No ideas but in Swamp Thing

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Jane Campbell


  1. Janine
    March 30, 2016 @ 10:32 am

    Well, I’m not going to lie; I saw a Doctor Who post and it made my day. I miss these popping up regularly – especially as a newcomer who never got to comment back during the TARDIS Eruditorum days – so as much as I love your LOST Exegesis, this is the best thing that could happen on my Wednesday morning.

    This scene is full of meaning, and is very, very clearly constructed as the elaborate wordplay and alchemy it is. There truly is no such thing as “reading too much into it”. When a character is forced to compress the range of human experience into one word, reading into it is, in fact, the only sensible thing to do.

    That last word is especially interesting. I’ve seen it said that she says “Pond” because she remembers the importance of it from her life as modern Clara, and that seems plausible. It’s certainly an unnerving moment, where a new character shows more awareness of the show than she should have.

    But is it, necessarily? Clara’s all up on the wordplay; she’s frankly a genius, and at her heart a reader and a storyteller. What she understands better than anyone is metaphor. And so she constructs a metaphor for the Doctor – the “Pond”. A reflective surface; a promise to show him who he is (which in the end, is a promise she keeps). And frozen over – not just frozen over like the Doctor is, but a frozen body of water containing something. A monster sleeping within the subconscious.

    The metaphor is the closest thing Clara has to a code, so that’s what she chooses. And even if he doesn’t understand it, it’s worth the gamble. Clara could so easily go mainstream with her answer but she doesn’t – she’s so distantly left-field that even if it didn’t have the resonance of his friends, I think he’d be interested. Why does she think the Pond is the most important thing? The fact that it doesn’t make sense is another to draw him out and make him confront it. She knows him far too well.

    I’m not sure which interpretation was intended, if any. And in such a conversation about the nature of words and the balance between truth and lies, that final word should be ambiguous.

    Notice how the garden is green (okay, not my finest critical observation) – the colour of balance and harmony, just like the balance between honesty and deception all throughout the scene. Green is also the colour of growth, not just organic in the sense of the garden, but of personal growth. Has Clara already grown? She’s the one wearing the colour. Vastra, on the other hand, still has to grow; she’s wearing black, a colour that forms a barrier between her self and the outside world. It could be said that Vastra is the one who grows in this scene, learning about Clara from her choice of response, about the Doctor from Clara’s understanding of him, and then finally about herself, as Clara reflects what she says and who she is back at her. A bit like a Pond.

    Evidently, nothing in the garden is as it seems. The final time we return to it, in Deep Breath, Vastra reveals that she stopped wearing the veil when Clara stopped seeing it. Everything in the garden is a symbol, seen and understood differently depending on the depth of one’s perception. Symbols that, as we learn in Deep Breath, can be changed or lifted. A bit like words.


  2. Kat
    March 30, 2016 @ 3:56 pm

    This essay is perfectly perfect, too. Just lovely. I’ve always loved that scene.


  3. James Lackey
    March 31, 2016 @ 11:32 am

    Best one i ever read..very interesting. It’s exciting how the trial begins – ahead of Jenny explains the rules, we get this: Jenny delivering a single word in the imperative (not to mention a Buddhist meme), and Vastra invoking the principle of Negative Space within the context of a dualism – the heart of contradiction. Vastra does not offer the truth of what she is drinking. She only offers what it is not. I like it.


  4. ScarvesandCelery
    March 31, 2016 @ 9:02 pm

    Great essay, and some fascinating comments. I don’t have a huge amount to add, but I think it’s fascinating to read Clara’s use of the word “Pond” in light of Vastra’s final comment that “Perhaps the universe makes bargains after all”. Throughout, the story is playing with the notion of the universe being capable of some act of providence: the Doctor asks for a bargain to save Clara, seems to get a slightly different one when he stumbles on the “impossible girl” mystery, but here, at the story’s halfway mark, Clara is granted her own act of providence by the universe, in a moment where she gains a toehold in the story by breaking the fourth wall – her narrative powers and mythic position within the Doctor Who universe are already being drawn in parallel to the Doctor.


  5. dm
    April 4, 2016 @ 4:51 am

    I’m not usually into these microscopic symbolic readings, but this one helped change the scene in my view from a flawed but interesting one, to a slighly-less-flawed and fascinating one. Well done!


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