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Traveling With The Time Lord (A Commentary on Three Seasons)

Lord of the Time Lords Just by way of recap, in my previous entry I surmised that even the Time Lord answers to a higher power–whatever that power may be. My post had more to do with seasons 1 and […]
| May 4, 2011 | No comments | Series:

Lord of the Time Lords

Just by way of recap, in my previous entry I surmised that even the Time Lord answers to a higher power–whatever that power may be. My post had more to do with seasons 1 and 2, as at the time I hadn’t watched 3, 4, or 5. It’s one of those shows that, despite its strong humanistic undercurrents, still has plenty worth gleaning, as others have also posted about. My contention was…and is…that even the Time Lords answer to someone/thing beyond themselves. I’ll get into this more in  a later post about the Doctor himself,  but as a whole the show doesn’t answer the question.  He serves Time. He serves Humanity.

When I originally wrote this, I was halfway through season three.   I’m a newcomer to the show and started with the new series at the suggestion of a friend. Once my fellows realized I was watching, we began dialoguing, and ultimately I realized I could get a post out of it. That post was Lord of the Time Lords, and through the energetic and fun flurry of comments that resulted, I realized I had a whole list of directions I could spin the Doctor.

So, here it is:  My seasons 1-3  take on the Time Lord.* Mostly the 10th Doctor, you’ll notice, even though it really was about halfway through season 1  that I really began enjoying it.

Time Lord Companion’s Notes

  1. Yes, watching five seasons in a matter of months is information overload. It’s pretty much the only show I was watching.
  2. I probably knew too much going in. Just knowing three people have played the Doctor’s role was a bit too much.  But that was okay, because I still didn’t/don’t know when or how. Or why.
  3. I loved having running dialogue with  my group of friends. On the other hand, I also think it altered my perspective prematurely. It is what it is. No one’s fault, really.
  4. I’ve noticed a general pattern that all seasons follow. It’s a very odd thing to notice, but hey. I watched a lot of Doctor Who at once, which was an insane thing to do.

Moving on. Be patient with me; there’ll be plenty of time later to cover anything I don’t in this post. I have three or four more planned after this, not counting a podcast  with Stephen, his wife, and myself.  So it’s going to be a total geekfest for the Whovians. 0=)

Positives:

  • The combination of sobriety and humor, dark episodes and fun ones
  • A consistent rise and fall of events
  • The characters’ genuine affections for each other, their ability to love and trust
  • Some sense of moral compass (I know none of us agree with all of it, or even most of it, but nine times out of ten they stick to the principles they’ve laid down)
  • The depiction of human nature (more later)
  • Miscellaneous commentary on society (good and bad, intentional or not)
  • Where one element might fail (plot device, villain, dialogue), another shines, thus saving the episode from total disdain
  • Surprise element
  • Creepy factor (more later; I  prefer creepy over supposedly scary monsters)
  • Characters learning over time instead of having the info dump
  • Violence isn’t the first option
  • The Doctor doesn’t carry a weapon. I find that fascinating.
  • Some of the best episodes have no bad guy, and they’re usually the ones that creep me out the most.

Negatives:

  • At least one episode has fallen flat per season, at least for me.
  • Some of the aliens are a bit goofy looking.  But at least they stay away from oversized insects and slugs for the most part.
  • Weird ideas on what qualifies as ‘romance’  (which I think is my real problem with the “I believe in Rose Tyler” thing, and it comes back up in Gridlock).
  • Occasionally stretching the limits of the audience’s ability to suspend disbelief).

Faith in…not gods.

There’s one place the show seems to really waver on , in my estimation: at times brazen and confident, others  incredibly uncertain. And maybe that’s par for the course. Fred Warren  had some good points about the Doctor’s faith, and I’m going to hit on that in a later post on human nature. (I know, putting Time Lord nature and Human nature in one post is weird, but it’ll make sense later.)  After Fred’s comments,  I don’t know that it’s a horrible thing. It’s okay to have characters that don’t know what they believe.  I think it’s weird that after nine centuries you’re unsure, but Fred still had a point. 0=) So that’s coming. Now, I guess 900 years can jade you, and losing everything ten times over can certainly splinter the foundation of who you are.

But the Doctor’s doctrine (say that three times fast)  aside,  it’s the show’s approach that strikes me as odd, something I mentioned in a comment last time. I couldn’t get a bead on the show.  Generally speaking, religion becomes myth and superstition and the church pretty much fades out as an institution (to quote season five, “the Church has moved on”). (Again, it’s an anthropocentric show.) Sometimes, religion is non-existent. Others, it’s tolerated or patted on the head like the unicorn. Others, it almost seems to create its own religion.

The first real mention is in the end of season one, where Rose makes her big speech after looking into the heart of the TARDIS.  Her comments about saving the Doctor from false gods was intriguing to me.  That theme is later repeated in the Satan Pit (season two): He goes up against a devil and comments he’s fought and defeated false gods a hundred times over. (And the cat nuns are another story, crazies who  infect a few people with every disease known to the universe to destroy illness.)

Season three was the bizarre one for me: The Gridlock episode has plenty of people with “faith and songs” (thanks, Martha), but…little else. I don’t mind the use of a hymn or two, but Old Rugged Cross would have been a bizarre choice for that episode even if it were written by Billy Graham.  I wasn’t sure if I should’ve been offended, amused, or mildly disdainful.  As it was, I was mostly confused and distracted.  Really, whatever: you want a flawed ‘Christ figure,’ fine. But the Doctor isn’t (more coming; I’m spending a lot of time on that later), and doesn’t want to be. You want to use well-known, understood religious symbols and typology, go for it. But don’t be confusing.

Sidenote leading to this point, I couldn’t find the video again, but there’s this Joss Whedon talk where he’s commenting  on Buffy and his use of a Christ typology because “it’s the mythology we’re most familiar with.”  I never watched Buffy, but the point is that it’s possible to have a humanistic view of the world and still have some understanding of  the elements you’re using. And that’s where I felt like things got muddled, like the writers couldn’t decide how to treat the subject and wound up all over the map, from  an active war against false gods to  the passive (meaning, philosophical instead of physical) stance against foolish myths.

I suppose that can work two ways: Optimistically, as we’re seeing the world through the Doctor’s eyes, the inconsistencies could well reflect his own uncertainty behind a mask of confidence. Less optimistically, they could also reflect author intrusion.**

Hope in…something

So,  assuming this is skewed main character perspective and not author intrusion,  we can follow the idea of a need for faith in something, for hope.  But if everyone should believe in someone, have someone they can love and trust unconditionally, and cling to some sliver of hope, the question still remains: In who  or what?

It’s a little ironic: a storyworld that doesn’t play nice with foolish myths (including  the human race’s worship of the ‘pagan Santa deity,’ btw), vain philosophies, tyranny, oppression, or cruelty simultaneously generates its own myths and occasionally relies on them to make the storyline work. Faith is a requirement. Love (and by default mercy, grace, forgiveness, peacemaking, healing and restoration) is a requirement. And hope, by the end of it, is the only thing the Doctor has to stand on, wherever it might be lodged.

 

*Footnote: I’m deciding how the rest will go. I have at least one on human nature and one on season five impressions. I also want to pick up the discussion on the Human Nature/Family of Blood episodes.

**Footnote: Amendment here – I’ll discuss the season four ending in the next entry, I think. This post is long enough.

 

 

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Fred Warren
Member

Wow, I’m going to have to jump on Netflix or Hulu and start watching more of the recent episodes, of which I’ve seen only a few. Tom Baker will always be “my” Doctor, though I’ve been very impressed with the new BBC episodes (they had me when they kept the old theme music, and improved it). 🙂

I agree it’s difficult to know for sure how much inconsistency in the show’s moral/philosophical/religious compass is due to variance among the writers or the inherent nature of a “fragmented” character who perhaps couldn’t be written convincingly any other way.

There do seem to be some consistent traits of…er…”Doctorness” that remain the same: the eccentricity (I prefer the term “non-linear thinking”), the affection for human beings, the childlike sense of wonder (remarkable after 900 years), etc. And I agree it boils down to faith, hope, and love, which may explain everything else.

As to the belief, I find that the older I get, the more I realize how little I know and the less certain I am of things that I was convinced of in my younger days (with a few exceptions—or at least One). Over the span of eternity, 900 years isn’t that much older.

Galadriel
Guest

You did a good job of analyzing multiple sides, both the positive and negative. And your ending is good too–it is love that the Doctor relies upon. Which is even more interesting if you’ve seen the Classic Doctors–(Six comes to mind.)–and how they acted

*Sidenote. Five series in a few months is basically what I did. I started on Labor Day weekend and was done with 1-5 by November. Plus seasons one-two of the Sarah Jane Adventures.

Jenni N
Guest

Watched my first couple of episodes this weekend and am fascinated by this post series. 🙂

Love the way you’re analyzing here… sounds like when I’m taking apart Stargate SG-1.

Galadriel
Guest

Thankees~!

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