Crying Silently (Father’s Day)
|Technically more a Time Wyvern than a Time Dragon.|
It’s May 14th, 2005. Akon has finally unseated Tony Christie, giving the new series its second number one hit with “Lonely.” Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Destiny’s Child, Will Smith, and Weezer also chart. In news, Manchester United is bought by Malcolm Glazer, which is by any measure a key event in the transformation of the Premier League into a heavily leveraged playground for the super-rich.
While on television, it’s Doctor Who as only Paul Cornell can write it: intimate and Anglican.
Where The Long Game struggled with the need to fit itself into a single forty-five minute capsule, Father’s Day is one that could only ever have worked as a single, contained episode. Its structure functions in part because of its claustrophobia – because there’s outright no way out of the church. By keeping us in the intimate scene without breaks we get a sense of confinement no six-part base under siege ever managed. Because the base under siege is the model of this story, once you go far enough under the hood. Monsters are closing in from the outside, the Doctor is desperately trying to come up with a plan, and deteriorating political factions within the base eventually endanger everybody. (In this case the slowly boiling fight between Jackie and Pete that eventually results in the two Roses touching.)
But we’ve never seen a base under siege like this quite before. The base is so ostentatiously small, such that we can trivially get wide shots of it to stress just how trapped everyone is. Instead of having three Ice Warriors in one room talking about the terrible things they’re going to do to the base we can see the monsters flying around the church, scraping at the windows, laying siege to it. This is partially a case of Cornell’s choice of settings – a church is rather a more intimate sort of base than, say, a space station. But it’s also down to how the new series works, shooting primarily on location and using CGI monsters such that having a bunch of wide shots of a church with time dragons milling about is, if not trivial, at least no harder than knocking up three monster costumes.
And given that, the forty-five minute structure is great simply because it prevents there from being any release from the pressure. And it does so without any significant rushing of the plot. Because, of course, the plot of this is terribly thin. There’s very little actual concept to this: Rose creates a paradox by saving her father, and only her father’s death can right things. Everything else is just a set of contrivances to keep the plot running – most notably the entire “reforming the TARDIS out of the key and a cell phone battery” thing, which exists virtually entirely to get the plot to forty-five minutes. But it’s not like those forty-five minutes are overly stretched, simply because the sci-fi plot isn’t the point here.
No, the point is the scenes in which Rose, her mother, and her father interact. This isn’t a story about creepy time dragons (apparently officially “reapers,” but let’s go ahead and treat them unofficially. They look like time dragons, so that’s what they are) and paradox resolution. It’s a story about absent fathers and disappointment, and about the real and material world we live in and how it relates to the world of magic. The time dragons are just there to force a couple months of EastPowellStreet to resolve in forty-five minutes. (Really, more soaps should have time dragons. This is the central innovation of Game of Thrones: Adding dragons to a soap opera.)
In that regard, the episode, at least as a Doctor Who episode, positively luxuriates in the space it has. With an a deeply slender plot it has space to be by and large an episode of EastPowellStreet (and note that the setting is 1987, during the period where Doctor Who was on opposite Coronation Street and during EastEnders’s initial heyday), with far more of its scenes dealing with the Tylers than with time paradoxes, which are explained in an extremely sketchy and metaphoric fashion. (Compare to what we’ll be talking about on Wednesday, where the plot is absolutely massive.) This means that the base under siege is intimate not just in the sense of being a particularly small base under a particularly present siege, but in the sense of being a personal and intimate story.
In dealing with the new series I’ve tried to avoid going too far into hinging my interpretations upon the observations I made over the preceding twenty-eight months about the classic series. But it’s impossible to avoid the comparison to the Troughton era here. There’s a generation of fans that are convinced that Season Five of the classic series, airing in 1967-68, was the high point of the series. That season consists of seven stories, six of which follow the format generally described as “base under siege,” in which an isolated location is under continual attack by monsters on the outside. And for a large swath of Doctor Who fans this is the archetypal and best possible sort of Doctor Who story.
When dealing with the Troughton era I was increasingly critical of the base under siege, suggesting that it was increasingly stale and, worse, characterless. Plots hinged on the internal politics of the base, but in the broadest and most superficial way possible. Characters tended not to have “character traits” so much as broad roles generally defined in terms of how much they do or don’t listen to the Doctor. And at the end of the Troughton era the Doctor was exiled to Earth by the Time Lords in a move that I read as being in part a repudiation of the base under siege, its intrinsic xenophobia, and its failure to engage with the mundane world. His charge, in other words, was to engage with people and to be engaged with the earthly and human level.
With Father’s Day we get a story that feels almost consciously crafted as a response to this. (It’s telling that one of Cornell’s enduring bugbears throughout his writing on Doctor Who are his issues with the Pertwee era, which he simultaneously despises and is fascinated by the redemption of. In this regard Father’s Day can be read as actively taking up the challenge that the Pertwee era largely failed at.) It’s a base under siege, yes, but it’s one where the entire content of the conflict is personal and human. Even the base – an Anglican church – speaks to the basic humanity of the situation. It’s telling that what allows the handful of survivors to hole up in the church and survive is the fact that the church is an old structure, i.e. that it is something that mulches up from the (here we go) material social history of Britain and, more specifically, of that particular community.
More broadly, it’s a base that is under siege from “improper” family dynamics. The essential nature of the conflict is Rose’s desire for her father’s presence in her life. But it’s also telling that the wedding around which the chaos unfolds is an “improper” one of an already expectant couple. Or, rather, it’s under siege from the rejection of those improper dynamics. Nothing in the story, after all, suggests that Rose is in any way harmed by growing up without a father, or that Stuart and Sarah’s premarital sex is in any way condemnable.
Indeed, Cornell walks a rather wonderful line in these matters. On the one hand he’s completely unwilling to suggest that being raised by a single parent on a council estate is a “bad” life in any way. Rose remains – as she should – largely unimpeachable as a character. Even her big sin, altering history, is ultimately forgiven by everyone, with the Doctor even trying to help her get away with it in the end. But on the other hand the story absolutely validates Rose’s desire for her father. The fact that she had a perfectly good life (indeed, given that she met up with the Doctor, canonically the most wonderful man in the universe, she had the best life possible) does not mean that her sorrow over never knowing her father is invalid in the least.
This is interesting in several regards, as her sin is, in the end, a wholly theoretical one. The inviolate nature of the timelines is not an actual ethical principle, but rather a narrative conceit. In reality nobody has an ethical obligation to maintain the consistency of the timeline. It’s simply not a real ethical concern. But because narratives with inconsistent and self-contradictory timelines are very, very hard to do (since Aristotelean narrative principles depend in part on the assumption that once something has happened it will continue to have happened indefinitely), time travel science fiction tends to insist on an ethical injunction against changing history simply because the alternative is characters who break the narrative.
Part of this hinges on the nature of Rose’s supposed sin. Even though Rose does a bad thing within Doctor Who’s status as a sci-fi narrative, she doesn’t do a bad thing in any context that can be translated to EastPowellStreet. Within that show the idea that saving her father’s life in a way that harms nobody in an identifiable way is meaningless, and the fact that the universe resists it by sending time dragons to slaughter the entire population of Earth is mainly a reflection on the cruelty of the universe. (There’s a sort of odd theistic bent to this – the sense is that if the Time Lords were still around the universe wouldn’t be so hostile, but in the absence of divine protection we’re at the mercy of a deeply callous cosmos.) And so what we get is an odd end-run around the ethical question. The problem the Doctor has with Rose’s actions becomes ultimately one of her not listening to him, not one of her doing something “wrong” as such.
This implicates one of the larger and more difficult to untangle themes of Davies’s tenure, which is the relationship between the Doctor and romance. On the one hand Davies ultimately and unambiguously treats the Doctor and Rose as a love story, albeit one with an odd line in the sand it refuses to cross. (But Journey’s End is months off.) On the other hand, there is a continual hesitation, especially at this stage. The Doctor and Rose both repeatedly reject the label that they’re boyfriend and girlfriend, but on the other hand parts of their relationship are difficult or impossible to read any other way. Their fight early in the episode is coded as a lover’s quarrel, even though the Doctor’s fundamental issue – that Rose didn’t listen to him and blundered into danger – is basically a parental one. The disjunct here is interesting and complex. Rose throws “you’re not the most important man in my life” at the Doctor, accusing him of being romantically jealous, but by all appearances his objection is a paternal one. Note that their reconciliation is much more father-daughter – “just tell me you’re sorry.” And more to the point, the end of the story tacitly equates the Doctor and Pete, with Pete sacrificing himself not only to save everybody but to restore the Doctor.
It’s possible to read this upsettingly, as a messy and problematic entanglement of romance and paternalism that supports a “men are in charge of women” reading of relationships. But much like the xenophobic reading of The Unquiet Dead, that’s obviously not what the story intends. Rather, it seems to be indebted to a socially realist approach. (Another detail worth remarking on – Ahearne’s savvy decision to focus the camera on mundane objects from time to time, often after someone is eaten by the monsters. It’s a decision that grounds the entire plot in the materiality of the world, stressing how these characters exist in a larger social context.) Its message is manifestly not an ethical one so much as a documentary one: relationships are complicated. Things can work out and still be sources of sorrow. And, as with Stuart and Sarah, things can go wrong and still be sources of joy.
Central to this is the character of Pete. Tellingly, Pete is not a great father or a great man. In fact, he’s a deeply flawed man who ends up admitting openly that he would not have been a great father, and that he certainly isn’t the object of hero worship that Rose built him up to be. His marriage to Jackie was strained and probably doomed, even if it was based on genuine love. He was a slightly dodgy salesman – a sort of loveable n’er-do-well. His restoration to Rose’s life would not have been some massive utopian moment. And yet his absence is still allowed to hurt, even in the face of the disappointing revelation that he was just an ordinary man with all the foibles and faults that implies.
And the Doctor, of course, remains at an odd point at the margins of this. On the one hand he’s a magical figure who can give Rose the closure she needs over the death of her father, allowing everybody to have a moment of reconciliation Pete’s arbitrary death denied them. (Though equally, it’s his death that enables it.) On the other, he’s limited in his power, forced to the sidelines, and ultimately left out of the real resolution of the plot. His magic comes at a price, and, as with any magic, is as limited as it is potent.
All of which, it must be said, derives heavily from Cornell’s past involvement in Doctor Who, most notably in the Virgin New Adventures. Those unfamiliar with the wilderness years can track down the entries in the blog’s archives, but suffice it to say that Cornell was, for a period in the mid-90s, more or less the most regarded writer in Doctor Who. And his central idea was the collision between the Doctor’s epic grandeur and the everyday, with a particular focus on the human level of stories. This was the history Davies was drawing on when he tapped Cornell to be one of the additional writers for the first series, and Cornell’s brief was explicitly to do something with the tone of his Virgin material.
The result is at an odd midpoint for Cornell. Again, detailed readers of the blog will recall that I’ve not been entirely enamored with parts of Cornell’s work past Human Nature. He went through a comedic period that was largely entertaining, but that lacked the heft of his older “serious” material, and then had a stretch where his Doctor Who work often felt a bit frustratingly like trying to recapture lightning in a bottle as Cornell hit the familiar problem of trying to satisfy fans of his older material while growing past it himself.
But with Father’s Day he finds himself in an almost perfect milieu for his take on Doctor Who. More than any other writer, Davies included, Cornell is capable of writing Doctor Who inside a soap opera. The slight remove of time (this is only the second time of five that Doctor Who has set a story in the past and also within Doctor Who’s transmission history, taking place while Delta and the Bannermen was showing) is a clever trick here, because it renders EastPowellStreet at just enough of a remove to be conspicuous instead of seamless. In Aliens of London/World War III it’s possible to miss the soap elements for all the other content, but here it’s unmistakable. The 1980s setting also suits Cornell’s aesthetics, which are very much out of the anti-Thatcher counterculture of the time. Cornell stands out from other wilderness years writers in part for being more indebted to the Sylvester McCoy era than any other era of Doctor Who, that era in turn having been steeped in the anti-Thatcher counterculture. Virtually all of the wilderness years writers were fans, but Cornell was a fan of the program that had just gone off the air, thus providing the greatest sense of thematic and conceptual continuity. This pokes through in odd places in the story, in fact – one can easily imagine the opening scene, particularly the Doctor’s “be careful what you wish for,” coming out of McCoy’s mouth, albeit with a very different staging.
But Cornell also benefits from one of Davies’s major innovations within Doctor Who: the decision to have the Doctor continually involved in the life of a perfectly ordinary family, and to have that involvement recur in multiple stories. For all Cornell’s innovations and advances in the humanity of Doctor Who, the Tylers are very much a Davies idea, not a Cornell idea, and they end up providing the secret sauce that makes Cornell’s already very clever and successful take on Doctor Who jump to the next level. The result is a story that feels wondrously mature, and, more to the point, like Doctor Who that has grown up and developed. It’s packed with real emotional content and relationships that feel human. More than any other story this is the one that fulfills Cartmel’s note to Davies on The Long Game – a story about a man who’s worried about his marriage, mortgage, and dog. Coming after the half-successes of The Long Game it feels like a needed correction – a story set in the 80s that fixes the problems of one indebted to them, symbolically stitching the wound of the series’ cancellation from yet another angle.
And, of course, continuing the process of initiating the public into Doctor Who, staking out new territory that it can cover. With this story it properly, fully subsumes human drama into its wheelhouse. With only one gloriously Marmite exception, the series never goes quite this mundane and small-scale again. But having done so it acquires a weight and presence that shaped and reshaped the direction of the program every bit as much as Rose or Dalek. We get to add another thing to the list of what Doctor Who can be: an intimate story about broken families and ordinary lives. With monsters.
May 17, 2013 @ 5:36 am
"…given that she met up with the Doctor, canonically the most wonderful man in the universe, she had the best life possible…"
Will you at some point be talking about the new series' kind of hilariously bipolar attitude toward the Doctor and his influence on the people he meets? The Davies era in particular struck me as frequently trying to show us that he was all but godlike in his benevolence and helpfulness while just as frequently trying to show us that the wake of destruction and pain he always left behind was largely his fault. (Of course, a real god would in fact be both helpful and harmful, but the portrayal in the show felt more like inconsistency or vacillation than a subtle exploration of the consequences of god-like power and so on.)
"With only one gloriously Marmite exception, the series never goes quite this mundane and small-scale again."
You're referring to The Lodger, right? I love that one so much that I can't quite comprehend not loving it, so it's always surprised me quite how Marmite it is.
May 17, 2013 @ 5:45 am
If Phil doesn't cover the Doctor's contradictions, I surely will — the union of opposites plays out all over the series. Also, I think the gloriously Marmite story Phil refers to must be Love and Monsters.
May 17, 2013 @ 5:59 am
A fantastic write-up. I really enjoy this story because it's small-scale and all very human. It's the kind of story the Moffat era, in my view, lacks every now and again. But I'm not getting into another RTD/Moff debate. Just a small observation.
This story is also interesting when compared to The Return of Pete in Series 2.
May 17, 2013 @ 6:02 am
"The problem the Doctor has with Rose’s actions becomes ultimately one of her not listening to him, not one of her doing something “wrong” as such."
Or he know's she's done something wrong, but is willing to break the rules for her.
May 17, 2013 @ 6:05 am
As soon as I read that comment, The Five Doctors came to mind.
"I'm not breaking the laws of time. Merely bending them a little." – The Second Doctor to the Brig.
I like the idea that the Doctor will occasionally bend or break the "laws" of time for his best friends. It helps bring out the 'rebel' side which was introduced in The War Games.
May 17, 2013 @ 6:12 am
This isn't a particularly flashy episode when it comes to visual symbolism, but it has its moments. The TARDIS appearing as a golden halo in the church, for example, while everyone sits and waits for its service. I kind of love how the action converges in the Church, at a Wedding. As I've said before, the Wedding symbolizes the fusion of polarities, bringing opposites together into a single whole. Pete and the Doctor are definitely mirrored — both tenderly cup Rose's face in his hand, Pete with his left and the Doctor with his right.
The monster of the week bears a sickle at the end of its tail, not a subtle indication that this is a creature of Death. In general, our monsters reflect an aspect of the Underworld and the subconscious issues of our characters. In this episode, it's Rose who's dealing with her daddy issues (Atonement with the Father for anyone interested in the Heroic Journey) and coming to terms with Death.
But this isn't the Underworld, nor the Upperworld. The Church is the Centre, inside which the TARDIS appears as a holy ghost, and the Doctor stands at the pulpit to deliver a sermon. And, as Phil says, this is where all the family dynamics get worked out — suggesting that the soap-opera conventions are Sacred.
Pete's death, on the other hand, occurs outside — but it's in front of a rather lovely Tree. The World Tree symbolizes the connection between the worlds, and in this moment both Rose and Pete are healing the breach — Pete through his inevitable death, but a willing sacrifice like a dying Christ, and Rose in her compassion to tend to him. The breaking pottery, of course, draws on a Biblical metaphor, but again the union of Rose and a "Christ" evokes the alchemical wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz.
Some entailments: A vase is empty inside. It doesn't "have" an essence in there, other than space. Even though the vase has hardened from its original state of softened clay, it is still malleable. We can put Water in vases, and Flowers. In doing so, it may look like the vase is giving birth to a floral arrangement of some kind. Nicely, Pete's daughter is Rose, and there's much ado about her name.
Of course, when the vase breaks, we can't put anything in it anymore. The "spirit" of the vase has flown.
In the Bible, pottery is used as a metaphor not just for the body, but to describe a relationship between People (the Vessels) and God (the Potter.)
Woe to those who hide deep from the LORD their counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, "Who sees us? Who knows us?" You turn things upside down!
Shall the potter be regarded as the clay; that the thing made should say of its maker, "He did not make me;" or the thing formed say of him who formed it, "He has no understanding?"
The potter has sovereignty over his creation. In a way, Rose's choice to save her father (her Father) goes against this sovereignty, except in Who the sovereign is Time, not God. When Pete comes to understand what happened and what's supposed to happen, and when he accepts his inevitable end, his Moment of Grace arrives. And in so doing, that Moment is extended to Rose, as well.
The pot, however, is malleable. Rose does change Time — in particular, she change the story that Jackie tells her about her father when she's a little girl. Remember, this story is what motivates Rose to action in the first place. That story — that cause — must be sufficiently preserved to incite the action over and over again. While the story changes, the song remains the same: Rose will still go back in time to save her father, but now Pete's "salvation" isn't in avoiding death, but having a death where he understands the implications of his life. His death is "apocalyptic" in that it entails a Revelation of the world and and his place in it.
Neatly, this makes Rose a Potter in her own right.
May 17, 2013 @ 6:14 am
This story, hopefully, makes it more clear that the Other Side in that two-parter is an extended metaphor for Death.
May 17, 2013 @ 6:15 am
My mind went right to "Fear Her"
May 17, 2013 @ 6:17 am
I love your readings and interpretations of Who on here. I was just curious – do you have a blog or journal online where you archive your thoughts and writings? It'd certainly be interesting and a nice additional to this blog to read.
May 17, 2013 @ 6:21 am
I, too, think it's L&M. Especially with the 'mundane and small-scale again' – sums up L&M. One man's POV throughout.
Fear Her is small and mundane, but it's a big Earth-at-threat story. As is The Lodger.
May 17, 2013 @ 6:21 am
So do they ever point out why, exactly, one action here instantly brings the Reapers out of the woodwork while all the other times that the Doctor changes history (for instance, the whole Long Game situation, where time had already been changed) the universe acquiesces? Not that it's a major issue, as it can be added to the whole 'three-different-fates-of-Atlantis' continuity issues that Who has always enjoyed – just curious.
And that was a rather slow seeming hit and run driver.
Isn't this the episode where the Doctor implies having given Rose a bike for her 5th birthday, or summat? With the pseudo-boyfriend angle that Dr Sandifer mentions, is that in any way creepy? 😮
May 17, 2013 @ 6:23 am
I suspect i may be in a minority in my opinion here when L&M is discussed… but bring it on! 🙂
May 17, 2013 @ 6:38 am
"Who says I'm not [father Christmas]? Red bicycle when you were twelve." – happens in The Doctor Dances.
Also, I think the Reapers only come about because Rose and the Doctor witnessed Second Rose changing time. A wound in time more damaging than a normal paradox.
May 17, 2013 @ 6:43 am
Now the Reapers/Time Dragons are an interesting thing thing though aren't they? If they'd ever been used again (and there's been plenty of 'time is broken' occasions where they could have been, Waters of Mars, Fires of Pompeii etc.) they would have achieved the status of, albeit rather weak, returning monsters but their function here seems to be something other than 'monster of the week'. The Reapers are the most metaphoric monsters we've seen seen so far and instigate a new and honest approach to the 'There are some corners of the universe..' motivation of the Doctor. We've seen metaphorical monsters before of course and this blog has not been slow in outing them (do I have to say 'qlippothic?) but this is something new. These are monsters who wear their metaphorical status proudly and use it as their mode of attack. They are the manifestation of what the Time Lords existed to prevent, something unleashed by the Time War and coming from the same Other place as the Nightmare Child, the Could've been King and his Army of Neverweres or whatever it was. They have come from a very specific region of the Land of Fiction and the Doctor cannot fight them. Not in a 'Do I have the right?..' way but because he is presented as literally powerless. They've even taken the Tardis. The Time Dragons are the threat of Fantasy invading the carefully set- up Soap of the Tylers. And it's not Rose's fault it's the Doctor's. He's given her the means to literally fantasize her life and she's taken it. It's all resolved of course and the Dragons go away. They aren't exactly defeated but can never return and never do because what this story has done is find a way that Soap and Fantasy can co-exist.
May 17, 2013 @ 6:44 am
No, there's no explanation given for why this appearance of Reapers is unique in the history of the show. But then, just about every paradox in the show gets it own unique presentation, so if it's consistency you desire, that's it.
May 17, 2013 @ 6:50 am
It's also worth adding that these were the very first fully CGI monsters the show did, according to Joe Ahearne.
May 17, 2013 @ 6:57 am
Not yet! Pretty content to stick around as a pilot fish for the time being.
May 17, 2013 @ 6:59 am
And neither Fear Her nor The Lodger has such a reputation as being Marmite as L&M. Moreso than any other story, L&M is simultaneously held up as the Best and Worst Thing Evah.
May 17, 2013 @ 7:00 am
Ah, so it's Moffatt, the cheeky monkey. Thanks.
May 17, 2013 @ 7:00 am
Speaking of directors, I'm utterly thrilled to discover Nick Hurran is doing the anniversary special.
May 17, 2013 @ 7:05 am
May 17, 2013 @ 7:23 am
The vase is also a literal sephira–the word is Hebrew for a clay vessel. The Breaking of the Vessels is the Qabbalistic equivalent to the expulsion from Eden–but in Jewish thought that expulsion has always been part of the plan, and fixing the broken, fallen world (along with our broken, fallen selves) is the purpose for which humanity was created. Without the Breaking of the Vessels, there'd be no need for or possibility of human existence.
May 17, 2013 @ 7:26 am
I'm expecting the really big essay on the Davies era's bipolar take on the Doctor to come with Waters of Mars.
May 17, 2013 @ 7:27 am
But then, just about every paradox in the show gets it own unique presentation, so if it's consistency you desire, that's it.
It makes sense, I think, for it to be consistently inconsistent. Paradox is a breakdown of logic, a violation of cause and effect, so anything can and does happen. It would be an odd coincidence for it to trigger the same disaster twice, out of the infinitude of impossibilities to choose from.
May 17, 2013 @ 7:28 am
L&M is clearly the best thing ever.
May 17, 2013 @ 7:29 am
Oh, I like this read. Well done!
May 17, 2013 @ 7:34 am
The monster of the week bears a sickle at the end of its tail, not a subtle indication that this is a creature of Death.
IIRC, in the Confidential for this story Cornell said that the Reapers were originally written as actual Grim Reapers – skeletal men with hoods and sickles – and that the sickle in the tail was a gesture back towards this.
May 17, 2013 @ 7:39 am
So you're saying that Pete still possesses the Moment?
May 17, 2013 @ 7:50 am
This is a very important story to me, because I lost my father when I was thirteen, and I have thought long and hard and repeatedly about what I'd do if I had a chance to travel back in time and prevent his death. And the truth is… I wouldn't, because his death had a profound impact on who I am. If he had not died when I was thirteen, I would not exist; some other person with my name and DNA would be here in my place. Or somewhere else, or nowhere. ("But what about the fire?" Granny Weatherwax asks.)
To bring him back would be a form of suicide, and he would not want me to die so that he could live.
I'm almost certainly projecting, but I feel like that's a large part of what this episode is about–Rose wants to bring her father back, and he wants her to live, and only one of those can actually happen.
Rewatching this episode, I'll admit it, I was wrong and the people arguing with me in the comments on the last episode are right: Rose did not plan this. It was a spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment thing, and that what I read as her being selfish and self-centered is actually her being incredibly impulsive and devoid of self-control.
Which makes me dislike her even more. She really is just a brat; a spoiled child who never thinks for a second about anything other than how she feels. Sometimes she feels empathy or sympathy, so does (what she thinks are) nice things for the target of that feeling, but it's still always and only based on her immediate emotional response.
Basically, there's no evidence that Rose actually thinks. At all, about anything, ever. She's purely reactive and purely emotive–which is another way of saying she's a soap opera character. But that's precisely why, despite liking soap opera elements in other genres, I don't like soap operas–they are uniformly populated by incredibly obnoxious people, and EastPowellEstate is no different.
May 17, 2013 @ 8:02 am
Thanks. there's more to unpack there, for instance the Gelth and the Silence, the Space Whale and the Dream Lord (and possibly the Whisper Men, we'll see) all seem, to me, to be coming from the same 'Other Space'. I'll let others elaborate on that if they wish.
BTW sorry for the silly typos it's difficult to compose long replies on a Kindle.
May 17, 2013 @ 8:08 am
I'll agree with you on the Gelth and Silence, but not the other two. The Dream Lord comes from the Doctor, not the Other Space, and I don't see anything about the Space Whale that doesn't fit just fine into the normal Doctor Who milieu.
(For the record, there is a pretty good name for the Other Space that sometimes invades our own with horrors, that is much more fantastical, and operates on a different, dreamier logic, and it's a name that resonates powerfully with British culture in general and Doctor Who's predecessors in particular: Faerie.)
May 17, 2013 @ 8:11 am
Also-also: If the Time War is a metaphor for the wilderness years, is this suggestion that the conflict between Time Lords and Daleks spread to include a conflict between native Whovian elements and an intruding Other a metaphor for the whole rad vs. trad thing?
Also, is it intentional on your part for the name "Other Space" to suggest a connection to The Other of Gallifreyan myth?
May 17, 2013 @ 8:16 am
YANA. My dad died when I was 12 (neatly, I came to the show with 'Rise of the Cybermen' – the story which gave Rose her dad back, kind of), but I can definitely feel for Rose. She's not a brat. But maybe she is spoilt, because her mother is trying to be both parents. And, given the chance to save your parent is… well, it'd be more difficult than we think.
Because guaranteed I'd be selfish. I'd have the "yeah, I'll save him" attitude, at least briefly, like Rose. And then I'd probably say no. Because I'd jump at the chance for half an hour more with my dad.
But alas, we'll never know because we'll never get that chance. But I also suspect we'd all act very differently, depending on the parent, age, mentality, etc.
Imagine if you'd gone into severe depression, lost your job, self-harmed, etc. because you'd lost a parent… and then suddenly you're presented with the chance to save that parent and change yourself somewhat.
'Tis why I love this episode because we can all individually relate very, very differently to it.
(I do like her brief scene with Jackie in the finale, too, when Rose tells Jackie basically what she did and Jackie storms out. Wonderful scene.)
May 17, 2013 @ 8:23 am
No mention of the empty TARDIS shell?
One of the most shocking and coolest scenes in the entire show, I'd argue. Just oft-forgotten because it's in Series 1.
May 17, 2013 @ 8:28 am
Ah, yes, L&M would make way more sense. I guess I'm just a bit too fixated on the Doctor to realize that "mundane and small-scale" doesn't necessarily refer to the Doctor's perspective on the story.
Waters of Mars would indeed be a pretty good time to address the conflicting attitudes on display regarding the Doctor. Turn Left might be a good choice as well.
May 17, 2013 @ 8:38 am
"Paradox is a breakdown of logic, a violation of cause and effect, so anything can and does happen. It would be an odd coincidence for it to trigger the same disaster twice, out of the infinitude of impossibilities to choose from."
I'm using this explanation from now on whenever I get into one of those arguments. Thanks!
May 17, 2013 @ 8:43 am
Sorry to delete your comment, Lewis, but the delicate balance of things means that directions on where to find pirated material are something I really shouldn't have hosted on the blog.
May 17, 2013 @ 8:45 am
I love that moment. Only in Doctor Who would a police box that's the same size on the inside as it is on the outside be a terrifying image.
May 17, 2013 @ 8:54 am
Isn't this the episode where the Doctor implies having given Rose a bike for her 5th birthday, or summat? With the pseudo-boyfriend angle that Dr Sandifer mentions, is that in any way creepy? 😮
I think it's one of those things that could be creepy if the show wanted it to be, but because it's Doctor Who, it isn't.
Have you read the Time Traveller's Wife? Parts of that could be seen as extremely creepy, but it manages not to be because of the way the author wrote it.
May 17, 2013 @ 8:58 am
Jane should start a Tumblr. I'd love to see her readings accompanied by the appropriate gifs.
May 17, 2013 @ 9:00 am
Given Paul Cornell's 'Shadows of Avalon' and some of his sequences from his run on Captain Britain, I'm sure he's be all for Faerie.
May 17, 2013 @ 9:02 am
This is possibly my least favourite story of the modern series. Not because it's particularly bad – at the time I thought it was OK, if a little flat and colourless, and with puzzling character motivations which I was content to put down to the series' teething problems – but because the particular way in which it is fundamentally flawed has gone on to be far too influential. It's not the first episode with plot holes, or with silly resolutions – World War Three at least has it beat there – but it is the first to seem to consciously and actively sneer at anyone who thinks a story ought to have internal logic. I appreciate the point made above – that in this sort of paradox-happy story, anything can and should happen – and elsewhere i don't mind it; the series five two part finale runs effectively with this and it's enjoyable. I do, however, object to characters introduced as reasonable and not stupid making decisions that do not accord with the context that they and we have been presented with, but which are successful anyway. This would eventually reach its nadir with Waters of Mars, in which the decision Adelaide makes to defy / shame the Doctor cannot possibly have the stated outcome, but does anyway. We are expected to accept that an inexplicable, apparently self-inflicted death on one planet has exactly the same set of consequences as the "default" death that was already established in history when the Doctor arrived. That's not lazy writing, because it's been carefully and deliberately set up that way. But it is insulting writing, since it assumes the viewer will be so caught up in the emotional sweep of the story that they won't notice or care when the story mechanics make no sense. I hoped at the time that Dalek or Empty Child / The Doctor Dances would be the most influential story of the season, but the way in which, time after time, the writers don't even seem to attempt to give reasonable actions to their characters suggests it was Father's Day. Given how well Cornell can plot – Love and War being the best example – it's enormously frustrating.
[A quick search of my LJ to remind myself what I thought at the time came up with this: at the moment I am rather reminded of a review of Earthshock from the Discontinuity Guide: "Engaging early on, but a writer isn't supposed to get so caught up in the action that things only happen for reasons of plot expediency. What we have is great – for a first draft." I don't need to remind anyone who co-authored Discontinuity, do I? ;-)]
May 17, 2013 @ 9:09 am
I realize that the scene itself isn't particularly conducive to this reading, but I always assumed that in Waters of Mars, Adelaide's daughter mistakenly believed that her mother's death DID happen on Mars. How Adelaide managed to make a convincing fake-out while shooting herself is unclear, but…maybe the Doctor cleaned it up? I dunno.
May 17, 2013 @ 9:10 am
Fair enough. Is it alright to simply say "if anyone's interested, the Series 1 Confidentials are available online"?
Delete this one if you deem it inappropriate too, but I've left out specific usernames and site names this time.
Just wanted to let people know because they're certainly interesting to rewatch alongside the blog.
May 17, 2013 @ 9:11 am
Perfectly fine, and I even encourage people to hunt them down, since I'm covering them in a few weeks. 🙂
May 17, 2013 @ 9:16 am
Turn Left might be a good choice as well.
I would hate for my favorite New Series companion's best story and finest moment to be spent talking about the Doctor.
May 17, 2013 @ 9:17 am
Fair enough. Noted for next time, Phil.
Looking forward to your thoughts and write-ups of the Confidentials, and I hope that means we'll potentially cover more of the extras (eg. Night and the Doctor, prequels, etc.) later down the line.
May 17, 2013 @ 9:22 am
I've been musing over those. It's often a matter of whether I can get 2k out of them. What I'm really musing over right now is Pudsey Cutaway – does that have 2k to it, or is it a footnote to Christmas Invasion? Past that… the prequels interest me, but are usually best folded into their episodes. Time Crash I did, and don't think I have another 2k on. Night and the Doctor is basically a certainty. Don't know about the "meanwhile in the TARDIS" scenes on the Series Five set yet.
And the TARDISodes will get covered as one post.
May 17, 2013 @ 9:30 am
I did go into severe depression and self-harm as a result of losing my dad.
But I wouldn't go back in time and erase those events, either. Not because they were good. They weren't; they were utterly and inexpressibly horrible and went on and on, seemingly without end. I wouldn't wish the experience on my worst enemy.
But a me who had never spent decades struggling with depression, who had never been hospitalized following a suicide attempt, who didn't still live with the knowledge that I could fall back down there again, wouldn't be me. To change those things would be to erase the person I have become since they occurred, and I choose to believe that the person I am is worth the suffering past me experienced.
(Worse still, what if it's one of those things where the time traveler is unaffected by the changes to the timeline? Have you ever had that nightmare where all your loved ones are replaced by dopplegangers who act almost, but not quite, like the people you love? Imagine living that for the rest of your life.)
But to use a time machine to talk to my dad for half an hour, without changing history? To tell him what I've done with my life. To know–really know, not just hope–whether he'd be proud of the man I've become? I'd do that in a heartbeat. Just thinking about it, I'm on the verge of crying in my cubicle.
May 17, 2013 @ 9:40 am
I'm not sure why you think this doesn't follow its own internal logic?
1: Rose travels back in time to see her father's death.
2: Rose doubles up, perceiving the event from two positions at once. For reasons unexplained but not inconsistent with anything else in the story, this makes time particularly fragile.
3: Rose prevents her father's death, eliminating her reason to travel to that particular day in 1987, meaning she doesn't prevent her father's death, and we have a paradox. Combined with the fragility of the timeline due to (2), this paradox can not be smoothed out by the normal natural mechanisms, and the Time Lords are no longer around to clean up, so the Reapers appear.
4: Pete dies, restoring Rose's motivation to travel to 1987 and thereby eliminating the paradox. Everything that happened as a result of the paradox is undone, except Rose and the Doctor's memories, which is odd if you think about it but par for the course in Doctor Who (and most time travel fiction, actually).
Where's the hole?
May 17, 2013 @ 9:59 am
I would've liked Toby Haynes or Graham Harper, myself, but Hurran's phenomenal with Who. 🙂
May 17, 2013 @ 10:04 am
Excellent reading, Phil and everyone. This is probably my favourite story of Series One, possibly in all of the New Series (which I guess should say something coming from me). I love the structural juxtaposition and the character moments are really well done. I also think this is the one episode since the McCoy-Cartmel era that really nails how to portray the Doctor/Companion relationship.
I guess it's really weird of me to like this one and not "Human Nature", but what can I say? That's why I'm not the Doctor Who blogger.
May 17, 2013 @ 11:08 am
Hmm, so Empty Child/Doctor Dances is Wednesday? (I don't see how the plot of "Boomtown" can possibly described as "massive.")
Any hints about what's up for Monday, then?
May 17, 2013 @ 11:38 am
The car has been following Pete around since Rose saved him. So it hasn't come out of nowhere. The episode is obeying its own internal rules, which is about all you can ask for from a time travel episode. I think of it as the universe attempting to return to the most consistent state available.
May 17, 2013 @ 11:46 am
I have assumed (in that part of my brain that wants things to make orderly sense even when I know that the show can never do so long term), that the reapers come out ALL THE TIME, but the show just glosses over it for the same reason the Doctor just leaves at the end of an episode, and nobody in the show remembers after the events have been fixed.
Including Paradox/Reaper Fixing time the Doctor's probably twice the age he claims.
May 17, 2013 @ 11:47 am
I would have liked Hettie MacDonald.
May 17, 2013 @ 11:57 am
What for me makes this episode work, where I often find Davies doesn't, is that Cornell is utterly confident in the emotional reactions that his material will produce. In most of the Davies era, Pete's line that he takes responsibility because that's what dad's do, would get two or three lines of dialogue and a big Murray Gold musical moment or so it seems to me. Whereas Cornell is confident that it's earned as a big emotional moment, that he can use it to launch the big argument between Jackie and Pete that makes everything worse. So that none of the emotional moments are left to wear out their welcome.
But then I think the Davies' script that unambiguously works, where he has confidence in everything he's written, is Midnight. Which is not typical of the Davies-era aesthetic. I think Cornell believes in the goals of the Davies-era aesthetic in a way that Davies doesn't quite.
May 17, 2013 @ 12:01 pm
and we have a paradox
Well there's the problem right there. The script doesn't say a paradox has anything to do with it. The script implies that history changing is itself enough. The script says that Rose and the baby touching would be a paradox and would exacerbate the situation, thus implying (somewhat stupidly), that nothing prior to that was a paradox. But at the end of the story, history is still different to what it was at the start. And apparently this time it's fine. Your version is great, and it's similar to what I'd have handed to Cornell when asking for another draft; but it's not what we got.
May 17, 2013 @ 12:33 pm
How about putting "Pudsey Cutaway" in with The Christmas Invasion as a Christmas treat, and talk about "Meanwhile" along with their connected episodes (the first at the end of The Eleventh Hour, or with The Beast Below, and the second after Flesh and Stone or with The Vampires of Venice).
Also, sorry for all the questions… but are you planning to dive into SJA and Torchwood? (Or at least the two SJAs featuring the Doctor?)
May 17, 2013 @ 12:36 pm
I'm aware of the Other in the novels but haven't read them so, no, it wasn't intentional but we should all know by now that UN-intentional echoes may be just as valid. I'm using 'Other' in a classic Fantasy Literature sense and also to possibly reflect the transgressive concerns of Nu-Who.
Yes 'Faerie' would fit and actually chime nicely with my personal cosmogony but some may find the term off-putting and others just too whimsical so I avoided it.
I'll concede the Space Whale, as for the Dream Lord it was never really established unambiguously just what he was. I like to think of him as the Doctor's Mr. Mxyzptlk so he would fit if one let him. Actually I was probably thinking of The Trickster and his brigade.
On a practical and possibly technobabbley level I certainly remember thinking at the time that here is an intriguing concept – 'The Time War'. I imagined it as a total conflict that raged simultaneously across all eras (and by definition always has/had done) causing permanent damage to the very fabric of Space-Time and whose arcane weapons of temporal mass destruction created rifts into more chaotic dimensions allowing access to uncanny creatures of nightmare. The Doctor's only recourse was to end the war by destroying both sides (again across all time zones from the Big Bang to the End of Time)and attempt to suture these wounds. Instead, rather disappointingly as the series progressed it became just a big scrap between the Daleks and the Time Lords.
May 17, 2013 @ 12:45 pm
I attribute it to the fact that not even the Doctor can easily change events that he knows are supposed to happen. They were there to witness the death of Pete Tyler. And then, Pete Tyler didn't die. Rose changed a fundamental fact of her own history. Ergo, paradox. That's why Eleven was terrified of reading too much of the book in "Angels Take Manhattan." It wasn't just knowing the future in broad strokes, it was having specific knowledge of his and his companions futures that could not be altered without affecting the source of his knowledge and thereby short-circuiting cause and effect.
May 17, 2013 @ 1:03 pm
Yes, I am. I'd originally been going to be somewhat more circumspect – doing something like four entries for each season of Torchwood – but I eventually had the rather key realization that if I did it episode by episode, along with Sarah Jane and Sherlock, I'd have another book. And it's not like I don't enjoy them, so, you know, why not do it, basically.
Yes, there's no chance of Pudsey Cutaway and the Meanwhiles getting ignored. The question is really whether they get their own entries or not. At some point I will need to do an entry on "the DVD set" of a season as a discrete entity. We'll see. I'm actually dreadfully behind on locking in the schedule for the next chunk of blog. I used to be scheduled four or five months out, whereas right now I'm scheduled a couple of weeks.
May 17, 2013 @ 1:05 pm
Anton: I don't see anything said about the Time War that contradicts any of that.
May 17, 2013 @ 1:07 pm
It's certainly what I got. I think the implication is clear enough in the episode that they don't have to spell out "a paradox is what caused this".
May 17, 2013 @ 1:28 pm
Yeah, I agree. One of the problems with Davies-era big emotional stuff is the sort of "GET IT?" moments where he doesn't trust the audience to understand what's going on here without it being pointed out explicitly.
May 17, 2013 @ 1:36 pm
No nothing contradicts it but at the same time nothing since season 1 has added to that imagined mythology. Rather, every reference to the Time War has seemed to diminish it to just a big Space War between the Daleks and the Time Lords. This is why I relish the more poetic turns of phrase of RTD and Moffat, the Nightmare Child etc. The hints at a grander and more esoteric conflict with pan-dimensional resonances perhaps even affecting the realms of fiction, dreams and imagination (which I think Moffat was hinting toward in Amy Pond's early narrative but hastily dropped in favour of flirting and bitchiness and River Song).
May 17, 2013 @ 2:08 pm
Agreed with Ununnilium–there's no need whatsoever to spell it out. It's 2005; we've all seen Back to the Future five billion times. We know what happens if you save your dad from being hit by a car.
May 17, 2013 @ 2:16 pm
I don't think it's quite fair to include the score in that evaluation, though. Cornell likely had ZERO say in how the episode was scored; as a general rule, writers don't. Davies would have, but in his capacity as a producer, not writer.
May 17, 2013 @ 2:21 pm
Also, I don't get the Gold hate. I love Gold's scores. They're not "telling me how to feel" as many fans complain, they're evoking emotion independently from the events on screen. Sometimes they do so in parallel, but sometimes there's a contrast, as in the climax of "Dalek." It adds a lot, IMO–frankly, most of the classic series could have had no music except the title theme and worked fine, as the audio dramas prove.
May 17, 2013 @ 2:36 pm
It would not surprise me at all to find that there's a LOT of overlap between people who hate L&M and people who hate "The Lodger." I feel like they're both the same kind of Marmite.
(For the record, I love "The Lodger," and I love the first 90% of L&M. The ending… has issues.)
May 17, 2013 @ 2:36 pm
The problem is not that it was not adequately explained. The problem is that an explanation was given that didn't work. Your suggestions are fine, but they contradict what is stated in dialogue. Go and check if you don't believe me.
May 17, 2013 @ 3:06 pm
Interesting. I never thought of it that way, but it works, and ties in well with the New Series' tendency to treat Cybermen as basically zombies–slow, tough ex-humans who desire only to kill and to turn humans into more of themselves. Oddly, though the Cybermen themselves are zombies, the stories in which they appear are generally not zombie movies–or, at least, they lack the primary function of zombie movies, which is to provide a sanitized fantasy scenario in which the viewer could kill their boss/neighbor/political opponents/whoever it is they fantasize about killing.
May 17, 2013 @ 3:37 pm
I'd do what Rose did in an instant.
To hell with 'History'.
Then again, I'm in a slightly different space where I could have prevented the death (in my case, my mother's suicide) by making one tiny, tiny change.
I'd no longer be the same person – that'd be a good thing.
May 17, 2013 @ 4:40 pm
I've checked. I see no contradiction between "it's a paradox" and "Rose changed history when she shouldn't have." Rose changing history is what caused the paradox.
May 17, 2013 @ 4:43 pm
This was the first episode where I was really struck by what seemed to be "Fanboys ignoring what was actually said in the episode so they could complain about it contradicting their headcanon"
Because everyone says that it's the changing history and creating a paradox that causes the Flying Killer Time Monkeys to appear. But you know what's actually said? The actual line of dialogue? It's "I know what I'm doing, you don't. Two sets of us being there made that a vulnerable point."
It's not that Rose changed history. It's not that Rose caused a paradox. It's that Rose caused a paradox while there were two sets of them there.
May 17, 2013 @ 5:44 pm
I'd agree, though The Lodger is a more traditional take (while still being quite good and quite unlike anything the Classic series ever did, apart from a few novels).
May 17, 2013 @ 5:45 pm
…that's an interesting interpretation of zombie movies.
But yeah, the Cybermen have always been some kind of undead. (And hey, speaking of the Other Side as Death: City of Ghosts.)
May 17, 2013 @ 5:47 pm
I would do what Rose did… if I didn't have an ancient immortal telling me it would break the universe.
May 17, 2013 @ 5:49 pm
I agree, honestly – I've never thought "wow, the music is like 'FEEL THING FEEL THING FEEL THING'", and I'm the kind of person who thinks that fairly often.
May 17, 2013 @ 6:16 pm
I hate The Lodger and L&M for identical reasons: terrible casting (or, if you prefer, terrible acting from a cast member).
I have nothing against the concepts of either episode and could easily see myself loving both if the performances turned in by James Corden and Peter Kay were changed entirely.
May 17, 2013 @ 6:29 pm
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May 17, 2013 @ 7:16 pm
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May 17, 2013 @ 7:31 pm
Not just a slow hit-and-run-driver, but one who covers his eyes and doesn't try to steer out of the way.
It seems like there is plenty of time and opportunity to stop/swerve, but nah, cover those eyes up and keep going!
(did have a YouTube link to the part of the episode this is most apparent, but just noticed further down Mr Sandifer is having to remove those sorts of links)
May 17, 2013 @ 7:32 pm
I have trouble viewing this episode objectively; my dad died the night before it aired. "Tear jerker" is an understatement.
May 17, 2013 @ 7:58 pm
Not Tumblr (though I love it) — not the best place for comments and dialogue.
May 17, 2013 @ 8:04 pm
Phil's remarked before in the comments about L&M being the only "true" marmite story in the new series, so that's likely what he's referring to.
May 17, 2013 @ 8:38 pm
Not that I want to develop some proper policy on this, but generally speaking I'm fine with posting clips but less so with full episodes or "part three of five" series. The problem with the previous link was that it was to entire episodes of Confidential. Posting to "this bit of the episode here is what I'm talking about" is a shade of grey I'll tolerate. 🙂
May 17, 2013 @ 8:53 pm
Also, the business of adult-Rose touching baby-Rose being a bad thing is old hat. Blinovitch Limitation Effect and all that. It's been known that two temporally distinct versions of the same person physically touching is catastrophically bad since "Mawdryn Undead." The Doctor has only been able to cheat by interacting with prior generations rather than other incidents of his current generation. Even in "Last Night," the two copies of Eleven were careful not to come near each other, and the primary Eleven went to great lengths to keep the different versions of River from meeting one another.
May 17, 2013 @ 9:00 pm
I haven't lost a parent, or really anyone important to me. But I've had plenty of crossroads in my life, points that were vital in determining what my life is like today and usually points that I was incapable of recognizing as important at the time. At least three of them I would be willing to change, even recognizing that doing so would be a form of suicide (unless, of course, I had a cosmic demigod on hand to explain how it would destroy the universe). Interesting, as I think about it, none of them are "bad choices" that I regret for the bad outcomes that directly resulted. Rather, all three are simply occasions when I chose something "safe and sensible" over something riskier but with a greater chance for personal fulfillment. I might be less successful in my life if any of those choices had gone the other way, but I still feel like I'd be a better and happier person.
May 17, 2013 @ 9:48 pm
Cool – this was a "part 3 of 5" situation using a timestamp in the URL to jump to the right clip, so I'll keep it off.
If anyone is interested, it's about 20 minutes into the episode, and fairly amusing – he's really very careful about blocking his vision while keeping one hand on the wheel – the safest of unsafe driving.
May 17, 2013 @ 10:28 pm
"I know what I'm doing, you don't. Two sets of us being there made that a vulnerable point."
The ninth Doctor's explanations are one of the glories of series 1; terse, plain, simple, and very clear. Davies clearly takes seriously his responsibility to make the show comprehensible for children, and it shows in the language he uses. "Time Lords have this little trick, it's sort of a way of cheating death."; has there ever been a better explanation of regeneration?
The flipside of this, I think, is that fans don't always recognise these explanations for what they are; trained by earlier eras of the shows, they expect a more baroque mode of technobabble.
May 18, 2013 @ 1:47 am
You can incorporate Disqus comments on Tumblr, but I agree it's not the best.
May 18, 2013 @ 2:14 am
Dave: Ouch. Watching it unprepared a decade after my father died was rough enough; I can't imagine doing it the next day.
May 18, 2013 @ 5:32 am
Yeah definitely L&M. Love that episode personally and I look forwards to Phil's take on it, especially with hints that have been dropped previously.
May 18, 2013 @ 5:38 am
I think Gold's score is generally oriented towards a character's feelings. When it's atmospheric — like the Muzak in The God Complex, which he composed — there's a diegetic reason for it.
Now, I like it a lot, because I'm already invested in the characters' emotions, and the added score just helps my immersion, but I can see how someone who's trying to keep an emotional distance, or who just can't empathize with the character(s) in question due to context or prejudice, may find the score "telling" them how to feel.
My only complaint with the score is that it sometimes it drowns out the dialogue, which I have a hard enough time hearing in the first place (half-deaf) but that's generally only the the first viewing — I've figured out what people are saying pretty easily after that.
May 18, 2013 @ 5:43 am
Hi Jane, thanks again for your comments. Often mirroring many of my thought, I just don't have as much time to comment because of business right now.
You said: "But this isn't the Underworld, nor the Upperworld. The Church is the Centre"
Yes – it makes me think about the context that this tale is taking place in then. This tale would come across to me as a Middleworld Journey. Shamanically journeys can take place in the Under / Middle / Upper realms. It makes perfect sense for this tale with Rose seeking healing, or some kind of reconciliation with family members that it would need to occur in this very material setting. Perfect for the blending of the soap elements , or as Phil comments on, the full subsuming of human drama into the Doctor's world – as the Doctor himself is also taken on a journey that connects him more and more with the material human world.
May 18, 2013 @ 5:51 am
Yeah Hurran's cool, love his visual tics and tricks.
May 18, 2013 @ 5:51 am
@Nick: "fans don't always recognise these explanations for what they are; trained by earlier eras of the shows, they expect a more baroque mode of technobabble."
And, I think, they're less willing to buy into the emotional logic of a story driving the plot, that that is the underpinning of so much of the causation-threads in the story.
For example, the Doctor is happy to bring Rose back a second time to her father's death, believing this time she'll run to her father and comfort him in his death. Why is this okay, with their earlier versions seeing something different happen before their eyes?
The reason, as it becomes clear in the unfolding of the story, has to do with emotions and relationship. If Pete lives, he grows up in Rose's life, and because he's a schlubb she may well end up not being the person who would save him in the first place — because she's no longer as "good" or because she just doesn't care for him at all, or both.
Cauasality will be broken because in this case causality is rooted in human motivation, which itself is generated by emotions and relationship. Changing the story of his death from "He was all alone" to "There was someone there" isn't going to change who Rose is and how she'd relate to her father. It's a character issue.
And no, it's not spelled out in such clarity, because such an explanation would destroy the human drama of the episode, not to mention mistrusting the audience to figure out the causal threads of the loop. The presentation as it is provides more opportunity for us to be active participants in the construction of the text, and that's a Good Thing (TM).
May 18, 2013 @ 5:54 am
Where I am in my life today, I wouldn't go back to change anything, even though there's plenty that deserves changing. Before LOST, on the other hand, yeah, I'd have done it.
May 18, 2013 @ 5:57 am
Thanks so much for sharing your own experiences. I really appreciate hearing your story in the context of this episode. This is one vein I think the new Series touched on- our feelings as people. Thanks again.
May 18, 2013 @ 6:12 am
Harper and MacDonald did some great work in Davies' era. The latter only did one episode, though, and while it was brilliant I'd hesitate to entrust the Anniversary to her on that basis. But other than Richard Clark, if I'm not mistaken, Moffat's gone with a whole new stable of directors — different aesthetic concerns?
Haynes, yeah, I'd have no qualms there. But other than Hurran, the only director I'd possibly prefer at this point would be Metzstein.
On that note, I'm just so tickled pink at the Revival's approach to the show, presenting it in a cinematic language rather than pointing a camera at theatre. Not that one is inherently better than the other, but some intentions are better served than others, namely the intention of Spectacle, of witnessing something beautiful for its own sake — can we call this The Web Planet argument?
May 18, 2013 @ 6:16 am
Just want to add — yes, fantastic reading! Especially the implications for the Soap/Fantasy genres, I think that's just brilliant.
May 18, 2013 @ 7:05 am
Indeed and indeed.
May 18, 2013 @ 7:40 am
Thanks jane. I've also been thinking about the car accident that kills Pete. Getting run down is a pretty standard Soap trope for writing a character out but here it's signified as an almost fatalistic (in a number of definitions of the phrase) action. The car and driver manifest (after Rose's intervention) as an almost demonic presence, virtually 'haunting' Pete as he continues his life. The way it keeps coming around that corner, as though determined to put the Time Line back on course. I need to watch the episode again but doesn't it appear that the car and driver have become fantastic and uncanny before the Reapers even arrive? Is this in fact the first incursion of Fantasy on EastPowellStreet?
Pen Name Pending
May 18, 2013 @ 7:41 am
I think we're around the time where the first New Series Adventure came out…
Pen Name Pending
May 18, 2013 @ 7:51 am
What about "Space" and "Time"?
Of the two Meanwhile scenes, the second one has probably the most meat in it. I hated it at first, but then I watched it again and I realized that Moffat was poking fun at the companion; exposing how the role would be seen by those who hadn't watched the show.
May 18, 2013 @ 11:19 am
You are mistaken; Douglas MacKinnon did the Sontaran two-parter in Series 4 for RTD, and he's done "The Power of Three" and "Cold War" in Series 7 for Moffat (I think those two were part of the same block, even).
If Peter Grimwade were still alive, or Matthew Robinson still working, they'd be my top choices from the classic series… but, as Graham Harper is the only director to direct for both the classic AND new series, he'd have been perfect for the 50th anniversary.
May 22, 2013 @ 11:52 am
I think it's quite interesting that Eleven (if he is Eleven any more :)) finds it perfectly acceptable to "reboot" the entire Universe* but all of them are haunted by whatever they did to end the Time War and Nine in particular seems to want to avoid paradox.
*I'm looking forward to that discussion…
June 4, 2013 @ 2:58 pm
Jane – just a quick correction, having watched the episode last night (I've been rewatching the new series with a friend, so my reading of these entries has slipped behind to suit the pace of our viewings).
Saying that "the Doctor is happy to bring Rose back a second time to her father's death" misrepresents the situation – he's clearly wary about the potential problems and only does it because he believes he can trust her to listen to him. He also tells her that they have to wait until their earlier selves have gone in order to avoid creating a paradox – there's no suggestion that it would be okay in any way for their earlier selves to see something different happen.
This doesn't affect the rest of your reasoning of course, it just irked my inner pedant 🙂
June 4, 2013 @ 3:24 pm
I think it's a mistake to assume a dislike of a musical score which tells you how to feel must be due to emotional distance or lack of empathy. While these are valid reasons, I find that using music in this way throws me out of the moment to some extent – it takes away from any emotional subtlety in the performance or situation, making the whole thing seem much more heavy-handed. This was a particular problem for me in "Vincent and the Doctor", where the music playing during Vincent's visit to the gallery was so annoyingly over-the-top that it took me out of the episode entirely. (I've fared better in re-watching it, but only because I know the bad music is coming and can brace myself against it.)
For me, part of it comes down to musical taste (I like some of Gold's work but by no means all), part of it is the feeling that I'm being treated like an idiot who can't understand what's going on without musical guidance, part of it is a seeming lack of faith in the performers and the material to carry the emotion themselves.
That said, I don't actually have a problem with the score to "Father's Day" – it works very well for this episode and builds to an appropriate level to support the "tear jerker" moments without (for me) tipping over the top.
April 19, 2014 @ 8:32 pm
Say, almost a year later seems like a great time to add my own fanon to this discussion! 😀
Actually, thinking of it, it would probably be more sensible to wait for The Wedding of River Song to come around to get into this, but I guess it's too late to stop now.
Speaking in terms of how paradoxes occur in the series, Father's Day's specific circumstances are most closely mirrored by the events of The Wedding of River Song and if we are to… how to make this fanboy rambling sound more serious… if we interrogate the text with The Wedding of River Song serving as our panopticon, then the presence of the Reapers makes a great deal of sense in the earlier episode. The absence doesn't, but I'll get to that.
I should clarify what I mean by the circumstances of the paradox. In Father's Day, we witness Wilderness-era-villain Grandfather Paradox in action, as Rose saves her father's life, thus removing the impetus to have gone back in time to witness his death, thus removing the impetus to save her father's life. Such events happen infrequently in the series without major downside, with the exception of a few stable time loops being formed as a result here and there. But, crucially, both the Doctor and Rose are present for the events multiple times. The Doctor's physically present and watching closely twice, and Rose likewise, but she's additionally within proximity a third time, as baby Rose being carried by young Jackie Tyler, fresh off her guest appearance in Survival. The Doctor informs us this makes that particular point in time "vulnerable", and thus a simple grandfather paradox results in time being so broken that time dragons enter the universe to sterilize the wound.
(As an aside, I like to imagine such events were common during the Time War, as time paradoxes of cosmic scale piled up out of the Time Lords' control. Perhaps the intriguingly named Nightmare Child was some maximized form of time dragon, capable of devouring entire planets whole…)
Notably, we see this sort of event happen only one other time, and that's… well, two, if you count A Christmas Carol, but that's damaging to my case so I'm consciously ignoring it for this precise moment, no doubt to explain it away later. We later see a very similar event occur in The Wedding of River Song, where a stable time loop is broken, thus creating a grandfather paradox. If the Doctor doesn't get summoned to his faked death, he cannot learn the particulars of the event, and thus does not get involved in the adventure that sows the seeds of his faked death.
And again, we find the physical proximity involved. The Doctor is within a short distance, geographically speaking, of Lake Silencio twice (three times if you want to assume Dalek is taking place at the same time underground somewhere nearby, but oh wow that needlessly complicates things, and doesn't make much sense anyways). And again, his female companion River Song is present multiple times: twice in her third incarnation, and if you want to be cheeky, once as the ganger duplicate of her unborn fetus, which I guess is her way of out-doing Rose.
(Man, that's a meet-up we should be so lucky to see some day, River Song and Rose Tyler, the missus and the ex in a whole new scale…)
Now, the effects of the paradox in Wedding are seemingly different than they are in Father's Day, but not nearly so different as they might first seem. In Father's Day, human history begins to collapse upon itself: phones pick up nothing but Alexander Graham Bell, Rick Rolling occurs in an episode set 20 (and produced 2) years before such a thing was common place, and the hit-and-run driver is caught in a very peculiar time loop. The Doctor points out that this is all the result of time dying, and the time dragons are here to sterilize the wound.
April 19, 2014 @ 8:37 pm
Therefore, and this is the point I've been laboriously approaching, The Wedding of River Song is what would happen if the time dragons had failed to sterilize it. Earth's history has completely collapsed. The Silurians and Humans share earth, Holy Roman Emperor Winston Churchill arrives at Westminster Palace on his personal mammoth, there's "don't feed the pteranodons" signs at parks, it is complete chaos (and my personal favorite cold open in the show's history). The Wedding of River Song is the consequence that Father's Day was spent trying to avoid, much in the same way The Caves of Androzani is the consequence that The Doctor Dances was spent trying to avoid. And ultimately, the way to repair the web of time is the same: the person who wrongfully lived must properly die, and then turn out to still be alive, be it through robotic duplicate trickery or alternate universe hijinks.
I don't think all of the parallels between the stories are necessarily 100% intended. Wedding was probably going to have a wedding in it no matter what happened in the first series, and "anachronisms as a result of a time crash" hardly seems like an actively poached concept. The focus on how time travel affects your perception of death, and of dead friends and family, is most likely the main core that both stories were built around, and the weirdly specific setup and result of the time paradox in each of them was probably coincidental.
Then again, this is Doctor Who, darnit. If we can't speculate that inconsistent gibberish in fact follows an eerily coherent code of logic, then what can we speculate on? Which actors were banging? Okay, I can do that too.
As for the huge question deferred above, "why no time dragons in Wedding?"
I figure they got eaten by the cracks in time, or something. Maybe got exterminated by the Daleks who got sucked into the void, or destroyed by the reality bomb that happened and then un-happened twice.
As for the other big question hanging over this comment, "What about A Christmas Carol?" good god, I can't even speculate. The Doctor's only physically present once, and Kazran only twice, but Kazran's younger self has yet to go on all the adventures that older Kazran has experienced leading him to this point, both originally via being there and again via watching the video and looking at the photographs, and then the two touch which would get Professor Blimovitch really angry if he wasn't so busy erasing Jack Harkness's memories and then there's a flying shark and a happy ending with a repeating refrain about Silence and oh god, I love that episode but it's so fairy tale that trying to follow it in sci-fi terms is an actively incorrect task. It all works because sometimes, things just work.
As for the third question, regarding actor shipping, some part of me feels, almost elementally, that Capaldi and Alex Kingston are going to have better on-screen chemistry than her and Smith. It doesn't look like their real world marital statuses would allow that chemistry to go off-screen, but reality doesn't occupy the same thoughtspace as gossip and shipping.
This was probably the wrong place to air these ideas, but they've been bouncing around and needed a better outlet than Doctor Who threads on certain imageboards which must not be spoken of. Whenever Wedding comes up in the rotation (I'm guessing after Let's Kill Hitler but before The Forest of the Dead), I'll probably just repost this pair of comments.
January 7, 2016 @ 4:27 pm
A couple of (somewhat belated) thoughts. First, though it’s right that changing history doesn’t equate to any real-world moral dilemma in a utilitarian sense, I think the point is surely that it is presented as immoral in the sense of heresy; to change history is dangerous and taboo because it is an affront to the natural order of things, and is bound to have unforeseen consequences (see also Frankenstein); the real-world equivalents might include eugenics, social engineering, gene therapy etc. The moral message is humility and respect for one’s environment, culture and (perhaps, more controversially) leaders and parents. In this story, as in The Aztecs, the reason the ‘moral dilemma’ has resonance is that it puts into conflict our basic instinct to save a life (for example) with the more difficult/mature appeal to respect rules told to us by our elders (in both stories, the Doctor) and to accept the cruel injustices of the world as part of the divine/natural order of things. Second, presumably the earlier example Phil mentions of a story set in the past but also during the series’ broadcast history is Remembrance of the Daleks, but you could also include (pedantically) The Faceless Ones and the first part of The Evil of the Daleks, which were set in 1966.