There Never Was a Golden Age (Army of Ghosts/Doomsday)
|Whatever you think of this facial expression, just remember –|
it’s a photo of David Tennant watching the 50th Anniversary
Special in 3-D.
It’s July 1st, 2006. Nelly Furtado is still consuming men at the top of the charts. Shakira and Wyclef Jean unseat her a week later with their ode to the veracity of hips. The Pussycat Dolls, Pink, and Muse also chart, the latter with “Supermassive Black Hole,” which is both apropos for this story and later used as background music for the opening scene of The Rebel Flesh. In news, England beat Ecuador 1-0, moving into the quarter finals. Three members of the Tongan royal family die in a car crash in California. Internet usage overtakes the television as the primary leisure time activity of young British people, and a wealth of mess flares up in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But let’s go back to July 1st itself, at about 5:00 in the afternoon, as England play Portugal in the World Cup Quarterfinal. England’s eternally frustrating great hope, Wayne Rooney, is sent off at the hour mark for maybe stomping on Ricardo Carvalho’s crotch more than is entirely appropriate within the Laws of the Game. The game ends 0-0 after extra time and, as ever, England go out humiliatingly on penalties.
This squad is by convention deemed a “golden generation” – a particularly fine crop of players who were supposed to be the team that could finally return the World Cup to England after forty years of inspired mediocrity. Instead… inspired mediocrity. The final tournament for David Beckham, who slouches off to Los Angeles a year later. As for the audience, those who don’t turn off their televisions in disgust are treated to the information that Rose Tyler, Billie Piper’s great everywoman, so accessible and loveable that her presence renders even that shit old sci-fi series Doctor Who watchable, has died.
Russell T Davies himself could not have dreamed up a better run of television drama – the ego blow of England’s golden generation flopping ignobly to pathetic defeat is followed up promptly by the long elegy for Rose Tyler. But within Army of Ghosts is a larger issue – that of Britain’s golden age, smothered idly in its crib in Tennant’s debut. We should note the terms on which Britain’s supposed golden age unfolds. The Christmas Invasion tells us that Jackie Tyler is “eighteen quid a week better off,” while Doomsday establishes Pete’s World’s “Golden Age” as “a world of peace” after the defeat of the Cybermen. This is, inevitably, a material golden age, defined by apparent social progress. But lurking unsubtly behind the concept is the idea of making Britain great again.
Davies will become progressively blunter about this as the series unfolds, steadily converting the latter portion of his run into an increasingly adamant attack on New Labour. It is a fact not often remarked upon that Tony Blair is almost as large a cartoon villain to a particular flavor of the political left as Margaret Thatcher was. His list of sins is perhaps diffuse – especially if you, as is these days popular, decide to pin any economic failings on Gordon Brown. Much of it focuses on the Iraq war, and, more broadly, the extent to which he allowed the UK to become a client state of the Bush Administration due to the friendship between the two leaders, a friendship that, legendarily, extended out of their mutual preference for Colgate toothpaste. It was this chumminess that Russell T Davies invoked in giving Harriet Jones her air-punching moment of awesome in The Christmas Invasion as she tells the President that “he’s not my boss, and he’s certainly not turning this into a war.”
The reasons for Blair’s elevation into a cartoon villain of the left are ultimately not the most relevant part. What is most important is simply the fact that he became one. His villainy, in the end, is one of disappointment – of the great things his election and the end of nearly twenty years of Tory rule seemed to herald, and the more modest things that ensued. The primary charge, at the end of the day, is that he was a sort of crypto-Tory who ceded so much ground in the name of triangulation and electoral strategy that he might as well not have run as a Labour politician.
Within Army of Ghosts, all of this is bound up within that idea of a golden age – of recapturing some past moment of Britain’s glory. Yvonne Hartman is an aggressively drawn character in this regard, mixing the rhetoric and style of management culture fostered by New Labour’s business-friendly economic boom with a stark Victorian imperialism that would make Nigel Farage blush. But note also the way in which the Cybermen are employed, first as ghosts animated by our own desire for them to be real – by our own illusions that we can hold back death. By our own desire for the golden age.
We should consider briefly the role Torchwood plays within the series. Torchwood itself is a parodic mirror of Doctor Who – its original function was as a decoy name for shipping film of Doctor Who, the name, Tremas-style, an anagram of Doctor Who. (Consider the near-miss universe where Doctor Who’s spinoff is instead a reality show about owl impersonators called Hoot Crowd, or the downright alarming show Hot Cow Rod) The declaration that Torchwood would be playing the Bad Wolf role for the second season was notable in part because there was, in fact, a declaration – an announced theme that would further lead in to a Captain Jack spinoff. The nature of Torchwood is established in the second episode, and thus the question that hung over Series Two was not “what is Torchwood” but rather “how the heck do we get from Queen Victoria hating the Doctor to a Captain Jack spinoff,” a question that Army of Ghosts only partially answers, in that Torchwood remains thoroughly villainous here.
The idea that Torchwood mirrors Doctor Who is telling, as Torchwood is tacitly presented as the answer to the question “what happens when the Doctor doesn’t show up.” They are defenders of Britain, and, like the Doctor, quintessentially Britain, stemming out of a long British tradition and particularly from the iconography of the Victorian era. But where the Doctor is the eccentric gentleman inventor and the old man guarding the gates to fairy, Torchwood is the militaristic ambition of glorious empire. That these two myths are separate is, in the end, an even bigger fiction than either myth itself.
But this mirroring opens a host of problems. There is nowhere in the new series where the gulf between it and the classic series feels quite as uncannily wide as the end of Series Two. By Series Three blatant shout-outs to the past became relatively normal, with past Doctors making pen cameos in Human Nature and Roger Delgado being sampled in for Utopia, and in Series Four you start getting consecutive stories with obscure shout-outs to the Hartnell era. (I’d tell you which two, but it would spoil some people’s fun in the comments.) But Series Two features the continuity-muddling “half a dozen times” line in School Reunion and Torchwood, a concept that jars spectacularly with the Pertwee era.
I’ve actually got an entire essay on this in the Pertwee book, so I don’t want to get too far down the rabbit hole of trying to completely account for the often convoluted game of reconciling Torchwood with Doctor Who. It’s not that Torchwood opens up any overt continuity errors so much as that it opens up a lot of questions that require convoluted answers like “how is it Torchwood is so incompetent that they missed the UNIT era happening” and “how is it UNIT is so incompetent that they missed Torchwood happening.” When I say that the classic series is, in Series Two, treated as a source of anxiety I mean it not just in the thematic sense of the Beast being explicitly linked with the classic series, but in the sense of the classic series simultaneously being identified as what the new series continues and as something the new series has killed off in favor of its own approach. The status of the past is ambiguous, and so the past haunts the program.
Notably the monsters brought into symbolize this haunted past are the Cybermen, themselves twisted mirror reflections of humanity. This further cements the idea of Torchwood as a dark mirror of Doctor Who – the qlippoth of the Pertwee era, if you will. We might recall that Inferno has been invoked twice this season, once with the parallel universe concept of Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel, and again with the drilling towards unfathomable horror of The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit. Within Inferno the great lack is any notion of what the parallel universe’s version of the Doctor might be. Here, at last, we have it – the alternate version not of the Doctor but of Doctor Who itself, twisted into imperialist glory and horror, our nostalgia made monstrous.
The Cybermen, however, are not the point of Army of Ghosts. As with Bad Wolf, the episode is structured as a buildup to a fake reveal. All appearance is that the climactic moment is the arrival of the Cybermen, but this reveal is spoiled by lesser reveals, much as the appearance of the Daleks is in Bad Wolf. As before these lesser reveals themselves form the build-up to the true reveal. In Bad Wolf it was the impossible vastness of the Dalek fleet, whereas here it’s the Daleks themselves. We might note, as others have before, that this is actually just the cliffhanger from the penultimate episode of Dark Season reworked, but Davies is one of those great packrats of writers who is never going to waste an idea that good on a single use.
The use of the Daleks is telling, not just because it opens up the Time War and the series’ cancellation, but because it opens up a new front in this expanding metaphor. The Daleks are death in its purest form – the absolute single-mindedness of it, collapsing all existence into the simple fact of its skeletal end. memento internecare. The imperial vision writ large. The Daleks, of course, outdo the Cybermen by a considerable margin, slaughtering them viciously, forever establishing them as the lesser monsters. Our dark mirrors are nothing to the darkness itself.
These monsters mulch up out of the series’ past, but also out of the void. We’re told that the void is hell, a point that tacitly parallels The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit. The Doctor reiterates it several times, both explicitly and subtly. (Note that he tells Rose to set all the coordinates to six.) Consider, then, the nature of his solution – to create a black hole within the immaculate white room of Torchwood Tower’s heart. This is, as discussed on Monday, often accused of being a deus ex machina, but the symbolism in fact extends perfectly from everything we’ve been told. Hell and Satan were allied in the void of the series’ past. The Doctor created a black hole, already associated with both the Time War and hell, and it swallows the monsters whole.
A more accurate complaint is that this event renders most everything before it irrelevant. Though, no, not quite irrelevant. Secondary. The tightly wound nexus of symbolism that constitutes the Daleks, Cybermen, and Torchwood get pushed to the sideline, unresolved. This is not a problem as such – Davies will return to these themes repeatedly, and he has an entire show to explore the implications of Torchwood within, which we’ll get to after a quick pair of side posts and a Pop Between Realities.
Especially because his solution is ultimately to walk away. To turn our backs on the machinery of death and empire and instead to live. And so Doomsday, having built to an impossibly epic premise, reveals itself to in fact be a story about the Doctor restoring a family, bringing both Pete and Jackie their lost loves back and giving Rose her parents back. As with the saving of Ursula this comes in an odd and strange shape – the world is, after all, an odd and strange place. Nevertheless, this is what the Doctor does – he turns back death and heals a broken family. All the howl and bluster of Daleks and Cybermen and Time War, the deathly single vision of empire’s sleep, is in the end drowned out by the task of giving one tiny little ordinary shopgirl her father back, giving a well-meaning wide boy his wife back, and giving Jackie Tyler, the most everyday person in the world, the one character untouched by the void, her husband back.
In other words, the Doctor faces down the great fannish match-up of the classic series, the most ludicrously playground fanfic idea in Doctor Who history, and turns away in favor of giving the cast of EastPowellStreet a happy ending. But notably, this ending excludes him. This is the other reason that the ending of Doomsday gets away with plotting so thin as to almost be transparent: because in the end the story isn’t about getting rid of the Daleks and Cybermen. By the time of the climax they have become little more than window dressing for the sundering of the Doctor and Rose. That’s the real story – the Doctor loses Rose.
But what’s key is how he loses her: by being the force that can open a black hole that will consume the Daleks and Cybermen. By being a character who belongs in their world. This is hammered home with delicious cruelty – the Doctor mocks the Daleks for their inability to touch, which is in turn the exact fate he’s condemned to as he cannot reach Rose to save her, and cannot touch her to say his goodbye. Of course his last words are cut off, rendered unspeakable. Because in a world of love and monsters, the Doctor is in the end a kind monster. He belongs in the world of death and empire, as the kindest edge of it. He is death’s mercy. He’ll never have a life like Rose’s, real and material.
So in a fight between the epic sweep of death and the everyday of love, the Doctor cannot side with love. Not really, and in the end. He is a creature of death, trapped on the wrong side of the wall that separates the worlds. Note that cheeky shot where the Doctor and Rose are portrayed as being on opposite sides of the wall. The wall is meant to be the same wall in the equivalent room of each Torchwood, but it’s shot so that Rose faces to the right and the Doctor faces to the left, rotating one of their rooms to mirror the other. What was once parallel is now mirrored and reversed. The Doctor collapses from the epic to a sad, small man, with Rose’s world reflecting out from one side of him and Torchwood from the other, his own self reduced to a speck, a tiny point that is nothing more than the point of contact between them. Note how Rose lingers at the wall, ensconced in her world, while the Doctor turns away and walks off alone, back into the world of Torchwood.
The story ends unresolved, the Doctor still caught in a web of symbolism that includes Daleks and Cybermen, Torchwood and empire. This is the price of his hubris – his sundering from that which he lives to protect. He doesn’t get the luxury of an ending because he’s already had one, and is now trapped. Falling out of the world has become a fallen world yearning for the dead past of a golden age that never existed. Nothing is resolved save the everyday – the fact that Rose has her parents and her better life. Beyond that there is only the cruelest thing of all: a song that continues.
July 15, 2013 @ 1:17 am
Thank you Phil.
No matter how long I read this blog, or the rest of your work, I will never be able to express how much pleasure it gives me to see you so eloquently turn what I watch as a pleasing entertainment that echoes up from my own childhood, into a grand edifice of wonderfully complex themes, symbolism and narrative.
You actually give me MORE to love about the show, that already owns a permanent place in my heart.
So, well, thanks.
So very glad you could give such a resounding, glorious treatment to one the episodes that I really love the guts out of.
July 15, 2013 @ 1:32 am
The Fires of Pompeii (reference to The Romans) and Planet of the Ood (reference to The Sensorites).
There, I've had my fun. I'll go back and read the rest of the essay now.
July 15, 2013 @ 1:39 am
Oh, that was marvellous.
I'm looking forward to see how you resolve this reading with the events of Journey's End, and if you can find a redemptive reading for the frankly cop-out solution of a vaguely sketched half-human Ken-doll Doctor for Rose to play with.
July 15, 2013 @ 1:42 am
Yeah, I'm looking forward to that. Even though I'm no big fan of the Tennant years I can see myself being persuaded to the 'other side' with a lot of the stuff I think problematic fairly easy…but "Journey's End" is one of the episodes I find it hardest to actually appreciate.
July 15, 2013 @ 1:53 am
I'm not quite sure that your interpretation works. Rose becomes the new Yvonne Hartman on the other side. So the division isn't entirely between EastPowell and the Doctor; indeed, in so far as Torchwood as we envisage it so far exists it's on the other side and Rose is part of it.
I agree that the 'suck everything into the void' ending works. Not so much because it's there to split up the Doctor and Rose. That sort of thing can come over as equally arbitrary – Davies shoving his characters around like pawns so as to get the emotional reactions he wants out of them, like a laboratory scientist and his rats. (See the ending of The End of Time.) It works because the plot's arranged so that the Doctor couldn't have done it any earlier; and because once the Doctor has announced his clever plan there's still a lot of set-up to get it to work. (This is the bit where Yvonne Hartman does her heroic sacrifice that would work much better if the cyberman design weren't so awful.) It would be improved a bit if the Doctor didn't start by trying to pack off Rose to the other universe – shades of being sexist to Sarah Jane merely to establish that she's a feminist.
Out of the Davies finales I've seen, I think it's probably my favourite. Most of the emotional freight is actually bought. I mean it's lifted straight from Pullman's Amber Spyglass, but this wouldn't be the first time Doctor Who has got something off the back of a lorry. (Except – I presume that The Also People wants its readers to recognise that it's adding the Doctor to Banks' Culture; whereas I'm not sure it adds anything to Pullman to see the Doctor and Rose reenacting it.)
Let's talk about Jackie. Jackie objects early on that if Rose continues to travel with the Doctor Rose will cease to be Rose. That is, if I follow Phil's distinction correctly, an expression of paranoia, which is as opposed to Phil's reading of Davies' values as it gets without being homicidal. And so the ending can be read as a triumph of paranoia over hedonism, which is far more downbeat. We might have cared for Jackie as a person back in Love and Monsters, but here and now she again stands for something fundamentally opposed to the Doctor. And we're going to see this again in Martha's mother, and in Donna's mother. The pattern is a bit unpleasant. And then again, Victoria declares that the Doctor's world is not hers, but by contrast it seems that Prince Albert was at home in it. I just say this because one of the charges against the Moffat-era is that it's misogynistic as compared to the Davies-era. And I'm really not convinced that holds up.
July 15, 2013 @ 1:56 am
Oh go on then… a comment thread for UNIT/Torchwood theories. I'll begin with a couple of short rambles:
Easy, two words – retroactive continuity. Torchwood only exists when the Tenth Doctor meets Queen Victoria. Just as the Master only had the drums "his whole life" once Series 3 and the Specials came about. That, or Torchwood just didn't get involved – interfering with the Timelines and all that. Or, heck, maybe they did get involved and "Geneva" is the Brig's secret codeword for when he's visiting Torchwood.
July 15, 2013 @ 2:00 am
"I'm not quite sure that your interpretation works. Rose becomes the new Yvonne Hartman on the other side. So the division isn't entirely between EastPowell and the Doctor; indeed, in so far as Torchwood as we envisage it so far exists it's on the other side and Rose is part of it."
Doesn't Rose state, when she returns (or even in this finale, I can't remember), that she headed up Torchwood? But that it was slightly different? I always assumed, in Turn Left, her version of Torchwood had fully rebuilt itself and had build the dimension cannon she uses to jump across worlds.
Also, it's also interesting, back to the idea of mirrors and parallels – Pete's World Torchwood fell (as they're three years into Rose's World future) and ours rose. And then, within a day, Rose's World Torchwood fell and Pete's World Torchwood started to rise.
July 15, 2013 @ 2:06 am
I'd have thought the Torchwood/UNIT issue fits neatly with British politics. In the era of Harold Wilson, modern swinging Britain Torchwood would have been a moribund, underfunded organisation possibly discredited by numerous cases of Soviet infiltration and eventually forgotten – only to re-awaken in the era of Thatcher. Of course that all falls to bit if the UNIT stories are set in the 1980s
July 15, 2013 @ 2:17 am
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July 15, 2013 @ 2:20 am
One of the many things this blog has taught me is that life is way too short to get exercised by things like Unit/Torchwood continuity problems. That way lies madness and silly questions about why the 10th planet didn't arrive in 1986!
July 15, 2013 @ 2:40 am
It’s not that Torchwood opens up any overt continuity errors so much as that it opens up a lot of questions that require convoluted answers like “how is it Torchwood is so incompetent that they missed the UNIT era happening” and “how is it UNIT is so incompetent that they missed Torchwood happening.”
I dunno, it seems like the obvious answer to both of these questions is "Have you ever even seen a UNIT episode or an episode of Torchwood?"
July 15, 2013 @ 3:36 am
A few interesting side-notes:
The Doctor, as false father to Rose, can't do what her real father does, which is to give her life. That, as much as the later-demonstrated to be arbitrary separation of universes, is what divides Rose from the Doctor. He can fight Death, but he can't really live with Rose in her world.
Compare the uses the Doctor makes of stars and black holes in this story to the Time Lords. The Doctor burns out a star just to say goodbye, or as much goodbye as he can manage. But he only avoid hell by the skin of his teeth. (The idea that the Doctor can cling to a lever to avoid being sucked in while Cybermen and Daleks can't cling or thrust to avoid it works on a purely symbolic level. The Doctor is life-in-death, after all.)
And let's not forget the Cult of Skaro, who pretty clearly don't worship Davros or the Emperor. As a Dalek attempt to match the Doctor, they have a brief shot, aiming to reconstitute their race and having their own box bigger inside than out, but their disinterest in life keeps them from transcending their limitations. So far, anyway.
July 15, 2013 @ 3:49 am
Nice thought! I prefer to set UNIT stories roughly five years ahead because it's as close to real time as you can get while still matching Sarah Jane's line in Pyramids. That puts Thatcher's arrival around the time of Planet of the Spiders, by which point the heyday of UNIT was over; so your analysis still fits my dating. Thanks!
July 15, 2013 @ 4:04 am
Really enjoyed this entry. I liked this two-parter a lot (once I got over the annoyance at RTD's declaration of Rose's death being another of his overblown, fake prophesies) so you didn't need to redeem it; but to an extent you have redeemed the rest of series 2 in casting it as the buildup to this point. You've also given me more to consider concerning why I like AoG/D (generally I just go by gut feel). And the symbolic stuff is always fascinating, whether it's from you or Jane. Thanks.
July 15, 2013 @ 4:49 am
The implication of Rose working with Torchwood is that she'll have the same effect on that organization as she did on the Doctor. In our world, Torchwood stood for Queen and Country, while in Pete's world it gets the chance to be infused with the dynamic of EastPowellStreet, a humanizing force that's genuinely concerned with material social progress.
July 15, 2013 @ 5:01 am
The other other way to think about Torchwood is that it's all of these, and possibly more. This has to do with the kind of thinking that saddles us with the Whoniverse, that everything has to reconcile into a singular timeline. I had hoped Dr Sandifer had disavowed us of such notions; indeed, I had hoped he'd disavowed it himself.
Because really, if you think about it in the context of Doctor Who, "time" isn't a linear progression of cause and effect. It's more like a great big ball of yarn, with many overlapping layers, tangles, frayed threads, colors and textures. And that ball is decidedly unstable. Layers are constantly being covered up and unearthed, threads snap, get knotted, and sometimes the dye bleeds from one bit to another.
No wonder River Song is an archaeologist.
So revel in the fact that we've now got a UNIT era that didn't have Torchwood, and one that does, albeit covertly, and there's no "only" about it. (Geneva! That's brill.) They both reflect a fundamental tension between playing nicely with the rest of the world, and blatant self-interest. More to the point, this tension doesn't signal narrative collapse, but something more enduring and fraught with possibility. Ecosystems tend to flourish with diversity.
July 15, 2013 @ 5:03 am
That Davies' prophesies are overblown and fake functions, I think, as a commentary on prophesy itself.
July 15, 2013 @ 5:06 am
I like to think that the Brig was some kind of double agent who, despite his sometimes bumbling appearance, actually ran interference to keep Torchwood from learning about the Doctor (and vice versa).
July 15, 2013 @ 5:14 am
Now we're getting towards "The Doctor Lies" and that unspoken hidden-in-plain-sight question "But where does he lie?"
July 15, 2013 @ 5:14 am
That would've been my answer as well, except that Torchwood already exists in "The Christmas Invasion" and is namechecked in "Bad Wolf." Mind you, I don't care very much about the seeming continuity problem, as it can be handwaved away with a mumbled "timey-wimey."
July 15, 2013 @ 6:01 am
Bah! You beat me! Damn!
Well good job.
Pen Name Pending
July 15, 2013 @ 6:01 am
Here's my question: how are you going to cover Torchwood (and later Sarah Jane)? Series-by-series, or episode by episode?
July 15, 2013 @ 6:02 am
Honestly, I never saw there as being any conflict or contradiction between Torchwood and UNIT in this season. Torchwood is explicitly a highly secret, highly shady organization which never did anything with a public profile until the Sycorax invasion, so protecting their secrecy meant laying low during the UNIT era, even though it meant letting UNIT get first choice of aliens, and not going after The Doctor. I mean, that's just classic real-world secret-organization-stuff: sometimes you let the adversary win just so that he won't see what cards you're holding.
There's no problem with continuity until you get into Torchwood The Series, where it's clear that Torchwood's idea of "covert" is "Not usually visible to the naked eye from space", though by then, it's Jack's Kinder, Gentler, Sillier Torchwood.
Pen Name Pending
July 15, 2013 @ 6:11 am
I'm confused about Jackie. Wouldn't all parents want their children to be safe? How is it mysogyny? After all, she is right. Rose does not quite have the same position in series 2 that she has in series 1; she has changed. And the Doctor does kind of mess up everyone's lives.
July 15, 2013 @ 6:18 am
There's also the old RTD excuse:
The Time War did it.
July 15, 2013 @ 6:21 am
You've reminded me of something that others could comment on:
In this story, Rose is all-too-aware of what she did to the Emperor Dalek. Yet, in the Series 1 finale, her memories were wiped. Are we to assume that, over time, her memories have resurfaced? Has the Doctor told her stories of the Bad Wolf?
July 15, 2013 @ 6:35 am
The Fires of Pompeii also refers to City of Death, and, in the same sequence, to Asterix and the Laurel Wreath. Of course, to the best of my knowledge, William Hartnell was in neither of those.
July 15, 2013 @ 6:45 am
I like to think of the question of UNIT-Torchwood relations with this story. Torchwood was found when Queen Victoria encountered the Tennant Doctor in the 1880s. And while she knew there was some time travelling otherworldly weird shit going on, Queen Victoria knew nothing about regeneration. As far as Torchwood the organization was concerned, this Doctor character was a tall, skinny, young guy with ruffly hair and dreamy eyes. Then in the 1960s, there's a weird alien incursion into London while Torchwood is occupied handling the mess with the 456, which the army has wrapped up by the time they return. They hear about the assistance of some weird little dude who looks like a middle-aged Keith Moon, but this character looks nothing like the Doctor that's on file, so they dismiss him as a local eccentric travelling with a cute girl and a thick Scottish kid so unimportant to the events that his name is never recorded.
When UNIT is formed just in time for the first, more surreptitious Cyberman invasion, Torchwood is actively keeping away from it, because it's a global military operation run by a bunch of internationalists who are likely all secretly communist. It keeps an eye on their operation, and uses a sneaky government department called C19 to skim some of the alien tech that UNIT stockpiles from its adventures. But no one in their organization matches their description of this villainous Doctor. They employ some weird elderly scientist who pretends to know martial arts, dresses like Oscar Wilde, and strides around like some perverted homosexual (typical of an international organization to employ foreigners like that man Filer from the CIA and an old fop in a pirate shirt). But his description certainly doesn't match the Doctor, and even the name is uses, John Smith, doesn't have anything to do with the Doctor's recorded alias, James McCrimmon.
Moving on, Torchwood has been brutally underfunded since the Labour governments of the 1970s, their leadership never took Thatcher seriously because she was a woman, and Blair wasn't about to restore the status of a bunch of stodgy old empire-worshippers. He was too hip and multi-culti for that. But after UNIT bungles an alien invasion that gets the PM and themselves all killed, and Downing Street blown to bits, the new PM Harriet Jones makes contact with Torchwood. Torchwood, having gotten the funding of a mediocre museum for 35 years, is poor enough to forget about their old-fashioned sexism thanks to the promise of piles of money.
But then their new benefactor is quickly deposed, just after they finished the land-to-space death ray Jones had given them so much cash to build. And who's wrapped up in the mess but their old enemy the Doctor, the first time they've discovered his presence since they just missed him during Queen Elizabeth II's coronation! Luckily, this new PM Saxon is very enthusiastic, talking about the great things they'll achieve, though he does laugh a little maniacally. Saxon hires slick consultant Yvonne Hartmann for an image makeover and business plan shakeup (and there are rumours among the old guard about certain private arrangements between her and the PM). Now at last, they'll finally be able to take down the Doctor.
July 15, 2013 @ 6:53 am
Thanks to Phil, we also have the wonderful notion of "narrative collapse" to play with here. As far back as 1965, we've had the Daleks as one of the prime movers of this function.
So, to recap, in The Chase we have the "without" problem of William Russell and Jacqueline Hill leaving the show — and though it's not the first departure for a companion, with Carole Ann Ford leaving earlier that season (also with the spectre of Daleks in the background) it is the first time for an earthly companion to leave, the "proper" audience identification figures. Within the story proper, the introduction of the Time-Space Visualizer threatens the narrative collapse of our heroes spending their days watching television rather than having adventures. The Daleks handle both problems deftly, keeping our heroes on the run and providing the means for Ian and Barbara to get back home.
FlashForward to 2006. Yet again we're faced with a departure — Billie Piper's leaving the show.
As with Parting of the Ways, we get Daleks to mark the transition and clean up the mess. They invade a Cyberman story, deforming it into their own narrative. They created the breach between the worlds that proves the impetus for both Rose's demise and escape.
Now, it's important to note that the original Cyberman heralded the death of the Doctor — not the fake-out death announced in The Chase, but the first change of lead actors; the Daleks only come next. In Doomsday, the Doctor is juxtaposed with the Cybermen when he is "ghosted" at the end, and sheds a tear like CyberYvonne earlier in the story.
So if the Doctor's juxtaposed with the Cybers, where does that leave Rose?
This might be a bit of an evil thing to say, but here goes. Rose is like the Daleks in a way that the Doctor can never be. The Doctor can be juxtaposed with the Cybermen, because they both cheat death. But there's something Rose can do that the Doctor can never do — like the Daleks, she has the power to threaten the very show itself. She has the power to bring about narrative collapse.
She's stepped up to the role of Narrator. Now, this in itself isn't new. Just a few stories ago, we had Elton taking the position of narrator, and we will have more narrators as the show goes on — Martha will tell Doctor Who stories to save planet earth, Amy gets VO privileges in Beast Below, and River Song has had more than one turn at the microphone. We've also had Rassilon narrating, and the leader of the Silurians, so while it's not unique, it is a position of power.
Rose's narration becomes ominous because she pledges to stay with the Doctor forever. This violates one of the most basic structural elements of the show, which is the variety of Companions who come and go. If Rose stays with the Doctor forever, then no one else gets to be Companion, and so the opportunity for other Companion stories is lost. Doctor Who is too mercurial for "forever" and would wither and die with a permanent companion, and all the EastPowellStreet this one brings with her.
Finally, and perhaps most crucially, Rose has already stepped into the position of the gods. In Parting of the Ways, she communes with the TARDIS herself, who is the vehicle for all Doctor Who stories. (Even when she's grounded, like in the Pertwee years, she's still around, watching, recording — I'm sure, with the exception of Elton, that she is the omniscient narrator of Doctor Who.) Rose becomes a Goddess, and delivered a Dea Ex Machina resolution to the end of Series 1, a cardinal sin of storytelling. She resurrected Jack Harkness and made him immortal, bequeathing the very opportunity for him to have his own television show on Torchwood, an organization founded in part as a reaction to Rose.
Rose Tyler has to be permanently separated from the Doctor for the sake of the integrity of the show.
July 15, 2013 @ 6:56 am
There's no clarification of what memories were wiped. She's confused immediately after she recovers and later says that she doesn't know how to pilot the TARDIS, but there's never any indication that she doesn't remember the events of PotW.
July 15, 2013 @ 6:56 am
Jane — I think that's letting him off too easily. He clearly likes the tingle down the spine that prophecies give, and is using them for non-ironic purposes. Also, in this case, the statement of Rose's death isn't a prophesy, it's a direct statement by Rose to the audience, and in that context it's simply misleading the audience for the momentary thrill.
July 15, 2013 @ 7:16 am
I didn't really find the Doctors resolution as being too much from out of the blue.. or perhaps compared to the resolution of Parting Of The Ways it was the very model of setting things up for a logical resolution. I was slightly more bugged at Pete's miraculous timing and positioning, not to mention that despite the fact that he appears right in front of the void, he didn't get sucked out immediately. Sure, I am ignoring the metaphor and looking for the purely technical, but I did, after all, want to see Rose getting sucked into the Void. 🙂
Unfortunately Torchwood, for all that it got shoehorned into every script from episode 2 onwards, really proved to be a bit of a damp squib, as it barely makes it past the Army Of Ghosts as an organization, and their lack of concern over unexplained maintenance work going on in their building seems a bit odd for a paranoic like Hartman. And while people have tried to explain it over, there seems zero connection between Torchwood as seen in Who and Torchwood as seen in.. Torchwood.
I was sad that the Battle of Canary Wharf seemed to be waged by regular squaddies, and not UNIT.. 🙁 (even if they did have the Supersquaddie with his rocket launcher).
July 15, 2013 @ 7:17 am
He certainly got MY hopes up. 🙁
July 15, 2013 @ 7:29 am
To me, it came across as another instance of The Problem of Rose: Melodramatic, immature emo angsting about how losing the Doctor was 'death', life wasn't worth living without him, etc. etc. Something I admittedly have little patience for; I'm heavily invested in 'life goes on,' and that clinging too hard to the past is not just painful but actively harmful. (But save that can of worms for another day.)
July 15, 2013 @ 7:31 am
Also, she brings up the events of PotW in School Reunion. ("Daleks!" "Met the Emperor." "The Loch Ness Monster!" "…really?")
July 15, 2013 @ 7:41 am
I seem to recall something about a comment related to how her brain would not be able to cope with even the memories of what had happened to her. Don't recall if that was an actual line of dialogue, or if it was an explanation someone proferred to OG to my annoyance that Rose didn't seem particularly upset by the massacre of everyone on the Gamestation, including checking up on Cap'n Jack (rebuilding the Earth indeed..).
July 15, 2013 @ 7:53 am
Jane…doesn't Rose just use it's resources to get back to the Doctor's world?
July 15, 2013 @ 8:06 am
(Begins scribbling fanfic that Getafix was actually the first Doctor in a false beard.)
And Planet of the Ood also refers to The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit, although you don't need to be a reference hound to spot that one…
July 15, 2013 @ 8:32 am
I remember when the Torchwood Question was being discussed at the time on radw, someone took the "Torchwood never got involved with UNIT because it was just that secret" to its logical conclusion, proposing that the reason they never nabbed the Doctor before is because they never do anything that involves leaving their HQ, so their plan to capture the Doctor consists of waiting for him to wander in on his own.
The theory concluded "Don't knock it, it worked."
July 15, 2013 @ 8:36 am
We might have cared for Jackie as a person back in Love and Monsters, but here and now she again stands for something fundamentally opposed to the Doctor. And we're going to see this again in Martha's mother, and in Donna's mother. The pattern is a bit unpleasant.
While I disagree with the implications of misogyny, I remember, especially in the Martha episodes, feeling like Davies was kind of… reiterating the same family structures without either enough variation to be interesting or enough explicit parallels to be interesting.
July 15, 2013 @ 8:40 am
…wow. For all that I called her juvenile behavior The Problem of Rose earlier, this is the true Problem of Rose – the threat that her treatment as Teh Specialist Companion Evar posed to the long-term health of the show. And this not only summarizes some of the best arguments for that position, it ties them into narrative collapse. Bravo! I think.
I was going to disagree, very strongly, with Our Host's implication that the ending should be about Rose's departure – because (as it seemed to me) to be condoning the two strands of The Problem of Rose: it played into the juvenile emo behavior I hate, and exacerbated all the problems caused by her portrayal as Most Special Companion. But put in terms of narrative collapse… well, I can still disagree very strongly with the way it was handled, but I can accept that getting rid of her is the most important part of the ending. 🙂
July 15, 2013 @ 8:40 am
This has to do with the kind of thinking that saddles us with the Whoniverse, that everything has to reconcile into a singular timeline.
Not "has to" – very obviously one can watch the show without worrying about it. But dammit, putting these things together is fun! It's fun to think about, it's fun to make up new stories based on the results and imagine Captain Jack and the Brigadier teaming up to face the Eric Roberts master with the Spice Girls playing in the background.
No geek ever tried to reconcile continuity because of some obsessive-compulsive urge. (Okay, maybe John Peel.) But most of us do it 'cause it's fun.
(Also: I quite like Daibhid C's suggestion.)
July 15, 2013 @ 8:42 am
Though I think I may like Adam's better.
July 15, 2013 @ 8:43 am
It did! And promptly got sucked into a crack in time.
July 15, 2013 @ 8:55 am
While I'm not sure calling it 'misogyny' is justified – IIRC, Martha's father shared the attitude, although he wasn't used as much as her mother – I think you can certainly make the case for a disturbing theme of parental opposition. There's a couple of different ways you could take it – parents who refuse to let their child grow up/recognize they have grown up, or who refuse to stay out of their grown-up children's lives. Either way, they're parents who refuse to let go, who refuse to let their children live their own lives.
July 15, 2013 @ 9:01 am
My Father still laments the loss of Rose (or as he says "The Good Looking Blonde"). Of course he also dislikes Matt Smith and is eager for Tennenant to return…so you know fathers.
July 15, 2013 @ 9:01 am
silly questions about why the 10th planet didn't arrive in 1986!
Instead we lost our ninth planet in 2006.
July 15, 2013 @ 9:06 am
Originally Phil said he was going to go by series, or at least by chunk-of-episodes, but more recently he's said he plans to devote an entire book to Torchwood/SJA/Sherlock [sic], which I gather means he's going to go by episodes — though presumably that also means the books' chronology will diverge from the blog's chronology.
July 15, 2013 @ 9:07 am
That was excellent.
"If Rose stays with the Doctor forever, then no one else gets to be Companion, and so the opportunity for other Companion stories is lost. Doctor Who is too mercurial for "forever" and would wither and die with a permanent companion, and all the EastPowellStreet this one brings with her."
I'm wondering if this might have something to do with the tremendous Anti-Rose backlash in fandom. I think it's possible the fans who hate Rose so much are reacting to this on a visceral level, even if they don't consciously think it through the way you have. I think most long-term fans, in some sense, get that Doctor Who has to constantly reinvent itself, and so a companion who actively threatens that would easily be a source of anxiety.
July 15, 2013 @ 9:35 am
Yeah, episode-by-episode. It will result in some disjoint in the Tennant book (which is where the shows actually do respond directly to one another – Torchwood and Sarah Jane's direct interactions with the Smith era are minimal), but remains, I think, the simplest and most sensible way to tackle the issue.
July 15, 2013 @ 9:40 am
To be clear, I very much like Rose Tyler. Even though she brings a "junior emo" aesthetic to the show, it's still a step in the direction of maturity, compared to what came before. This is further developed in the Pond stories, where those emotional strings are much more repressed in the characters — present, but repressed — like proper adults.
The other thing to note about Rose is how very much she's a mirror to the Doctor himself. In this story she slips away inside the TARDIS while her mother becomes "Rose Tyler" and she picks up her own "companion" in the form of Mickey Smith, returned from the Other Side. Rose, who earlier used the Sonic, dons the lab coat, the professional garb of doctors, uses psychic paper to (poorly) infiltrate an inner sanctum, and faces off one-on-one with the Daleks. Her companion even activates the Genesis Ark in the same manner that Rose did back in the Revival's first Dalek story. Her companion even displays Doctorish traits in his own right — he too has donned the lab coat to infiltrate Torchwood.
So we get a clear example of one of the Doctor's powers, to turn people into him. No wonder he's juxtaposed with Cybermen — even the Daleks have been affected! I mean, they've suddenly got Names, which evokes the Doctor's concern with Identity. This is reflected in Jackie's concern for her daughter's identity — as Phil pointed out, she says that Rose won't be Rose anymore if she keeps this up. (Note that Rose is further equivocated with Daleks at the end — in Norway, at "Dårlig Ulv Stranden," which the Doctor mishears as "Dalek" but which actually translates as "Bad Wolf Bay.")
Speaking of Jackie, she finally get to take a trip in the TARDIS and becomes a dark mirror for Rose herself, providing the Doctor with the opportunity to voice the negative feelings quartered by some of fandom — she's "not the best I've ever had," he says, before commenting on her hair, her lack of steadiness, her propensity to talk.
There's a bit of alchemy that goes on with this. Notably, Jackie kisses the Doctor. Inside the TARDIS, she's framed by a coral support post that so much resembles the vesica piscis of the Divine Feminine, combined with a comment that "if we end up on Mars, I'm going to kill you." This is part of the show's ongoing union of opposites (not unlike the Doctor's Red and Blue glasses) and helps to make sense of the episode's final, startling image — the Bride, who represents the Boon of the alchemical wedding.
July 15, 2013 @ 9:44 am
There's a connection here between Jackie's father and Rose's father, and the whole business of "ghosts" and wanting to find "the father," which can be taken as a metaphor: the quest for the Father is a quest for God, so I really like how Davies has Pete showing up to save Rose just before she's dragged into Hell. This makes Pete a "deus ex machina" of a sort, a god out of the box if you will (though obviously this was all set up appropriately, it's not a "proper" DEM.)
I think it's very interesting in light of Davies' atheism.
July 15, 2013 @ 9:47 am
And Planet of the Ood also refers to The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit, although you don't need to be a reference hound to spot that one…
The TARDIS Wikia notes: "An upgraded version of the Sanctuary Base 6 rocket is seen flying over the Doctor and Donna."
Nice and subtle, that one. Obviously the Ood is the major link, but it's cool that there's a second link to Impossible Planet.
July 15, 2013 @ 9:49 am
Sarah Jane's interaction with the Smith era may be minimal, but it's spot-on. The Death of the Doctor foreshadows the 2011 series arc, and plays with the very same thematic linking of Death, Remembering, and Rebirth that Moffat's era is so fond of. There's even a literal coffin escape!
July 15, 2013 @ 9:49 am
The Fires of Pompeii also has a vague link with City of Death.
Spoilers for those playing the guessing game:
One of episode writer James Moran's favourite stories is City of Death, so there's a deliberate reference to that when Caecilius buys the TARDIS, thinking it's a piece of modern art. In City of Death, the TARDIS is parked in an art gallery, causing a pair of critics (John Cleese and Eleanor Bron) to discuss its artistic merits. Coincidentally, City of Death was the first episode of the classic series to involve filming outside of the UK, while The Fires of Pompeii was the first episode of the series revival to have major filming done outside the UK.
July 15, 2013 @ 9:59 am
Assad, good point about Torchwood there. The major one (about Torchwood being very different) is handwaved away by the fact that apparently Jack rebuilt it "in the Doctor's honour" (The Sound of Drums) and also the fact that Torchwood The Series is based around Cardiff's Torchwood, which could signal a bit of a cheat as Davies doesn't want to deal with the Canary Wharf Torchwood aftermath.
Also, someone here probably knows: how many mentions of Torchwood are there post-Series 2? I know it's a plot point in "The Runaway Bride" and it pops up in "The Sound of Drums". Are there many more?
July 15, 2013 @ 10:00 am
@William Whyte: Of course he likes the tingle! It can be a effective dramatic tool, and Davies is not one to leave any device untouched. Plus, given the nature of time travel, any time we "go back" we bring the gift of prophecy with us; it's the main reason the Doctor tries to avoid reading histories as much as possible, as it limits his free will. (The Fires of Pompeii is particularly noteworthy for commenting on the limits of prophecy, from both sides of the debate.)
But the savvy members of the audience should never have fallen for the prediction of Rose's death. She's the Narrator. This clearly signals that the so-called death will be metaphorical, and it's a reminder no kind of mythology, even Doctor Who, should be taken literally.
July 15, 2013 @ 10:05 am
Oh! Thatcher arrives with the Planet of the Spiders is just brilliant on reflection!
July 15, 2013 @ 10:06 am
@Assad: "Rose didn't seem particularly upset by the massacre of everyone on the Gamestation, including checking up on Cap'n Jack"
In a state of Ascension, the problem of death is trivial; she's beyond Life and Death, and Good and Evil, having transcended the dualism of every pair of opposites.
Pen Name Pending
July 15, 2013 @ 10:11 am
Looking forward to it as I've only seen the first episode and most of Children of Earth.
July 15, 2013 @ 10:12 am
Theonlyspiral… using Torchwood to reunite with the Doctor is firmly in the tradition of EastPowellStreet dynamics. It has nothing to do with building an empire. And even when Rose sets out on this path, it's alongside the very Doctor Whoish concern of saving the Universe — after all, the stars are going out.
July 15, 2013 @ 10:17 am
@Jane: When [Rose] sees a corpse, all [s]he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what [Rose] say[s] about dead people, which is "so it goes.”
July 15, 2013 @ 10:18 am
Adam nailed it. Solves everything.
July 15, 2013 @ 10:26 am
"The Fires of Pompeii" also refers to "The Aztecs," though not in as direct a way.
July 15, 2013 @ 10:45 am
Yes, for an atheist Davies writes a hell of a lot of religious imagery and themes. I hope we end up talking some more about that because I'm honestly not sure what to make of it.
July 15, 2013 @ 11:06 am
This is what happens when Satellite Five becomes a slaughterhouse. It is known.
July 15, 2013 @ 11:15 am
@encyclops: I would think it's an attempt to be subversive, as if the deployment of all these religious tropes in an ostensibly secular show would somehow denude them of their power. Alternatively, it's a barehanded grab at that power, feeding the myth of the Doctor as an alternative to traditional religion. Either way I'm entirely comfortable with it, but I can understand how those who've been more badly scarred than me by certain religious institutions may feel otherwise.
I suppose it could be that Davies had his own "religious experience" and realizing that it came from fiction realized that the realms of the literal (science) and the metaphorical (myth) need not be at odds with each other, but this is purely speculative on my part. The important thing, whether it's with Doctor Who or any traditional religious mythology, is not to mistake one for the other. Hence my adamance against taking any of this stuff literally. As per usual, I take the metaphorical language to point to an inner experience, not an external reality.
July 15, 2013 @ 12:11 pm
It is at it's Zenith in Children of Earth.
Corpus Christi Music Scene
July 15, 2013 @ 12:33 pm
It sounds like the Tennant book might be 2 volumes then ?
July 15, 2013 @ 12:34 pm
Not really. The "Outside the Government" book will contain stuff deeply relevant to the Tennant era, but all Tennant's stories will be in one volume.
July 15, 2013 @ 12:39 pm
Jackie's not complaining that Rose won't be safe. She's complaining that Rose will no longer be the person that Jackie recognises Rose as being. (Jeanette Winterson's adopted mother apparently once asked her, Why be happy when you could be normal? Jackie's plea is a similar sentiment.)
(I haven't seen the finale to Season Three; just The Lazarus Experiment. But I'd say that in each case the female parent is more hostile to what the Doctor represents than the male. Pete is more like the Doctor than Jackie is; in Season Four Donna's mother is a nightmare, whereas her paternal figure is Wilf.)
I don't know that it amounts to misogyny myself. But the case is strong enough that I don't trust any argument that condemns the Moffat-era for being misogynistic while exempting the Davies-era.
July 15, 2013 @ 12:41 pm
So Outside the Government is Torchwood, SJA and Sherlock? Will that book have bonus essays as well?
July 15, 2013 @ 12:41 pm
July 15, 2013 @ 12:44 pm
"Why be happy when you could be normal?" is perhaps the most small minded and pitiable sentiment I have ever heard.
July 15, 2013 @ 12:47 pm
Sweet. Very excited for that one. Not that I'm not excited for future volumes…but I am incredibly exited for that one.
Of course I got in a loud argument at our weekly games night last week about how Sherlock is just Doctor Who without the alien rubbish so I may be slightly eager to read your thoughts on the matter.
July 15, 2013 @ 12:56 pm
Certainly when I disliked the program's treatment of Rose it was at those points when I thought the program was treating Rose as not simply the current companion but as The Companion. Because the Doctor Who and Rose show just does not have the potential that Doctor Who does.
The problem is, Davies never really does separate Rose from the program. The program for the next two seasons is all about Rose not being there. It's left to Moffat to try to do Doctor Who as if Rose is now part of the past along with Jamie and Jo and Leela and Nyssa and Ace. I can't help thinking that's part of a lot of hatred for Moffat.
July 15, 2013 @ 1:02 pm
Sorry if someone touched on this already, but I'd always assumed that magic bullet of the Time War explained why Torchwood didn't exist in the Classic Series… because it wasn't until AFTER the Time War that the Tennant Doctor existed to go back and cause Torchwood to be created. Yes/No/Maybe?
July 15, 2013 @ 1:02 pm
I don't think I was expecting a straightforward death, as such; but I was hoping for more than "missing, presumed KIA"/separation from her boyfriend. I dunno – her body destroyed in the Void and her mind eternally recreating itself Omega-like as it drifts through eternity thanks to the residual Vortex energy, perhaps, or Rose turned into fiction and set up as the mistress of her own island in the Void, something like that.
Well, as I said, I got over it. But later on I still expected "eternal death for the most faithful companion" to be Rose sulking over a sniffly nose or something.
July 15, 2013 @ 1:13 pm
I am disinclined to ever pull the "The Time War Changed Things!" (Or even "Time can be rewritten") card unless there's some on-screen evidence for it, and there isn't any.
Maybe if there was no other possible explanation, but I don't see any great need for an explanation, since the existence of a secret agency which has hitherto been secret doesn't actually contradict anything at all.
July 15, 2013 @ 1:23 pm
All of those ideas sound plausible. The least charitable explanation I've had is that it simply doesn't matter enough to him to look for ideas with the power he's after that don't rely on these familiar religious tropes. Maybe the argument is that there aren't any, that the metaphor infuses the religious with its power rather than vice versa, but I'm not ready to accept it. 🙂
As one small example: I love the bits of "The Brain of Morbius" where the sacred flame can be restored to fullness using fireworks to dislodge the soot. Clearly there's a lot of the mythical still working there — if nothing else it's still a flame that confers immortality — but if it's a reference to Christian myth it's not in my face, and at least feels like it brings some balance of the mystical with the scientific. Those moments are the ones I want more of in my Doctor Who, and are the ones that make me feel the most wonder and satisfaction.
July 15, 2013 @ 1:25 pm
I think the biggest part of why fans, particularly classic-series fans, object to the use of Rose isn't because there is anything wrong with Rose being made outto be important, or that the Doctor goes on to pine for her for the rest of his incarnation.
It's that it forces the well-versed viewer to confront the problem of Susan, and they'd rather not. It makes sense for the Doctor to become attached to Rose, and it makes sense for him to be unable to get over her, especially given the circumstances of their break. But if all of that makes sense, then what do we make of the old man who ditches his own flesh-and-blood granddaughter on post-apocalyptic earth on the pretense that she's found Twoo Wuv with some bloke she's just met and then never thinks of her again? Both versions of The Doctor can not be Right, so the well-versed old-school fan concludes that the new one must be wrong, since the alternative, seemingly, is to do what someone I know did when they recently tried to get into classic Doctor Who by watching The Dalek Invasion of Earth: turn it off in disgust and declare "This is our hero? He's a sociopath! This show sucks and I'm never watching it again."
July 15, 2013 @ 1:37 pm
Adam Riggio – thank YOU too!
That just became "cannon" (terrible term, I know) in my opinion. That's the best piece of continuity fan-fic EVAR!
July 15, 2013 @ 1:42 pm
There were times when I liked Rose as a companion. They were mostly centered around the moments she was a) acting competent, or at least with agency; b) not drawing the entire program into juvenile immaturity (c.f. Tooth and Claw, the motor scooter open to Idiot's Lantern); and c) not getting treated with special privilege by the show's universe.
So I had mixed feelings about her in the early-going of S1; she had good moments and bad moments. I had my first moment of active dislike in Father's Day, when the special privilege went beyond what I could stand; it got worse as the series wore on into S2, with TaC being a Rubicon nadir. From that point on, the show had to work to make me like her. (To the point that in Rise of the Cybermen, I was thinking at the screen "of course he has to go after her, Mickey, the last time she was in this situation with her dad she damn near made the universe come apart at the seams.") I had a certain respect for her in Idiot's Lantern, when she tried to act with agency, even though she failed; I actually liked her again in Impossible Planet when she managed to organize a group of the stationers and get them moving. And then Doomsday, gah. If I hated the cop-out resolution to the invasion threat, I utterly loathed the narmish 'wah, they will never ever see each other again, sob' ending.
And yes, David, exactly; her ghost is hanging over the next two seasons, both explicitly and in all kinds of ways that I'm not even sure were conscious. I hadn't thought it through quite that far w.r.t. the hatred for Moffat – but I admit that with my biases, and the amount of 'Rose is the Doctor's One Twue Love' posting I saw during the Davies years, it makes perfect sense to me.
July 15, 2013 @ 2:07 pm
It's a particularly terrible term because that second 'n' makes it the word that describes a big honking bullet-lobbing device.
July 15, 2013 @ 2:57 pm
"But I'd say that in each case the female parent is more hostile to what the Doctor represents than the male."
Well, Jackie had good reason to be hostile to the Doctor — he'd negligently stolen Rose away for an entire year. Likewise, Francine's reaction to the Doctor was driven by misleading info she'd received from the Master by way of the British government. Sylvia was awful, but not for misogynistic reasons, unless an acrimonious relationship between a mother and daughter is a sign of misogyny and not a perfectly normal familial relationship.
July 15, 2013 @ 3:16 pm
Personally, I prefer a much simpler solution based on Jack's induction into Torchwood in "Fragments." Jack knows about time travel, he knows about regeneration, he knows how paradoxes work, and he strongly wants to protect the Doctor from Torchwood. So he explains to the Torchwood leadership that they cannot under any circumstances interact with the Doctor or let him learn of its existence until after the Doctor has his encounter with Queen Victoria or else it will cause a paradox and undermine Torchwood's own existence. And once Torchwood becomes aware that there are multiple Doctors running around, the organization accepts this theory and conceals itself from the Doctor until Ten shows up again and announces his presence.
July 15, 2013 @ 3:39 pm
I was slightly more bugged at Pete's miraculous timing and positioning, not to mention that despite the fact that he appears right in front of the void, he didn't get sucked out immediately.
Thank you! I thought I was the only person in the world distracted by the bizarre physics at the ending. So this void magnet can suck all the Cybermen (including the ones which, for some baffling reason, are camped out at the Taj Mahal) into the Void, right? All 5 million of them camped out around the world? Can any physics geniuses tell me (A) how fast a Cyberman would have to travel to get from the Taj Mahal to Canary Wharf in under a minute and (B) what ecological effects would it cause to have 5 million Cybermen flying around that fast? I'll pass over, for the moment, the fact that Cybermen in India (and presumably Australia and China) kindly flew the whole way around the Earth instead of getting pulled directly to Britain by way of the Earth's core. And yet, with all that incredible gravitational force, Rose could hold on long enough for Pete to materialize four feet from the edge of the Void, catch her as she flew into him at speeds of at least a few 100 mph, and then teleport away with here without getting sucked into the Void.
Really, show?!? Really?!?
July 15, 2013 @ 3:47 pm
Why is RTD, the out gay atheist, so into invoking religious, and specifically contemporary Christian, iconography? As an out gay atheist, I find that an especially fascinating question. What it reminds me of, actually, is breasts.
There is a certain subset of gay men out there who, particularly when tipsy, become fascinated by breasts. This is a genuine social phenomenon, for those of you who haven't encountered it (I don't know what kind of pop culture traction it's gained). These guys, to be clear, don't actually want to have sex with women, when all is said and done. Yet…breasts.
On the one hand, breasts are clearly infused with a great deal of power by our culture. They're fetish objects. They're bound up in sex and procreation and infancy in all kinds of ways, but more than that, they're historically taboo and forbidden. Seeing a breast out of its enclosure is a naughty act, or so many of us have been raised to believe. It's easy to see how the breast could become fascinating, even to a gay man who doesn't feel the sexual component of this in, shall we say, as visceral a way, just from the social context. Moreover, not feeling this visceral reaction can be fascinating in itself: the lack of power breasts exert can itself become a sort of power through the contrast it sets up between the individual and society. The markers of normalcy can become fetish objects to the differently-normal by virtue of delimiting this social space that excludes us.
Or so I gather, and guess; personally, I don't see it. Not my wheelhouse, you know? Just because "markers of normalcy" can become fetish objects to outsiders doesn't mean that they must. One way to react to finding yourself outside is to become fascinated on some level by elements of that outsideness, perhaps by setting up and collapsing binary oppositions, or play involving "wrong" roles. Another way is to decide you don't actually care all that much about being outside, and to focus more on what's outside with you than what's on "the other side". The "markers of normalcy" are, in fact, banal, by definition, and it's not necessarily wrong to think of them that way. On the downside, this can leave you less connected to other people. On the upside, this can leave you less connected to other people.
Religious iconography is much the same: Anglo-European cultures have been steeped in Christianity for thousands of years. Christian iconography is all around us, woven into the very fabric of our society like some kind of…look, I wanted to make some kind of bra joke to tie this all together, but honestly? I don't know how bras work and can't be bothered to Google them. Anyhow. What I'm saying is that one perfectly-understandable reaction an atheist might have to living in a very Christian-influenced culture is to treat Christian images as fetish objects in much the same way some gay men see breasts. Clearly these images have power, and the fact that one cannot actually experience this power oneself can be especially fascinating.
Or not. Personally I don't see it. But then, I'm an introvert with a lot of interests that'd put me outside the mainstream no matter what. So, you know, whatever.
There's a power in "whatever" too…
July 15, 2013 @ 3:57 pm
The compliments are appreciated, everybody, and answered with a plug for my own new project, Adam Writes Everything (http://adamwriteseverything.blogspot.ca/). Daily progress on all my philosophy and fiction projects (and maybe some of the theatre work if any of that takes off this year), including some periodic Doctor Who-related material.
And yours is a simpler solution, Alan. But we all have our preferences.
July 15, 2013 @ 3:57 pm
I have two mini theories.
Well, first, there's this: I'm with RTD when he says he won't let plot logic get in the way of a character moment.
01: Pete is full of void stuff but comes through from his world where the Void isn't open. Indeed, whilst the Void is on suck-mode, he's the only thing to come from Pete's World and thus we can pretend that, for some sci-fi technobabbly reason, the Void will only suck stuff in from this world. It doesn't suck Pete in because it doesn't recognise him, having come from the world with the closed void. It's a stretch, but it can work.
02: It happens extremely extremely quickly but we see it from the Doctor's POV, in extreme extreme slow-mo.
The thing that bugs me most about the whole story, though, is that the Cybermen positioned around the world never move an inch. They're all sucked back from the exact spots they landed in. (Similar will occur in The End of Time when all the Masters around the world don't appear to move an inch… and a whole night passes!)
Pen Name Pending
July 15, 2013 @ 4:08 pm
I have seen people complain about how with series 5 it seemed like the older characters didn't matter or weren't referenced (a problem for those who began watching with the revived series in "Rose", since they are not aware that this is a part of how the show goes on). I also agree about the Rose as The Companion problem; I could see her ghost hanging over it as I originally watched it (this is part of why I feel like Martha got a bad deal), and I really began to see it with Phil's essay on "Bad Wolf"/"The Parting of the Ways".
Rose was really important in bringing the series back. But she also is kind of a problem when the show had to continue.
July 15, 2013 @ 6:15 pm
The Moffat Era isn't misogynistic… Moffat just recognizes women as varelse while Davis recognizes them as utlannings.
July 15, 2013 @ 6:18 pm
Torchwood is a group that works in the shadows of the British government and deletes all mentions of itself. UNIT works for the United Nations. Where UNIT is powerful, Torchwood stays out of their way. Where UNIT is weak, they are in and out and never remembered thanks to Torchwood-roofies.
July 15, 2013 @ 6:24 pm
I love the comments here. Anyway, there's no reason to believe the Doctor didn't give Rose a very brief version of what happened in Parting of the Ways. As for the Emperor… She met him in Bad Wolf, before the bit where she wasn't in her own head.
July 15, 2013 @ 6:29 pm
With any luck, the Outside the Government book will have references to how Curse of Fenric and Survival tie directly in with The Doctor Dances and Torchwood…
July 15, 2013 @ 7:50 pm
"This is the story of how I died" is played out in the final scene when The Doctor tells Rose "You're dead, officially, back home. So many people died that day and you've gone missing. You're on a list of the dead." It's a trick in writing, not a prophecy, that reveals the truth in a manner unexpected.
It's the same kind of clever writing trick played with The Name of the Doctor where viewers expected to hear the Doctor's real name (and some still complain that it wasn't, missing the point) when instead it refers to the name"The Doctor" itself as a promise, one broken by John Hurt's incarnation.
Corpus Christi Music Scene
July 15, 2013 @ 8:38 pm
Decided to rewatch this after todays post/comments. Wonderful introduction to the Torchwood theme music and Freema Agyeman !
July 15, 2013 @ 10:03 pm
Alan: The thing is, that relies on Torchwood being consistently competent, and is therefore incompatible with the show as broadcast.
July 15, 2013 @ 10:08 pm
Yeah, that's the most obvious and therefore least fun way to explain away continuity.
July 15, 2013 @ 11:37 pm
Same here. Watched both last night. Never twigged that what became the Torchwood Theme was all over it like a rash.
The ending seemed far more drawn out than I remember. I guess my drama expectations could have tightened up somewhat in the intervening 13 years, but I can't imagine a companion leaving scene taking that long nowadays. Even the Ponds' goodbye in "Manhattan" was much shorter.
July 15, 2013 @ 11:39 pm
Thank you, thank you and thank you Phil!
You have managed to express in your writing added layers of meaning to the story for me – one which I loved and was truly moved by on an immediate level – and will now look forwards to viewing again. I am actually considering rewatching every episode again form An Unearthly Child in parallel with your essays and see if my viewing experience changes.
And also big thanks to you Jane. I am so busy with work (I am an outdoors educator, professional storyteller & support worker) that I do no always have much time to comment, but I always enjoy the comments here and despite being comment-quiet I feel myself to be part of a pretty literate and good-thinking part of the Doctor Who community.
Thanks for a pleasurable read all.
* (Cue applause) *
July 15, 2013 @ 11:45 pm
This one is hardly a challenge. The Daleks and Cybermen are sucked through the hole they came through but naturally it is a multiple dimensional hole which, too our limited perception, appears to be in multiple places at the same time. Daleks all get sucked back to Canary Wharf, Cybermen through the the Cyberman shaped apertures they came through. Any inconsistencies to this effect were due to a wizard.
July 16, 2013 @ 12:15 am
Surely the fact that Rose herself narrates "this is the story of how I died" should be raising questions about the nature of that death?
Either she's narrating from the afterlife (which really doesn't seem something one would expect from either Russell T Davies or Doctor Who more generally) or "Death" does not in this case have the obvious meaning.
July 16, 2013 @ 12:34 am
…and suddenly I realise why the Outside the Government entries are called that.
July 16, 2013 @ 12:59 am
@ Daibhid C: Getafix is hardly in the story and doesn't show his face in Rome (he's seen in the feast in the story's very final panel and that's it). That leaves you with very few options if you want to go the Doctor-in-disguise route.
July 16, 2013 @ 2:20 am
The Cybermen aren't all sucked half-way round the globe – the Doctor mentions this himself, IIRC. He says they came through "the fault lines" and that's how they vanish again.
July 16, 2013 @ 5:08 am
Dr. Happypants: I love it. I hope we get to talk more about the breasts/Bible analogy when we get to "Gridlock" (which, to be clear, I absolutely love) and "The Last of the Time Lords." 😀
July 16, 2013 @ 6:39 am
That's kind of a cheeky reason why I enjoy my little story about it. Given what was broadcast in the show (not just the post-Doomsday Jack-led era, but all previous eras) Torchwood hasn't been that good at what they do. They usually fend off minor alien invasions and incursions, but with avoidable collateral damage. Mostly, they're just an archive for alien tech, which the few times they try to use it, their people get themselves killed because they don't know what it does. It's like Adam in Van Statten's collection: a big pile of junk in which no one is able to tell the difference between a gun, a broken gun, and a hair dryer. And there's a staff turnover every few years as members of their teams get themselves killed.
Plus, until Jack takes over, there isn't even any uplifting moral motivation to their actions. They're a Victorian Illuminati with a secret mission to defend the British Empire from alien threat, the bulk of whose existence is spent watching the collapse of the British Empire for reasons of human geo-politics. Torchwood is a story of overreach and anachronism, people inadequate to handling the mess the real world throws at them.
That's why I like my story. It's about human fumbling and bumbling. No secret manipulations by double-agent Jack throwing their scent off the trail. Just good old human short-sightedness and the regrets of "Missed it by THAT much!"
July 17, 2013 @ 8:33 pm
Keep me abreast of the ensuing discussion. 🙂
August 26, 2013 @ 8:49 am
Of course, nobody ever seems to mention the possibility that maybe the "ghost" actually IS Grandpa Prentiss, who didn't die in Pete's World (what with priviliged access to the best healthcare technology) but survived long enough to become a Cyberman.
I mean, seriously – what if the ghosts really were the people the inhabitants of our world thought they were? Not like, Napoleon or whatever, but lovers, family, etc, all gravitating toward the people they knew in life. The ghost you see might even be your own.
December 28, 2013 @ 5:22 am
It's rather interesting that Moffat is basically the only writer who isn't writing the Doctor Who and Rose Show during the Davies years(perhaps this has to do with Davies rewriting him less than he does the other writers). We've got Empty Child, where Captain Jack gets introduced as basically an equal companion to Rose. We've got, most clearly, Girl in the Fireplace, where Rose and Mickey are equally neglected in favor of the Doctor's love affair with Reinette. Blink completely ignores the issue of Rose's absence by not even being about the Doctor and Martha. Silence in the Library introduces River Song, whose status is a greater threat to Rose's than any of Davies's post-Rose companions.
Besides the fact that he wrote good stories, Moffat was the obvious successor simply on the grounds that he's the only writer who was ready to simply write off Rose and move on. I can see why the people who genuinely got hooked on the Doctor Who and Rose Show decided that Moffat wasn't for them.
August 7, 2014 @ 10:48 am
"Jackie Tyler, the most everyday person in the world, the one character untouched by the void"
August 7, 2014 @ 11:05 am
August 7, 2014 @ 11:11 am
"It's rather interesting that Moffat is basically the only writer who isn't writing the Doctor Who and Rose Show during the Davies years(perhaps this has to do with Davies rewriting him less than he does the other writers)."
— Well, but but The Empty Child & Doctor Dances also is the first story to start making the implicit romance plot between the Doctor and Rose explicit, so not sure I agree with you there. Also, he brings her back in Day of the Doctor as the symbol of the new show (he said in interviews). I'm not saying Rose is "teh bestest companion evah", but I don't see Moffat as being fundamentally different from the others in the way he treats her.