So, how’s everyone bearing up as we wait for S4? How will you feel if it’s not the ending you want? Vindicated? Getting off on the angst? More determined than ever to live in fandom where you can believe whatever you want to believe? Or angry?
But if it’s unrelieved angst – if they kill Rose and he sees her for two minutes before he loses her, for example, my main reaction will be anger. No, not anger, fury. I’ll feel that my emotions have been manipulated and exploited in a way that’s cynical and unacceptable, that everything since Doomsday has been deliberately set up to mislead and torment me, and make the ultimate outcome more painful. I don’t appreciate that being done to me in the name of entertainment, I don’t think it’s clever, I don’t think it’s edifying, and I don’t think it’s what the world needs today. I also feel it would be a deliberate, smug slap in the face to the people who’ve made DW the phenomenon it is – namely, the fans.
That would be bad enough if we were all adults. But there are children watching. If people choose to trample over adults’ emotions, that’s their decision. If they do it to childrens’, that’s abusive. If people want angst and emotional gut-wrenching, there’s Torchwood, a show that was set up specifically to explore the themes best left out of Who. Doesn’t mean Who should be all happy bunnies and Time Babies, but it should leave us with hope. I don’t want cynicism in a show like that. If I feel that’s been forced on me after all the signs to the contrary, if they’ve brought Rose back just to leave things worse off than before, then I won’t just hate RTD like poison, I’ll feel let down by everyone involved in the show, from David Tennant downwards.
You do occasionally get works of art (I use the phrase loosely) that the general public just can’t bear. King Lear, for example, played with a grafted-on happy ending for over a century. But nevertheless, horribly bleak though it is, the original ending of Lear is entirely in keeping with its tone from the first scene. You know what you’re in for, and it’s not light in the darkness and good triumphing over evil. Imagine watching A Midsummer Night’s Dream and then getting a finale where everyone dies in the most horribly and deliberately heart-wrenching way.
An interesting case in point is Love’s Labour’s Lost, which I saw at the Globe last summer. It is, to all intents and purposes, a fluffy comedy until the penultimate scene, when bad news sobers everyone up and makes them realise they’ve not behaved very well and they need to grow up. That is what they all agree to do, by postponing the expected nuptuals for a year while they retire to monasteries and nunneries and do good works. Not unlike Doomsday, in some respects. That’s not a happy ending, but nor is it a massacre just so you can send the audience home in tears. It’s a mature, deferred-gratification ending that rewards the audience’s emotional investment.
I am beginning to worry about RTD. About his arrogance, his perverse delight in building up fannish expectation and then subverting it. That’s okay, but not if it slips over into cruelty, and to slap an audience in the face after they’ve invested years in a group of characters would be morally wrong, in my view, not just commercially foolish. Nobody was more powerful (in a similar respect) in his day than Shakespeare, but he wouldn’t have done that. He did not torture his public for his own gratification.
It sounds very petulant to say that if we do get a gratuitously tragic ending, I’ll stop watching the show. But when offer something like this our loyalty as an audience, there’s a certain contract involved, certain expectations. And if the result of that emotional investment is that people are left bereft and absolutely devastated, then it will be bad for the future of the franchise, in my view, because they won’t let themselves be fooled again, and any attempt by future showrunners to delve into emotional territory will be met with cynicism and snark. I’d be sad to see that happen. I’d also be very angry, and I’d feel I’d given someone my heart only to have it stamped on. Not only that, but that I’d had to watch the stamper sneering with his mates while I cried my heart out.
I’m not sure where it’ll leave me vis-a-vis fandom if it does all go terribly wrong. Weeping and wailing along with similarly dismayed people helps up to a point, but it can get a bit out of hand. While some of the Marthafen behaviour horrified me last hear after S3 ended, I could also relate to it. I could see it came out of hurt and the feeling they’d been conned. It does make you want to lash out, I’m afraid. I don’t want to get drawn into that stuff. And in the end we all have to live whatever version of real life we’re stuck with, and I’m not sure going over and over our anguish would help. You talk over a break-up with your girl friends, but hopefully you eventually pick yourself up off the floor. I suspect I’d try very hard to avoid ever getting seriously into any fandom again if it ended up hurting me that much – and I don’t just mean ending up on the wanky pages, just that all fandom involves opening yourself up to loving and getting hurt, not something I do lightly.
I’m also rather angry with myself for letting myself get into this state, for letting a TV show rule my life for all this time, and for making myself so vulnerable. Is it just me?