I had to. I’m sorry. 0=)
So, my first Doctor Who-themed post talked about a greater power the Time Lords were bound to. The second was my overall take on the first three seasons. I hadn’t watched the last half of season three when I initially wrote that, so I saved four and five for this one (which was originally just for five). I think it works, though.
Okay, here’s my character sketch of the Doctor and his story arc. I cut down some of this because I feel like I’d be recovering old ground to keep it. This is just an off-the-cuff overview of the Doctor’s personal story arc. Yes, I didn’t mention River. She’s for later.
- In the beginning, the war-weary Doctor is an angry, broken fellow difficult to please, but that only adds to his elation when “Everybody lives!” In a weird way, Rose’s house was home base for him, so losing them is like losing his second family . Once he regenerates, the newly regenerated Doctor is an odd mix of brash and cocksure mingled in with an apparent real fear his companion won’t like his new self.
- I’m counting Runaway Bride in this, but after he loses a companion, from here out is a marked difference in tone. He never fully recovers from the events of season two. Every time he starts to heal internally, something happens. Over and over and over again all the way through season four. At the beginning he’s miserably lonely, and by the end he’s just as alone as he began, with even more losses in his wake. Worse, he’s shutting off completely, burying his heart in a kind of self-preservation mode. I think in the end I have to agree the Doctor’s emotional instability sends some mixed messages thematically. The inner turmoil with the Doctor works for me. I didn’t have a problem with a brash Doctor that lashes out and does crazy things when he gets emotional…and emotional happens a lot in this season. I liked the play on his “human” and “Time Lord” natures–The one thing he wants, he can never have.
- And after that, it feels like a Shakespearean tragedy. It’s full of the entire emotional spectrum. One of my favorite moments is when it looks like the Doctor’s going to take revenge and kill the Master…and instead puts his arms around his enemy and forgives him. Another highlight for me, anyway. By the end, the beloved Doctor has come to the end of himself (no puns, please). And he loses everything – again. He loses his third family (Donna’s). He realizes he’s become everything he despises and done things he swore he wouldn’t. And he falls apart. “Waters of Mars” is almost a flip on the Pompeii episode: In the earlier episode, he won’t fight Time; in the later, he tries. And fails–resulting in even worse consequences. But the best twist about this season was expecting the Doctor to be the redeemer and instead the Doctor is the redeemed.
So, for me it’s been one long arc from angry and beaten (Ninth) to unsettled and wild (Tenth – 1&2) to miserably lonely and angry (Tenth – 3&4) until he finally hits the bottom and admits to having become something he despises. For a guy who actively wants hope, he’s certainly lost all sense of it by the end.
The TARDIS is falling!
My initial impression of the 11th Doctor was total refreshment. It was a deep breath of much needed air. Don’t get me wrong. I liked the 10th. But by the end it’s his whole being, body and soul, that needs regenerating. He can’t breathe, so the viewers can’t. And the final minute or so of The End of Time picked up on the need, I think. They could have ended it sooner, with a downtrodden, hopelessly alone Doctor locking himself in the TARDIS, tossing his coat, and setting a course, facing his last few moments alone, and setting the whole thing on fire.
I’ll admit, I might have. I’m a bit ruthless that way. But it doesn’t end on the down note. Now that everyone’s in emotional distress, the Doctor finishes his regeneration , gives himself a once-over, and, still disoriented and out of sorts, tries to straighten out a falling TARDIS.
So now we’re not sad. We’re not sure he’ll pull out of the crash. The end.
And season five kicks off exactly where four left us. The TARDIS crashes in front of a house where a little girl named Amelia Pond lives. (I’m saving a breakdown of Amy and Rory for my next post, which covers the companions and their respective relationships to the Doctor.) And, just like his previous regeneration, it takes him awhile to get his bearings.
I really think Beast Below is my favorite episode of season five. If you were only going to watch one episode of this season, I’d probably pick that one. (The Smilers don’t qualify as ‘monsters,’ btw. They’re…well, they’re the least scary creatures in the DW universe as far as I’m concerned.) It’s an odd moment where everything you need to know about who the Doctor is shows up in one episode.
And maybe, for him, crashing outside a little girl’s house was itself a pinprick of hope. He isn’t alone now; in fact, he winds up with more companions than he knows what to do with. If Ten was lonely, Eleven couldn’t get any privacy if he tried. He’s internalizing a lot more now, for better or worse, and he’s got friends who can see straight through his facade–which I think he secretly likes. It’s got a good mix of light and dark moments, I think, and I appreciate the subtleties of the new storylines.
He’s taken a great deal of focus off himself. As a friend of mine put it, the season’s story really about Amy and Rory, not the Doctor. He’s bound and determined to keep them together and get Amy down the aisle with Rory–and without compromising their relationship. Somehow.
My biggest critique, really, with season five (and, really, a little into six as well) is the number of innuendos and “moments” seemed to go up. Part of that’s par for the course given Amy’s nature, I suppose, but by the end it was a bit tiresome. And I’m pretty sure it’s time to stop with the Rory death scenes. And to stop making Rory think Amy’s cheating or something.
At any rate, thematically they’re still playing with the same concepts as before, just not quite as directly. Major themes still include:
- Non-violence as a virtue
- Human nature
- Faith/trust/belief in something/one
All of which I suppose I’ll cover next time.
I think if I had to sum up season five, I’d say it’s the restoration of hope, with this weird parallel between the newly regenerated Doctor and the six year old Amy, his need for her to trust him, and his need for newfound hope. It’s a search, in a way, for both of them.