I watched “The Satan Pit” again tonight and it made me cry. That came as a surprise because I’d remembered it just being a big space opera with a stupid, deus et machina ending (I mean, the Tardis towing a rocket, c’mon!)
But it got to me on a number of levels. First, just knowing where the series ends up, and that Doomsday was actually filmed months before TSP – it made me feel, even more strongly than I did before, that TSP is the real ending in a way. Anybody who’s ever tried to write a story will know that the characters take on independent life and make their own journeys to their own destination. Of course, in something like TV you are always too constrained to allow that – there has to be a narrative arc and it may be influenced by factors completely different from the aesthetics.
But omygod, that ending, with its wonderful reunion scene, its optimism and happiness flaming out against all the darkness around it – to me, that is the real spirit of the show. We see so much in that particular two-parter that underlines and explains the Doctor’s love of the human race – their curiosity, their hope when all seems lost, their resourcefulness, even the ability to appreciate beauty in the midst of horror (I was blown away when Ida, certain she was going to die, stopped to say that the underground cavern was beautiful).
And, quite apart from any David/Billie thing, I found the whole story something of a metaphor of my own marriage. I was a completely blinkered evangelical Christian when I married my partner, and spent nearly 20 years fighting to hold onto both my faith and him (he is very much an evangelical athiest in the Richard Dawkins mould). In 2000 I very nearly lost him, for reasons too complicated to go into here. Several influences, including the wonderful His Dark Materials, which blew my mind when I read it, led to me finding the courage to quit going to church. At the time, it felt very like the Doctor jumping when the rope runs out. Most of all, I was afraid that without religion life would be senseless and meaningless, and I wouldn’t have any moral touchstone. In fact, it hasn’t been. I find it far more beautiful and wonderful now I have to join human beings in working it out for myself.
For me, so much metaphor was packed into that scene with the Beast, the Pit, the Doctor and the two urns. (Just a thought, was any continuity intended with the very similar vase Pete Tyler was holding when he died?). Religion puts this enormous scary thing right in front of us, playing on our deepest and most primal fears. If that doesn’t work, we are threatened with the loss of people we love. And then, that moment when the Doctor cries “I believe in Rose!” and smashes the urn anyway – because he trusts her to work out her own salvation – I find myself wanting to cry just thinking about it.
What is it about this series that can get to me and move me so deeply?