Othering Thursday

Someone called ‘Bright Coat and Bravado’ (you can guess their favourite Doctor), posted this on tumblr.  Here’s a snippet:

I have a serious problem with  the “Cartmel Masterplan”. It’s not really about Looms, if you’ll believe that. It’s about The Other.

I can’t fucking stand the idea that the Doctor – or anyone – is “destined for greatness”. 

I posted the following off-the-cuff response (which I reproduce here, opportunistically, because I quite liked it when I read it back):

On the whole, I love the Cartmel era, and have a lot of affection for the Virgin New Adventures… but I don’t like the idea of the Doctor as the recycled ‘Other’.

I don’t like the idea of him being ‘exceptional’ for his society.  Much as he is bound to be exceptional from a human standpoint, I think that should always be because of what he does rather than what he is.  I like the idea of him as someone who failed in his home context – “…scraping through with 51% at the second attempt” – and being a bit rubbish, a bit of a dilettante, a bit of a second-rater, a bit of a fartaround.  Probably because I feel like one of those myself.  But that’s okay.  I hate the winners vs losers view of life.  I hate the idea that one’s worth is determined by one’s ‘success’ in the competition of life, in carving a niche for oneself in a hierarchy.  I still more hate the idea of those kinds of judgements being made without taking into account the fact that some people start off at higher rungs and with greater advantages.  The Doctor should be someone who started off at such a high rung but who proved unsuited for it because of his infinite distractability, his vagueness and his inability to ‘play the game’… and also because of the moral sense – and the imperative to be a social actor – that he acquires from his involvement, from his breaching of the walls of the enclosed and reactionary envelope of Gallifrey, from his adventures and researches and friendships ‘out there’ in the muck and strife and pain of the universe.

The transformation of him into the reincarnation of a godlike founder figure from mythological pre-history injects a 80s/90s ‘epic’ sensibility into a 60s/70s ‘rebel’ storyline.  It is a post-defeat rationalisation overwriting an artefact that originated at a time of struggle.  The Doctor-as-drop-out-from-the-ruling-class is an (admittedly imperfect) artefact of 1969.  It gets renewed – even intensified – in 1976.  And then it gets downplayed and downplayed until – interestingly enough – Holmes gets his hands on it again at the end of the Trial in 1986.  But in the run up to the ‘long-90s’, Cartmel et al lay the groundwork for a potential vitiation of it.  Even as that crew take the show to angrier and bolshier territory than its has visited for quite some time, they’re also utiling an affect from various cultural strands that bigs the Doctor up and fetishizes him, and his ‘power’. 

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