Time Can Be Rewritten Final: The Day of the Doctor

(171 comments)

Which makes it all the stranger that he doesn’t.

Even before time was rewritten, of course, this was true. Davies deliberately inserts a gap between The Waters of Mars and The End of Time, even opting to develop the running Queen Elizabeth I joke within it. In this regard, The Day of the Doctor slots in with precision, just as it does with The End of Time, which it goes out of its way to make sure it still fits in with. So much so that Tumblr became an entertaining place in the immediate wake of The Day of the Doctor, as scads of people cried foul about how it contradicted the Davies era only to have scads of people point out all of the tiny little things that Moffat did to actively and meticulously match the Davies era. 

As with many fan debates on Tumblr, the immediate fallout of The Day of the Doctor had no shortage of straw men, with people angrily reacting against points that never actually got made. (See also the “legions” of fans who aren’t going to watch Peter Capaldi because he’s old and unattractive.) Still, there’s an interesting fault line that opens up in the question of just how much of a retcon The Day of the Doctor is - one that is revealing in terms of the sorts of details that each argument prioritizes. 

For one entirely sensible camp, The Day of the Doctor is a retcon only in an additive sense. It simply says “and here’s a bunch of stuff you didn’t know was happening” while playing very actively within the lines of what has gone before. What jumps out here is not the addition of an entirely new incarnation of the Doctor and the wholesale reversal of the end of the Time War, but rather on the numerous conscious nods to the series’ past inserted throughout the episode. So when the Time Lords declare that the High Council’s plans have already failed, this is notable precisely because it checks the box of “how does this fit in with The End of Time,” just as the decision to declare that Arcadia is a Gallifreyan city nicely nods at Doomsday

For another entirely sensible, The Day of the Doctor is a massive retcon because of how drastically it shifts the nature of the Time War from an abstract conflict of horrors in the vein of Faction Paradox’s Book of the War to being, basically, a Star Wars movie. Perhaps more significant is the nature of the Doctor’s ultimate weapon. In a Time War, a weapon called the Moment sings of strange and uncanny power. The sense is that the Doctor does not possess a weapon in a conventional sense, but a piece of time itself. Instead we find out that he has a bomb that can wipe out a galaxy and that happens to project an avatar of Billie Piper on the side. The question isn’t, in other words, whether you nod at all the details, but whether you nod at the substance of what the original stories were saying. The Day of the Doctor may line up perfectly with all of the words of the Russell T Davies era, but if anyone thinks David Tennant was playing the Doctor with the idea that he’d been John Hurt during the Time War they’re barking mad. Indeed, the whole “regeneration I don’t talk about” line of thought falters in the face of Tennant’s Doctor, who seems to never tire of talking about all the awful things he did in the Time War. Sure, the words line up, but only if you take them out of context, which, to be fair, is exactly what The Day of the Doctor does with its continuity references. (See also Mike Yates and Sara Kingdom, where the entire joke is the violence dealt to the original context.)

This gets at another argument over exactly how The Day of the Doctor does or does not retcon the past. Again, in its zeal for matching up with the textual iconography of the past, The Day of the Doctor takes care to not actually require you to watch any previous story differently. So much so that it picks up the “past incarnations don’t remember multi-Doctor stories” idea in order to make sure that for every story prior to The Day of the Doctor the Doctor mistakenly believes himself to have destroyed Gallifrey. On the one hand, this changes very little - it actually isn’t until The Day of the Doctor that the Doctor comes up with an alternative; note that it is very specifically the Eleventh Doctor, inspired by Clara, who finally thinks to do something other than push the button. In this one case the commitment to a fealty of quotation becomes a larger fealty of narrative coherence. Eccleston and Tennant’s Doctors - indeed, even Smith’s Doctor up to his penultimate story - are Doctors who failed to come up with a better way there could have been, and so owes penance until they do. There’s a curious honesty to this retcon - until the Doctor comes up with a way to rewrite time, he doesn’t get to reap the benefits of his new story.

Or, as the other argument goes, a host of classic Davies stories are now “not real” because the angst is over a fictional event. At this point it becomes difficult to sustain a tension I was at least attempting to for several paragraphs, which is to pretend that I’m at all neutral in these debates. Because, of course, the angst over the Time War was always angst over a fictional event. Or, perhaps more accurately, it was always angst about a real event, namely Doctor Who’s cancellation. Not for nothing does the concept come roaring back as a metaphor for navigating the gap between the Davies era and the Moffat era - that is to say, the point where Doctor Who stops being “that old show Russell T Davies dusted off and made into a hit” and where it starts having to stand on its own as a franchise that exists completely independently of any major creative figures involved in its (re)creation. 

Fundamentally, the Time War stops being useful to the series at the precise moment that Doctor Who no longer has to be bound up in the trauma of its cancellation. This is the real message of Day of the Doctor and, subsequently, Time of the Doctor - an energetic two-fingered salute to the world on the part of a series finally owning up to the fact that it’s here to stay. Tempting fate? Perhaps, but the fact of the matter is that no matter how high the Tumblr hashtags stack up, Moffat’s Doctor Who is reliably popular. The only thing that’s changed since 2009 is the media in which fandom’s sound and fury is contained. And so the idea that stories are rendered unreal by later stories they could not possibly have responded to anyway is fundamentally ludicrous. All you have to do to watch The End of Time unmolested by its retcons is to remember that The End of Time aired in 2009, which, frankly, if you’re not doing, you’re probably doing a fairly shit job of watching The End of Time to begin with. The End of Time is a program that is aware that it could come crashing down at any moment, and The Day of the Doctor is a program that is convinced it’s not going anywhere. Unsurprisingly, they have differing views of the traumatic break with the series’ past that the Time War represents.

Similarly, it is impossible for me not to look at the textual continuity of quoting lines from The End of Time as what we might call the game of writing Doctor Who, and to contrast it sharply with the substantive continuity of what sort of war the Time War actually is. Both are key elements of the text, but even a cursory reading of the blog’s past will note that I’ve always been more interested in the substance of past stories - in the context that gets erased by future stories simply because future stories do not actually belong to the televisual event that a Doctor Who story actually is. Not for nothing does every entry begin with a variation on the same sentence. The textual game is all well and good, but it is a game played out over the larger narrative.

So in effect, the nature of the retcon comes down to the nature of four years passing. For The End of Time, the Time War is the last time that Doctor Who got cancelled. The Eccleston-Tennant regeneration was carefully not presented as a cancellation, but rather as one more unexpected trick that the series could pull, situated in a season that had been all about presenting an ever-evolving definition of what Doctor Who was in a sort of televisual Steve Jobs style such that each episode trailed off (literally) with “oh, and one more thing.” Here, however, Doctor Who is getting cancelled and being replaced by a series that is confusingly called Doctor Who, but which is unmistakably an entirely new approach. (Remember the whole “is it Season Five or Season One” controversy from 2010? No, it’s fine, nobody else does either, but it happened.) So the Time War gets brought back because it’s a symbol of the last time this happened. It has to be encountered and then rejected in favor of the belief that there is in fact a continuity between these two series.

But The Day of the Doctor has a different problem - celebrating fifty years of Doctor Who in its thirty-third season. For The Day of the Doctor the Time War is not an anxiety - something that could happen again at any moment - but rather a wound to be healed. “Be a Doctor,” Clara insists, and so he is, diagnosing and remedying his own textual scars, suturing in John Hurt so as to symbolically remove the existence of the gap. It would be more surprising if the two takes on the Time War did match up.

But what is truly extraordinary is that we are now about 1700 words into a post about a story inserted into the gap between The Waters of Mars and The End of Time, and yet we haven’t actually commented on The Waters of Mars at all. This is, notably, because there is nothing whatsoever in The Day of the Doctor that references The Waters of Mars. Which is more than a little surprising, given how The Waters of Mars resolves. Consider The End of Time one last time; after some portentous Timothy Dalton narration and a bit about Wilf that serves as a cold open, the post-credits episode begins with the Doctor stepping out onto the Ood Sphere as instructed, his affect and dress consciously inappropriate. There may be a gap inserted with a joke about deflowering Elizabeth I, but the story still treats the ending of The Waters of Mars, with its supreme triumph of hubris, as a textual phenomenon that must be engaged with.

So let’s recap for a moment, lest the problem here be too subtle. Tennant’s Doctor, in this story, has just come off of The Waters of Mars where his hubris and arrogance have seemingly damned him. Specifically, he’s just arrogantly decided that he has the right as the Time Lord Victorious to rewrite history at will and without serious thought, and this arrogance has caused him to have to confront an omen of the imminence of his own death. In particular, recall the reason given in The Fires of Pompeii for why you can’t alter a fixed point in time - because if you could, the Doctor could go and change the end of the Time War. So what does he do in the only story explicitly situated between The Waters of Mars and The End of Time? He pilots his TARDIS into the Time War and changes the ending. On the surface, at least, it is difficult to come up with a less plausible or sensible answer to that question. 

This is, of course, the point. Thus far we’ve found no particular grounds for tension between the Moffat and Davies eras. There’s a retcon, sure, but no sharper than the ones Davies applied to his own era. But here we have an utterly irreconcilable issue. Davies wants the Doctor to be damned by arrogantly meddling with history at the exact same point in the narrative that Moffat wants to have the Doctor pull off the most brazen bit of meddling he’s ever done, casually rewriting the entire history of the show to be a long con building up to the thirteen-Doctor rescue of Gallifrey. 

It is difficult, if not outright impossible, to read this as anything other than a rejection of some of the essential storytelling premises of the Russell T Davies era of Doctor Who. As the Davies era calmly goes out in a blur of epic darkness that suggests the underlying pessimism that Davies has always held about the world, the Moffat era asserts a viewpoint of the world that is fundamentally more moral. I do not mean, to be clear, more ethical; that is to say, this is not a statement about the comparative moral rightness of the two eras. Rather it is to say that Moffat writes Doctor Who with a world that believes unerringly in “the right thing to do,” whereas Davies writes Doctor Who with a world where there are no right answers and where if humanity survives into the future it will be through the fundamental dissolution of the singular concept of “human nature” and its replacement with the idea of “humanity” as a thing that just spreads out across the stars, dancing freely with other species. (Note that the hopeful future augured by The Waters of Mars explicitly includes the inter-special marriage of one of Adelaide’s descendants.) 

But for Moffat, there are just things you don’t do. Moffat has said in interviews that the resolution of the Time War always stuck in his craw a bit for the simple fact that, in his view, the Doctor wouldn’t do that. In his view, Doctor Who’s ability to evade any narrative collapse by cheating the rules must include preventing the Doctor from making a decision as terrible as the decision to commit a double genocide. But this constitutes an explicit reversal of The Waters of Mars. For Davies, the Doctor sadly trudging away from Bowie Base One as everyone dies is the correct action, because for Davies the Doctor is never better than when he’s a tragic figure. He can cheat death, but only by losing something else. For Moffat, however, the idea that the Doctor going back and saving the last three people would be treated as a moral wrong is simply unthinkable. If, in Moffat’s view, the Doctor wouldn’t commit the double genocide, he wouldn’t walk away from Adelaide either. The entire moral structure of The Waters of Mars becomes untenable within Moffat’s worldview, and we see it unravel completely in his invocation of the Tennant era.


If we wanted to be uncharitable to Moffat we could suggest that this is because if there is one thing Moffat is utterly unconcerned with, it is the possibility of hubris. But this is not our only option. Another way of phrasing it is that for Moffat, the point of the exercise is to retell the story until you like it. Time can be rewritten, which means that the past is there to be revised into perfection. For Davies, our only hope of salvation comes through a sort of ego-destroying hedonism - the embrace of life in all its fragile glory, with the knowledge that embracing this involves a near-total rejection of the actual social order. For Moffat, however, salvation is an altogether stranger thing - something that is accessible at any given moment, but only through the rewriting and honing of one’s self to where one becomes a teleological narrative force. And so Moffat, at last, makes the Doctor into the Time Lord Victorious, and then has him walk away unscathed into the future. 

Comments

Scott 2 years, 11 months ago

Moffat's era can be easily read as his oft-stated belief that Doctor Who doesn't have a canon and that continuity errors can be explained as the Doctor rewriting his own timeline and the universe changing as a result of his actions being put into action -- whereas for previous eras this is an attempt to explain and reconcile gaps and inconsistencies made by different production teams who were less focussed on getting the details straight, Moffat makes it explicitly part of the story. In essence, the Doctor rewriting time so that he didn't destroy Gallifrey is little different to Zarroff, the Daemons and the Chronovore destroying three different versions of Atlantis -- the only difference is, with Moffat, we actually get to see how time changes and the inconsistencies happen.

(Without wanting to preempt or step on toes, see also: the end of "The Time of the Doctor".)

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J Mairs 2 years, 11 months ago

"For Moffat, however, the idea that the Doctor going back and saving the last three people would be treated as a moral wrong is simply unthinkable. If, in Moffat’s view, the Doctor wouldn’t commit the double genocide, he wouldn’t walk away from Adelaide either."

Blogger kept eating my long words on Monday - but this, in a nutshell, is probably why I don't like Waters of Mars. It was the one Tennant story I missed on airing, and I recorded it just before Christmas with the intention of watching after Time of the Doctor...

I knew the story, of course. But try as I may, I just couldn't appreciate it in it's original context, and I can't tell if I would have had the same response back in 2009... but the Doctor - my Doctor - would never walk away to preserve some arbitary rule as he does.

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Lewis Christian 2 years, 11 months ago

Unexpected post! An interesting read, given the context of "in the Mars-Ood Sphere" gap.

Moffat just can't stand scenarios that aren't "everybody lives".

I'm sure I'll have more to say when we reach the Eleventh Doctor's POV of The Day of the Doctor, but for now all I'll say is that it doesn't really stack up for me and I wish Russell had gone ahead with his Time Lords/Dalek story as Ten's finale and I wish Russell had (if he ever planned to) brought the Time Lords back himself. Would've liked Moffat to then do his own anniversary story, and not just rewrite a Russell one.

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J Mairs 2 years, 11 months ago

"and we see it unravel completely in his invocation of the Tennant era."

Also interesting is how Moffat makes Tennant's Doctor work outside of the supporting apparatus of his error: his bombastic ranting is directed at a rabbit, he's clueless when it comes to women, and he goes off several times on a rambling tangent...

And then it always surprises me how people [read: Tumblr] hate how Moffat characterises the Eleventh Doctor, but think he got the Tenth spot on!

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David Anderson 2 years, 11 months ago

Indeed. Tennant's solo contributions to the plot are: he mistakes Elizabeth I for a zygon; he mistakes a rabbit for a zygon; he mistakes Elizabeth I for a zygon again. It's pretty deflating as a comment on where Tennant's Doctor is at this point in the series.

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Ross 2 years, 11 months ago

It utterly amazes me that you can grant virually every problem I had with this story, and yet walk away not saying "Well, that's my entire life wasted. I hate Doctor Who now."

("It's a bomb that can blow up an entire galaxy. We never used it because its control mechanism is sentient and can guilt-trip you into not using it. Also it can open up time rifts that allow safe passage in and out of impenetrable time locks. Upon reflection, these seem like really stupid features to include on a bomb whose only job is to blow up galaxies. I think Rassilon was drunk at the requirements meeting")

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Lewis Christian 2 years, 11 months ago

Does Moffat cheekily skirt around the "good Queen Bess/virgin Queen" joke too?

10: Oh, good work, Doctor. Nice one. The Virgin Queen? So much for history.

He says this just after the reveal of the Zygon duplicate and the 'proposal'. Then, later on, the two get married. But after that, 10 is split off from that subplot and they head into the UNIT/Time War stuff - by the end of the story, we assume 10 heads off to the Ood Sphere or for more adventures but it's weird to think about this in a sense because he's gunna forget this adventure when he gets into his TARDIS and dematerialises. So where does he go after Day, and what does he do? Since he's forgotten the Time Warry stuff, I presume he heads back to his 'adventure' that was interrupted - with the Queen - and they must then surely "get at it"? It's a bit tricky to tally these things up. It works, but it feels odd now we have more of that story.

Not to mention: the War Doctor regenerates as soon as he leaves the museum, and then forgets the events. Matt's Doctor gets a hazy memory but there's no real 'fall-out' he must deal with, whereas 10 must 'snap back' into his '2009 Specials gap' mindset, namely the arrogant prick. It's just weird to join the dots, knowing he has a short period where he isn't the arrogant dick that The Waters of Mars/The End of Time make out.

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Lewis Christian 2 years, 11 months ago

It is all very convenient, but y'know, Steven Moffat.

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

It utterly amazes me that anyone would respond to any episode they don't like of a TV show they love by saying "Well, that's my entire life wasted. I hate Doctor Who now."

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francoise_hardy 2 years, 11 months ago

I never did like the Waters of Mars. It didn't end when I thought it should and set things up for the miserable emotional morass of the End of Time. Not that it was bad TV - it just didn't sit right with the rest of the series to me. However, I wouldn't want it written out of existence either. Theres a place for everything in Doctor Who and that is what I like about it.

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Froborr 2 years, 11 months ago

The bomb can do that because it is Powerful, and Powerful things in Doctor Who are sentient and travel in time. Quit thinking of this as science fiction, it ain't and never was. The bomb is magic; it has the capabilities it does because it signifies the Doctor's greatest and most terrible choice, not because it was rationally designed by engineers to fulfill specific functions.

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Froborr 2 years, 11 months ago

I am mostly in the "who cares about retcons, continuity is meaningless when you have an indestructible time machine" camp, and I agree that this does nothing to distort the viewing of any prior episode. That's absurd; even if you insist on viewing them through the lens of "Gallifrey was never destroyed," the emotional reality is still the same because the Doctor still believes he destroyed it. And excellent points about the Time Lord Victorious and the differing moral approaches between the Davies and Moffat eras (or "errors"--typo, Freudian slip, or deliberate wordplay?). I missed that element entirely because I misunderstood where this episode slots into the Tennant run--I thought it happened during the final self-indulgent "visit all the companions" scene of End of Time, not between Mars and Ood Sphere. But that makes much more sense.

I was in the camp of people fairly adamant that the Time War should never be depicted on-screen because it would inevitably be disappointing. However, I give this episode a pass. As I said in my own review, The Time War, on the other hand, is depicted exactly the way I feared: as a series of explosions and laser beams. But I'm okay with this, because all we actually see is the final battle of a war of attrition that has stretched across all of history. I am willing to accept the beam weapons and fire as the Kardashev IV equivalent of being reduced to throwing sticks and rocks at one another.

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Adam Riggio 2 years, 11 months ago

I remember we had this conversation in the comment threads on Phil's Planet of the Dead post about what went wrong with Steven Moffat's Doctor Who. Phil is very accurate in describing how Moffat conceives of the possibility of moral redemption for a time traveller. It's a very radical idea, and I can understand why it would anger people. I understand it as a further development in non-linear storytelling.

I wrote more about it on my own blog a while ago, but you and I both agree that Phil has it pretty much right. The possibility of time travel, combined with the Doctor's ability to cheat the conventions of the narrative in which he's embedded in a given story, allows a moral redemption to be an ontological redemption — not only are you forgiven and can forgive yourself for terrible acts, but you can erase those terrible acts from having existed, and reforge a better history.

But this leaves you open to the criticism that your story no longer has any narrative stakes, and so no character development: the characters face no consequences for their actions if their pasts can be rewritten. But that interprets all rewritings of history (and Doctor Who's continuity) as a means of ducking ethical culpability. The story of The Day of the Doctor is the culmination of the Doctor's culpability for this terrible act of double-genocide, non-combatants included. The entire previous eight years of Doctor Who were about exploring, establishing, and working through that culpability. Only by having developed from the anger and trauma of Eccleston's Doctor, through the back-and-forth of regret and hubris of Tennant's Doctor, and through Smith's Doctor's redemption through friendship, family, and love (the Ponds, River included) can the Doctor redeem himself morally from the day he became a monster. That arc of character development is preserved — it becomes the Doctor's working through his conscience over having decided to become a monster.

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EclecticDave 2 years, 11 months ago

I've often thought it might make an interesting exercise, when I've nothing better to do, to attempt to describe the entire history of Doctor Who in terms of multiple intersecting time lines.

I have a suspicion that if I bend it enough, I can retcon an explanation for every inconsistency from Atlantis and Mondas, right up to Unit Dating!

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Adam Riggio 2 years, 11 months ago

And here are those posts where I spelled it out in more detail.

Ethical redemption of the series itself: http://adamwriteseverything.blogspot.ca/2013/11/catch-conscience-of-doctor-jamming.html

How time travel that preserves memory of what no longer was ethically redeems the Doctor: http://adamwriteseverything.blogspot.ca/2014/02/when-memory-defines-reality-jamming.html

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Nick 2 years, 11 months ago

My theory is that the Moment never actually was a weapon. Sure, everyone thinks it is, and one so powerful it cannot be used (which is why no one ever tests it) but its real purpose was to bring the Doctors together to find a way out. The way it's described leads me to believe that the propaganda around it was such that only the War Doctor at his absolute lowest ebb of desperation would even think of stealing it and using it, and so whoever created it placed it there for that purpose. We'll probably find out in the 75th anniversary special that it was the 24th Doctor who put it there, but until then I prefer to think it was Compassion who did it.

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Bennett 2 years, 11 months ago

The Moment is never referred to as a 'bomb'. It's only referred to as a weapon. In Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS the idea was seeded that Time Lords can create a "machine that makes machines". That is the power of The Moment, and the reason the Time Lords fear to use it. It generates context-sensitive weapons - be it a time passage, an explosion or a persuasive argument. And as it generates these weapons conscionably, the Time Lords suspect it may create a weapon that would hold both sides of the war to account.


(Also, this consistent complaint about "convenient" plotting in both Davies's and Moffat's Doctor Who confuses me - as though the "plot" is some sort of external force that is meant to inconvenience the writer instead of an internal force that is sculpted to assist in the delivery of adventurous/humorous/heart-felt storytelling.)

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Bennett 2 years, 11 months ago

...and I took so long writing that comment that five others jumped in and made mine superfluous. Go team!

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Bennett 2 years, 11 months ago

It's even easier to get past if you read the visuals of Doctor Who as 'representative' rather than literal. In that sense "the Time War in The Day of the Doctor was just a bunch of laser battles" is as empty a claim as "the maggots in The Green Death are born with thin wires as part of their anatomy".

At least, that was how I read it. But easier isn't always better, and I think I'll go with your "war of attrition" theory from now on.

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Katherine Sas 2 years, 11 months ago

Fascinating elucidation on the ideological differences between the two show-runners. I totally agree that Davies is essentially pessimistic - his Doctor Who (especially the 10th Doctor) is fundamentally a tragedy - whereas Moffat is essential an optimist - his Doctor Who (or at least the 11th Doctor, we'll see where the 12th goes...) is fundamentally a fairy-tale.

However, I think I've figured out why I generally dislike the Moffat vs. Davies polarization in fandom. For me, while these worldviews are opposite, they're not entirely contradictory. You need both. I like the Davies is interested in the inherent darkness and sin which is manifestly evident in the world (and by extension in the Doctor). But I also like that Moffat looks forward to a great, more hopeful view of our ultimate fate (and by extension for the Doctor as well). There is truth in both outlooks, and neither wholly discounts the other. A worldview which didn't to some extent embrace both would be naive or nihilistic, just as a Doctor Who which doesn't embrace both at different points in its history would be much poorer and more complex.

It reminds me of Tolkien's "On Fairy-Stories": That fairy-tales don't deny the possibility (even inevitability) of failure, defeat, and despair (what he called "dyscatastrophe") but rather that they ultimately deny all of these and look towards a more ultimate and fundamental hope of redemption or salvific grace (what he called "eucatastrophe," the good catastrophe, the "happily ever after" which is characteristic of the fairy-tale ending).

Sorry to wax Tolkien, but I can't help feeling how Davies and Moffat's viewpoints are both equally valid, and I'm glad to have both represented in the Doctor Who oeuvre.

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Katherine Sas 2 years, 11 months ago

And by "more complex" I of course meant "less." Sigh.

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Katherine Sas 2 years, 11 months ago

"The story of The Day of the Doctor is the culmination of the Doctor's culpability for this terrible act of double-genocide, non-combatants included. The entire previous eight years of Doctor Who were about exploring, establishing, and working through that culpability. Only by having developed from the anger and trauma of Eccleston's Doctor, through the back-and-forth of regret and hubris of Tennant's Doctor, and through Smith's Doctor's redemption through friendship, family, and love (the Ponds, River included) can the Doctor redeem himself morally from the day he became a monster. That arc of character development is preserved — it becomes the Doctor's working through his conscience over having decided to become a monster."

Yes yes and yes! I said much the same thing in my review, that the Day of the Doctor is a literalization and physicalization of the Doctor's thought process and ultimate redemption over 400 years: http://ravingsanity.wordpress.com/2013/11/26/the-man-who-regrets-and-the-man-who-forgets-the-day-of-the-doctor-review/

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Alex 2 years, 11 months ago

Fittingly, in Genesis of the Daleks (the first shot of the Time War) the Kaleds and Thals are also coming to the end of a war of attrition that has reduced their advanced armies to using simple rifles and landmines. Now, at the end of the Time War, we see the very same thing...

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Katherine Sas 2 years, 11 months ago

I read the silliness with Queen Liz I and the rabbit more positively: That for all his arrogance, the Doctor is still the same old goofy Doctor. The Doctor is never going to be all that villainous. Also, I'm not sure that the bit with the rabbit is just commenting on Tennant's portrayal: Smith's Doctor has had as many blustery, boasting speeches as Tennant's, if not more. Don't you think the comment is on the Doctor rather than a particular incarnation? And it's a playful and humorous comment if anything, not condemning.

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

Here's the thing about Moffat, though. For all that he loves to have "Everybody lives" moments, I think his stories are actually quite aware of death. In The Girl in the Fireplace, he saves Reinette from the clockwork robots, but he doesn't save her from death. The Angels don't kill Cathy - but she's still just as dead as far as Sally is concerned, and the same thing repeats itself later with Amy and Rory. I guess it's a Cross-written scene rather than a Moffat one, but I think that scene in Hide where Clara realizes that, to the Doctor, everyone he knows is already dead, is a key insight into the Moffat vision of the character.

Yes, in Moffat's Who the Doctor normally saves everyone. And yet, in spite of that, everything still comes to an end. All the people he saves still die

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David Anderson 2 years, 11 months ago

Also, the daleks are not Faction Paradox. The daleks may get up to weird convoluted plans when need arises, but it seems to me that 'blast them with ray guns' is always going to be the daleks' strategy of first resort. Why mess with a formula that works?

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Froborr 2 years, 11 months ago

Bennet: Thanks and you're welcome!

Alex: Yuuuuuuuuuuup. ^_^

David Anderson: True, but how to explain that the Gallifreyans are shooting back?

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Froborr 2 years, 11 months ago

So Moffat is the Middle 8, and Davies the rest of the theme? I like it.

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Chicanery 2 years, 11 months ago

Where did this The Moment is a bomb nonsense come from? It's a fourth dimensional conscious weapon, far more than a bomb. If anything, it's closer to a De-Mat gun but on a massive scale. She's a mechanical God, deus ex machina incarnate.

So can we stop with this just a bomb nonsense?

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Theonlyspiral 2 years, 11 months ago

Because when you need to just kill Daleks as efficiently as you can it's hard to beat discharged energy? Also I think the text backs Froborr's interpretation. Doesn't the general and his adviser state that the weapon vaults are empty? All they have left are beam weapons because they've deployed everything else.

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Theonlyspiral 2 years, 11 months ago

The closest it comes to being called a bomb is that it's a Galaxy eater.

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BerserkRL 2 years, 11 months ago

Plus there are all the people who are either a) killed by the crash of the Byzantium, b) killed by the Angels, or c) erased from time in "Time of Angels"/"Flesh and Stone."

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BerserkRL 2 years, 11 months ago

Because, of course, the angst over the Time War was always angst over a fictional event.

Well, but no. The angst over the Time War is the angst over having done something terrible in order to prevent a greater tragedy. It's a moral dilemma that recurs time and again in human experience. The Time War itself is a fictional instance, but it's a fictional instance of a real phenomenon, and the real phenomenon is what it's about.

Or, perhaps more accurately, it was always angst about a real event, namely Doctor Who’s cancellation.

I can't see that. If the makers of Doctor Who had deliberately cancelled it in order to prevent it from causing some great evil, then there would be an analogy. But the cancellation was a decision imposed on them from without, and thus radically different.

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J Mairs 2 years, 11 months ago

"Also, I'm not sure that the bit with the rabbit is just commenting on Tennant's portrayal: Smith's Doctor has had as many blustery, boasting speeches as Tennant's, if not more."

The Eleventh Doctor's speeches are about what he does ("one thing you never put in a trap" and all that); The Tenth Doctor's speeches are about who he is, which is what's being sent-up in that scene.

I wouldn't say it's condemning- but it does serve to create a Tenth Doctor that can function outside of the Tenth Doctor Era... best comparison in Who histroy is probably the "Reunion Special" Second Doctor...

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J Mairs 2 years, 11 months ago

"Plus there are all the people who are either a) killed by the crash of the Byzantium, b) killed by the Angels, or c) erased from time in "Time of Angels"/"Flesh and Stone.""

Not to mention "Asylum of the Dalek" - the largest infant mortality event ever "depicted" in Doctor Who...

"For all that he loves to have "Everybody lives" moments, I think his stories are actually quite aware of death."

Like. I can't help but roll my eyes at some people who think the show would be improved by increasing the fatality count. But then, in the substance of the arguments, I can't help but feel that this is often frock v gun all over again!

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Ross 2 years, 11 months ago

That it is bomb-like is implicit in the fact that its effects are literally indistinguishable from a Dalek Armada shooting each other with their dalek-guns.

If you want to come up with theories about it being something else, that's fine, but don't pretend there's anything silly or unreasonable about assuming in the absence of other evidence that it is a "thing that blows up galaxies".

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jane 2 years, 11 months ago

The Time War isn't the cancellation so much as what happened during those sixteen years -- the war between the de facto creators of Doctor Who.

As to its representing a certain moral dilemma, sure, but for a time-traveler who can theoretically live forever, it's a false dilemma. Furthermore, it's a false dilemma that can be used to perpetuate "the ends justify the means" and all the nasty entailments thereof.

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Bennett 2 years, 11 months ago

Ross: "in the absence of other evidence"

The "effect" of the Moment was never the explosion - that was always the Dalek Armada. It never happened any other way. The Moment's "effect" was The Day of the Doctor. All of it.

The evidence is in every action she took, every word she spoke, in her very name. She was always the Moment of Decision - the conscience, the reason, the hope. That was her effect - to inform the Doctor's decision by showing him the present he dare not face, and the future he needed to see.

I'd like to see a bomb do all that.

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BerserkRL 2 years, 11 months ago

but for a time-traveler who can theoretically live forever, it's a false dilemma.

Unless it's explicitly stated, as it was, that the decision is unrevisable. (Of course it gets revised, but that was a decision of the authors. If the authors had kept saying it was unrevisable, then so it would have been.)

Furthermore, it's a false dilemma that can be used to perpetuate "the ends justify the means" and all the nasty entailments thereof.

I don't think it perpetuates "the ends justify the means" because stating the dilemma doesn't entail which way to resolve it. "Sometimes the only way to prevent a great evil is to cause an evil almost as great" does not entail -- at least for us non-utilitarians -- "So you should cause that lesser evil."

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Theonlyspiral 2 years, 11 months ago

Of course, as all the technology used by Time Lords is straightforward in it's naming and function. The Hand of Omega is a christian style relic, the Record of Rassilon is his greatest hits, and of course the Time Ring from the 70's was how the Time Lords measured age.

If you want to come up with theories about how Time Lord technology is never arcane or weird, that's fine, but don't pretend there's anything silly or unreasonable in assuming in the absence of other evidence that it is (much like most other timelord technology) a hell of a lot more involved.

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David Anderson 2 years, 11 months ago

If the Other had designed a weapon of mutually assured destruction, I'm sure one of his design goals would have been 'persuade the user to find a way not to have to use it.'

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xen trilus 2 years, 11 months ago

@BerserkRL
The cancellation is represented by the Time War in general, rather than specifically the final destruction of Gallifrey. A long period of strife which formed a significant divide and gap in the history of the Doctor, and from which he emerged a changed being? That's got to be the wilderness years.

In a few deft strokes, 'The Night of the Doctor' represents the Time War in terms of the collapse of Doctor Who's ability to happen - rather than hop into the TARDIS to begin her tenure, the new companion decides to die instead. Things have gotten so bad that the Eight/Cass era is killed before it can even begin; Doctor Who can't even get going, let alone thrive. Read it this way and the Time War is defined as a period in which Doctor Who is cancelled and has no return in sight. Hence why he gives up being the Doctor.

(In addition, sometimes it feels like the universe of Doctor Who pre-war is, in some ways, almost cut off from the universe post-war. Which is why the next anniversary special will absolutely be about Big Finish acquiring the NuWho rights and healing this divide permanently, at least in my dreams.)

So in that sense, John Hurt's actual act of destroying Gallifrey represents the transformation that Doctor Who had to undergo to forge its way out of the wilderness in 2005 as a strange new creature. Phil broached this in his Dalek essay with the idea that to emerge from the cult ghetto DW had to scrap 'the apparent premises of the show'. But maybe (this is a big maybe, I have no idea and it's certainly bollocks:) we can view Gallifrey as representing a nostalgia-laden ideal of Classic, that perhaps wasn't altogether as perfect as the fanbase/Doctor likes to remember it as.

(Warning, I think this comment is about to go off on a huge tangent.)

So the subsequent redemption and forgiving of Hurt at Day's climax, along with saving Gallifrey, are a way of saying we don't need to feel uncertain or guilty about the revival anymore - perhaps, that any remaining tension/alienation between New and Classic ought to end, now that the series' present and future are secure.

Hurt was 'the Doctor more than anyone else' - he had no better, less lethal option open to him. He did what he had to do.
And because of that, Doctor Who was able to reach 2013.
The year that the Doctor Who of the present, comfortable in its success, could finally bring itself to acknowledge the scar on its past, and say 'I've changed my mind.'
So the retcon really is a change of opinion: the cancellation and revival are no longer viewed as a permanent, unfixable fracture within the series. We had to go through 400, I mean 8 years seeing it that way before the show could grow enough to look at things differently, but now we've come this far, we've taken a new position on the issue that allows us to stride boldly forward into the next 50 years of madness.
Gallifrey never burned, and one day - if we feel like doing so - we might even find it. Doctor Who never stopped being Doctor Who, regardless of who might say otherwise. It's all one big wonderful story. If on any level that's the message of Day of the Doctor, then it's a worthy 50th anniversary special indeed.

This has been my first actual comment here, so thanks if you read any of that! Don't kill me.

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liminal fruitbat 2 years, 11 months ago

All they have left are beam weapons because they've deployed everything else.

Which, under the "Gallifrey is the centre of history" model, they would - actually letting the Daleks into the centre of the ordered universe is pretty much an instant loss.

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encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

Moffat's version of the Tenth Doctor has always been immensely charming. Compare "Girl in the Fireplace," "Blink," "Silence/Forest." I'd much rather remember this version of him than the one in "The End of Time."

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encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

Wow. An utterly fantastic essay, and one of the best comments sections we've ever seen here. I barely know where to find the time or the right place to jump in, so rather than say anything useful, for now I just want to thank everyone for all the different perspectives on a special I mostly enjoyed and now find two or three times as interesting.

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Bennett 2 years, 11 months ago

If that's "bollocks", then it's good bollocks. A very thoughtful, and thought-provoking, comment - I hope it's the first of many.

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xen trilus 2 years, 11 months ago

Since the Time War's participants have time travel capabilities, this means that the 4th dimension is one that they can effectively traverse at will, so we could envision the Time War as a 4-dimensional battle.

Thinking of it this way, with points on the timeline serving as 'locations' on the temporal battlefield, then the action is probably going to be concentrated towards the middle of the timeline. That's where the properly huge battles with the forbidden weapons and eldritch horrors are going to be taking place, complete with Daleks and Time Lords alike repeatedly travelling back in time to help their past/future selves out, paradoxing the balls off of reality in the process and whathaveyou.

In contrast, I wouldn't expect the very end of the war timeline to contain much action at all. Why hang about at the end, the outskirts of the war if you like, when you can travel back to where the action is? And surely the earlier in time you destroy your enemies, the better?

So this is a bit like the attrition idea, in that what we see on the last day of the war is the sparse remains in the aftermath of the really huge battles - except without the linearity, and with the assumption that the really huge battles are continuing perpetually in the centre of the timeline. Does it help much?...No, but it's really fun.

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Philip Sandifer 2 years, 11 months ago

I really have no idea how I'm going to handle the reveal that the Time War is really just the Last War in Albion.

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Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

Timelord: "I don't understand. What is the Moment? I've never heard of it."

General: "A galaxy-eater. The final work of the ancients of Gallifrey. A weapon so powerful the operating system became sentient. According to legend, it developed a conscience."

Timelord: "And we've never used it?"

General: "How do you use a weapon of ultimate mass destruction when it can sit in judgment of you? There is only one man who would even try."

Nothing about a bomb. Just a weapon capable, not of blowing up a galaxy, but consuming it. A weapon that can only be used by someone capable of persuading it that the user's purpose justifies that use. A weapon capable of psychoanalyzing its user and assuming its form based on someone the user will come to care about in the future. a weapon capable of suggesting alternative less-destructive solutions, including alternative solutions the user might have rejected because they were impossible until the Moment made them possible.

If you're not satisfied with Moffat's take on The Moment, then I submit no possible explanation of the Moment would satisfy you.

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Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

"Unless it's explicitly stated, as it was, that the decision is unrevisable."
But the decision was unrevisable because the events were time-locked and the Doctor did not have the means to even try and change his mind. The decision was further unrevisable because even if he could have gone back, he didn't have any solution better than the one used by the Hurt Doctor. It was only possible for the Doctor to change his mind once those two statements became inoperative. First, the Moment allowed Ten and Eleven to join HD despite the time-lock, which Ten flatly said was impossible. Then, Eleven realized that with 3 Doctors and 3 TARDISes, they had options that were not available to HD when he made the original decision.

I like to think that there was a third factor, as well. The Hurt Doctor apparently had no companions, and at this point, Ten traveled alone by choice. And initially, Ten and Eleven were in agreement with HD ... until Eleven looked at Clara and realized that he would have to do it in front of his companion. I like to think that was what pushed him over the top to say "Nope. Not gonna do it. Better find another way."

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Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

There's also a fourth factor: The Hurt Doctor's decision was also based on the High Council's Final Sanction scheme (the one the General said had already failed). Thus, the Doctor could only consider saving Gallifrey after the President and his allies had been prevented from destroying Time itself, which won't happen until Friday.

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Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

Personally, I think all the complaints about retconning are nonsense. Retconning is when the author changes what everyone thought happened in order to tell a story that otherwise would not be supported by prior events. I for one don't think the term applies when a time traveling character changes the past in pretty much the way you would expect him to do.

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Triturus 2 years, 11 months ago

The fact that the Moment can open portals in time at will makes it obvious its not a glorified grenade. Its designers could have intended it to do something like open giant doors to connect our universe and an antimatter universe, so that whole galaxies could be destroyed instantly. But it instead it achieved sentience and chose to use its powers to connect the Doctors instead. Not many bombs can do that.

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Pen Name Pending 2 years, 11 months ago

I have actually found a few less-than-optimistic (perhaps not quite overtly pessimistic) themes in Moffat's work, mostly concerning the Doctor's influence over others. The Eleventh Doctor can actually be quite selfish at times, and it is because of this selfishness that he loses Amy and Rory--he couldn't just leave them to have a good life like in "The God Complex," he had to keep popping in and taking them away, until they ran into an adventure they couldn't escape from. Similarly, he is responsible for River's entire life and death.

There are often two kinds of time travel at work in Doctor Who--the fixed and the malleable. It's been that way since we had the dissonance between The Aztecs and The Space Museum, and it usually just depends on whether the show is about to rewrite actual, recognizable Earth history, or its own fictional history. But all the characters--the Doctor, Amy, Rory, and River at least--have their entire lives mapped out on the block universe, fixed in place, and their demises all were caused by the Doctor's influences on their lives, and yet he was also the reason they had extraordinary lives they would not regret. Perhaps not pessimistic, though certainly dark; just more realistic than typical fairy-tale outlook on life.

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Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

Also, "final work of the Ancients of Gallifrey" strongly implies that at a much earlier period in Gallifreyan history, their technology level was vastly higher than it is at "present" which is itself superior to pretty much the known universe. (Then again, the Fourth Doctor described contemporary Time Lord technology as "junk" in Deadly Assassin, while being amazed at the genius behind the Eye of Harmony, an object from forgotten legends).

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Pen Name Pending 2 years, 11 months ago

To be fair, all the people who were erased from time later resurfaced (see: "The Big Bang").

But if we're talking about time travel, is death really a thing? You have a lifespan, and you can live it out however you want to across the four dimensions. River shows this the most: she died in "Forest of the Dead", but she's still alive elsewhere in the block universe. This doesn't mean you should go back and visit everyone before they died--after all, if you did, you would have always done so, so nothing is changed--but they still occupy a certain section of time in which they are always alive.

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Philip Sandifer 2 years, 11 months ago

However fancy the detonation mechanism is, it's still "a galaxy eater" and not something that feels like it's part of the same list as "The Nightmare Child," "The Horde of Travesties," and "The Could-Have-Been King and his Army of Meanwhiles and Never-weres." I mean, the conscience is neat. It really is. But the Moment was set up to be something out of Faction Paradox, and was instead something out of Star Wars.

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Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

Indeed. Tennant's solo contributions to the plot are: he mistakes Elizabeth I for a zygon; he mistakes a rabbit for a zygon; he mistakes Elizabeth I for a zygon again. It's pretty deflating as a comment on where Tennant's Doctor is at this point in the series.

That's a bit unfair, I think. Ten's real contribution was to stand in contrast with Eleven, to be the Man Who Regrets in contrast to the Man Who Forgets, to stand in judgment of his older, more cynical self. Your objections to his failure to do anything constructive against the Zygons presumes that the whole Zygon invasion was ever anything but a shaggy dog story meant to provide a backdrop against which Ten and Eleven could demonstrate their personalities and how the Time War affected them.

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Triturus 2 years, 11 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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Triturus 2 years, 11 months ago

Well I don't know. If the Death Star had decided to open a portal that connected Grand Moff Tarkin with older versions of himself, and hence convinced him to only pretend to blow up Alderbaran, then maybe.

I wonder if all the laser gun battles in Day of the Doctor (which *are* very Star Wars-y) obscure how peculiar and unweaponlike the Moment actually is.

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Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

Yes, but you're granting all those things mythic status because their names are cool. "The Fall of Arcadia" sounded cool before we learned Arcadia was just an important city and not, I dunno, the Faerie Realms which were annihilated due to the damage inflicted on the Higher Realms by the Time War. It makes as much sense to me to describe The Moment as a genie in a box that can do anything as long as you can talk the operating system into, a system that knows everything about you including your future.

Anyway, it wasn't part of that list per se. All those other things were ... phenomena, I guess, that could have spilled out into the Universe if the time-lock was broken in The End of Time. That episode merely refers to The Moment as something the Doctor has taken and which he will apparently use to destroy Gallifrey.

I am amused at the idea that something that purportedly eats galaxies is not impressive enough for some people here. Then again, after the Reality Bomb, perhaps it is a let-down. You really can't top "it destroys everything!"

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Philip Sandifer 2 years, 11 months ago

For me it's that a "galaxy eater," even one with a sentient operating system that tries to manipulate its would-be user, is just so much flatter than the unfathomable weirdness that the Time War was originally presented as. I mean, I always imagined the Moment as something like a fragment of time from outside the universe itself, within which one could reshape the whole of reality to one's will, and that the Doctor stepped into it and simply removed the Time Lords and Daleks from existence entirely. Not one big Dalek fleet or Gallifrey, but the very idea of them.

Instead we got what's actually a rip-off of an eight-page early Alan Moore comic, only with a weapon that would prefer not to be used instead of one one that's desperate to be.

I mean, I still think the Moment is cool. But yes, in one sense I am necessarily unsatisfied by the revelation of what something that appeared set up to be inconceivable and unportrayable actually is. Yes, any explanation of the Moment would have been unsatisfying, just as any depiction of the Time War necessarily was.

I will readily grant, though, that deflating the impact of the Time War was, in many ways, part of the point.

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Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

Ironically, I'd always assumed that The Moment was what the Doctor(s) actually ended up doing. I had thought it was a single discrete instant of Time into which Gallifrey and all its enemies could be dumped so that all of their future existences would have to take place during that brief span beyond which they couldn't go. IOW, I thought the Moment created the timelock and all the Time War combatants were trapped within, continually dying over and over again while the rest of the universe was unaffected.

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Ciaran M 2 years, 11 months ago

The core difference between Davies' and Moffat's moral approach to Doctor Who is summed up in the phrases 'Everything has its time and everything dies' and 'Everybody lives!'.

I don't think it's fair to cite Davies' repeated mantra of the inevitability of death as dark and cynical, mainly because I think I find the fear and rejection of death displayed in the Moffat era as kind of unsettling. It removes Doctor Who from having any kind of meaningful moral heart. I don't like the retcon because it implies that there is a way to undo the things you've done, and it makes the character of the Doctor impossible, as to oppose to just the world he inhabits.

This all a very convoluted way if saying that I think the acceptance of death is healthy, and I think the attitude displayed towards death in the Moffat era is so cynically naïve that I find it deeply tedious to watch.

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Philip Sandifer 2 years, 11 months ago

Interesting. I mean, for one thing, I don't think it implies that there's a way to undo the things you've done. I think it implies that there's a way to undo the things fictional characters do.

But more to the point, I can't think of an episode of Doctor Who that has dealt with death in a more mature and meaningful way than Time of the Doctor. Yes, the story goes on at the end. But Matt Smith's Doctor does die. Of old age, the same as anyone else. And he doesn't rail against the darkness or mope about how he doesn't want to go. He lives his life - his whole life - and does good things and is a good man. And then he grows old and dies. And this is portrayed as an act of beautiful heroism.

That's the opposite of naive, for me, and certainly the opposite of cynical. I think it's gobsmackingly beautiful, actually.

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Ciaran M 2 years, 11 months ago

You know, that is probably one of the reasons I ended up liking Time of the Doctor a lot more than most of what preceded it. The Doctor accepted his own death with dignity and grace and it was just kind of lovely.

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Ciaran M 2 years, 11 months ago

'I think it implies that there's a way to undo the things fictional characters do.'

But in doing so, they create a greater divide between the fictional character and me. Like I said, it makes the character itself impossible, rather than just the situations and worlds they find themselves in. Davies' Doctor was always a person, and most of his concerns were real life concerns, albeit tarted up with sci fi gobbledy gook. Moffat's Doctor faced increasingly arbitrary and detached concerns, like 'What do you do when you're really pregnant Flesh puppet???'.

Making Doctor Who ABOUT time travel plots and sci fi contrivances is like making the X-Men about the mutant super powers*. It feels like missing the forest for the trees.

*Ignoring the quality of the mutants as minorities analogy, it is still more interesting than 'Cyclops saves the day because the energy signature of his eye beams resonate with the crystal blah blah blah'

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Ross 2 years, 11 months ago

@Alan:
If you're not satisfied with Moffat's take on The Moment, then I submit no possible explanation of the Moment would satisfy you.


You are mistaken.

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David Ainsworth 2 years, 11 months ago

I don't know that "galaxy eater" is necessarily flat. What's the difference between blowing something up and eating it?

The problem isn't simply portraying something you'd otherwise be imagining. It's that written text or verbal accounts don't have to show you anything. When the Moment is on the screen, what can you do? Make it a glowey light like the Megara? A blue box? Nothing? Keep it as a concept and you're stuck narrating to the audience instead of showing them.

Why not accept that if the Moment can project an image of Rose/Bad Wolf, it also projects its own image and it doesn't actually look like a box full of gears, either?

We wouldn't be having this conversation if Davies had named it "The Nick of Time" instead.

Key here is that it is an ethical device, coupled to the idea that it can destroy anyone found wanting. And that that includes everything.

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Katherine Sas 2 years, 11 months ago

That's a good point, and I should clarify that I see a lot of overlap between the two writers/ideologies. Neither Davies or Moffat are wholly on one side or the other, nor are the 10th & 11th Doctors. There is much joy in the 10th Doctor and much darkness in the 11th.

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Bennett 2 years, 11 months ago

"The moment is coming. The Moment is me. You have to decide."

Unfathomable weirdness is all well and good, but all that "Could-Have-Been King" gubbins is really just part of the same hollow rhetoric that plagues so much fantasy writing. Style without substance; abstraction without an anchor.

I was so pleased that Moffat took one of those trite names and playfully turned it on its head - making it real, knowable, and substantial. The Moment becomes more than some quasi-sciencey temporal phenomenon - it becomes...a moment. A moment when you have to make a terrible decision.

Those moments are part of human experience, part of my experience. And for me that makes the concept more powerful, more weird and more terrifying than any "Adjective Noun" Lovecraftian horror you can name.

And makes the Moment so much more than a "bomb...that happens to project an avatar of Billie Piper on the side".

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David Ainsworth 2 years, 11 months ago

Except that after declaring the Time War to be time-locked, the show goes on to give us multiple examples of people finding ways around the time-lock. For that matter, the temptation in School Reunion involves the Doctor getting the power to save Gallifrey, which proves such a thing is possible.

The real key for the Doctor is in coming to accept that he had an alternative. If he accepts that, then what he did was monstrous. But if he denies it, then there is never a reason for him to try to change what happened, whether that's "possible" or not. In that respect, the Doctor has to come to a peace with himself by accepting the choice while finding a way to choose something else instead.

There's a second element here, that of a rejection of the "continuity recursion" that saw classic Who canceled (or was perceived to be the cause) made boldly and then repeatedly rejected on a small scale. The 50th's grand gesture is to declare everything to be of a piece, but doing that requires revising the unrevisable and creating a "gap era" to draw the show together.

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Katherine Sas 2 years, 11 months ago

But aren't fear of death and railing and moping part of life, too? Sure, mature acceptance is better, but that doesn't mean that both responses to death aren't equally valid. I kind of like that Davies was brave enough to take the story to such a difficult place, and yeah it alienates some viewers but it was a risk worth taking. The 10th Doctor's experiences took him in one direction, the 11th in another. After all, the 11th did have a much longer life, was able to redeem his actions from the Time War, was generally in a happier place, and (like you say) died of old age. No wonder he went with more peace. What I love about this story is that we get both responses in one show, and each make sense for the part of the story in which they take place.

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Pen Name Pending 2 years, 11 months ago

Oh yes I'm not disagreeing with you; I just never thought of Eleven as being optimistic before, so it was nice to see it in that light as well. (My personal experiences during the time it aired influenced my readings, no doubt.)

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David Ainsworth 2 years, 11 months ago

So much to like. Eleven also directly addresses the question of why he's bothering to save people who will die so quickly anyway: he's saving their lives so that they can live. That they then die doesn't matter; that they lived first, that's what matters.

And he saves their children, and their grandchildren, and so on. Life continues. This may well be reproductive hedonism; even the Doctor is replicated again and again in images and stories and songs, until at last he dies and is given more lives and stories.

I'm not sure the Flesh concern of whether an artificial person counts as a person is going to be all that arbitrary and detached for too much longer. Heck, given all this discussion about the Doctor, who is himself an artificial/fictional person, I'd say we're already engaged with such concerns.

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Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

Except that after declaring the Time War to be time-locked, the show goes on to give us multiple examples of people finding ways around the time-lock.

I can only think of two other than Day of the Doctor. Dalek Kahn breaking through but going mad in the process and Rassilon mauling the First Law of Time by retroactively driving the Master insane so that they would have a connection to Earth. Possibly a third if you count the Dalek Emperor "falling through time." Have I missed any?

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Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

Totally unrelated to all the weighty issues discussed above, but did anyone else notice the callback to The Curse of Fatal Death, which I'm pretty sure was the origin of the Doctor's promise. The second "never cruel or cowardly" came out of Ten's lips (and how ironic for that phrase to come from perhaps the most cruel of all the Doctors), I was immediately reminded of a weeping Julie Sawalha saying them over the body of Hugh Grant's Doctor.

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Philip Sandifer 2 years, 11 months ago

"Never cruel nor cowardly" dates back to Terrance Dicks in the 1970s book The Making of Doctor Who, and was extensively used by Paul Cornell in Love and War and the original Human Nature. Both times Moffat has used it, that's what he's been nodding to.

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Ciaran M 2 years, 11 months ago

The fear and rejection of death in the Moffat era/Moffat scripts, for the most part, isn't so much an issue explored as it is and ideology espoused, though. It presents 'everybody lives' as unambiguously happy most of the time, which was mostly fine up until Silence in the Library, which declared the eternal phantom existence of River Song and co. to be a happy ending, without questioning if maybe the Doctor had just sent his wife into an unending nightmare.

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David Anderson 2 years, 11 months ago

It's not 'everyone lives'. It's 'just this once everyone lives'.

Rose is alive and well in a parallel universe. Donna, as we first met her, is alive and well and happy. Amy and Rory are unambiguously dead.

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storiteller 2 years, 11 months ago

IOW, I thought the Moment created the timelock and all the Time War combatants were trapped within, continually dying over and over again while the rest of the universe was unaffected.

I thought the exact same thing watching the episode. The "saving" of Gallifrey was that he took the Daleks out of the picture, so that Gallifrey was still in some sort of time-lock but without the unending death involved in the original solution. The double-genocide wasn't that the Doctor directly killed everyone, but that he left them to die again and again for eternity.

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Peter Wood 2 years, 11 months ago

This speaks to something I've been thinking about the "are we ghosts to you?" moment Clara has in Hide. Seeing the lifespan of her entire world in moments is spooky to her because it forces her to think about the death of all humans ever, but the Doctor doesn't move from death to death, he moves from life to life. In his point of view, time travel isn't reanimating dead people, it's bringing everyone to his nearly-eternal lifespan. Nobody is dead to him, everyone's alive.

Sometimes he's forced to remember that the people he cherishes are more fragile than that. He doesn't visit every day of his friends' lives, but even if he did, he'd eventually run out of days. In Wedding of River Song, he faces his own mortality because he tried to call up the Brigadier and was told he was dead. Everyone runs out of days eventually. The Doctor doesn't like endings.

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David Anderson 2 years, 11 months ago

I wouldn't say that I have objections to anything. And I was specifically excluding interactions between the Doctors whether comic or dramatic. But still Tennant has the running gag where he misidentifies non-zygons as zygons, and Smith doesn't. That's not really the same place as the end of Waters of Mars.

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Lewis Christian 2 years, 11 months ago

If we're really honest, you could do this same story pretty much without Tennant.

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Lewis Christian 2 years, 11 months ago

FWIW, I always linked "the moment" back to what Eccleston said: "I watched it happen, I made it happen! The entire Dalek fleet wiped out in one second." In other words, a moment.

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Callum Leemkuil 2 years, 11 months ago

I disagree; I think Moffat handles death very well. Moffat multiple times sets up a situation in which the Doctor can beat the 'monster,' but the inevitability of death still wins out - for example, in the Girl In the Fireplace, the Doctor saves Madame de Pompadour, but she dies of old age anyway. He saves the Ponds from the Weeping Angel hotel thing, but they die of old age anyway. In both circumstances, the people who die accept their fate, but the Doctor can't. This all gets paid off in TotD, when the Doctor finally accepts aging and death as inevitable and natural.

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Lewis Christian 2 years, 11 months ago

When you're the Doctor, everyone's simultaneously alive, not yet born, and dead all at the same time, surely?

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Lewis Christian 2 years, 11 months ago

(PS: I hope we're getting the Sarah Jane finale before The End of Time. It's suspiciously absent at the mo!)

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Callum Leemkuil 2 years, 11 months ago

"which declared the eternal phantom existence of River Song and co. to be a happy ending, without questioning if maybe the Doctor had just sent his wife into an unending nightmare."

Well, sure, but there's no reason to think she would be. CAL is now fully functional, and cyberreality is no longer collapsing in on itself. River can also flit mercurially about through different cyberrealities as she pleases, and River is portrayed as unambiguously happy about this. I fail to see the problem.

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heroesandrivals 2 years, 11 months ago

I've always viewed this 'era' of Ten as an extended bender as the character avoids his inevitable doom so having him not be at his best doesn't really bug me.

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heroesandrivals 2 years, 11 months ago

@Nick
>My theory is that the Moment never actually was a weapon.

It's the TARDIS at the end of its timeline.
Rewatch the episode with that in mind and tell me if you disagree.

(It's the Moffatiest idea ever and it annoys me that I like it.)

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heroesandrivals 2 years, 11 months ago

@Phil Sandifer
>However fancy the detonation mechanism is, it's still "a galaxy eater"
>and not something that feels like it's part of the same list as "The
>Nightmare Child," "The Horde of Travesties," and "The Could-Have-Been
>King and his Army of Meanwhiles and Never-weres." I mean, the
>conscience is neat. It really is. But the Moment was set up to be
>something out of Faction Paradox, and was instead something
>out of Star Wars.

I always took it to be the thing which sealed off the Time War, the Moment is the reason the event was locked -- and not only locked but you can't even get to Gallifrey PRIOR to those events anymore and in Night of the Doctor we established that half of the Universe was burning. That UN-HAPPENED, to the extent that the Shadow Proclimation didn't even thing Time Lords were real, just a legend.
It took Gallifrey and the entire Time War and excised them not just from the Universe but FROM CAUSALITY. The Moment changes the timeline on a scale that literally REMADE THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE AND WIPED OUT THE DAMAGE CAUSED BY THE TIME WAR.

"Just a bomb." And I suppose you think the TARDIS is just a grubby wooden box!

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Alex Antonijevic 2 years, 11 months ago

I notice that Moffat uses some of the same tricks he has with Ten previously, like romancing a historical figure (Girl in the Fireplace) and a machine that goes ding! (Blink) which didn't really happen outside of Mofftat's episodes in the Tennant era.

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Sean Case 2 years, 11 months ago

Just to clarify: Mme de Pompadour died of TB at 42. Presumably she'd have preferred to be cured and to run off with the Doctor after her documented life ended.

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encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

I love the idea that the events in the Doctor's wake are constantly, inevitably rewriting themselves. It explains so much -- beyond the stuff you mention, Scott, it also accounts for why the Doctor can still be surprised even when he lands on planets he's been to before, and why interference is such a serious crime among Time Lords -- the potential consequences of even the smallest intervention could theoretically change the timeline they're living in. It makes a lot more sense than the idea that nothing one does will ever change anything. I don't necessarily like what this does to the storytelling -- the more aware I am of this happening during the course of a specific story, the less invested I am in what's happening -- but in the abstract it's pretty exciting.

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David Anderson 2 years, 11 months ago

"Everybody knows that everybody dies and nobody knows it like the Doctor, but I do think that all the skies of all the worlds might just turn dark if he ever, for one moment, accepts it." River Song

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elvwood 2 years, 11 months ago

Alan, there's the mysterious woman (Doctor's mother, etc) in The End of Time who appears outside of the time lock. and if you include the books, the Doctor breaks though to the pre-lock reality in Prisoner of the Daleks. Those are the only other ones I can think of.

This has been a fascinating discussion - I haven't joined in because I haven't found anything to say that hasn't already been said by other people before I got to it, but I've been eagerly following it anyway.

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Scott 2 years, 11 months ago

I honestly don't see how something that refers to itself and is referred to as a "galaxy eater" somehow doesn't belong with -- and is therefore inferior to -- something that is referred to as a "Nightmare Child" or a "Horde of Travesties". How, exactly, does one eat an entire galaxy, and how is doing so less impressive a concept than a child of nightmares or a horde of, let's face it, what are probably just horribly disfigured monsters?

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Simon Williams 2 years, 11 months ago

I’ve been lurking for a while on this wondrous blog (and it’s equally illuminating comments section) but this is my first comment (gulp!).

I have no issues with the way the Moment is depicted - in fact I think it fits in very well with the Miles-era War in Heaven, and is explicitly far, far more than just a “bomb”, even one of a galactic scale. Indeed, “galaxy eater” evokes something almost Lovecraftian in its horror than just a scaled-up nuclear weapon.

And it must be horrific in implications for the Time Lords not to use it, because it is clear they are losing and losing badly. If the Daleks have surrounded Gallifrey, if they’ve penetrated its defences and laid waste to its second city, and still the High Command won’t countenance using the Moment, then it must be something mind-bendingly awful. Left to straight-up duke it out with the Daleks in a conventional battle of arms - which is how I take the depiction of conflict in DotD, that Gallifrey’s reserves of fancy chrono-weapons is exhausted, there are no clever tricks left in the Weapon Vaults - then the Daleks are always going to win, because it is what they do day in day out.

This is where I think there’s been a tension throughout the new series regarding the Doctor’s destruction of Gallifrey and the Daleks. Sometimes it’s implied that they were each as bad as each other, that the Time Lords had lost any moral superiority and were as awful as their enemies. At other times, and I think that DotD is pretty heavily in this camp, that the Daleks are on the cusp of absolute victory over the Time Lords, and this will see them become exactly what was prophesised in Genesis of the Daleks: the supreme life-form in the Universe. In this scenario, the Doctor’s use of the Moment is an act to save the rest of the universe from eternal Dalek domination, and the remaining Time Lords - all those children of Gallifrey as well - are collateral damage. I do think there’s a palpable difference in how the Doctor’s actions are judged depending on which “take” on the use of the Moment is in play, and it could be seen as linking in with the differing outlooks of Davies and Moffat mentioned higher up in the comments.

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Anton B 2 years, 11 months ago

So Rassilon is Alan Moore and the Daleks Grant Morrison? The TARDIS is Gaiman I suppose which makes the Doctor who?

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Anton B 2 years, 11 months ago

@xen trilus - I think of it pretty much the same way. You can still have your Nightmare Child and your Could-Have -Been-Kings but they are happening right at the core of the Time War where, as you say, the combatants are paradoxing the balls off of reality and where, I imagine, all probabilities become possible. This works for the 'Land of Fiction' or ideaspace approach too. The centre of the Time War is where all the wild imagination has clustered, the end is where the originality and weapons are wearing thin.

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Ross 2 years, 11 months ago

My problem with this line of reasoning is that you are working backwards from the conclusion you have assumed. You say "Well, it's the final weapon of the Time War, the one too terrible for anyone to use other than this mad not-the-doctor, therefore it must be somehthing special and magical and wonderous, regardless of what they actually say and show us".

To which my Discreet Structures teacher would respond with a red X and the words "You have assumed the thing you are trying to prove" (and due to a rather charming quirk, he would sound exactly like Winnie-the-Pooh when he said it).

We are told that it eats galaxies, and that if you push the Big Red Button, it will burn gallifrey and the daleks alike and end the time war. All that other stuff, about it being lovecraftian, or about it being "mindbendingly awful" or about it being "far more than just a bomb" is you making stuff up because you are dissatisfied with it being "just a bomb".

It destroys galaxies. For some reason, it has an operating system complex enough to develop a conscience, and can open safe portals in and out of the Time War. Why? Because the plot says so.

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Simon Williams 2 years, 11 months ago

Your Discreet Structures teacher - as well as having an endearingly cute voice - may well be completely right :-)

And of course there's an element of me "making stuff up" - surely that's part of engaging with the fiction, filling out the implications of what is presented within the text with your imagination? For me, there is enough evidence within the text - such as the dialogue exchange between the Timelord and the General that Alan quotes higher up in the comment thread - to evoke ideas of something more awful than just an explosive device, whatever the scale. For instance, "Galaxy-eater" conjures different images for me than if the phrasing had been "Galaxy-destroyer". I understand that for you and Phil himself the text doesn't.

'because you are dissatisfied with it being "just a bomb"'

Actually, I would have had no problem if it had been just a bomb - my assumption for a long time after Series One was that the Doctor had jury-rigged a Delta Wave which he then used to destroy Gallifrey and the Daleks i.e. that in Parting of the Ways he was retracing the same course of action until he reached the point of decision and couldn't go through with it again.

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encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

TEGAN: IS THAT THE DELTA WAVE AUGMENTER?

DOCTOR: (switching it off) Yes, of course. There's no need to shout.

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

Anyone who says that fairy tales are particularly "optimistic" obviously hasn't read very many actual fairytales. There's some really dark stuff in the Brothers Grimm.

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

I don't at all think that "Everybody Lives!" means that Moffat has an unsettling rejection and fear of death. "Everybody Lives!" seems to me the Doctor's equivalent of, if you forgive the reference to Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire, Syrio Forel's defiant statement of "Not Today!" to the God of Death.

It seems to me that Moffat's treatment of death is much closer to our experience of death in the real world than Davies's. Davies is much more happy to kill off random guest characters than Moffat is, but those deaths are completely cheap: there's nothing brave about killing off cannon fodder redshirts or Kylie Minogue. I'm not sure there's anything much braver about killing ancillary Torchwood characters. None of the recurring Doctor Who characters of the Davies era die; instead, Davies makes us suffer through Donna's wedding as though that's a happy ending for the character. Even Pete gets to be alive in parallel universe form! Moffat, on the other hand, has irretrievably killed off Amy and Rory, and the Brigadier too!

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

That's certainly not how it's presented to the audience, though. And note that Moffat killed off the Brigadier after Courtney died, while Davies distinctly did not do the same with Sarah Jane after Sladen's death.

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

There's obviously a certain degree of "everything seems less mind-bending and terrifying when you have to depict it in detail than when you can just give a name and act as though it is horrifying" at work with the Moment, but I genuinely fail to see how, given that the story has to depict the Moment in more depth than in a list of clever names, it is particularly disappointing.

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Chris Andersen 2 years, 11 months ago

The "fixed point in time" is really more of a guideline.

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Chris Andersen 2 years, 11 months ago

"The Doctor doesn't like endings."

The Doctor is the ultimate Doctor Who fan.

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David Ainsworth 2 years, 11 months ago

That covers almost all of them in my mind (plus one from the books I didn't know about). I'd also include the Dalek in Dalek, the Master (fighting in the Time War and then hiding shouldn't be enough to escape the time-lock) and the Doctor himself. There's also some question about where the Progenitor device in Victory of the Daleks came from.

Arguably, the time-lock isn't perfect or all the aliens we meet who suffered losses in the Time War make no sense, as either the whole Time War is behind the lock or the time-travelling people fighting the Time War can get out through the unlocked portions.

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David Ainsworth 2 years, 11 months ago

Am I misremembering, or does River herself not have words about the state the Doctor left her in when he "saved" her? Isn't part of the point of their scene in Name of the Doctor about death?

While I'm not calling either of these criticisms unfair, I do think it's interesting to see how many people dislike Moffat for having fewer deaths and more marriages on-screen.

"Everybody Lives!" inherently places matters of life and death at the center of things. Hide does a marvelous job of showing that the Doctor deliberately chooses to see everything as alive instead of dead.

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Chris Andersen 2 years, 11 months ago

I prefer to think of "The Moment" on a more metaphorical level. "The Moment" is what ended "The Time War". The "Time War" was the collapse of the Doctor Who universe at the end of Gaillfrey/Old Who. "The Moment" is what sealed it off and allowed New Who to be created. The Doctor, because he was at the heart of it, always assumed this meant the complete destruction of Gallifrey/Old Who. His punishment for using "The Moment" was to live and see the creation of New Who.

The Doctor accepts this at first, which is why 9 and 10 appear to be so comfortable talking about the events of The Time War and accepting responsibility for the destruction of Gallifrey/Old Who ("We fucked up and the show became crap, so it was cancelled. My bad.")

Elevens reaction is different, however. He prefers to forget about it as much as possible because he just doesn't like it. If we think of Eleven as Moffat's Mary Sue than this represent's Moffat's rejection of the idea that Old Who has to be essentially ignored if New Who is to be successful. He goes on to make New Who more successful than it has ever been. And then, at "The Moment" of the 50th anniversary, he retcons "The Moment" and says it was never the destruction of Gallifrey. It was simply put into a bubble and up on the shelf to be taken down later when New Who was comfortably able to embrace the entire history of Doctor Who, both old and new.

Bringing back Gallifrey represents the embrace of Old Who by New Who. And Moffatt, being the super fan he is, couldn't be happier than to be the one who pulls it off.

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Chris Andersen 2 years, 11 months ago

Well, Alan Moore is probably responsible for the greatest retcon ever (Swamp Thing issue #21, The Anatomy Lesson.) I consider it the greatest because it works so well, completely changed the backstory of Swamp Thing, but did it in a way that did not invalidate the stories that came before.

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David Ainsworth 2 years, 11 months ago

What's the body of evidence available for a proof in this instance? Given that all of Time Lord history is an invention (and, for that matter, all of Time Lord history may be an invention within the narrative), the only basis for claims can be found within the narrative. The Moment's special characteristics (it is intelligent, it is powerful, it is independent, it WILL JUDGE YOU) are all on display over the course of the episode (it manifests the Rose projection, which indicates it is merely a PART of the Moment and not the whole of the thing, it breaks the time lock, it carefully engineers events so as to avoid its actual use).

Also, given that Moffat is the writer and that "Rose" here is clearly the Bad Wolf Rose, the Moment is presented to us on screen as a literal Deus ex Machina.

The rest is speculation, and that includes the claim that the Moment is a bomb. It is called a "weapon of ultimate mass destruction." That's profoundly ambiguous, especially when spoken by a Time Lord.

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Chris Andersen 2 years, 11 months ago

It's not that Doctor Who was cancelled in order to prevent a greater evil, it's that New Who agreed to basically leave Old Who in the past in order to allow it to be launched.

In other words, one of the basic conditions under which Davies' relaunch was green lit was that he wouldn't spend a lot of time bringing back the rubber monsters from the Old Who era. One way for him to do that was to essentially kill it off. The Time War was created in order to explain why The Doctor didn't visit Gallifrey.

So, the price of bringing back New Who was the narrative destruction of Old Who.

"The Day of The Doctor", as Phil Suggests, is New Who's acknowledgement that it has succeeded and has become so strong that it can even risk the silliness of bringing back Old Who (that's one reason why I think Moffatt chose to use Zygons. There was no more rubbery monster than the Zygons.) So how do you bring back Old Who within the continuity of The Time War and the destruction of Gallifrey? You tell a story in which The Doctor realizes he never actually destroyed Gallifrey. It was only set aside for a "moment".

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Bennett 2 years, 11 months ago

David Ainsworth - "Am I misremembering, or does River herself not have words about the state the Doctor left her in when he "saved" her?"

Thanks for adding that - I was beginning to think that I was the only one who had watched it!

Yes, in The Name of the Doctor the Doctor is called out on his actions in Forest of the Dead by both River Song and the story itself (which is appropriate for its funereal atmosphere and its ruminations on the nature of death).

River tells Clara (as a resigned accusation): "(The Doctor) left me like a book on a shelf. Didn't even say goodbye. He doesn't like endings."

And then there is the Doctor and River's final exchange:

DOCTOR:There is a time to live and a time to sleep. You are an echo, River. Like Clara. Like all of us, in the end. My fault, I know, but you should've faded by now.
RIVER: It's hard to leave when you haven't said goodbye.


Then they talk about saying goodbye like you're coming back, and the Doctor says "don't wait up", and then I'm lost in a fit of emotion.

I know it's personal taste, but I can't help find that a far better use of death than "plucky supporting character gets zapped by a Dalek PPPNAUW".

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

At this point, are there any rubber monsters who *haven't* been brought back? I mean, Moffat has now brought back the Zygons and the Ice Warriors, which even Nathan-Turner and Saward left in the cupboard.

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

Exactly, Bennett. I much prefer Moffat's treatment of death to Davies's tendency to borrow the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era's tendency to kill off the entire guest cast.

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Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

Alan, there's the mysterious woman (Doctor's mother, etc) in The End of Time who appears outside of the time lock

It is always possible that The Woman (who I shall insist on believing is actually Susan) actually time traveled back to The End of Time from a point in the future after a future Doctor has rescued Gallifrey from it's picture-prison.

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Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

@John, The Rutans and the Draconians were the only ones that spring to my mind. The possibilities of warlike shapeshifting jellyfish has, IMO, not been fully realized (to take a phrase from the Rani). And I'd pay good money to see a story that involves the Draconians and the Silurians and ties them altogether in a way that fixes the appalling science that infests every episode in which the Silurians appear.

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Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

Ah. Live and learn.

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Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

Machines that go ding! also make appearances in Planet of the Dead and Partners in Crime, IIRC.

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Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

Hell, now I'm toying with the possibility that the original Bad Wolf Rose, during her brief moment of transcendent godhood, reached back through time and altered the functioning of the Moment so that it would help the Doctor(s) save Gallifrey!

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Mackerel Sky, Ltd. 2 years, 11 months ago

@xen trilus

Does this mean that "The Chase" is actually part of the Time War?

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

Alan - totally with you on the Woman being Susan. "The Doctor's Mother" is just about the least interesting person it could possibly be, and Davies's "well, it's whoever you want it to be, but it's really his mother" is even worse.

In terms of the Rutans, I'd say that we're well due a story where the Rutans and Sontarans show up together (Shakedown doesn't count).

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Chicanery 2 years, 11 months ago

@Anton B, Warren Ellis?

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encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

How would it be better if she were Susan?

I'm not sure I see the point of her at all, except to make me futilely wonder who she is and to bother me about the fact that she seems to be in psychological if not physical pain owing to her situation vis-a-vis the other Time Lords. She's yet another discordant note in a two-parter (perhaps not inappropriately) full of them. But I'm having a problem understanding how making her Susan doesn't raise even more troubling, unpleasant, and ultimately superfluous questions.

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liminal fruitbat 2 years, 11 months ago

If she's Susan, then Susan wasn't ultimately stranded on a post-apocalyptic Earth, she implicitly had some sort of rich and interesting life that led to her taking on the responsibility to provide some sort of restraint to the Time Lords' actions in the War (and in the end failing miserably, but until Day of the Doctor so did her grandfather), for those of us who enjoy making up explanations for ungainly messes we can point to her strong psychic talent for how she talks to Wilf, and those of us who actually liked Looms are a little bit less annoyed by the story.

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Galadriel 2 years, 11 months ago

That is beautiful, Peter, and ties in extremely well with "running to you and Rory before you fade and die" in Power of Three

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Galadriel 2 years, 11 months ago

"machine that makes machines". That is the power of The Moment, and the reason the Time Lords fear to use it. It generates context-sensitive weapons - be it a time passage, an explosion or a persuasive argument. --
I hadn't really pondered the appearance of the Moment previously, though I think the projection could have had a different effect if it was someone the Doctor recognized. But that actually opens all sorts of narrative possibilities

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Galadriel 2 years, 11 months ago

Both "Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith" (as the last episode aired before her death) and "The Man Who Never Was" (the de facto finale) aired after End of Time--in fact, Eleven appeared in the Sarah Jane Adventure episode "The Death of the Doctor."

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encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

So like I said, raising more troubling, unpleasant, and ultimately superfluous (since they don't impact the plot and will almost certainly never be addressed) questions. :)

Now I get why someone who isn't me might want it to be Susan, though, so thanks!

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Ross 2 years, 11 months ago

The woman, though her role is absolutely essential at the climax, is so random and so disconnected from anything else in the story that her being the Doctor's mother or his granddaughter or his wife or whoever, rather from making the character more interesting, feels like cheap slight-of-hand; if it had mattered who she was, the narrative would have been compelled to tell us, and as it wasn't, declaring her to be someone later by authorial fiat feels like a cheat to try to force us to care in a particular way when the narrative hasn't actually given us any reason to.

WHy, it's almost as bad as if they;d declared one incarnation of the Doctor to have somehow broken the oath his name implies and become something that wasn't the Doctor, but never actually showed him doing anything even slightly undoctorish.

Also, the only person it makes a lick of sense for The Woman to be is K'anpo.

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Galadriel 2 years, 11 months ago

Alan, I think that's the general justification for the form it takes, but as I stated elsewhere, it's interesting to consider alternate forms. What if it had been the Master? Or Susan? Or even a past self? The Bad Wolf may have meaning to the universe, but not to him.

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encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

Ross, one of the amazing things about this episode is that I can simultaneously understand almost all of your rage about it AND almost all of the pleasure those who liked it have expressed in this comment thread (and in the original essay, judging from its place on Philip's list). It's enormously frustrating and enormously satisfying -- for me -- at the same time.

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Matter-Eater Lad 2 years, 11 months ago

There's some neat mirroring taking place, too. At this point Ten is running from his next regeneration, having regenerated into himself once already, and knows that even the Time Lord Victorious is going to lose this fight sooner or later. And he comes face to face with this next incarnation -- living proof that his time, no matter WHAT he does, is going to end. Meanwhile, that future incarnation knows that Trenzalore is coming for him (as opposed to some hypothetical future Doctor)...

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heroesandrivals 2 years, 11 months ago

Of course he couldn't. RTD practically WALLOWED in his fear that referencing the old series would be alienating to new viewers. I think he talks about how wrong it is that if you asked the man on the street who the Doctor is that they would answer "The Doctor is an immortal time lord from the plannet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kastuberous..." because everything except the word "Doctor" in that sentence, including regenerations, is irrelevant for 95% of Doctor Who stories -- but old Who fetishized its own mythology to the point that they believed referencing and expanding on that mythology was a justification unto itself.
That's why RTD waited 5 years before ahowing a montage of the Doctor's old faces in "The Next Doctor" and even then had to be talked into it by Julie whatshername as 'a Christmas gift to fans.'
How many have-montages, or montages of old companions, have occurred in the Moffat era?
RTD, for all his other freewheeling faults, knew that RESTRAINT was essential when dealing with the show's history. Moffat is more indulgent.
And even RTD at his worst never produced 3 SERIES FINALES IN A ROW that all centered on "Time and Space are collapsing like a crunched fist and now the stars are going out!"
Moffat: Great writer. Bad showrunner.

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

Susan, at least, is a character with some history on the show, and, as liminal fruitbat says, it implies that she led an interesting life and perhaps now hints at a future reunion. Whereas the Doctor's mother, even if you don't like looms, is some generic figure who we've never heard of before and will never heard of again.

I do rather like the idea that she's K'anpo, though. That's kind of amazing/

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

This is nonsense, though. Nothing Moffat has done is anywhere near as self-indeulgent and fetishizing of its own mythology as the "Ten's Reward" sequence in "The End of Time." Just because it's New Series mythology doesn't make it less offputting for possibly mythical "new viewers" than a ten second montage of previous doctors, or whatever. I'll note that, when I saw The Snowmen the first time, I had no idea that the Great Intelligence was a Classic Who villain, and it made no difference whatever to my enjoyment of the show. I can't imagine that anyone could watch The End of Time, or even Stolen Earth/Journey's End, and make much sense of it without a fairly extensive knowledge of series continuity.

And note that RTD at his worst produced 3 of 4 series finales that were basically "Oh no! The Daleks are not actually extinct, but have a gigantic army that is attacking the Earth and will be defeated by a Deus Ex Machina!" The other series finale was "Oh no! The Master is not actually dead, but has a gigantic army that is attacking the Earth and will be defeated by a Deus Ex Machina!"

I'd also say that, at the very least, time and space collapsing like a crunched fist and the stars going out is not at all the central focus of "The Name of the Doctor." Do those things even happen there? And "Pandorica/Big Bang" and "Wedding of River Song" seem like very different collapses of time and space to me.

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Ciaran M 2 years, 11 months ago

I won't lie. I can remember bugger all about Name of the Doctor, so maybe I am the least qualified to make sweeping statements about the Moffat Era.

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encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

Susan, at least, is a character with some history on the show

Which is exactly the problem, from my perspective, because either you don't know anything about her history (because you're a New Series fan or just a casual fan) and her being Susan is meaningless to you, or you do know about her history and you have no idea that she's supposed to be Susan (because nothing in the script or outside of it even suggests or implies that she is, much less states it), or you do know about her history and you think she might be, which sends you off thinking about how she got off postapocalyptic Earth and back to Gallifrey and into the upper echelons of Time Lord society again and so on. For me, at least, that history is what causes the problem. Of course, I don't find the "Doctor's mother" idea especially satisfying, either (even if it comes direct from RTD).

But really, I don't find the character or anything she does especially satisfying, maybe is what's really at the heart of it, and I think a very small start at improving "The End of Time" would be to remove her from the story entirely. I mean, I would love to see K'anpo again (is that his name or his title?), but he actually had a personality, so....

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encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

I was just listening to a Radio Free Skaro episode the other day where someone -- Rob Shearman, I think? -- was talking about how RTD liked to slip in Easter eggs from the classic series or the Wilderness Years (like naming a character after someone in a Virgin New Adventure). I think downplaying those references came from wisdom, not fear, but if that anecdote is true I don't think he would have needed TOO much convincing to drop in classic series stuff eventually.

As for the finales: really not a fan of the absurdly raised stakes and egregious reset buttons of any of them. I think neither RTD nor Moffat has an edge in this regard. I understand why both (stakes and buttons) seem necessary, particularly in a show that's designed to outlast, say, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Battlestar Galactica, but "RTD's finales" vs. "Moffat's finales" has the tang of a religious debate, or an operating system debate, to me at least. There's no right answer; there's just what you like.

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encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

Oh, and yes, the stars go out in "The Name of the Doctor." More importantly, "Jenny and Strax are dead." Seriously, for realsies this time. Cross my hearts.

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Ross 2 years, 11 months ago

@encyclops: The thing about excising her is that, imo, it's really important at the climax that the Doctor believes there's no way out except to murder either The Master or Rassilon, until she shows him another way. The rest of what she does in the plot, that faffing about with Wilf, is relevant only insofar as it prevents her character from just coming out of nowhere at the climax to save the day, though this isn't a very good way to set it up.

That's basically why it occurred to me to suggest that she be K'anpo (Which is apparently a name; his title was "Abbot". Though probably not his real name, as the Doctor doesn't recognize it until prompted); she serves a very similar role to K'anpo (Both in Spiders and in the story the Doctor tells in The Time Monster) by being the one who causes the Doctor to see a thing he's been blind to but which is absolutely key to his actually acting like The Doctor.

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

Encyclops - fair enough on the finales. I was mostly just puzzles by the idea that you can say that Moffat is worse than Davies because his finales are repetitive. Both of them tend to repeat themes in their finales, although I've generally preferred Moffat's.

More broadly, I'll just say that, even if you're completely ignoring the first 26 years of the show (and the 16 years in the wilderness), a show that's been on for 8 years is going to accumulate a lot of continuity all on its own. In fact, it accumulated a ton of continuity just over 4 years of RTD, and, as I said, RTD loved, at the very least, to wallow in his own continuity. I think it's absolutely fine for Moffat not to maintain a wall between new series continuity and original series stuff.

The important thing isn't "continuity is bad." It's that continuity isn't worth pursuing for its own sake. Don't bring the Ice Warriors back for the purpose of getting Ian Levine excited. But if you have a good story for them, there's no reason to be terrified of using them. This seems to me to be the right attitude to continuity.

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Alex 2 years, 11 months ago

@Chicanery

Future Science Jesus indeed!

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Ross 2 years, 11 months ago

Incidentally, it occurs to me that the War Doctor identifies Matt's doctor as being 400 years older than him, which would make him around 800, and given that he ages more between Night and Day than Matt does during Time, it seems like this would pretty much invalidate any other notion about the Doctor's age from the old series. (And the fact that the War Doctor asks the others their ages and then makes the declaration about 400 years shuts down the whole "Oh, he lies about his age" excuse).

I am inclined to conclude that the Doctor actually started couting his age over again from 0 when the 8th Doctor "died".

Also that Eccleston's Doctor must, mathematically, have been around for about a century prior to Rose.

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encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

I was mostly just puzzles by the idea that you can say that Moffat is worse than Davies because his finales are repetitive.

I didn't say that, of course. :) Maybe you mean the generic "you," and specifically heroesandrivals.

I agree completely with what you're saying about continuity.

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encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

I've clearly forgotten about her role at the climax of "The End of Time" (I've only managed to sit through it twice, and by the climax I'm typically in a fetal position). It's hard to believe she was necessary to make that moment work (maybe someone else could have done it? an actual character?) but I'll stop talking about what I've obviously repressed. :)

I like your rationale for K'anpo. Also he's a Time Lord we've actually seen to be able to project himself (which I think is different from basic telepathy). I hope, for his sake, he was able to remain a hermit.

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encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

I will add, though, that I think one of the reasons people react to Moffat's finales differently than RTD's finales (and one of the reasons people complain about Moffat's supposed "everybody lives" policy, which is inaccurate as stated but doesn't come out of the blue) is that the consequences of them are typically different.

Here are the consequences of the finales, at least as I perceive them, and please do correct me if I'm overlooking something as I often do.

Season 1: The Doctor regenerates.
Season 2: Rose is trapped in Pete's World.
Season 3: Martha leaves the Doctor.
Season 4: Donna's memory is wiped and she leaves the Doctor.

Contrast with:

Season 5: The Doctor undisappears and Rory undies. Amy and Rory get married.
Season 6: The Doctor was never killed after all. He and River get married.
Season 7: Strax and Jenny undie. Clara's role in the Doctor's life is finally revealed. The War Doctor's role in the Doctor's life is first revealed.

RTD's finales tend to have permanent consequences. Characters, or at least the faces we're used to, are removed from the narrative barring occasional cameos in different circumstances.

Moffat's finales are more about restoring some sort of natural order (the inhabitants of Leadworth, the life of a main character) or fulfilling a promise (a marriage or the solution to a mystery). Frequently the consequences are to solve a "problem" posed at the beginning of the season and to strengthen the "family" of the show. This is how things typically work on a sitcom: the situation must be restored by the time the credits roll, with rare exceptions.

RTD's finales end with gut-punches. In hindsight we can find the clues that lead us to see how the seasons build to the point where the characters we lose must change or leave, but it's not quite the same as introducing the crack in Amy's wall, or showing the Doctor's burning body, or bringing in the impossible girl (though we don't know she's impossible until the Christmas special, which complicates things, I know). Bad Wolf, Torchwood, Saxon, the bees -- all clues, but there's nothing in them to help us guess at what they're leading to.

To be very clear: I'm not suggesting one of these forms is better than the other. Generally I don't enjoy being gut-punched, and I don't think a back-to-better-than-normal happy ending is dramatically inferior. I find unexpected and downbeat consequences stimulating and gripping, but I don't find expected and upbeat ones dishonest or undesirable. I like sitcoms better than soap operas. I like "Parting of the Ways" and "Doomsday" as much as I like "Big Bang," and my least favorite finale is still "Journey's End." All I'm saying is that I think I get why people react to Moffat's finales the way they do, and I don't think they're imagining things when they claim that those finales work differently.

(Obviously if we regard season 7 as having two finales, the generalization isn't as clean. But I'll leave that to someone else. :))

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

Yes, I meant the generic you and specifically heroesandrivals - sorry to be unclear.

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Ulysses Gamma-Hose 2 years, 11 months ago

Not sure if this has been mentioned in the comments so far...but RTD himself provided an 'answer' to the Doctor's Time War actions himself. In The Parting of the Ways, the Doctor is put in almost exactly the same situation - destroy the daleks and billions of innocents with them - or do nothing. He choses the latter. "Coward, every time." That was the point the Doctor gained redemption in his own eyes. I can't help but feel this moment - small but perfectly delivered by Eccleston - carries far greater emotional punch than Moffat's carefree re-writing. Sure, the Doctor can go back and change his past actions - but coming to terms with them, that's character development.

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

But Day of the Doctor was also about coming to terms with his past actions as well as changing them.

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Ulysses Gamma-Hose 2 years, 11 months ago

It's essentially Moffat saying, "No, I don't like that Time War genocide thing." It's Moffat failing to come to terms with it.

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Philip Sandifer 2 years, 11 months ago

As I pointed out at the time, there was always rather a lot to dislike about the Doctor deciding that he's going to let everyone on Earth get turned into a Dalek just because it spares him the angst of being the man who pushed the button.

Indeed, I'm not exactly surprised that the Doctor promptly regenerated into a rampaging egomaniac after that stunt.

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

The Doctor lies, and it seems like he lies about nothing so much as his age. Remember that the 3rd Doctor had been a scientist for "thousands of --- [years, presumably]" in The Mind of Evil. There's no way to reconcile it all.

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

Moffat doesn't have to come to terms with it!

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Triturus 2 years, 11 months ago

I think there are on-screen references to Colin's Dr being 800-odd, McCoy's being 900-odd, then you've got McGann, who from what (admittedly little) I know about the 8th Dr books / audios lived for several centuries, THEN Hurt who lived long enough to age from Rillington Place to Day of the Doctor, and then.. Eccleston pops up at 900.

Obviously RTD didnt know about Hurt but I do wonder why he chose 900. Probably just because it sounds good; not too old to be unwieldy (having to say "I am one thousand four hundred and twenty four and three quarters years old" lacks a bit of punch), but old enough to give the Dr some proper mystery in the eyes of new fans. Plus he probably enjoys fanning the flames of fan discussion.

There's always a hand-wavy "the time war did it", I suppose.

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Mike Heywood 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Or the Doctor might not know his exact age himself, and the 900 years figure could just be a rough estimate. After all, he has spent an incredibly long time traveling through time and space, to planets where days and years are different in length from Earth or Gallifrey, even to places where the very concept of days and years is meaningless (spaceships traveling between star systems, for instance). So it would be highly improbable if he actually did keep an accurate count of his age.

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Ross 2 years, 11 months ago

I do not recall Colin Baker ever mentioning an age. Tom, IIRC, mentions an age in the 700s (If I remember clearly, he actually lies about his age, but Romana corrects him), Troughton gives an age in the 400s, and McCoy says nine hundred and twenty-something in Time and the Rani.

My gut says that RTD liked the idea that 1 Doctor = 100 Years therefore the 9th doctor was 900. (Though technically, I think 9th doctor only says he's been travelling for 900 years; it's Ten who says he's 900 years old)

In any case, it doesn't make sense to claim that any of them are lying in Day of the Doctor; Smith's Doctor is 400 years older than the War Doctor was when he pushed the button.

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Triturus 2 years, 11 months ago

Colin mentions his age in Revelation. Although having just checked on the Dr Who wiki, he apparently says he's 900, not 800-odd as I'd thought.

Not that this is in any way a helpful clarification, of course, but as you said, the ages of 1-7 and 9 onwards are impossible to reconcile unless the time war did something to reset either the doctors actual age or his memory of it. He probably just loses count somewhere.

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encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

I'll bet 900 is like 29 to a Time Lord. He probably throws numbers in that ballpark around anytime he wants to sound younger (e.g. in front of Rose). Small wonder that when the War Doctor is talking to a young-looking incarnation that's allegedly at least 400 years older, he wonders if he's having a mid-life crisis.

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Triturus 2 years, 11 months ago

The idea that the younger Doctors have authority / seniority over the older ones is one of the quirks of Dr Who that I find delightful. And there was a lovely twist to that idea in DotD when Clara told Hurt that he had such young eyes compared to Tennant and Smith.

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Ross 2 years, 11 months ago

And, of course, since Night of the Doctor asserts the canonicity of Big Finish, the eigtht Doctor spends 600 years on Orbis.

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

Moffat actually had a good riff on this where he basically says that it's impossible for the Doctor to have any idea how old he is - he travels in time, so it's all just subjective perception.

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Steve O'Sullivan 2 years, 11 months ago

I agree that the Day of the Doctor is about the trauma of the cancellation being gone. As soon as I saw Paul McGann appear in the Night of the Doctor, I knew that this reaching back to the old series meant that the new series now completely embraced the old series, and that we were going to see a change to the Time War.

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Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

The reason the Woman is important to the climax of the story is that she implicitly gives the Doctor permission to ensure Gallifrey's destruction. It would work if it were the Doctor's mother except that we don't know anything about the Doctor's mother and until RTD told us who she was never even had a reason to assume that the Doctor HAD a mother. Assuming that she is Susan gives us the exact same result AND provides an Easter egg for long term fans by calling back to the Doctor's very first companion. It arguably solves the Problem of Susan by telling us what happened to her with more finality than the Five Doctors did. She eventually regenerated, returned to Gallifrey, and got involved with politics where she provided a voice of reason and sanity . She went forward with all her beliefs and proved to the Doctor that he was not mistaken in his.

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Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

One of the best things about Day of the Doctor was how the Hurt Doctor really did seem younger than Ten and Eleven. And even Ten acknowledged that Eleven was his older self, at least to the point of being appalled that his older self would become so jaded that he forgot how many Children died on Gallifrey. Much better than The Three Doctors and The Five Doctors, where everybody deferred to the First Doctor simply because he looked the oldest.

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Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

And on a related note, can I reiterate how desperately I want to see more of the McGann Doctor?

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