Monday, May 31, 2010

Doctor Who: Oh A Green Man

I knew before watching this that Rory had died -- I hadn't even tried to find spoilers for this episode and yet they found me.

I really, really, really love Rory. There's just no real reason - he was just adorable. As such, I was really, really, really looking forward to seeing how his character developed as the season progressed (and I was even hoping he'd make it to the second season).

But no. Moffat pulled a Whedon and killed him. Just like that.

So when I found this out, I felt this reluctance to even watch the episode. And even the story itself was just -- okay. I think -- I might be biased, it's difficult to tell.

But I think it was obvious that things wouldn't turn out right. I figured that Ambrose would be the one to screw stuff up. And I knew when Alaya's sister appeared on screen with her hatred for the apes that there was no reasoning with her. She was like a harder, flintier version of Ambrose.

There was no way this would end well. And because I knew this, it felt like I was just waiting for the story to act out what had to happen, instead of experiencing the story unfolding. That's my round about way of saying that it was predictable.

But parts of it weren't (even though they were because I had been spoiled...but if I hadn't been spoiled I don't think I would have called it). For example, in Star Trek this kind of scenario would have played out exactly like it had in Doctor Who -- except nobody with a name would have died after the obligatory red shirt. But in Doctor Who, Rory did die.

In Star Trek, everything would have been neatly wrapped up with a neat little bow, everything nice and safe. But in Doctor Who, Rory just doesn't die -- he becomes a Never-Been (which is infinitely worse), with only the Doctor to remember him (and won't he just become a distant memory in the Doctor's mind who has seen so many people and things as he travels through time and space?).

Amy won't remember him. His parents won't remember him. Nobody will remember him -- except the mad man with a blue box. There won't even be any moments of amber because they're just...gone.

Forgive my crudeness, but that sucks.

I feel cheated or like someone's broken a promise -- I feel that I was deprived seeing Rory's character develop and his relationship develop. There was so much drama about Amy's choice, about her men -- and then it's just gone.

From a writer's perspective, I also have to protest the narration at both the beginning and end of the episode. I believe it sets up too much and impedes the viewer experiencing the story as it unfolds. The end bit, the bit about how the Doctor has so much more to lose, was especially aggravating. I'd like to punch the writer who wrote that because it sets up artificial expectations and makes it harder for the viewer to experience what the story has to say -- especially since he can't lose that much since there's a second season. As a viewer, I'm not an idiot -- of course Bad Stuff will happen because then there wouldn't be a story. If he has a lot to lose, it raises expectations and standards unnecessarily, severely limiting the effect of the story -- instead of telling the story as it needs to be told, they now have to live up to some character's promise. It's just ridiculous.

Anyway the beginning just about broke my heart.

Rory: I promise you, Ambrose, I trust the Doctor with my life.


I guess another bit of this episode that does make it different from the formula (despite its formulaicness), is that there really aren't any good guys. The homoreptilia -- except for a very few -- are like the humans. Too anxious to have a war. Too anxious to kill. And when the military commander shoots Malohkeii and Rory, both men of knowledge, doctors even (or, in Rory's case, a nurse) her violence destroys knowledge and reason. And that's so very sad.

And Rory was magnificent in this episode. When Restac wants the leaders of the "apes" to come forward he says,

I speak for the humans...some of them anyway.

And humble too. Reminds me of the Doctor Who episode -- Tennant's first stint as the Doctor actually -- where Harriot Jones, prime minister, spoke for earth.


I like Rory better. ;)

Then of course, we have the budding hope (which won't come to anything) that there will be an alliance, that people can work all this business out. The Doctor says,

The future pivots around you - here, now. So do good. For humanity, and for earth. Be extraordinary. Okay, bringing things to order. The first meeting of representatives of the human race and homo reptilia is now in session. Never said that before, that's fab.

Of course, we're not time travelers, and I don't know the philosophical issues of time and free will and I don't know if there are fixed points in time and space (though I rather hope there aren't) or anything like that -- but, what I do know is that we should try to be extraordinary because our decisions do affect the future. The things we do, the things we believe, they matter so very, very much -- and sometimes, caught up in the mediocrity, the routine, and the mundane business of every day, TARDIS-less life, I think it's easy to forget that.

And of course, because the future does pivot around decisions made in their then and now, Rory dies because he is so magnificent -- it doesn't matter that he saw his future self with Amy. That reality was re-written. Bah humbug.

I wonder if he would have done what he did if he knew that time was in flux, able to be changed.

And this was the scene I had in mind when I was comparing Doctor Who to The Forever War:

Doctor: We had a chance here. In future, when you talk about this you tell people that there was a chance but that you were so much less than the best of humanity.

And then, it just gets worse because Ambrose doesn't get it, just like Restac doesn't get it.

Doctor: You were building something here! Come on, an alliance could still work!
Ambrose: it's too late for that doctor.
Doctor: Why?

And then she goes on to tell them she's programmed the drill to destroy the air pockets. I just thought that the Doctor's face, his simple question - was so childlike. It was like he truly didn't understand that Ambrose would have found some way to screw it up because she was afraid for her family (fear generates savagery)...even though he's nine hundred and seven years old.

So sad.

Childishness seemed to a prevalent theme in this episode too. When the Doctor said that Amy and Nasreen could represent humanity in their efforts to come up with some kind of alliance, I didn't think that I'd want Amy representing me. I adore Amy -- she and Donna are my favorite companions -- but I don't think she's mature enough:

And even though she does contribute, I just feel that Amy is -- in many ways -- still a child. Which is another reason that Rory Never-Beening is such a problem for me. Whatever she learned from Vampire's of Venice, her choice in Amy's Choice and Rory's death never happened. Whatever growing up she did from that is gone. She's been rewound, and she'll never be the same again.

In the same way that I, as a viewer, feel cheated, so is Amy Pond cheated out of her life (which is interesting from a story point of view, and positively dangerous from a writer's point of view -- I really hope they don't bungle this) It looks like the next episode will be most filler (hopefully good filler), but I hope they'll put in some good character developments. Like I wonder how the Doctor's interactions with Amy will be influenced by his remembrance of Rory, that sort of thing.

Remarkable Moments

Doctor: Oh dear, really? There's always a military isn't there.

I started reading The Forever War after I watched this episode, but the parallels are staggering -- all subtextual in Doctor Who of course, but there nonetheless. The Doctor would not approve of the war with the Taurans. So would not.

Eldane: My priority is my race's survival. The earth isn't ready for us to return yet.

Doctor: No. But maybe it should be. So, here's the deal. A thousand years to sort the planet out to be ready. Pass it on. There's legend or prophecy or religion - but somehow, make it known. This planet is to be shared.

This is why I'm an English student. Literature and stories are so important for the development of humanity.

I'm not really sure what I think about this:

Amy: I still remembered the clerics because I am a time traveler.

Doctor: They weren't part of your world. This is different. This is your own history changing!

You know how you play little made up games with a sibling or some other kid and, when something happens that they don't like, they decide to make up a new rule so that they can have it their own way?

I kind of feel like that kid who got the short end of the stick. I call it rubbish, that's what. Still, maybe it makes sense. If life is like a tapestry, then when Amy was with the clerics in the angel episode, she was simply observing -- her life thread hadn't really woven in with theirs in a meaningful way because they were woven from two separate bolts of cloth. But with Rory - who had grown up with her (even dressed up as the raggedy doctor), his thread is woven in with her thread into a unique tapestry. If he becomes a never been, then his thread is gone, which means the tapestry of her life that he held together would unravel. Maybe it is really is that different.

I still call shenanigans, though. Because I'm petulant that way.

What is up with the ring? When Rory put it away in the previous episode, the camera made sure to linger on it, just as the camera lingers on the ring again after Amy forgets everything because the stupid TARDIS interrupted her.


And the shrapnel from the crack in the universe:

I feel that I should have seen it coming -- that of course it would be the TARDIS, but I really didn't see it coming -- it was actually a bit unexpected for me. The alien in the first episode taunted the Doctor because he didn't know who caused the cracks -- but how could he know if it's in his future? Oh well. Perhaps I just expect villains to be a little more reasonable.

I just like the way the way they filmed this scene - the shadows, the postures of the characters, the graveyard in the background. Powerful in its simplicity.

[when they find Mo's son]

Mo: Well, I gotta be honest with you, son. We're in the center of the earth, and there are lizard men.

Malohkeii: Hi.

I liked Malohkei tooi. Too many people I liked died in this episode.

Doctor: [regarding the sonic screwdriver] This is a deadly weapon stay back!

This made me laugh - it reminded me when he first met Captain Jack Harkness. Hee.

And finally:

Malohkeii: [after explaining how he had learned about the humans] I never meant to harm your child.

Doctor: Malohkeii, I rather love you.

This actually reminds me of Vonnegut's Sirens of Titan:

It took us that long to realize that a purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.

This Vonnegut-esque idea happens again at the end of the episode, when the Doctor speaks to Ambrose:

An eye for an's never the way. Now you show your son how wrong you were. How there's another way. You make him the best of humanity in the way you couldn't be.

And then he gives her this sad little smile:

Especially in contrast to his disappointment and anguish when he finds out she killed Alaya:

I just find his reactions complicated -- and I like that. I like how he doesn't rave at her, how he still cares enough to explain it to her, dialogue that, despite the disappointment, is filled with hope for a better future. And I find that very much a kind of love. I think Vonnegut would approve.


Overall though, I really don't know how I feel about these two episodes. I hope to have a better view of them when the season ends, when I see them in context with the other episodes of a completed season.

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