Impossible? Or just very unlikely?

So, it’s four days now and I’m still waking up in the night with the feeling that a crab called Grief is tearing chunks out of my innards. I’m still trying not to go out to the shops in case I start to cry unexpectedly. Crazy, isn’t it? I was in better shape than this four days after my mother died (admittedly over 20 years ago).

And I’m trying, like everyone else, to try and figure out what’s happening here.

I regard all this as a kind of TV-inflicted torture and I think most of it comes back to the issues of realism and suspension of disbelief in TV drama, and the horribly conflicted messages DW sends out at times like this.

For a start, there’s that word “impossible”. Absolutely nothing is impossible in DW. The word’s been utterly devalued now and rendered completely meaningless. Any prophecy – “You can’t,” or “I’ll stay with you forever” or “The walls are closing” or even, “I’m always all right” is suspect. We’re in a postmodern nightmare universe where everything we see is possibly an illusion, absolutes don’t exist and we don’t know whether we’re tripping out on the red pill or the blue one.

Yeah, if there’s an unhappy ending there’s always the hope that it’ll be overturned – remember how Rose could never, ever, ever come back from the AU and we had the Doctor’s word for that (and if you’re looking for a higher authority than that, there isn’t one). But it stands to reason that happy events are equally fragile. Don’t smile now, you’ll pay for it later. Don’t cheer because the Doctor’s found Jenny, she’ll be dying in his arms by the end of the show. So we invest in nothing and nobody, because if that applies to the tragedy it applies to every moment of happiness too. And that means we’re at the mercy of our emotions, which are easily manipulated by skilled people like David Tennant, RTD or Murray Gold. I’m not knocking them for that, it’s what they are paid to do. But feelings aren’t always the whole story. I have a loving family who are worried about me right now. That’s real. But it doesn’t stop me bursting into tears in the middle of B&Q.

And I think the nub of the matter is the suspension of disbelief. We’re meant to buy into a fantasy where the TARDIS can tow the Earth back home. Talk about anything being possible. But the emotional landscape is as stark as a Greek Tragedy, which it quite frequently resembles. The change of gear at the end of JE is utterly bewildering and I can’t be the only one struggling to process it. One minute everything is possible. The next there is no hope. None, no matter how virtuous you may be or how much you deserve a little happiness.

Oh yeah, it’s all terribly ironic, this tragic hero who can save the Universe but not himself, yada, yada, yadda. But the difference between Journey’s End and – say, Hamlet or The Trojan Women is that we accept those fictional works as the definitive narrative and we know what we’ve signed up for when we start to watch. We don’t expect Hamlet’s old dad to show up at the end of ActV and say, “Oh, you were just in a parallel world, son. I’m not really dead.” We know that our emotional investment in the performance is leading to a definite place – a dark and gloomy one, maybe, and fairly inconclusive, but at least Hamlet is on a pretty downward spiral from the start and we don’t keep getting cliffhangers where he might – just might – get Ophelia back and cheer up.

So there’s only one certainty in DW – that the people who make the show have a perfect right to fuck with our heads. One minute character is completely handwaved (where was the heart-to-heart between Rose and Jack?) the next it’s everything and Tennant is breaking our hearts. The only certainty is that although we’ve a perfect right to create as many AU’s and different outcomes as we want, the cards are all stacked in favour of the people who make the show because they have vast emotional and artistic resources at their command and, inevitably, the picture in our mind that sticks is what we saw on TV, like it or not.

Unless RTD pulls a Doctor-like eleventh-hour solution out of his backside, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the show works better if the same artistic laws govern everything in it – if emotions and character are treated as superficially as the inconvenient issues of what is actually, scientifically possible. Which, of course, used to happen in Old Who. Maybe they think they can handwave science for the kiddies and put in emotional realism for the adults, but that overlooks the fact that there’s a child in all of us, a child that wants the world to be more orderly and hopeful than it really is, even if that means we ignore reality.

It wasn’t Ibsen and Chekhov that got people through the Great Depression. It was Hollywood and Broadway.


12 thoughts on “Impossible? Or just very unlikely?

  1. I remember in the Radio Times RTD declared the show had a 20 year plan. I don’t believe a word that man says anymore.
    I used to think RTD believed in the Doctor/Rose relationship in that order. The show doesn’t support companions being more important than the Doctor. That’s what spin offs are for.
    I used to think actors were placed second after story integrity. It’s always been that the show is bigger than a single Doctor. If the actor wanted a pay rise, the Doctor would get a new face. Now, franchise >>>>>>> story.
    I used to say that Tennant’s Doctor was for the children, but after Journey’s End I don’t believe that anymore. I do think that the show can do social commentary, but I don’t like what Journey’s End teaches.
    I do think that they should look at how much they pay the continuity advisor, because they aren’t doing their job.

  2. You’re definitely not alone! I went into a tailspin depression after “Journey’s End” and I keep trying to insist that something else is going on, that a silly TV show can’t have that much influence over my emotions. Similarly, I went into a depression after “Doomsday”, but then I was able to write reunion fics and make it all better. This? I’m not sure it can be made better.

  3. I’m doing my usual: fixing it with fic.
    Though, other than Rose not being allowed a choice in her own destiny, I’m pretty pleased about her outcome, because it makes the ship canon and gives Rose the kind of happy ever after with the Doctor I never, ever imagined was possible. Yes, our Doctor carries on alone, but he was always going to do that. I knew Rose would be gone after this season and never expected any kind of happy, shippy ending – because it’s DW and it’s not what they do. So it works for me 🙂
    Donna’s ending is the one that leaves me furious, and I’m going to pretend it didn’t happen and that she’s happily travelling in time and space with the Doctor until she decides to leave.
    But right now I’m writing a fic in which Jack, and sundry other of the Doctor’s ex-companions, give him a hard time for what he did to Donna, and for not giving Rose a choice 🙂 That works for me.

  4. Re: Continuity
    Continuity in motion picture production is whether the Doctor’s hair is pointing to the left in every shot of this scene, not whether this week’s script says the same things about Cybermen that last month’s or last year’s or last century’s script did. (In the DVD extras for Season 2007, in Freema’s tour of the studio, she talks to the continuity person.)

  5. I’m 100% with you on the Donna thing. The outcome with Rose was very bittersweet but, as you say, better than it could have been. Both parties remained true to their natures and you can see a beauty in the original Doctor’s sacrifice. Though I don’t think Rose will ever be totally content because she knows he isn’t without her.
    But Donna was melodrama with a deeply unpleasant taste of non-con abuse. Worse than FoB in some ways because they’d behaved badly, whereas Donna saved the day and more besides. And the way she was written displayed RTD’s rather unpleasant contempt for ordinary people.

  6. Can your fic fixing please include the line of dialogue, “Davros would hurt you to get to me. I can’t live with that because I l- … Please, do this for me.”
    Like so much of the ending, some tweaks in dialogue would have made it much, much better. Donna’s fate particularly could have done with the Doctor highlighting her choice was death or brain bleach. I wouldn’t have minded which one she chose, as long as it was her choice. But what we’re left with is mind rape. Even if the PTB call it something else to convince us it’s something different (like the EU Treaty), the message is that it’s perfectly acceptable for the man you want to spend the rest of your life with (husband) to dictate (no choice) that you should be domestic (housewife with no equality or prospects), while said man does what he wants.
    Davros said to Rose she is mine to do as I please. If you become your enemies, they win. I’m really hoping Blue Ten comes back and kicks Brown Ten up the bum and tells him to stop being the Valeyard, but I don’t trust RTD to have have that kind of plan in place.

  7. I used to say that Tennant’s Doctor was for the children, but after Journey’s End I don’t believe that anymore.
    I stopped believing that very early in Season Three.

  8. Well…you certainly know my feelings on this. I can see how everyone is happy with it…and think that it’s just “all we can hope for” or “more than that useless chav, Rose, deserves” or “the saddest, most bittersweet, ending for a companion EVER for Donna” but still…STILL…there are questions in my mind about where this show is even going. Where were we going with all his talk about being lonely, sad and lost? Where were they going with him never having another family? Why have Donna protest to the last…when she has the ability to see what is happening to her…and it could have been bittersweet with her being stoic? Why not have Rose and 10.2 interact just a little bit?
    Why raise the issue of Jack and never address it? Why have a magnatron move the planets? Seriously…the only other time we saw one of those used…it was in The Ultimate Foe! <<–The Valeyard episode. Which means RTD recently watched a Valeyard episode…or really REALLY loves them…so he has the technical stuff memorized.
    Finally, why not have Rose just once say something to indicate she wants a happy family life with him. I mean…she NEVER said it. She barely managed to tell him she loved him…and to me…that all seemed secondary to her wanting him not to be alone. And he IS so alone at the end.
    Anyway…the happy and spiteful people are getting to me. And I do feel that having all the elements of story and actors and insight intersect with a commercial venture…may be too much for us to ask. You and I, we are librarians and writers…story people…so we have questions which other people may not have.

  9. I can see that in commercial terms the Doctor Two solution is brilliant. It allows them to keep the cash cow of Tennant and Piper on board indefinitely – and I get the sense that they really don’t want to do any more star-crossed lovers stuff. They enjoyed the happy, they had a blast filming together, and that’s what they want to do.
    JG says they delivered the final cut just three days before TX, which makes you wonder how much of the problem was having to rush things and not being able to go back and edit. Even a little editing would have worked wonders for that scene on the beach.
    As for stories, I just like them to be consistent in tone and mood, to pay off on the themes that were set up, and to leave us feeling that little bit better about the world. Is that really too much to ask?

  10. Is that really too much to ask?
    Well…historically…in televised fiction…yes, it is!
    I think that I have never really been happy with how a television series handles it’s themes. And I can see that they would hold off on the final cut of the episode because of the difficulty of leaking things. But…what I wonder about…was the leak on the beach happened SOOO very long ago. Those pictures hit the internet right after filming from what I understand.
    Did the production staff just forge ahead…or was the special effects team so overwhelmed that they took extra time? To me…everyone seems to be lying now. But maybe that is wishful thinking on my part.
    To have had a story set up so well…and to have it leave us all just feeling…empty…seems odd. But then, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time…and it IS far more likely that they just thought this was a brilliant solution because Doctor Two can age. Really…I want him to age, too…I want everything as it is…but the Doctor to go…be human…since he has longed for that from the start. Well…he’s longed for children, family and the “life he can never have” since Father’s Day.
    thinking to set up such a lonely, lonesome character…is just not really long term thinking.

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