Slightly Gloomy Reflections on S4

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?

Yeah, I know it’s a really downbeat kind of question but I’m torn between trying to keep above it all, and knowing I’ll enjoy the ride more on the whole if I’m emotionally invested in it. I think there’s a difference between a bittersweet ending and a downright tragic one. I’d much prefer happy, but bittersweet I can live with if it takes the characters, particularly the Doctor, to a place where they can move on into new and occasionally joyful experiences.

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?

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11 thoughts on “Slightly Gloomy Reflections on S4

  1. Well put. I feel very similarly – that if we were presented with a gut-wrenching S4 ending, regardless of who or what happens, I would feel a bit too downtrodden to continue. What would be the point? Just to watch the Doctor fall further into darkness, to witness more deaths and destruction and people you come to love disappearing? No thank you. If I wanted gritty, emotional drama, I’ll watch Torchwood.
    Is it just me?
    No, it’s not just you. I’ve fallen in the “obsessed to the point of ridiculousness” fandom trap four times in my life, twice over television programs. There are many things I love about fandom and about being involved in fannish activities. Being made to feel guilty or ashamed because of my inclinations is NOT one of them. I know that the only way to distance myself from it would be to cut myself off completely – which would mean the severance of several friendships. And so I stay and put up with it and feel stupid and childish and frustrated, because I’ve made friends that I want to keep.
    I think its worth it.

  2. I think you’re voicing what a lot of us fear. I am trying to have faith in TPTB but it’s also been proven RTD does love messing with the audience psychologically. I’m trying to remain positive about the outcome, but I have to admit I have all the same fears you do.
    If the series doesn’t end in a way I can find satisfying or ends in Yet Another Tear Fest, I’m not sure I could continue watching. At least for a bit. Maybe RTD knows this and it’s the reasoning for the break year with the three specials. I’m not sure. I grew up with this show, so I’ll always be a fan and I can’t imagine leaving the fandom, having made so many fantastic friends. But as far as continuing on as a viewer, it would be hard for me to do so if the whole thing has just been one big setup.
    I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

  3. I’m tired of having my gut wrenched, my tears jerked, and my feeling at the end of a season skewed toward depression and regret. PotW was hard, harder because I didn’t know I’d like Tennant so much, but there was an optimism to it. Doomsday could have been more hopeful with the tiniest shift, but it wasn’t there. LOTTL… well. I’m sure that after the S4 finale, I’ll continue watching — if LOTTL didn’t kill me, nothing will — but I may do it with less enthusiasm than before, less love, and that would suck. Between that and the long break with just a handful of episodes, the show could lose some of its more ardent followers. I’m not saying it has to deliver a happy Doctor ‘n Rose ‘n timebabies ending, but it has to end in something other than abject misery for both of them. S3 already showed us sadness. Enough.
    I don’t believe that RTD would kill a companion. I just don’t. He lies all the time, of course, but he loves the companions and seems to feel a certain responsibility not to do really cruel things to the younger fans. Doctor Who does a lot of dodgy stuff if you think about it, but on its shiny surface people on the side of good don’t usually die horribly and irrevocably. Doctor Who has been many things, but not genuinely cynical, and I can’t believe RTD would bring back Rose to cause everybody more pain.

  4. Doctor Who does a lot of dodgy stuff if you think about it, but on its shiny surface people on the side of good don’t usually die horribly and irrevocably.
    I’d have agreed, but after VOTD I did wonder. All that death on Christmas Day? It did seem a bit provocative. They have so much power, and they can do what they like. That’s what bothers me.

  5. I think I have faith in RTD and the rest of the writing staff. I don’t know what the ending will be, but I really don’t think they’d bring Rose back just to kill her or anything like that. And especially because it will be the finale before the series goes on break, I don’t think it’s going to be left on a total downer. Surprise, mystery, a bit of a cliffhanger, definitely — but not all-out heartbreak. I dunno, I just feel as if it might be bittersweet, but it will be satisfying as a viewer. I’m ready to go along for the ride.

  6. it’s definitely not just you
    How will you feel if it’s not the ending you want?
    Disappointed, I think. (Betrayed, if I’m being completely honest.)
    There’s a difference between tragedy and mind games. There’s a difference between the end of Romeo and Juliet and the end of Quantum Leap. I might not always like tragedy, but it doesn’t piss me off the way mind games do.
    I’m not sure what I’ll do if it turns out that RTD is playing with us. This isn’t the first time I’ve cared this much about a story, but it’s the first time I’ve trusted the writers this little. So I can’t say for certain.
    But I can’t see myself leaving fandom. This fandom, maybe. But not fandom as a whole. Getting new canon in one of my other fandoms is what pulled me out of my post-“Doomsday” funk, back in August 2006. And, okay, it looks like Victory of Eagles (the fourth Temeraire book) is coming out on July 8. So that’s probably what I’ll be doing in July, no matter what happens in season four of Doctor Who.

  7. With the exception of my family, I don’t worry about what people think nearly as much as I once did. Doctor Who has always tended to pick up people on the fringes who don’t quite fit, anyway. That’s me, all right. And I’ll always be pleased that I found something that got me writing again after a gap of many years, and interacting with other writers, even if it’s only a TV show. It’s also made me realise what a lot of skill and creativity actually goes into a TV series as well, something easily dismissed as fluff by intellectuals.

  8. Think I agree with that assessment on the whole. I can live without the fluff, but I want closure and I want hope. I’m idealistic enough to feel that if someone saves the universe over and over for basically unselfish reasons, they deserve a bit of happiness by the end of it.

  9. Re: it’s definitely not just you
    There’s a difference between tragedy and mind games.
    Exactly. If it goes belly-up, it’s all the little things like the lyrics of “The Stowaway” and the kind-of-promise of real snow next year that will really irritate me.

  10. Definitely Not Alone
    Oh no my lady, you are not alone. But I may have taken it a step too far, I dunno. As you (may or may not) know, I stopped watching after DD. I can’t bear to see it anymore if they (D & R) are not together. I guess that makes me a non-Whovian and just one of those nutty OTPers. I am with you on the anger over letting this get to me the way it does. When I examine from one day to the next why I’m depressed (or happy) a good bit comes from whether or not the latest spoiler news is hopeful or angsty. Pretty pathetic, huh? I should join the S4hermits but I can’t. I won’t be watching it either. I will likely (like I did with S3) follow along with the reactions and see if I dare watch. As long as I don’t *see* it, it’s not “real” and therefore, I can live in my state of denial and AU land…
    I don’t know that I care to believe anything that is being rumored or spoiled because deep down, I think RTD may well be letting stuff leak to make us think one thing when he’s really doing something else. I am amazed that so many pics and things have leaked – I would have thought there’d be absolute strictness & closed sets. It seems like anyone with a camera can waltz into Cardiff and take pictures or video with audio tracks.
    So I’m just trying to not go totally loony with all this. My stance has always been that RL gives me enough angst to deal with (for sure in the last few months!), I want my “entertainment” to be uplifting, hopeful, and happy if possible – sure drama, tension, and all that have their place, but c’mon! So, back to the original point – I stopped watching at the end of S2 because I have no desire to have my heart continually stomped on for RTD’s pleasure. That’s not my idea of entertainment – it’s bordering on sadistic (or would that be masochistic?) I will keep my bit of hope tucked away so it’s safe, and we shall see, eh?

  11. Re: Definitely Not Alone
    I’ve wondered about the deliberate leaks as well. He’s clearly relishing the power he has and although 90% of me trusts him the other 10% wouldn’t put anything past him.

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