Catherine Tate stuff outside Doctor Who, but I was hooked right from the mime scene in "Victory of the Adipose".

I think she and Tennant work wonderfully together. They round each other off in a way which just didn't happen when Tennant was playing against less experienced actors like Piper and Agyeman.

It would have been interesting, however, if Alex Kingston had been cast as Donna Noble and Catherine Tate as River Song. I'd have loved to see the Smith-Tate dynamic.

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Mike 3 years, 11 months ago

I completely disagree that 'No second chances' shows the Doctor taking pleasure in violence. The way Tennant delivers shows the Doctor believes it but only as an unfortunate reality.

However, I do agree that arrogance is the major flaw of the Tenth Doctor, although it took your excellant phrasing to allow me to understand my own train of thought, which started as soon as I heard the Tenth Doctor's last line: "I don't want to go". It made me re-think his entire era and consider him as selfish (and also, I now think thanks to you, arrogant) in his desire to be a hero. I felt this theory develop when I remembered the bit in New Earth when he says there's no higher power, "It stops with me".

I'll be interested to see where you go with this as I think it could nicely summarise his era, not necessarily in a negative way but to prove that the Doctor as a character benefits for the demands of modern drama to have complex characters.

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 11 months ago

Dammit... I was hoping you'd properly cover "Pudsey Cutaway". Damn. :-(

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 11 months ago

Maybe in the book. It's one of those cases where the 2000 word minimum threshold for an entry really got in the way.

Mind you, I've no idea why I maintain that rule. Would have been marvelous to be able to just do 700 words and call it a post. Honestly, I'm not sure what I was thinking there.

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Assad K 3 years, 11 months ago

I concur with the ending of 'Waters of Mars' being a bit odd... someone's relative shooting themself in the house doesn't seem quite as conducive to exploring deep space as, say, their mysterious disappearance on a distant planet.

And I shall mention it again when 'End of Time' comes up, of course, but sometimes I wonder that while everyone talks about how Doctor sacrificed his 'life' for Wilf, is there an implication that he would have just said 'Sorry.. I'm so sorry!' to whatever hapless lab tech had been trapped in there and then swanned off???

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Froborr 3 years, 11 months ago

I think you're confusing Britain's Golden Age, which happens in the early 21st century and is attributed to Harriet Jones, with the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire, which is hundreds of thousands of years later.

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Froborr 3 years, 11 months ago

I've always been fond of the fan-theory that the circumstances of the regeneration influence the character of the following Doctor, so the Doctors who died in triumph (Three and Nine) were followed by arrogant, self-centered Doctors.

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jane 3 years, 11 months ago

@David: "We will, I sure, be discussing the long goodbye which follows the choice later; its self-indulgence undercuts the message behind the Doctor's death."

The long goodbye is perfect, though, considering that it's a metaphor for dying itself. And in that sense, I can't argue against it: for to go back and revisit the important relationships in our lives really can't be beat as far as an experience of death is concerned. It stands as a testament to what's really important.

In the literature of Near Death Experiences, it's the "homecoming" and the "life review" that stand out for me -- neither depend on a theology, but come right out of our own memories. Imagine, all those neurons in your brain firing for the last time, what else are you going to want to linger on? What else is really truly important in the end than the material social lives we've directly impacted? And that have impacted us?

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J Mairs 3 years, 11 months ago

"And the consequence of this is explored even more fully in the Moffat/Smith era, perhaps reaching its culmination in "A Good Man Goes to War" when River finally forces The Doctor to confront the consequences of his actions throughout the universe."

And this is one of the things I always point to when people say that "A Good Man Goes To War" does nothing but solve a fictitious problem that Moffat created for Eleven.

It's *always* been there.

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 11 months ago

Indeed. You did "Time Crash", after all; why not this, as well? :-)

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jane 3 years, 11 months ago

Agreed -- if anything, I like the reflexivity of the show, that it knows how much people enjoy watching the character, and deciding to revel in it. It's an artifice, of course, but all narratives have them. Pretending there's no audience (savvy or not) is still an artifice.

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 11 months ago

I got 2000 words on Time Crash, though. And that's my usual threshold for "does this thing get an entry." Which is on balance probably correct - it sets a minimum standard for depth. Occasionally it backfires and I wind up desperately spinning some side point out to get my word count, but in general when that happens you all love it and it becomes the major topic of discussion, so I've learned to stop worrying so much on that front.

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J Mairs 3 years, 11 months ago

"Though I know it's an attempt to be cheeky and piss off Tennant fans"

This Seventh Doctor fan is rather pissed off, although this Sixth Doctor fan is slightly bemused.

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Nyq Only 3 years, 11 months ago

There is a problem with adding depth to the doctor's character. His personal life has a disposable quality to it (lose a friend? pick up a new one). His heroism is muted by his physical and narrative invulnerability. The Doctor sidesteps moral dilemmas, using his wit to find the third option more often than not (some notable exceptions aside). This puts the Doctor in peril of just being a bunch of eccentricities.

RTD addressed this progressively first by giving the Doctor a background tragedy (the extinction of his species) and guilt (the same). With Tennant he adds a profound character flaw: hubris. He then adds a love interest (or rather reworks a companion into a romantic relationship - then does it two more times).

Interesting that the flaw Moffat adds is fear - a Doctor who tries to hide both from threats and from emotional pain, but is always pulled back by his desire to be the centre of attention (a central cross-regeneration characteristic with the arguable exception of the original)

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Pen Name Pending 3 years, 11 months ago

I don't think the quote really has to do with who Seven is, but rather social Darwinism or survival of the fittest.

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Spacewarp 3 years, 11 months ago

I worry that this comments section sometimes falls into the fandom trap of extrapolating the "tone" of a series from a few (mis)representative episodes, and there's a bit of it here. While I'll agree that Tennant's Doctor is given the character trait of arrogance or hubris at times, I believe that's only because it's not such a big step from the way Tennant plays him anyway. The 10th Doctor's most obvious character traits seem to be exuberance and alien detachment. The former I feel comes from Tennant, while the latter possibly from Davies (you can see flashes of it in the 9th's occasional distancing from humanity). It's easy to add arrogance to these, but only when the plot requires it (Tooth & Claw, Waters of Mars). Most of the rest of the time the 10th Doctor is just overwhelmingly bouncy and confident. However in looking back on a particular series (or more commonly on a Doctor's tenure) fandom often tries to paint the whole thing with the same brush. Reading "The Writer's Tale" it's apparent that RTD writes most of his scripts on the fly, and apart from broad arcs, most of his choices are what will resolve the plot in a satisfactory manner. In the same way, having lived through the Pertwee years, there's very little evidence of the Doctor racking up crimes of hubris that he has to pay for in "Planet of the Spiders".

In fact I believe Phil covered this in that particular blog post. The idea that the 3rd Doctor has to die to atone for the sins of his existance comes straight out of the blue, with no foreshadowing whatsoever over the last 3 seasons. Similarly, other than the odd hints that serve particular stories, the idea that Tennant's Doctor is paying the price for arrogance and conceit ranging all the way back to "Christmas Invasion" is mostly fan extrapolation. Pick any particular episode and look for overwhelming hubris. You may find it, but most of the time you won't.

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Froborr 3 years, 11 months ago

I much prefer Terry Pratchett's version--when someone asks Death whether it's true that your life flashes before your eyes before you die, he says that he believes it is, and that this process is called "living."

I feel that the long goodbye sequence is excessive and indulgent; why didn't any other Doctor get it? It feels like it affirms that Ten is super-special awesome, and thus undermines the entire arc of him coming to terms with his arrogance because it implies that his arrogance was justified.

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 11 months ago

Ah. This probably didn't need 2000, though; maybe barely breaking 1000, but it doesn't need a huge amount of words expelled over it. (Save in the comments, of course.)

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David Anderson 3 years, 11 months ago

Camp is a bit of a complex attitude to describe, beyond knowing it when one sees it. Irony makes camp look simple. Still fools rush in where angels just stand until you look away.
Irony is a double attitude - one attitude expressed directly and one that undercuts the first, or hints at the insufficiency of the first, suggested. But the attitude expressed directly isn't simply negated - it's still there however discounted. What makes love ironic doesn't have to be that the love's not sincere or not meant; it's the presence of another attitude alongside it. The other attitude can very well be there as a defence to preempt criticism.

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Jack Graham 3 years, 11 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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David Anderson 3 years, 11 months ago

No. Although after Pertwee and Tom Baker (who each got one) Hartnell is the classic Doctor I can best imagine doing a sword fight. It would be a comedy episode as with the wrestling in the Romans, but it would be there.

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encyclops 3 years, 11 months ago

Spacewarp, I wouldn't expect every episode to ring exactly the same bell as loudly and as often as every other. The character would quickly become insufferable if every story were about how his arrogance led to disaster. "Overwhelming" would turn him into a cartoon.

Likewise, it's interesting that you cite "alien detachment" as being obvious; I seem to recall criticisms of the televised version of Human Nature stemming from the fact that the Tenth Doctor already seems so human that it's not enough of a contrast when he becomes John Smith. Having watched that story again recently, I think those criticisms are nuts. :) But that's why I say "interesting" and not "incorrect."

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Ununnilium 3 years, 11 months ago

The silly thing is trying to fill out the Neutral and Evil squares with the Doctor at all.

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Chadwick 3 years, 11 months ago

The Tenth Doctor can guide or derail human governments. He's a polymath who analyses a vast array of cultures and shows off a massive intellect, with the ego, vanity and pomp to go with it. He thinks he knows the correct path to solving everything but sometimes creates even bigger problems which reverberate later. He wants you to think you're lost without him, and Prime Ministers and Presidents have come to depend on him. In short, he's Henry Kissinger.

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Spacewarp 3 years, 11 months ago

I'm being rather broad with "alien detachment" I admit, and it can range from the Doctor not realising that Mickey may be dead in "Rose", to his inability to empathise with Joan's feelings after he is no longer John Smith in "Human Nature". And of course almost the entirety of "School Reunion" where the whole story is about how not-human the Doctor actually is. But I think the point of that as a trait is that the Doctor isn't human, and RTD takes pains to weave that into the narrative at several opportunities. This isn't of course new, and hearkens back to Tom Baker, where I tend to think it was often used to disguise the 4th Doctor's lack of empathy with the rest of humanity (or Tom Baker's limitations as an actor, take your pick). However Baker's portrayal has set a precedent, and RTD and Tennant have used it to their advantage in the majority of stories, so much so that the trait has bled over successfully into the 11th Doctor's characterisation (it raises it's head at the end of "The Beast Below", "Amy's Choice", and forms a virtual cornerstone of Series' 6 and 7.

I can see where critics might come from in saying the 10th Doctor isn't much different from John Smith, but I think that's missing a fundamental (and quite chilling) fact about the Doctor. He's not human, he just looks human. Have you ever seen photos and films of the extinct Thylacine? One of the most fascinating, and creepy, things about it is that it looks just like a dog...but it so isn't one. That's the Doctor's greatest trick. He looks and acts so human that the people he meets treat him as human - and that's a perfect character trait for "alien-ness" to occasionally subvert.

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Variaga 3 years, 11 months ago

Davidson also got a sword fight in 'The King's Demons', beating "the greatest swordsman in all France" (quip: "fortunately, we're in England").

In fact while people (and the new series) frequently seem to mentally retcon the doctor into the kind of character who wouldn't dirty his hands with direct violence (see Eccleston, "I never would" and "Coward, any day"), he's consistently been a character of -immense- martial prowess. There's his skill at hand-to-hand combat (Venusian Akido), the previously mentioned swordplay and all sorts of ranged weapons ("I learned to shoot the crossbow from William Tell").

And then there's this (music is NSFW):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzmnPs64K74

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Spacewarp 3 years, 11 months ago

I tend to see the "no second chances" bit as a statement of character intent that went nowhere. It became obvious as the series went on that Tennant's Doctor was willing to give people the benefit of the doubt, and so there wasn't much room for such a hard-assed attitude. Except strangely enough in the coda to "The Family of Blood" where we see a cold unforgiving Doctor subjecting people to horrendous everlasting punishment. I see this as totally in keeping with the Doctor who invites Joan to travel with him, while being totally insensitive towards her loss of Smith, and thus as a characterisation born of the writer of that particular story.

I find it difficult to reconcile the person who threw someone into a Black Hole, or imprisoned a child in a mirror, with the person who offered the hand of salvation to Davros as the Dalek Crucible disintegrated. He's willing to forgive the man who was indirectly responsible for the creation of the Daleks and the destruction of the Time Lords, but heartless when it comes to a bunch of aliens that just chased him around for a bit?

If I was that bothered with reconciling...which I'm not. I stop at the point where it ceases to be a game, and starts to annoy me. That way lies the madness of extreme fandom!

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Lewis Christian 3 years, 11 months ago

Are we covering the mini TARDISodes now too, in episode posts, or as a whole near the end?

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 11 months ago

Spoilers.

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Lewis Christian 3 years, 11 months ago

What's also interesting is "no second chances!"

Ha. He offers the Master a second chance. And the Sontarans. And Davros...

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Anton B 3 years, 11 months ago

But 'Pudsey Cutaway' More than any other charity clip or trailer really adds to the narrative. It shows us Rose doubting, distrusting, being convinced and finally accepting the new Doctor. It is Ten(nant) mercilessly flirting with Rose while experiencing the process of regeneration. It's possibly the last time Rose is used as our eyes, as the audience identification figure. After she accepts Ten(nant)she becomes much more removed from the ordinary world and East Powell Street. In fact after the Christmas Invasion she doesn't return there until the penultimate episode and then only to doubt Jackie's 'ghosts' and to be quickly whisked off to Torchwood to play 'Doctor' while Ten(nant) messes about with his 3D spex. This brief scene, possibly cut by RTD for the narrative reasons you describe of delaying the Doctor's entrance, also provides us with the traditional 'dodgy regeneration' sequence that we don't get in the 'Christmas Invasion' as Ten gets used to his new body . 'Time Crash' on the other hand is cute but ultimately an embarrassing love-in between two actors and, possibly worse, in retrospect may be seen as a prospective father in-law sizing up his daughters fiancée and vice versa.

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Froborr 3 years, 11 months ago

Or Lawful, for that matter. With the possible exception of Pertwee, who shades into Neutral Good, the Doctor is pretty much the epitome of Chaotic Good. It's hard to imagine any other character that exemplifies the alignment (and why it is so obviously the best possible alignment for a "good guy" to be) so perfectly.

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Froborr 3 years, 11 months ago

Yes, because spending time with Rose brings out the worst in him, while Martha--as Donna notes--brings out the best. Note that every single one of your examples is post-Martha.

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David Anderson 3 years, 11 months ago

You could fan-theory that 'no second chances,' is the Doctor still trying to work out what his new character is, and reading not quite the right thing into what he'd just done.

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elvwood 3 years, 11 months ago

This was the episode that got me back into Who, in large part because it was the one that got my son (3) and daughter (5) into the show. We didn't have a TV at the time so had missed the 2005 series, but were staying at their granddad's house for Christmas and I decided to watch it out of nostalgia. I missed a lot because of concentrating on the children (they were scared and required reassurance, but were fascinated too). Normally that's something that frustrates me - I like to be able to concentrate on what I'm watching - but it reminded me so strongly of my own experience watching Troughton's Doctor that it really hit a nerve. I made sure we had a TV before the 2006 series, and gradually recaptured a passion from my childhood.

So, this is a key moment in my own Doctor Who journey.

Anyway, great analysis. By coincidence, I was just reading Magic of the Angels, which has its own take on the impact of Simon Cowell style programs...

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Spacewarp 3 years, 11 months ago

You got Doctor Who in one there. So long as the kids love it, that's all that matters. It's their programme, not ours!

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Pen Name Pending 3 years, 11 months ago

@Froborr: That pretty much sums up what annoyed me. In the context of the show - with the future and past in mind - it's a bit insulting.

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 11 months ago

Actually, "Pudsey Cutaway" was never meant to be a part of "The Christmas Invasion"; it was written and shot after a third of Series Two was in the can -- right after "The Girl in the Fireplace", in fact.

Just clarifying. :-)

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jane 3 years, 11 months ago

In Logopolis and Androzani, companions flash before the Doctor's eyes, but we don't complain that these regenerations are excessive or indulgent compared to what Hartnell, Troughton, and Pertwee got, do we? Davies just takes that conceit and dramatizes it. And, I dunno, the "other Doctors didn't get it" argument doesn't really fly with me, as if anything new or original is somehow inappropriate; it begs for each regeneration to be the same as all the others. If there's anything Phil's blog has taught me, it's that the present of Doctor Who should in no way be beholden to the patterns of the past, nor taken as templates for the future.

The other reason I like the farewell tour so much (it's actually my favorite part of The End of Time) is that it works specifically as a part of Ten's arc. He's realized he's not the Lonely God after all, a position which was about stroking his ego, and covering up the hurt from his friends leaving him one way or another, a hurt which is probably more keenly felt because he doesn't have Gallifrey anymore.

I don't get where his "homecoming" signifies that he's super-special awesome, or that it undermines the lessons of his arrogance. His arrogance is rooted in thinking he really doesn't need other people, that he can get by on his own, and that gratifying his own ego is the point of adventuring. But the farewell tour demonstrates that the value of all his adventures is really about the impact he has on the lives of others, and that what's of real value in the end is relationships.

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David Ainsworth 3 years, 11 months ago

The problem with the long goodbye is that it can't help but register on a meta-level as both Tennant and Davies saying goodbye. I'd be happier if the only reason it existed was to trick the audience into wondering whether the Doctor might not save Wilf because there's so much time left in the episode. If Davies had kept the traditional "hallucinating companions" business and restricted the actual traveling tour to Rose, Donna and Sarah, I'd have liked it better. (Heck, skipping Martha would be quite apt!)

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 11 months ago

But so dreadfully rude. I mean, there's no way skipping Martha wouldn't be widely taken as a snub to Freema Agyeman. The metatextual level exists.

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DoctorBrownCoat 3 years, 11 months ago

I find it surprising that you don't engage with this more as a regeneration story. The story's functional utility is to introduce the 10th Doctor but it self-consciously has some fun - not just with the delayed gratification of the 10th Doctor's entry into the story that you refer to - but, more importantly, with the show's own history of post-regeneration stories. So we have nods to most of these as seen before in the classic series(think illness, personality confusion, misremembered memories, displacement etc) and at the same time, the episode centrally foregrounds the ambiguities and possibilities of the new Doctor's character as outlined in the big emerge from the TARDIS speech - which I'd agree is magnificent.

But what we see on screen is a new Doctor emerging from the shadows of previous incarnations and temporarily assuming the persona of the Third Doctor as he fights the Sycorax leader. Now we know that previous incarnations have occasionally held their own in the fighting stakes (Hartnell in The Romans - alebit for comic effect, Pertwee 'hai-ing' away throughout his tenure, Baker in Tara or other Baker on Varos and Eccleston in Bad Wolf but this is a side of Tennant's Doctor we never really see again. So some of the 'showboating' is not just down to the actorly excesses but appears scripted as a side effect of the 'confusion' caused by regeneration.

Looked at more simply, does the Tenth Doctor ever again rely as exclusively on the simple brute force of fighting prowess? In his very last story, he breaks the Terrance Dicks First Amendment of "the Doctor shall not use a gun" (not for the first time) but despite his run-ins with the Master, there's no fisticuffs. So this 'cuddly' Christmas special is still presenting us with a version of what the Tenth Doctor COULD BE but one that is never actualised in his subsequent stories.

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Nicholas Tosoni 3 years, 11 months ago

RE: George Potter

"I enjoyed it up until the ending. The Timelord Victorious stuff was interesting, but I found the 'Adelaide Brooke commits suicide to preserve the laws of Time' bit utterly unconvincing, to the point of cursing at the screen. It's not just an overused ending for Davies -- I'd seen Midnight and Turn Left quite recently, after all -- it's that I simply didn't buy it at all in this case. Brooke was a strong, survivor type, who showed her determination to live throughout the episode. To have her kill herself to protect concepts she'd only just learned about just fell flat for me on every level."

She didn't kill herself to protect the timeline, but to throw the Doctor's now-selfish "heroism" back into his face. As if to say, "Yeah, you saved me and the rest of us, but because you're being such an almighty dick about it, here's how I say thank you!"

And...it works. It's a sign that there's a glimmer of hope for the good doctor, that he hasn't fallen completely into the abyss.

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Nicholas Tosoni 3 years, 11 months ago

Here, try this on for size:

Remember how, in the "what could have been" sequence in "Human Nature," John Smith's dying words are, "Are the children all right?"

Take that lingering thought, add it to the events of "Journey's End," and you have a good explanation for the Victory Lap.

In short, he wants to make one last checkup on his "children" right before he goes. That he does it so quietly and unobtrusively is a massive improvement on his character!

(Alternatively, you COULD ALSO say that he's daydreaming it on his way to the Ship....)

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Ununnilium 3 years, 11 months ago

That's actually a way worse reason to kill yourself.

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George Potter 3 years, 11 months ago

"She didn't kill herself to protect the timeline, but to throw the Doctor's now-selfish "heroism" back into his face. As if to say, "Yeah, you saved me and the rest of us, but because you're being such an almighty dick about it, here's how I say thank you!" "

I feel that's even sillier. In fact, I find that ridiculous. She committed suicide because The Doctor didn't save her with the proper attitude?

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Corpus Christi Music Scene 3 years, 11 months ago

Are you sure about that ? Billie Piper definitely has a shorter hair style throughout Season 2. Of course this could have been really good continuity on behalf of the hair and make-up dept. Ive noticed that Jenna-Louise got a haircut at some point during the filming of Season 7 so who knows?

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Corpus Christi Music Scene 3 years, 11 months ago

I thought the farewell tour was Davies and Gardners farewell as much as Tennants . Here is another version : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4hhWiqS7K4

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Spacewarp 3 years, 11 months ago

Adelaide killed herself because RTD was struggling to find the correct ending for the episode in order to leave the Doctor in the right emotional place to pick up at the beginning of End of Time.

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IG 3 years, 11 months ago

Davies said at the time that if *any* of the companion actors had been unavailable, he wouldn't have used any of them and would have just had the final scene with Rose. It had to be all or none, presumably because, as Philip said, it would have been taken as a snub by fans of that character/actor.

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IG 3 years, 11 months ago

I assume it was good continuity. Davies certainly said in an interview at the time that when the BBC asked for something for Children in Need, he was unsure, because he didn't to want to pre-empt The Christmas Invasion by doing a Tennant/Piper scene that was set after it. Then Julie Gardner said, 'You know, we never saw what happened in between the Doctor's regeneration and the Tardis crash-landing in the estate...' Which inspired him to write the scene.

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IG 3 years, 11 months ago

Having said that, my 6-year-old niece wondered at the time why the Doctor didn't go to Martha & Mickey's wedding when he went to Donna's, so I guess you really can't please everyone!

(The same niece was responsible for my all-time favourite comment on the Doctor and Rose's relationship: 'Why does the Doctor like Rose so much? I think it's because she's got nice hair...')

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JohnB 3 years, 11 months ago

I took it that Adelaide, having seen so much death on the Mars base- and knowing the Doctor is some sort of God who can grant life (and death) on a whim - she's basically telling him "Oh no you don't. I was meant to die. You don't decide for me. I am not a puppet. So f*** you, Time Lord Victorious".

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Anton B 3 years, 11 months ago

Well I've learnt something, that's extraordinary. Particularly re the continuity and the way the actors recreate the mood. It doesn't negate my observations though inasmuch as I'd love to see Phil's reading of that particular mini-text. I think the key phrase here is Julie Gardner's - 'You know, we never saw what happened in between the Doctor's regeneration and the Tardis crash-landing in the estate...' In fact at the time this was broadcast we hadn't even seen that.

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IG 3 years, 11 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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IG 3 years, 11 months ago

One thing I would say in terms of this being a regeneration story is how risky I thought it at the time to so explicitly define the new Doctor as being different to his predecessor. Terrance Dicks used to say that the key thing in easing the transition to a new Doctor is to reassure the audience that though he looks and behaves differently, underneath it all he's still the same person. (Hence 'Robot' being a traditional UNIT story.)

At the time, Doctor Who had only been back for one season. Eccleston's premature departure could have spelt the end (as Ian Levine assured everyone it would at the time - it was A DISASTER, Eccleston has DESTROYED THE SHOW!!!!). But rather than reassure the young audience that this is still the same character they've been following for the past 13 episodes, RTD has the Doctor openly wonder what sort of person he is now, whether he's brave or cowardly etc. (And somewhat bizarrely, Rose finally accepts that he *is* the Doctor after he has a swordfight, which is precisely the sort of thing Eccleston's Doctor *didn't* do.)

Anyway, with hindsight it obviously worked. (Although personally I remained very unsure about Tennant until about halfway through his first season, and really missed Eccleston.)

And from the Doctor's comments in The End of Time ('a new man saunters away...') it seems RTD agrees with the theory that the Doctor's incarnations really are different people. Whereas from what Moffat has said in the past, he seems to be of the Terrance Dicks view that the Doctor is always fundamentally the same person ('One man, eleven faces'), and that everything else is down to the actor's interpretation, physicality etc.

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Anton B 3 years, 11 months ago

This weekend's live broadcast Grand Final of Simon Cowell's 'Britain's Got Talent' was marred/enhanced by a lady from one of the acts' backing orchestras emerging from the dry-ice and chucking eggs at Cowell. I can't help thinking it could only have been better if it had been satsumas and she had shouted 'No second chances'

http://youtu.be/1hsWNqNFIL8

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Anton B 3 years, 11 months ago

The traditional way to introduce the new Doctor has never been 'to reassure the audience that though he looks and behaves differently, underneath it all he's still the same person'. As you point out 'Robot was a traditional UNIT story' but Tom Baker was hardly a traditional Doctor. The method is to present a familiar setting within which the new actor can work through his own interpretation. So we have present day Earth invaded by tricky aliens using some kind of mass-hypnosis, Unit and the Government under Harriet Jones, struggling to comprehend and respond, Rose, Jackie and Mickey all present and behaving in character, oh...and it's Christmas. Familiar setting. New New Doctor. The 'a new man saunters away' comment is a self-indulgently sentimental but just about allowable meta comment from the actor and writer not a description of the regeneration process.

Textually,for what it's worth, my own theory is that Time Lords have access to a 'wardrobe' of bodies with their own connected personality traits and skills that are randomly summoned by the regeneration energy, sometimes as in the case of Romana these can be tried on briefly and rejected, a little like the Qys in Alan Moore's Marvelman. These bodies have a separate existence and life of their own in some other dimension which Time Lord tech can access. This would explain how previous Doctors can appear to live on and age after regenerating (Hartnell in his Rose Garden in Five Doctors, Troughton in 'Two Doctors', Davison in 'Time Crash', Tom Baker in pretty much anything post 1981) and how each Doctor has different interests and talents (Where did Five learn cricket? Or Eleven gain his football and baby talk skills?)it can also encompass Colin Baker appearing on Gallifrey before his incarnation was adopted by the Doctor. Maxil had merely 'chosen' that particular body type from the 'wardrobe'.

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Ross 3 years, 11 months ago

In Logopolis and Androzani, companions flash before the Doctor's eyes, but we don't complain that these regenerations are excessive or indulgent compared to what Hartnell, Troughton, and Pertwee got, do we? Davies just takes that conceit and dramatizes it. And, I dunno, the "other Doctors didn't get it" argument doesn't really fly with me, as if anything new or original is somehow inappropriate;

Yeah, this. It's very hard for me to not read the complaints about Ten's regeneration as whiney "Rar! Change bad!" of the same kind as the amazing chetnut "Real True Fans didn't NEED to see (visual effect sequence), we could just use our IMAGINATION! RTD is dumbing it down!" or "Rar! How dare RTD have the Doctor fall in love with Rose! She's just a chav! Who does he think he is making her out to be more important than Jo Grant or Dodo!"

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Daibhid C 3 years, 11 months ago

I find it difficult to reconcile the person who threw someone into a Black Hole, or imprisoned a child in a mirror, with the person who offered the hand of salvation to Davros as the Dalek Crucible disintegrated.

To be fair, the meat of the episode is that he's gone to quite preposterous lengths to avoid doing those things, although it's not clear why he couldn't just, you know, not do them.

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Ross 3 years, 11 months ago

She committed suicide because The Doctor didn't save her with the proper attitude?

Something slightly to the left of that and to the right of "she killed herself to preserve the laws of time".

She killed herself to avoid being "the thing the Doctor did that set himself above the laws of time". Neither exactly to spite him nor exactly to undo what he did, but to stop being this thing that justifies his going all Time Lord Victorious. Every additional moment of life she lives due to the Doctor's interference isn't just a violation of the laws of time, it's continuing proof that he was right to do so. That's what she couldn't avoid without dying: as long as she went on living, she was proving his point for him.

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 11 months ago

Problem is... why the hell is he giving DAVROS a second chance? Seriously? DAVROS? The Hitler of Doctor Who?

I mean... did ANY thought go into that? Jeez...

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 11 months ago

The production team had, though. That's probably key, too. ;-)

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 11 months ago

...except it goes on. For so. LONG. The hallucinating companions goes by a lot quicker, never mind that neither Tom Baker or Davison's regenerations also served as their producers' leaving.

RTD's was just... self-indulgent. Masturbatory, if one wants to go there. "The Fapping of the Worm", indeed.

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Froborr 3 years, 11 months ago

Who commits suicide to prove a philosophical point?

The only motivation I could ever figure out for her that makes sense is survivor's guilt, but there's not really anything in the text to suggest it. Ultimately, I have to agree with Spacewarp on this one; she killed herself because bad writing.

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Froborr 3 years, 11 months ago

Exactly what Matthew Blanchette said. The problem with the long goodbye is that it just goes on... and on... and it's just a long parade of empty continuity references masquerading as catharsis. "Hmm, how do we squeeze Mickey in there? Oh, I know, he's black, Martha's black, pair them up!" I mean, seriously, Alonzo?

And don't even get me started on those awful last words. "Hmm, lots of fans upset about the coming change in Doctor and creative team. How can I most effectively poison the well for the new team?"

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Froborr 3 years, 11 months ago

I'd have done it.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 11 months ago

Once he stops giving people second chances it's a hop, skip and a jump to killing as a preventative measure. I mean they aren't going to give him any choice anyways. He's just saving lives...

And once he starts upon that path, is he even the Doctor anymore?

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Adam Riggio 3 years, 11 months ago

As I suspected once we got to the new series that damn near everyone has seen 56 times, by the time I get around to commenting, I'm well-buried in the field. Still, I'll talk.

See, my biggest problem with The Christmas Invasion is with those forty minutes before the Doctor shows up in full. This isn't because the Doctor isn't there. The scenes of Rose, Mickey, and Jackie connecting again and working out where they stand in relation to this mysterious new Doctor sick in bed are wonderful. The problem is that when the actual invasion starts, they have no idea what to do themselves. With Jackie, this is understandable, as she hasn't really had much experience in adventuring yet (her greatest moments are in Love and Monsters, and we'll get there). But Rose and Mickey should know better, Rose especially.

Yet all Rose can do is cry and hide, then cry some more, and hide. I watch The Christmas Invasion and I wonder where that kickass girl in the Eccleston season went, and how she transitioned so quickly to an impotent, blubbering whelp. Even in the Pudsey Cutaway scene, she displayed more chutzpah than she displays here. I find it painful to watch Billie play this character as if she just breaks down into impotent crying without her man/father/boss.

Harriet Jones fares even worse. Even with the combined resources of UNIT and the secret Torchwood, her reaction to the invasion is total impotence. No scheming, no investigation, no attempt to overcome her first defeat at the hands of the Sycorax. I mean, her loss of the public trust I don't think comes from the effects of the Doctor's "Don't you think she looks tired?" line as much as it would from appearing on BBC1 begging for some dude named The Doctor who no one has ever heard of to come and fight the aliens. It's sort of presented extra-diegetically, as if she's asking us, the viewers, rhetorically, when the Doctor is going to show up. But Rose is clearly watching this speech as a broadcast in her diegetic frame. So diegetically, Harriet looks like she's cracking up on national television. That alone would encourage a backlash.

This just comes from my own perspective as a viewer, but I can't stand this middle 20 minutes of the story. It's as though I'm watching all the character development of the core supporting cast of the last season disappear as they all become useless impotents without their precious Doctor to come kick ass for them.

I mean, yes, Earth has its designated chief defender in the Doctor, but it's as if no one else can even summon the energy or the courage to bung a rock at the bad guys.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 11 months ago

I believe that these gentlemen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMiFTRp1f60

Did so. To some people the philosophical and ethical underpinnings of their lives are more important than life itself. To live badly is a worse sin than to die well to some schools of thought. And the Doctor just went on and on and on about how the laws of time were his to command... do you want to live in a universe where a terrible warrior can drop out of the sky and rewrite any and all of your history because he feels it's appropriate?

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Froborr 3 years, 11 months ago

To some people the philosophical and ethical underpinnings of their lives are more important than life itself.

Adelaide did not strike me as a fanatic.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 11 months ago

A Couple Things (SPOILERS):

The Long Goodbye gets me every time. It's sentimental and over the top...but still it gets me. The idea that when you're dying you can do one last thing to help those that you love...it's a beautiful one. Also the thing is that it's a reward...as terrible as the Doctor is sometimes he does a lot of good for a lot of people. And he deserves some succor. How bitter is the regeneration of the Sixth doctor? Or Seventh? Doesn't this wonderful man deserve better?

Also that scene is an important for Mickey's arc from kind of shitty boyfriend to Hero. He marries Martha and directs her so she's not out there wandering around like a loose nuke. This is the woman who would blow up the Earth rather than give it to the Daleks. He jumps on that grenade keeping Earth (and men in particular) safe.

Also the Regeneration doesn't follow from the course of events assuming that the normal story logical of Doctor Who is in place. But it's a Narrative collapse story (like all of RTD's finales) and that means the normal rules have gone out in the bin. The laws of the show are in jeopardy and the Doctor manages to restore them...but like every collapse story since The Chase there is a cost. There, Ian and Barbara left. Here, the Doctor himself leaves. Seems well in keeping with tradition considering the fact that the only Regeneration story that really HAS to end in a Regeneration is "The War Games".

Also are we really going to critique the scientific apparatus' as seen on Doctor Who? Really?

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Ross 3 years, 11 months ago

Following on from the Dalek and Parting articles, the whole of Season Four-and-a-Half has been leading to this collapse: What happens if we excise the Eastenders and go back to being a Big Flashy Science Fictiony Adventure with the Swashbuckling Time Lord Victorious as our hero, go back to being a show where companions are nothing more than disposable foils there to twist their ankles and say "What is it, Doctor?"? Well, you get the time lords back, you get the Master back -- heck, you get UNIT back and the Cybermen back, maybe even a hint of getting the Ice Warriors back, and you get high-stakes adventure with all of corporeal existence at stake....

And all you have to do is let this old man die.

So in the end, the Doctor -- though he is fittingly tempted by this -- says no, we're not going to be a show where the side characters are just disposable archetypes like "Loveable old man who shows his great nobility by sacrificing himself to save the hero", and where the companions -- and even the Doctors, really, are summarily dismissed when their actors' contracts run out and then never seen or spoken of again; in the end, we get this little montage with the "Children of Time" (Are the kids okay?) because in the end, the Doctor's choice isn't just to save Wilf: it's to keep being a show about characters

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Froborr 3 years, 11 months ago

Also that scene is an important for Mickey's arc from kind of shitty boyfriend to Hero. He marries Martha and directs her so she's not out there wandering around like a loose nuke. This is the woman who would blow up the Earth rather than give it to the Daleks. He jumps on that grenade keeping Earth (and men in particular) safe.

Are you kidding? That's even worse than assuming it's a race thing! Seriously, step back and think about what you're saying: Martha is an out-of-control woman who needs her husband to keep her in line? Your premise is nonsense, for starters--she was ORDERED to use Ostrahagan if necessary, her problem is that she's listening to orders instead of her conscience, just as with the Doctor's instructions in "Human Nature." More to the point, though, the idea that any woman needs a husband to control her is ridiculously offensive. I don't even know what to make of your last sentence in this paragraph--as near as I can tell you're saying that (a) Martha needs to marry someone, because apparently it's 1880 and an unmarried woman is abhorrent, (b) No one could ever possibly want to marry her because... beautiful, intelligent, strongwilled women are unattractive? No, I completely don't get that one. And (c) Mickey is sacrificing himself for the good of other men by marrying her. Wow. That's just utterly repulsive.

The entire arc of the specials season is the Ten has been carried away by his hubris and become a monster. So no, he doesn't deserve better; his death is (for all that it doesn't work as one in-story) thematically a punishment, so the reward is out-of-place.

The idea that when you're dying you can do one last thing to help those that you love...it's a beautiful one.

It's also a lie so blatant as to be insulting. Death isn't the final chapter of a story well-told. It's a door slammed in your face. It's all the "one last things" you will never get to do. To depict it otherwise is offensive not just to the memory of the Doctors that went before, but to the memory of everyone who has ever died. Who is the Doctor, that he gets the only thing no one else ever does, to finish?

@Ross: That's my favorite interpretation of the specials season I've ever heard. I love it, and I'm going to use it from now on.

Still doesn't save the long goodbye, though. If they'd done the montage without the Doctor in it, okay, fine; by having him travel around to visit them it surpasses sentimental (which, look, I've written in the neighborhood of 100,000 words about My Little Pony in the last eight months or so, clearly I do not have a problem with sentimentality) and hits glurge.

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Froborr 3 years, 11 months ago

Has anybody else noticed that all of a sudden, the minute we started Nu Who, comment threads started being as much or more about future episodes as the one we're actually ostensibly discussing? Although I didn't comment much at all in the Classic Series or Wilderness Years, I did read a lot of comments, and while people would occasionally mention future episodes in passing, in general you only got debate about an episode on that episode's article.

Interesting, no? What's different about the New Series that causes this? Is it because it's more recent so these arguments are fresher? Or is it because it's slightly more serial (ironically, given the format change) than the Classic Series?

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Froborr 3 years, 11 months ago

I mean, yes, Earth has its designated chief defender in the Doctor, but it's as if no one else can even summon the energy or the courage to bung a rock at the bad guys.

But isn't that basically the theme of the season? Torchwood is all about Britain trying to create its own defenders. Then you've got LINDA, which is basically a parody of Torchwood. And I'm pretty sure there's a third example which I'm just straight-up forgetting.

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Froborr 3 years, 11 months ago

@Theonlyspiral: Exactly. The only ethical system in which killing Davros makes sense is utilitarianism, and the Doctor is clearly no utilitarian. "Have I the right?" is an inherently deontological question. (Which is not to say that he's necessarily a deontologist just because he asked it; he most likely employs a blend of multiple meta-ethics, as most people do.)

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Froborr 3 years, 11 months ago

Also, this episode contains the worst moment in all of Doctor Who: The Christmas tree scene. Not because the Christmas tree is silly, or because it's inexplicable why the pilotfish would have such a thing, or even because it's ridiculous that it doesn't start attacking until they notice it makes no sense. Nope, all of that is fine and honestly kind of funny.

What makes it the worst moment in all of Doctor Who is the few seconds of "Jingle Bells" that plays. If something contains "Jingle Bells," then "Jingle Bells" is the worst part of that thing. I could be burning alive while "Jingle Bells" plays, and "Jingle Bells" would still be the worst part of the experience.

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David Anderson 3 years, 11 months ago

I think it is because the arcs mean that stories are much easier to view in the light of previous stories. Also, the box set format means that you're much more likely to have recently viewed the episodes in something like the broadcast order rather than some function of perceived episode quality and release date.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 11 months ago

My response was meant tongue in cheek. Well the middle paragraph. It was sexist and I cop to that. I did not mean offense...that being said this wouldn't be the internet if I didn't rise to the challenge.

I want to start by saying that Martha as shown during her tenure with the Doctor is just fine. A little bland but fine. It's after she leaves that she goes off the reservation.

Part of journeying with the Doctor is the fact that there is a BETTER WAY. There is a better way to live. A better way to treat people. A better way to be. Rose becomes the BadWolf, a creator Goddess. Jack becomes a Doctor-esque figure in his own right. Mickey becomes a world hopping hero. Donna becomes basically a Timelord, Amy becomes an author, Sarah Jane an investigative journalist, Jo Grant an activist with a cause, Ace becomes any one of a different kind of Hero depending on Cannon.

What does it make Martha though? A soldier. A Gun-For-Hire. She goes from someone who was supposed to SAVE lives to toting an assault rifle and getting in gunfights with Sontaarans. Martha follows her orders with no regard as to if it's the RIGHT thing to do. I could draw the obvious parallel of someone in Germany following orders and getting untold numbers of people dead, but why Godwin this? She doesn't need a man to keep her in line, but the world needs someone to keep us safe from that "Doctor". Martha's tenure on the show is about chasing a Man...With the Doctor, with Tom Milligan, or Mickey she is continually framed in this sense. That might be a problem with the writing of the character, but it's certainly in the text.

I might want someone to be with a person who is beautiful, intelligent, and strongwilled...but it's not Martha. Martha isn't bad to look at (so we'll call her beautiful). In terms of intelligence she never struck me as particularly clever. She has moments but she also spends time in Human Nature screaming that she doesn't know what to do because she didn't get the right instructions. She never seems like much of a Doctor (exception being Daleks in Manhatten. Full props there.) and to top it all off SHE THINKS THAT BUTCHERING THE ENTIRETY OF THE HUMAN RACE IS A VIABLE CHOICE. Someone who is willing to do that, who is prepared to pull the trigger on 7 Billion Lives, on all the future people (That she's met lets remember) and all of human history and accomplishment. That is a dangerous human being.

Now in terms of the rest of your response now I'm done ranting about Martha.

The Doctor as a whole deserves better. The entirety of his 900-1100 years weighed against his actions in the specials? Yeah I'd say he does deserve better. As arrogant and careless as he gets, he by no means deserves being refused a last goodbye.

No we don't get last goodbyes. We don't always get to reassure our loved ones that it's going to be OK. But in a just world we would. In a just world my Father wouldn't walk into the hospital less than two minutes after the deaths of a Grandparent (happened twice!) and be cost the chance to say goodbye. Life is nasty, brutish and short. But sometimes it isn't. Sometimes a stranger helps you carry your shopping up the stairs. Sometimes someone helps you for no reason other than it's the right thing to do. Sometimes Virtue is rewarded. The Doctor makes a virtuous choice by saving Wilf. And he is Rewarded. Who is he? He's the man who fights and dies for us. The man who suffers and watches his friends die and leave him time and time again.

That man? HE deserves a chance to say goodbye.

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Ununnilium 3 years, 11 months ago

The thing is, I could see her making that decision later on, after she'd stopped to think about it. But in the heat of having just been saved from horrible zombification and explody space death?

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Ununnilium 3 years, 11 months ago

Yeah, that's the thing - he's not doing these things out of sadism. He's doing them because he knows - or thinks he knows - that that's what's necessary to stop the Family of Blood.

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Ununnilium 3 years, 11 months ago

I think the idea of the tour was a good idea but that it did go on too long.

Woo!

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Anton B 3 years, 11 months ago

I've just re -watched 'The End of Time parts 1&2 for the first time since its initial broadcast. It actually wasn't as bad as I remembered.

On a side note one of the DVD extras covers the 2009 San Diego ComicCon. If you want to see Tennant showboating give that a look. The man's so on fire with his own ego he can hardly keep still. He also officially announces his return in the 50th anniversary special. How did we miss that?

Back to The End of Time - I remember people getting quite het-up about the Master being revived using 'potions' and what looks like Harry Potter magic. In the light of the TARDIS library's liquid encyclopaedias and multiple 'OMG they killed Rory/Clara' returns I think we got off lightly.

RTD takes his 'Doctor as Jesus' to the max with choir boys and The TARDIS on a stained glass window. I know he meant the 'Woman' to be read as the Doctor's mother but what was he aiming for there? Also Rassilon mentions that the two dissenters in the High Council (including Doctor's mum) will be 'Weeping Angels' and they do indeed adopt the eye covering pose. I think Moffat's missed a trick here. The Angels as fallen Time Lords.

Perhaps we should keep the close reading for when Phil gets here but apart from the two cactus people and the jokey multiple Master gag it really isn't too bad, Grand Tour and all.

Oh and Theonlyspiral - I would stop digging mate.

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Anton B 3 years, 11 months ago

'And I'm pretty sure there's a third example which I'm just straight-up forgetting.'

Sarah Jane, Mr Smith and the kids?

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Anton B 3 years, 11 months ago

Yeah guilty. Interesting observation. I think it's because Nu-Who encourages overview with its season long story arcs and character journey beats.

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Anton B 3 years, 11 months ago

Also - bah humbug! ;)

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Spacewarp 3 years, 11 months ago

@Froborr

"Ultimately, I have to agree with Spacewarp on this one; she killed herself because bad writing."

To be fair to Davies (and yes I know I'm going to mention "The Writer's Tale" again), he doesn't arrive at these solutions lightly, or lazily (a common mis-accusation from fandom). He is often fighting against punishing deadlines (although of his own making, as he procrastinates so much when writing), and has to choose between the perfect solution (which he often can't find) and a solution that just about works...so long as you don't analyze it too closely.

"Waters of Mars" is a good example of this process at work. He wants to end on a note that shows the consequences of the Doctor's actions, and leaves the audience aghast. To do this the Doctor has to save the crew (otherwise the whole episode would be pointless), but he also has to have a tragedy that is directly caused by his attempt to save the crew...not by his own mercy, but by his arrogance.

The final exchange between Adelaide and the Doctor is the heart of the episode, in which she questions his motives and he utterly refuses to listen to her. Ultimately she has to win the argument, and the Doctor has to realise how wrong he was, but there's no way to do it other than with her suicide.

RTD wrote a perfect story, but unavoidably painted himself into a corner, of which the only way out was dramatically satisfying, but emotionally not. Adelaide as a character would so have done this, but Adelaide as a human being wouldn't. And this is because Drama and Life aren't the same thing. They reflect each-other, and sometimes mirror each-other, but ultimately they're different. Ironically RTD is one of the best writers at making Drama that is closest to Life...except when he's writing Doctor Who.

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Spacewarp 3 years, 11 months ago

But it's not necessary. It's explained that they have a short life-span so all he has to do is wait them out. So extending their lives infinitely so he can punish them for ever is a bit over the top.

Because (reiterating what I say in an early comment above about Drama vs Life) dramatically it's fantastically satisfying (the Power of the Doctor! Wow! He's so cool!), but realistically who would ever do that?

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Froborr 3 years, 11 months ago

Yes! Sarah Jane!

So yeah... this episode sets up the problem, and Torchwood, LINDA (sort of, in a comedic way), and Sarah Jane are all proposed solutions. Then in the finale it tears down the idea that humans can defend themselves without either the Doctor's direct help, or his indirect help in the form of former companions.

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Spoilers Below 3 years, 11 months ago

Alright, alright. Try this one on for size, then? :)

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4014/4473000835_8b2048c5cb_b.jpg

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Ununnilium 3 years, 11 months ago

Oh, yes, I like that one.

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othemts 3 years, 11 months ago

I was confused by the reference to Simon Cowell because I was thinking it was referring to Simon Callow who played Dickens in The Unquiet Dead. It's good to know that the talented actor is not also slumming it as a bully cranking out pop hits.

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Galadriel 3 years, 11 months ago

Under Tennant, one of Doctor Who’s fundamental pleasures is supposed to be watching David Tennant. The star is himself the object of pleasure.

This risks an almost Cowellian cynicism. Tennant is designed to be loved, so much so that the story gives us no choice but to love him.

THIS! I began watching with the Eleventh Doctor and went back through NuWho, and am currently three stories from finishing ALL of Classic Who, and I think this sentence pins down why Ten slips further down my list of favorites the more I see of him.
In season three, we are also asked to sympathize with him for his loss of Rose and accept his treatment of Martha because, hey, he's the hero, he's lost his girl...but I still find it immensely annoying. Even in season two--between the uneven story quality and the character interactions, I have not yet rewatched much of season two (with the exception of School Reunion)

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Nicholas Tosoni 3 years, 10 months ago

One thing I missed: The Doc was making such a damned big deal about how Adelaide was supposed to die and inspire her children to do such GREAT THINGS, that when he finally gives in and saves her, it strikes a sour note for her.

Also consider: she died on Earth...she killed herself on Earth, in her own home. That right there is the #1 game changer for the timeline.

Had he instead gone a little more low-key throughout the episode, and just let things play out, he could have saved her with minimal fuss, and she could have told such extraordinary stories, thereby instilling curiosity into her children.

But...instead, all they get is a nasty surprise waiting for them when they wake up the next morning.

Time travel is a strange business...Got to think of how all the pieces fit together, instead of "fixed points/not fixed points."

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