Friday, July 2, 2010

Doctor Who: Fairy Tale From Space

I said at the end of the previous episode that I was going to be waiting for the Duckless Duck Ponds to appear.

And I think they did.

After all - in the first episode, the Doctor asks how Amy can know it's a duck pond if there are no ducks in them. And yet - Amy knows of the Doctor's existence even though there is no Doctor.

Beautiful really - the way the whole thing has been set up since the beginning - including the revisitation of my favorite scene from "Flesh and Stone" or how, even in that episode, the Doctor knew that a complicated time-space event such as himself would shut up the crack - and what does he do but go hurtling into the heart of the exploding TARDIS like a big damn hero.

This was a really big episode - I have so much to say that I'm not really quite sure where to begin exactly.

Fairy Tale or Science Fiction

I read an excellent blog entry the other day that really resonated with me (basically, the author concludes that Doctor Who is "A good fairytale"). And I agree - to a certain extent.

I've always considered Science Fiction to be an exploration of the soul - and I believe that Doctor Who, especially this season, has been all about that.

Except. There is one small problem with my definition of Science Fiction and that is that measure of quality should apply to all fiction, regardless of genre. I believe that Science Fiction is deeply more introspective than the typical fairy tale (not necessarily revisions of said fairy tales which, I think, is a sub genre all on its own but I could be wrong) - and I believe that Doctor Who fulfills this criteria as well. However, an introspective nature is not enough to make science fiction Science Fiction -- I think that a presence of technology is necessary to make science fiction SF, integral to the revelation of the human condition. To borrow the blog author's comparison, in BSG we have the idea of humanity presented in mechanic parts vs. organic parts, in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress we have the human condition acting out a what if question on the moon; in A Space Odyssey a mysterious obelisk provides commentary and a vision of humanity (along with some Romantic themes thrown in for good measure) -- when I was considering this, I realized that sure, Doctor Who's got a TARDIS and a nifty Golex sonic screwdriver, but technology doesn't often play a crucial role, or not as big a role as the stories listed above.

But the element is still there - the most striking of which was in "The Eleventh Hour" when the Doctor saved the day not with the usual futuristic what-if-we-had-this-sort-of-technology, but with technology we have right now. With a cellphone. A computer. The internet. This realization came to me in the shower - and it floored me.

We are really quite advanced -- we could do so much good -- we could be so magnificent.

More technology appeared in the second episode (along with a nursery rhyme - I love the folklore that threads its way through this series, absolutely glorious). A space ship exploiting a space whale - the relevance of this simple imagery is staggering and can be applied not only environmentally but to all sorts of things (humans exploiting nature, humans exploiting humans, and so on).

And those are the two major premises - I'm not counting Bracewell because - fairy tale.

So - what's my point? I think this series of Doctor Who is something new - I think it's both fairy tale and science fiction.

And honestly, I think that's what appeals to me so, so, so incredibly much with this Season of Doctor Who. It's Different. It's New.

(It's Blue.)

Fairy Tale Elements I Really Really Really Liked

Almost too obviously...

Rory. The boy who waited. And not even as a real boy - but as a plastic thing-gummy with delusions of humanity.

Oh Rory. My poor little Pinocchio given life by a good fairy. But Amy's better than any blue fairy, isn't she. Yeah.

Amy crying over the journal-Tardis was so evocative of Rapunzel for me. In the non-watered down tale, Rapunzel is cast from the tower and eventually finds her poor blinded Prince -- and Amy's "prince," Rory, is blind along with almost the entire Universe. They don't remember the Doctor. They don't realize how incredibly huge and fantastic and big the Universe really is. They don't really see.

And she weeps on that TARDIS, the air shakes with the sound of the universe and -- Rory remembers the Doctor. The wedding guests see that her imaginary friend was real and whole and brought back from memory into flesh.


I liked the tweaked Creation Myth too:

River:The TARDIS is still burning - it's exploding at every point in history - if you threw the Pandorica into the explosion right into the heart of the fire - then let there be light.

I especially liked the juxtaposition of this idea of Judeo-Christian imagery with the idea of the Big Bang -- very cool.


Dalek: Records indicate you will show mercy. You are an associate of the Doctor's.

River: I'm Riversong. Check your records again.

Dalek: Mercy.

River: Say it again.

Dalek: Mercy.

River: One more time.

Dalek: Merrrcccyyyy!

My god, Riversong! Who are you? What would make a dalek beg for mercy? Answers, Moffat, answers!

River: Rule One: the Doctor lies.

Rule 2: Riversong lies.

She told Amy that nobody would remember the Doctor (Amy, of course, having a crack in time on her wall, makes her an exception) -- but why did River remember the Doctor? And more to the point, how did she get to earth in that time without her time-vortex manipulator?

Yeah. I think she's cool as hell -- possibly one of the coolest women in all of the space-time continuum -- but I do not trust her. One bit.

Memory/the Big Reset

Memory's more powerful than you think - and Amy Pond is not an ordinary girl -- grew up with a time crack in her wall, the universe pouring through her dreams every night.

I am not bothered that Amy was able to remember the Doctor back home. In fact, I believe that Moffat has been sleeping with some Vonnegut under his pillow. This idea of memory -- it reminds me so much of Tralfamadorian philosophy:

All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just the way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and once that moment is gone it is gone forever. - Kurt Vonnetgut, Slaughterhouse V

Moments of Amber.

To me, Amy remembering the Doctor back into existence is just an extension of this kind of philosophy, an abstract idea made flesh.

It also reminded me a lot of some of the Romantic or Modernist writers who believed that the mind - that memory - could recreate experiences (a la the Lime-Tree Bower my Prison and A Midsummer's Evening). Again, it seems Moffat's furthered this particular idea beyond the mind and into the universe.


Meta Aspect

Funny -- I thought if you could hear me, I could hang on somehow. Silly, silly old Doctor. When you wake up, you'll have a mum and dad and you won't even remember me. Well, you'll remember me a little - I'll be a story in your head. That's okay. We're all stories in the end. Just make it a good one eh - 'cause it was you know - it was the best! The daft old man who stole a magic box and ran away - did I ever tell you that I stole it? Well I borrowed it, I was always gonna take it back. Oh that box, Amy - you'll dream about that box. It'll never leave you - big and little at the same time. Brand new and ancient and the bluest blue ever. And the times we had, eh? Will had. Never had. In your dreams, they'll still be there. The Doctor and Amy Pond and the days that never came. I don't belong here anymore. I think I'll skip the rest of the rewind - I hate repeats. Live well - love Rory. Bye bye, Pond.

This quote just about broke my heart as a writer. Wouldn't it be amazing and tragic if all those stories we want to tell, those stories bubbling and percolating and brewing, just waiting to come out - had really happened to us, and now they're only barely remembered, a dim shadow of what Could Have Been but will now Never Be?

Or even when Amy is remembering the Doctor:

There's someone missing - someone important, someone so, so important. Sorry, sorry everyone. But when I was a kid, I had an imaginary friend. The Raggedy Doctor - my raggedy doctor - but he wasn't imaginary. He was real. I remember you! I remember! I brought the others back, I can bring you home too! Raggedy man, I remember you and you are late for my wedding! I found you - I found you in words like you knew I would. That why's you told me the story - the brand new, ancient blue box! Oh, clever, very clever.

Words. Stories. Language. The most powerful things in the universe.

Remarkable Moments

I really loved the use of art in this series. I know they weren't like major plot points or anything - but with the Van Gough episode (especially because of the Van Gough episode), they just seemed so appropriate - added that little touch of Something.

I love how Amelia slurped her drink in front of the Dalek. So irreverent.

And speaking of the museum --

I really, really liked the Doctor's handwriting. Bold, forward, strong.

Doctor: Me from the future. I've got a future - that's nice!

I really like Moffat's dialogue.

Rory is magnificent:

Doctor: All of creation has just been wiped from the sky - do you know how many lives now have never happened, all the people who never lived? Your girlfriend isn't more important than the whole universe.

[Rory punches the Doctor]

Rory: She is to me!

Doctor: HAHA! Welcome back RORY WILLIAMS!

Doctor: Why do you have to be so ...human?

Rory: Because right now I'm not.


Something old. Something new. Something borrowed. Something blue.

I love how Moffat plays with these traditional, folklore-ish things -- it's so...I just would never have thought to compare the TARDIS in such a way. Brilliant.

And, as Amy is clambering over the table (loved that, btw) - is Rory saying that he was plastic? I think that's awesome because, even though it's a reset, it's not really a character reset which is the absolute worst.

Amy: You may absolutely, definitely kiss the bride.

Doctor: Amelia - from now on I shall be leaving the kissing to the brand new Mr. Pond.

Rory: No, I'm not Mr. Pond - that's not how it works.

Doctor: Yes it is.

Rory: Yeah it is.

Besides the nice little nod to "Vampires of Venice," hello Gender-Bender alert.


Oy! Where are you off to - we haven't even had a snog in the shrubbery yet.

I really like that, even though Amy's married, it's not like she can't acknowledge her attraction to other men -- while still not pidgeoning that kind of attraction into a romantic, let's-be-married-forever-and-ever kind of relationship. As I said back in "Amy's Choice," I like the new perceptions of friendship and family that seem to be at work here.

Also, when Amy entered the TARDIS first without Rory, I was terrified for a moment that Rory wouldn't be coming with her but then there he was - and I clapped and cheered because finally! Finally! he seems to be an official companion - providing even more new aspects to the show (I know that Classic Who has had more than one companion on occasion, but, besides that brief stint with Mickey, New Who hasn't so much), which will be fascinating and interesting and utterly lovely.

Doctor: Sorry, something's come up - this will have to be goodbye.

Amy: Yeah I think it's goodbye - do you think it's goodbye?

Rory: Definitely goodbye.


To days to come...

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