An Awfully Big Adventure – Part II

Having trained as Peter’s part-time domestic, Wendy eventually embraces the adult world, growing up, we are told by Barrie, “of her own free will, a day quicker than the other girls.” Peter becomes, “no more than dust in her box of toys.”

Yet Barrie hardly seems to have a good word to say about her married state. We’re given the colour of the trimming on her wedding gown, but her partner isn’t even named. Wendy’s life seems to consist of domestic drudgery with an unpleasant hint of her dumbing down. We’re told “she felt she was untrue to {Peter} when she got a prize for general knowledge.” Barrie appears to equate ignorance with innocence, and to see both as desirable. As the Lost Boys progress at school, they exchange the ability to fly for City jobs and rides on London omnibuses. Clearly Barrie regards this as a matter for regret (he tells us wistfully, “In time they could not even fly after their hats. Want of practice, they called it; but what it really meant was that they no longer believed.”)

In time, Wendy has a daughter, Jane. In the manner of her social class, she employs a Nanny to care for Jane, but on her night off mum and daughter share quality time. Naturally, this consists of hiding under Jane’s blankets and telling stories of Neverland, just as many a sentimental fanfic depicts Rose describing her journeys with the Doctor long ago to the child he’s unaware of having fathered. Eventually, having broken Wendy’s heart repeatedly by forgetting their yearly trysts, Peter shows up, assuming blithely that Wendy will be free to fly off with him. The Tenth Doctor’s emotional crassness has a very clear antecedent in their ensuing conversation. The mismatch between Peter’s perspective and Wendy’s is precisely the kind of thing Stephen Moffatt likes to explore in his DW scripts.

And then one night came the tragedy. It was the spring of the year, and the story had been told for the night, and Jane was now asleep in her bed. Wendy was sitting on the floor, very close to the fire, so as to see to darn, for there was no other light in the nursery; and while she sat darning she heard a crow. Then the window blew open as of old, and Peter dropped in on the floor.

He was exactly the same as ever, and Wendy saw at once that he still had all his first teeth.

He was a little boy, and she was grown up. She huddled by the fire not daring to move, helpless and guilty, a big woman.

“Hullo, Wendy,” he said, not noticing any difference, for he was thinking chiefly of himself; and in the dim light her white dress might have been the nightgown in which he had seen her first.

“Hullo, Peter,” she replied faintly, squeezing herself as small as possible. Something inside her was crying “Woman, Woman, let go of me.”

“Hullo, where is John {Wendy’s younger brother}?” he asked, suddenly missing the third bed.

“John is not here now,” she gasped.

“Is Michael asleep?” he asked, with a careless glance at Jane.

“Yes,” she answered; and now she felt that she was untrue to Jane as well as to Peter.

“That is not Michael,” she said quickly, lest a judgment should fall on her.

Peter looked. “Hullo, is it a new one?”

“Yes.”

“Boy or girl?”

“Girl.”

Now surely he would understand; but not a bit of it.

“Peter,” she said, faltering, “are you expecting me to fly away with you?”

“Of course; that is why I have come.” He added a little sternly, “Have you forgotten that this is spring cleaning time?”

How interesting that, when clearly the problem lies in Peter’s attitude, Wendy takes upon herself the burden of guilt, attempting to “make herself very small”, on the verge of lying about her own family to save his feelings, inwardly wanting to return to a child-like state to win him back while he remains defiantly unchanged. It appears to be a classic co-dependent relationship with a male abuser, with the woman prepared to make any excuse for his behaviour.

But, somewhat inexplicably (RTD wasn’t the first writer to struggle with the conflicting demands of character integrity and the need for an emotional climax in his penultimate scene), Wendy finds the strength from somewhere to explain to Peter that she is now an adult and can no longer fly: “O Peter, don’t waste the fairy dust on me.” And, like most bullies, for that is what he is (Barrie expresses surprise that he resists the temptation to sabotage Wendy’s wedding!), Peter now becomes fearful for the first time. I, for one, saw David Tennant and Billie Piper’s body language clearly here:

She had risen; and now at last a fear assailed him. “What is it?” he cried, shrinking.

“I will turn up the light,” she said, “and then you can see for yourself.”

For almost the only time in his life that I know of, Peter was afraid. “Don’t turn up the light,” he cried.

She let her hands play in the hair of the tragic boy. She was not a little girl heart-broken about him; she was a grown woman smiling at it all, but they were wet eyed smiles.

Then she turned up the light, and Peter saw. He gave a cry of pain; and when the tall beautiful creature stooped to lift him in her arms he drew back sharply.

“What is it?” he cried again.

She had to tell him.

“I am old, Peter. I am ever so much more than twenty. I grew up long ago.”

“You promised not to!”

“I couldn’t help it. I am a married woman, Peter.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Yes, and the little girl in the bed is my baby.”

“No, she’s not.”

It is, of course, a classic study in denial. The dim light of the nursery, like the amber glow of the TARDIS control room, is a place where illusions flourish.

Reality terrifies Peter and provokes him to violence. He raises a dagger against Wendy’s sleeping child, the unavoidable proof of her womanhood, but lacks the will to kill her. Instead he wakes young Jane and takes her away with him, robbing Wendy, his mother figure, of all that is most precious to her yet again. Rose becomes Jackie. The same dismal sense of a cycle being repeated is captured by someone’s icon of the Journey’s End beach scene, with the slogan “Not this shit again!” At that point, we begin to lose all faith in the original Ten’s ability to give and receive love.

Although there is a conspiratorial air to Wendy’s shared storytelling evenings with her daughter, and she suspects that Nanny would disapprove, one can’t help reflecting that Nanny is probably right. To discard your old love and steal her daughter to mother you, leaving her life empty a second time, is the ultimate in cruelty. Peter clearly enjoys this power, and we’re left with a disturbing image of him sitting and crowing loudly on the bedpost, while Jane promises she’ll come back home when she’s finished mothering him and Wendy resignedly lets her go. So the conflict is presented as a foregone conclusion with Peter as eternal predator.

There seems to be something rotten at the heart of a national consciousness shaped by this type of fantasy. Yet it remains pervasive, to this day, despite the worthy and influential efforts of writers like Philip Pullman to imbue the genre with a sense of personal responsibility. In my view, its insidious effect can be clearly seen in New Who, or at least the pressures that are felt by some of the producers and writers to make it that kind of show.

There’s a certain kind of fan of DW who holds these truths to be self-evident: that the Doctor will never mature emotionally, that he’ll never settle down and that the programme would die a thousand deaths if he did. The argument goes that you simply can’t make the Doctor interesting and preserve the format if he doesn’t stay as Peter Pan.

But there’s a problem with this. Peter, we are told, is “gay, innocent and heartless”, qualities (in Barrie’s opinion) common to all children. Is this, in fact, correct? Modern psychological theory and practice would take issue with these assertions, seeing children as more frequently the abused than the abuser. Leaving aside the changed resonances of the word “gay”, can we recognise the Doctor as eternal child in this prototype?

Possibly, in the early days of Classic Who, the answer would be yes – certainly he lacked the emotional complexity of his later incarnations. Like Peter Pan, he tended to racket around showing remarkably little evidence that his adventures left emotional scars (there are occasional exceptions to this stereotype, rather more frequent as the show matured, but generally I think the argument stands). The idea of him ever living an ordinary, day-to-day existence was inconceivable. Having to stay on one planet for a few years was bad enough.

RTD’s Doctor is a very different creature. To begin with, the Doctor has become a rootless, traumatised war veteran with a past too tragic to ignore – and just in case we ever come close to forgetting it, the scripts regularly remind us that he’s the last of his kind, tortured by a guilt that Peter Pan would fail to comprehend or recognise. The casting of first Christopher Eccleston and then David Tennant, two masters of brooding intensity, makes it clear that today’s Doctor emotes with the best of them, and his relationships are shown as being deeper and more complex than in previous series, with lasting consequences for all concerned. The Doctor’s companions – Rose, Jack, Martha, Donna and their families, are all scarred as well as enriched by their dealings with him. A metaphor of lost innocence recurs – once you “know what’s out there” you have a sense of responsibility, a drive to serve and protect ignorant humanity. Its ultimate expression, as defined by Davros, is that you become one of the Doctor’s weapons. The Doctor becomes a facilitator, helping humanity to grow up and take its place in a multi-species cosmos.

The remarkably complete and rapid feminization of DW fandom shows that this aspect of the Doctor’s character appeals, particularly strongly, to modern young women. And the archetype of the Doctor as outsider, struggling to find a social space where he can express an emotional life without rejecting his cultural values, resonates with gay people of both genders. It’s no coincidence that, of the three people responsible for the success of New Who, two are gay men and the other is a woman.

But all this sits uneasily with a Peter Pan conception of the Doctor. The language used by fans who feel more comfortable with the Classic Doctor is filled with defensive sarcasm and, possibly intentional, emotional cruelty. The worst of their ire falls on Rose Tyler for, like Wendy’s baby, her importance in the Doctor’s inner life undermines all their cherished prejudices about him. Not only does she represent his heterosexual nature, but she also challenges the perception of the Doctor as an upper-class gentleman amateur. She is a blonde chav, and therefore doubly reprehensible. Some fans would happily stick a dagger into Rose’s heart as she shared the Doctor’s bed.

The tension between the two competing audiences cannot be ignored. The Peter Pan Doctor is sometimes presented as being the one suitable for the kiddies, but RTD knows perfectly well that the emotional maturity of modern children is frequently underestimated. They may see Donna as the fairy princess who makes him cheer up after he’s cried for Rose, but they’ve also seen their own parents split up and cry like that, and they know how it feels to juggle your loyalty to Mum against the new girl in Dad’s life. The real problem is not the children watching, but the adults who are irrationally invested in the Doctor they think they remember, who see the change in him as a threat to their own desire to relive their childhood.

It seems that the Doctor is simultaneously fleeing from responsibility and exhorting others to embrace it. Yet as soon as they do so, rather than travelling with them and accepting them as equals, the Doctor seems to flinch from what he’s done, like Peter confronted with the adult Wendy, unable to accept that he’s changed people in this manner, that he can’t retain his ideal of human innocence. When Donna becomes a Time Lady, he quickly returns her to her original state and undoes all the character development she’s experienced as his travelling companion. Rose is repeatedly banished to the bosom of her family and given a job to do. Jack is abandoned as soon as he becomes an emotional liability, but he replicates the Doctor’s paternalism by taking a job with an organisation that exists to keep humanity in ignorance of the truth and wipe their memories should they discover it regardless. In “The Sound of Drums” he explicitly states that he joined Torchwood in honour of the Doctor, but the irony that Torchwood is opposed to the Time Lord’s very existence is never fully addressed.

The Doctor is presented as champion of truth and moral courage, but it only goes so far. At the end of each series, with the exception of S1 where it was somewhat obscured by the Doctor’s regeneration, a reset button is pressed that restores the status quo – the Doctor as paternal colonial administrator, choosing to remain alone and indulge his illusion that if he never goes back he never needs to contemplate the fact that his companions change and grow old. Every time a series ends on this note, the genie of the Doctor’s apparent emotional development is shoved back in the bottle and fans wait hopefully for the cork to blow off in a subsequent encounter, telling themselves that the crunch will come when he meets Rose again, or the Master, or Davros. They are invariably disappointed. Because drama thrives on conflict, the Doctor’s character development takes place on camera with us cheering him along, but between series it is undone; the cork is firmly replaced in the bottle ready for the cycle to begin again with a fresh companion. Arguably, this has now escalated to the point where only a year’s absence from our TV screens and a change of showrunner can hope to contain it and protect the tried and trusted brand.

In “School Reunion”, the Doctor is faced with an older, and possibly more cynical, Sarah Jane. His distress as he struggles to articulate his feelings to Rose recalls Peter’s panic attack when he can no longer maintain the fantasy that Wendy is his changeless girl-mother:

THE DOCTOR
I don’t age. I regenerate. But humans decay. You wither and you die. Imagine watching that happen to someone who you–

He stops when he realizes what he was about to say.

ROSE
What, Doctor?

The Doctor stares at her intensely, as if willing her to understand.

THE DOCTOR
You can spend the rest of your life with me.

Rose looks up at him, eyes shining with unshed tears.

THE DOCTOR (CONT’D)
But I can’t spend the rest of mine with you. I have to live on. Alone. That’s the curse of the Time Lords.

(School Reunion, script by Toby Whitehouse).

The Doctor loves Rose, but he’d rather cause her pain than confront this problem. If you buy into the argument that even the Mighty Moffatt has to submit to emotional continuity, he even extends this to punishing Rose in the next episode through his dalliance with Reinette and his callous, if temporary, abandonment of her. It’s his version of forgetting it’s spring-cleaning time.

Russell T Davies argues that this mismatch between their life-spans is the biggest problem Rose and the Doctor face as a couple, the ultimate barrier to their happiness. Yet in a show like Doctor Who, jam-packed with instant fixes and plot devices, there’s always a reason why such limitations are presented as absolute.

I would argue that in fact it dramatises the cultural conflict between the romantic conception of childhood as a time of lost innocence, a nostalgia embraced by adults, not least by those of us who speak fondly of Saturday teatimes behind the sofa, and the more modern sensibility that acknowledges children as more sensitive and vulnerable versions of their adult selves – a trend which is illustrated by the current vogue for “misery memoirs” in which lurid accounts of nightmare childhoods are related by “survivors.” Today we are more likely to see childhood as a time of vulnerability that relatively few people negotiate (or “survive”) without experiencing some kind of abuse, than as an idyllic interlude lost for ever.

A century ago the power lay with the adults. They were able to exploit children with impunity whilst sentimentalising them to salve their consciences. It’s an uneasy compromise and there are times when a vicious distrust of childish cruelty pierces the rosy-hued idyll of Kensington Gardens. Raising a dagger to an innocent sleeping child, crowing loudly at the emotional havoc he has caused – when Peter does these things it goes beyond thoughtlessness into a chilling portrait of youthful cruelty that reaches its fullest expression in “Lord of the Flies”, William Golding’s classic subversion of Barrie’s childhood favourite, “The Coral Island”.

Child abuse, like the poor, will probably always be with us, but these days we are far more alert to the possibility of it happening, prepared to set boundaries to appropriate adult involvement with children, to regard unconventional family relationships with suspicion and to believe children when they make accusations against apparently benevolent carers. The public schools regarded as character-forming by the upper classes in Barrie’s day are now viewed as hotbeds of corruption, and an army of social workers would be alerted to protect the orphaned Llewellyn-Davies brothers from Barrie’s questionable interest. The popular press, that notorious barometer and occasional former of British public opinion, likes to express the uneasy feeling that “all this has gone a bit far.” We hanker for a mythical golden age when a decent chap could volunteer to help out as a Boy Scout Leader without submitting to a police check. Our fear of potential abusers drives children’s lives inward towards the families, statistically the most likely place for such crimes to occur.

Co-existing with this uncomfortable awareness is the tendency to view earlier generations of childhood as a golden age when Enid Blyton could be read without glimpses of politically incorrect subtext and there weren’t all these ridiculous rules about multiculturalism. Attempts to breathe an adult complexity into the inner life of a narrative directed at children, particularly one fondly recalled by an earlier generation, tend to run up against the hurdle of resentment at the undermining of illusion.

It seems that RTD went right up to the brink of giving the Doctor a complex and realistic inner life, only to retreat at the last moment and capitulate to those who prefer to regard the hero’s journey as “an awfully big adventure” without emotional cost. Fearlessly, he admitted in public that he admired soap operas and proceeded to give depth to the story of a supposedly harmless chap who happens to entice attractive young women to go away with him for unspecified amounts of time. It was always going to be a hard sell, involving a tightrope-walking act between those who embraced realism and those who clung to their cherished memories of the show as an uncomplicated romp. The pressure on RTD increased until, by the end of S4, it threatened his physical and mental health. Finally came the supposedly definitive finale, where in a fudge every bit as unsettling as Barrie’s “Peter and Wendy”, the Doctor is given a duplicate who can grow up a universe away from the prying eyes of more sensitive viewers. By sensitive, I don’t mean the young viewers who would apparently baulk at the Doctor swearing or Jackie Tyler having a fag, but the adults who would cry, along with WB Yeats, “Tread softly, for you tread on my dreams.”

Our contemporary fantasy figure of choice is incarnated not by David Tennant, but by Johnny Depp. He is our swashbuckling Captain Hook these days, and he becomes the Barrie we want to believe in in “Finding Neverland” – a biopic that claims to be based on reality but is as far-fetched as “Pirates of the Caribbean” when compared to the murky truth. Ironically, my first thought on finishing viewing “Finding Neverland”, as that soft Scottish accent rang in my ears, was that if you really wanted to know what Barrie was like, your ideal leading man would be David Tennant, with his unnerving ability to turn on a sixpence from favourite uncle to menacing villain. To see him sell Barrie’s spurious innocence to a little boy would send shivers down my spine, as does a grown-up reading of “Peter and Wendy”.

And so the emotionally healthy Doctor fades into the West, and we are left with Peter Pan, condemned to be alone forever. It’s not easy to feel sorry for him, but perhaps that’s what we want our heroes to be like. I take heart, as a fanfic reader and writer, from the final line of another Hollywood biopic, crass though it is when analysed:

“George Gershwin is dead. But I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to.”

Part One

When Wendy Grew Up

(Note – the text of “Peter and Wendy” remains under eternal copyright in the United Kingdom. Extracts are italicised and used without permission)

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29 thoughts on “An Awfully Big Adventure – Part II

  1. I saw something recently – meta, or a comment on some, I forget exactly what – that suggested that a lot of the Doctor’s behaviour in the Season Four finale is due to brain-damage from that botched regeneration; my take on that theory is pretty much the same – that in trying to stay the same for the woman he loves (for after all, so far as I remember he’s never in all his regenerations been able to control them as well as, say, Romana) he turns into someone who rejects her. Which makes me think what we have now in the TARDIS is the Eleventh Doctor, in the body of the Tenth … which is just horribly messed up.

  2. And again…something I rage at…this emotional immaturity in our society. And I like to think that RTD rages a little bit about it, too.
    It seems that RTD went right up to the brink of giving the Doctor a complex and realistic inner life, only to retreat at the last moment and capitulate to those who prefer to regard the hero’s journey as “an awfully big adventure” without emotional cost.
    All he has to do is take that final step. Yes, he will be reviled for it. Yes, people will tear at their hair, gnash their teeth and curse his name. But the thing is, RTD is a damned fine storyteller…in a position of influence…and it needs to be said. Someone bold needs to say that a person can take responsibility and life fully and yet still be heroic and true to themselves. That basically…the child inside can remain even as we embrace a less selfish existence. I think our world needs to hear that right now. I hope RTD can’t sleep comfortably until he sets what he’s done wrong right.
    Rae

  3. Actually the Peter and grown up Wendy lines remind me more of School Reunion with Sarah Jane. The Doctor doesn’t seem to notice that she’s gotten older, never considered that she might have missed him while he was away, and does offer to take her with him again as if nothing was different.
    Which makes me think…does that make Mickey the Jane of the story? “You need a Smith on board,” the one that came along when Sarah Jane turned the Doctor down because she had to get on with her own life.
    But I do agree that RTD is juggling some really contrary…structural pulls. The legacy of the show, not to mention the uncertainty of actors on BBS shows, makes him keep exits open for everyone but the Doctor who has to be able to go on and on. Would it have been impossible to say “He went off, had a life with Rose for 50 years and then the story picks up later”? No, but a lot of people don’t want later-Doctor to be changed by having had that life because even they know that it *must* change him.
    But I’m so tired of the people who say the Doctor *must* be a Peter Pan figure, it would be death of the show for him to be anything else because RTD has already taken serious steps away from that, with the damaged war vet aspect, and as much as I dislike the Jesus imagery he’s more that than Peter Pan these day.
    *But* I do think that notion impacted Journey’s End a lot more than it had most of the show. The biggest one for me is the Doctor being repulsed by the fact that the various companions would be able to stand up on their own, make sacrifices and hard choices themselves. He doesn’t want to see them as “adults” and equals to him in deciding the fate of the world (Donna’s comes more out of story structure, but it is a symptom). Humans should be children who can’t be trusted with guns, not even for good purposes, and especially not the people he likes like Jack, Martha, Harriet Jones in TCI. He sees them “growing up” as being damaged, of losing some aspect of humanity he loved in them. Even his human half is somewhat condemned for having destroyed the Daleks (again).
    Which actually makes Rose more the exception. She runs around with a gun and he doesn’t comment, she crosses universes and he giggles and thinks she’s brilliant, (going back further) he just stands back making ‘Rose can be scary’ faces when she yells at people who upset Jackie. Donna gets some of it too, he never seemed upset that she had become DoctorDonna, but broody over losing her afterward.
    Um…ranty I guess.

  4. Would it have been impossible to say “He went off, had a life with Rose for 50 years and then the story picks up later”? No, but a lot of people don’t want later-Doctor to be changed by having had that life because even they know that it *must* change him.
    I think that could be dealt with. The Year that Never Was must have changed the Doctor, and how much of that did we see?
    Humans should be children who can’t be trusted with guns, not even for good purposes, and especially not the people he likes like Jack, Martha, Harriet Jones in TCI. He sees them “growing up” as being damaged, of losing some aspect of humanity he loved in them.
    Yes, exactly. And that is pure romanticism, allied to a bit of a power issue – he likes the human race helpless and relying on him. The old claim that his companions are like his pets does have some foundation.
    The Doctor’s most vulnerable to persuasion from the people he goes way, way back with and does recognise as his intellectual equals. That’s why Davros got to him. And with the Master, there was the definite feeling that even the worst possible Time Lord is preferable to a human.
    You’re so right about his indulgence of Rose. There’s a case to answer there. If he had to dump her, how much more honest and adult it would have been for him to say, “I love you so much, it’s dangerous for me to have you around. I can’t hang onto my principles when I’m with you.” But no, he has to blame it all on the other guy.

  5. Someone bold needs to say that a person can take responsibility and life fully and yet still be heroic and true to themselves. That basically…the child inside can remain even as we embrace a less selfish existence. I think our world needs to hear that right now.

    Yes, and unless that’s addressed the Doctor looks more like a character who runs away from responsibility – perhaps his people were right all along?
    You’ve picked up previously on the disconnect between the things RTD says about the Doctor and what his story shows us. Back in the pre-publicity for S3 I remember him declaring “Basically, it’s about a character who loves his life.” In S3? Excuse me?

  6. Agreed he’s messed up – and it’ll be intriguing to see what “The Next Doctor” makes of that. Maybe he’s fragmented into multiple personalities, and that’s what we’ll see in the Specials, a bit like “A Christmas Carol” – the ways he could end up unless he changes. But my take is that the one who did the brain damage was Davros. He appealed to the Doctor’s pride, his sense of superiority to the human race. The Doctor is very vulnerable to that.

  7. But my take is that the one who did the brain damage was Davros.
    Couldn’t agree more; I’ve been blaming Davros for everything that happened on that beach since the day Journey’s End aired!

  8. Back in the pre-publicity for S3 I remember him declaring “Basically, it’s about a character who loves his life.” In S3? Excuse me?
    Oh hell no. Unless being suicidal, which the poor man is for the majority of Season Three (and for good reason) is characteristic of what RTD believes is “a character who loves his life”; and if that’s true then, protestations of ‘getting the plot wrong’ notwithstanding, it’s entirely unsurprising what he does to the Doctor in Journey’s End.
    I’ve often wondered how, if they love the character as much as they say they do, they can keep piling the angst on him like that; I think I’ve said something like that before, but the repetition doesn’t make it any less true.

  9. And with the Master, there was the definite feeling that even the worst possible Time Lord is preferable to a human.
    At the risk of being Devil’s Advocate, look at it this way:
    He’s a telepath, at whatever level (I forget how much has explicitly been declared in canon), used to – for want of a better way of phrasing things – a multitude of voices in his head, and then after the Time War his people are all dead (or so he believes) and the voices are gone. It’s probably enough on its own to drive him to madness without any of the external stuff going down.
    And then out of nowhere, during a period of time where he’s been under severe stress due to the situation at Canary Wharf, one of those same people turns out not to have died. There’s another voice in his head again, a candle in the darkness against that endless aching silence (and there I mix my metaphors; hee!), and how on earth can you expect him not to cling on to that with everything he has? Yes, the Master’s a git – a thoroughly nasty piece of work, and when he dies there’s a palpable sense of relief – but I shudder to think what that death did to the Doctor; especially when the Master chooses not to regenerate, as opposed to simply running out of regenerations.

  10. I remember skimmining over the ‘Peter and Wendy’ page on Wiki in relation to the Doctor a few months ago. This, however, puts you in fantastic stead for your MA. 🙂
    For all the parallels, I’m grateful that the Doctor insisted in S1 and S2 on Rose having a normal life instead of coaxing her to mother him in the TARDIS forever. He let Martha go with surprisingly little protest. Donna was perhaps the best thing that ever happened to him, in making him see the mortal perspective, and for a while it worked. I just wish that JE hadn’t happened. I find it difficult to reooncile the idea of the Doctor burdened by responsibility of looking after the Universe, yet claiming his life is about carefree adventure. This is more about Peter begging Wendy to tell him that he doesn’t have a job and children, because he doesn’t want to face the harsh reality of being young forever. And yet, the Doctor tells people that he’s so old now, and is tired of losing everything that matters. I just haven’t figured it out yet.

  11. The interesting thing about Martha is that she ended up better off than either Rose or Donna, yet she’s the only companion that the Doctor has expressed remorse about. Presumably because he only judges on the grounds of their time actually with him, and she certainly suffered there.

  12. I have to say, I never really took the Doctor’s reaction to that scene as a rejection of them as equals or as adults.
    Something I think has always been a characteristic of his –I notice it more in New Who than I did in Classic, but I think that’s really just that the writing highlights the question more– is an unwillingness to premeditatively pick the best option of a bad lot. He isn’t good at resigning himself to ‘hard choices’, as it were; he’s generally continually looking for the perfect option where no one has to be sacrificed. It might be wiser to just kill the Sontarans, but he won’t do it without offering them the chance to change their minds. He can’t possibly think –I don’t think he does think– that they’ll take him up on the offer, but that doesn’t seem to absolve him of his obligation to make it.
    And I think he views every occasion on which he *can’t* find a perfect solution as a failure on his part. If he couldn’t find a better way to save people than to *kill* other people, then he doesn’t think he did a very good job. And since killing bothers him so much, I suspect he considers it even more of a personal failure if he put other people, people he cares about and wants nothing more than to protect, in the position of feeling like they have to kill.
    It is noteworthy, I think, that he never tries to stop them from following him into danger. And I never got a vibe that indicated that he thought they were somehow not competent to make the choices they did. He grins at Rose when they’re about to die together in that Cardiff basement, and seems to me to accept her statement that she made the choices that are getting her killed. (If he *also* feels guilty for enabling that, I don’t really think that’s incompatible with regarding her as adult. Guilt is not a universally rational emotion.)
    He does condemn violence perpetrated by others, but I suspect he condemns violence perpetrated *by himself* a great deal more… and I see shades of that in his ridiculous condemnation of Ten II re: the Daleks. Fundamentally, he sees having to resort to violence as a failure.
    He doesn’t trust himself with a gun either.

  13. There is one assumption that I think goes unnoticed alot in a discussion like this…
    What defines ‘normal’ as a life? Do you have to stay where you were born? Do you have to have a job and children? If you don’t do these things, have these things, are you ignoring ‘real’ life?
    Because it seems like we’re almost saying that, by choosing to stay with the Doctor, travel forever, Rose is refusing to ‘grow up’, refusing to confront ‘real life’ and burying herself in a fantasy.
    What if she *loves* the life she has with the Doctor, for itself, and would like nothing better than to continue that?
    It seems to me that children all the time grow up and find that the life they want for themselves is different than the life their parents had, and wanted them to have. Is that wrong?
    I have to say, that scene where Jackie was questioning what Rose was turning into nauseated me. It felt a very great deal like Jackie was trying to stick her daughter in a box and make sure that she never changed or grew past what she, Jackie, was comfortable with, regardless of what she (Rose) wanted for herself.

  14. You’re so right about his indulgence of Rose. There’s a case to answer there. If he had to dump her, how much more honest and adult it would have been for him to say, “I love you so much, it’s dangerous for me to have you around. I can’t hang onto my principles when I’m with you.”
    That’s not exactly what I meant, because Davros bringing those issues (or principles if you prefer) up aside, I still don’t see so much of that in their relationship. The thing with Rose is she gets past his…hang ups, yes because he loves her so much. It’s somewhere between indulgence and seeing her as an equal capable of making her own stand (I’m not going to argue that he does because that would be an awfully hard on to prove particularly after JE, but I think there have been times when he came really close). Rose was never good at following his “companion rules” and that’s part of what he loved about her.
    Part of it I think is that he doesn’t want to see his companions turn into him. He feels he *has* to do these things because it’s somehow his responsibility as the last of the Time Lords and in a combination of not wanting them to lose their “innocence”, unwillingness to see them as equals, and general masochism of shouldering the whole burden himself; he doesn’t want to see them taking on that role themselves. And there’s a certain…naivety in him that the “rules” in the TARDIS regarding no guns and not wandering off will always be followed by them once they leave the TARDIS. He doesn’t live in the regular world to know what it’s like for regular people standing up and making the choices, he doesn’t stay long enough to find out what happens after he saves the day.

  15. He isn’t good at resigning himself to ‘hard choices’, as it were; he’s generally continually looking for the perfect option where no one has to be sacrificed.
    Agreed that that is always his goal, and that while he’s generally willing to sacrifice his own life if the situation needs it in the end, sacrificing others, particularly those he cares for, is his very last resort. It’s not all about not wanting to see them “grow up” by a long shot, he’d rather get out of this without any deaths including the Daleks if he can and in step Jack and Martha with ideas of how to save the universe with an admittedly very high cost which that he’s not willing to pay (yet) so yeah that’s a lot of it.
    It’s a thing about ‘Doctor Who’ that while self sacrifice is noble, becoming “hardened” and able to make the hard choices isn’t the show’s definition of heroism, or at least the Doctor’s, I’m not entirely sure the general definition of heroism in the show comes thought in JE.
    Both Martha and Jack give the Daleks a chance before going through with their plans, just as the Doctor would have done, but he doesn’t want to see them behaving like that. I’m not even sure he sees that aspect, he doesn’t see them as having already weighed the options and this was the only one the had that would save most of the universe. And he doesn’t want to see it like that, plus Davros can make him think that it’s all the Doctor’s fault that they’re not innocent any more and willing to do that.
    I think it’s the last, and it’s success at getting to the Doctor that really puts me off. If the Doctor had taken it and said “I have a better plan” that’s one thing, but with Davros’ prompting he sees himself as the evil force that corrupted his companions and turned them into…him. And let’s not forget that he doesn’t really like himself a lot of the time these days.

  16. Oh, certainly I can’t disagree that it’s all wrapped up in his own (growing) self-loathing. And I would never try to defend JE as tightly written and plotted. For that, it would need to be about half again as long. RTD is a very good writer, but cram too much in and none of it comes off as intended.
    Essentially, where I thought I disagreed with you –and I might have misunderstood your position; if so, please correct me– was in the casting of his disapproval of humans making those kinds of choices as a paternalistic kind of thing. I think he hates it in himself in the same way and to a greater degree. (IE, he hates himself more for killing than he hates, say, Martha, for killing. He hates the *fact* of her killing more than the fact of himself killing because, I suspect, he can’t think of anything more painful for a person to have to do than kill.) But that doesn’t seem to me to be an “I-have-the-knowledge/experience/intelligence/whatever-to -make-that-choice-and-you-don’t-so-go-play-with-the-safety-
    scissors-and-glitter” kind of disapproval.
    But I don’t think it’s about innocence, exactly. I think it’s about bringing them into a situation where the making of that choice would even come up. (This is a ridiculous thing to feel guilty over, but I don’t see that stopping him.)
    Put differently… I don’t think he would have been so infuriated/betrayed by Harriet shooting down the Sykorax if they’d been attacking.

  17. Essentially, where I thought I disagreed with you –and I might have misunderstood your position; if so, please correct me– was in the casting of his disapproval of humans making those kinds of choices as a paternalistic kind of thing.
    Yes and no. Paternalistic isn’t the word I would use; he doesn’t o much want to keep them looking to him for guidance or parenting or protection, or what have you; he doesn’t want them to *have* to make those kinds of choices. He wants them not to become “grown up” in the sense of becoming harder and more haunted than they were when he knew them best, the parts of him he doesn’t want in himself he wishes they didn’t decide to take on.
    Sometimes I wonder if the Doctor really would have approved of Rose’s speech in PotW (especially if it had come from some one other than Rose) about making a stand, fighting for what’s right, etc. It’s one of Rose’s biggest hero moments, but what I’m saying is that part of the Doctor doesn’t want her or any of them to *have* to make those choices. But another part of me thinks that, from *Rose* he’d see it for the positive thing it is, her becoming greater than she was before, becoming…someone he believes in.

  18. I completely agree with that, I’ve never liked Jackie’s talk with Rose in Army of Ghosts, but have found it comforting to point out that she’s proven that she will do exactly the same thing by the end of Doomsday. Because her choice to go with Pete (the only thing that would have stopped her being Rose) to the alternate universe, essentially giving up her old life in exchange for the chance at one she would find more fulfilling with the man she loved is pretty much what Rose does with the Doctor. She chooses the life, the chance to do and be something more, and the man she loves all in one swoop.
    Jackie was terrified of losing Rose, that doesn’t mean she was right to ask her to come home. Rose was growing up and making her own choices, moving away from her childhood life to something and someone she loved.
    I may have issues with the treatment of several of the characters in JE, but that doesn’t take away that the first two seasons were all about Rose and the Doctor learning to forge a new path together, growing up together, and it was every bit as real and valid a choice for both as anything.

  19. I can see where you’re coming from. I wonder, though, are we unduly conflating cynical, or hard, or even, put-in-difficult-situations with ‘adult’? Because I think I very nearly agree with you, but it just doesn’t (to me) feel like it is adulthood per se that he’s trying to protect them from. On the other hand, I do have a permanently juvenile mindset.
    Or, hrm, maybe this is part of *why* Rose is different… If you’re someone who travels with the Doctor for a bit, but then, when it’s time, when you’re ready to settle down, you want to leave him and go do whatever (see: most classic companions. Also, I think, Martha.) than to an extent, you are putting your life ‘on hold’ while you’re with him, in a way that feels a little analagous to that trip a lot of people take right after college, before they get all ‘trapped’ in a real job.
    But Rose didn’t really see it that way. She was never planning on ‘going’ back, on resuming a ‘real’ life; this *was* her life. I’m thinking here of the difference between deciding to backpack across Europe and move there, between going on a safari and becoming a park ranger in Africa.
    Because I must agree; there is something a bit escapist –and therefore, adolescent, although why those two seem so conflated to me I don’t know– about many people’s travel with the Doctor. But I don’t think it’s the lifestyle itself so much as the way they approach it that makes it so. Does that make sense?

  20. Five, agree strongly.
    I adore post-JE fic that have Rose and Ten II living essentially the same life that they had before.
    I have a difficult time with post-JE fic (though some of it is quite good) that has them ‘settle down’ into a more mundane/’normal’ life, because it always feels to me like invalidating all the choices they made throughout series 1 and 2.
    I have an interesting dichotomy re: the Doctor in the context of this discussion… I *like*, both personally and aesthetically, the kind of eternal figure that he represents. On the other hand, I don’t think he is or ought to be immune to change. That’s the problem with Peter Pan: he’s totally static. In no way does he ever change.
    There are a lot of ways in which I *want* the Doctor not to change. Ever. But I don’t think (as some seem to) that that means he’s totally frozen and incapable of evolution. But I think one can have the romance (in the old imaginative sense, not the modern lovey-dovey sense) of a character like the Doctor –or like Peter, even, if done differently than Barry did him– without that creepy stasis.
    New Who’s doctor is both measurably older and younger than he ever was in Classic. The events of the Time War and whatever else happened to him made him both more scarred and weary and more vulnerable than he was before. I can’t imagine Four ever really *wanting* particularly deep relationships with anyone. Not that he wasn’t a good and deep man then too, but he never seemed to need or look for more than casual friendship.

  21. I think it has to do with the childhood=innocence argument that sort of began this discussion (and is really the reason I’ve been using the language here when normally I probably wouldn’t). I don’t really mean it’s a childhood vs adulthood argument but a…part innocence vs. hardness, part small vs. large perspective. It’s not something I put words to easily I admit.
    And yes, the escapism of the Classic series (reexplored to some extent, if a darker one, with Martha) does lend itself to both the Peter Pan analogy and the avoiding the “real world” point, a “study abroad” comparison maybe. But even in the Classic series that wasn’t always the case, much less in the new one. The Classic series just didn’t often explore the darker aspects of it, whether it be going missing for a year, not coming home in the end, how all the dark things one sees effects a person (well besides maybe Tegan), or how one does go back, plus of course the effect this has on the Doctor himself; New Who has pulled them out and made them important.
    For Rose it might have begun with some escapism, but she very much took that and over the course of two seasons it became her life, completely, and it wasn’t like she was ignoring what she still had back home, they still visited, but it wasn’t where her life was. She was visiting Jackie, but home was in the TARDIS with the Doctor.

  22. I would never put them at less than Torchwood as far as what their life is post JE. Kind of like I never imagined post Doomsday Rose settling down and having a “normal life.” They’re always going to be running towards adventure, it’s who they are, they’re not going to stop being that.
    On the other hand, a part of me sees the Doctor’s recent journey as being on of ‘to live would be an awfully big adventure’ and to *him* the idea of kids and family, and making a home and life with Rose hold an appeal that he’d never seen before. Not that I don’t see him building a new sonic screwdriver in record time in the same idea, but in a lot of ways I just feel he *needs* to live that dream as much as he fears it.
    There’s room for change, or character growth, without fundamentally changing the Doctor. He can still want to go out and see everything and do everything and be an ageless traveler, and at the same time let him experience sew things like love and family and forgiving himself for his past. And there is a romanticism to the idea of the Doctor being unchanged, it’s a factor in the show having lasted for so long, but it would also be shallow, a Peter Pan0-esque story where no matter what happens nothing changes.
    RTD took several steps away from that by giving him such a huge past event that did fundamentally changed the character yet kept him true to who he had been before. New Who Doctor is much more…vulnerable (whether we consider that an old or young trait) than he had been before, crying out of a hand to hold,someone to be his light in the darkness. I can’t see Four being like that either, but then Four never begged the Daleks to kill him.

  23. See, I don’t object to family, children, etc on principle… and I agree that the show was tending in the live=big adventure direction.
    But what I *loved* about the first two seasons was that they demonstrated how a character like that could change… and yet *not* go that route. And by ‘that route’ I mean ‘a life that fits within the parameters of of the audiences’.
    There’s a sort of related theme that happens in anime a lot… a person (usually a schoolgirl) gets swept into another world, has great adventures, maybe (usually) falls in love. But the *point* of these shows, almost without exception, is that she learns over the course of the show that she needs to ‘grow up’, to return to the Real World, and graduate high school. I hate this kind of show because it has always seemed to me to be rooted in a false premise. If I spend all my time obsessing over a fantasy world, and waiting for some magician to sweep me away on my destiny, I’m ignoring reality, probably to my detriment. I need to get over it. But that only follows *if* my fantasies are fiction. If they’re real, then I’m not prefering fantasy to reality, I’m prefering a more exotic slice of reality to another.
    Essentially, I guess, I see the way it’s portrayed by a lot of people in the Doctor’s case as verging on reverse escapism, ie, his life has gotten scarry/dark and he’s going to go escape into a suburb with a picket fence and a dog and 2.2 kids.
    I want –badly– for him to have a life with Rose. But I want him to do it on his terms. Wendy wanted things that didn’t exist in Peter’s world, that couldn’t. But what Rose wants seems –to me– to exist in the Doctor’s world. It’s a question of changing versus turning into someone else, for me, I guess.
    Though, rereading what you just wrote, I think we might be basically agreeing.

  24. Yeah, escapism for the Doctor because his life is something I think he’s the one longing to escape from, while for Rose…she’s found her life. Saving the universe, not standing still, running into the fire. The Doctor has done that so long I kind of want him to have a chance at something else, and for both of them to still be able to touch the stars. That’s why I say nothing less than Torchwood; I can’t see the Doctor settling into a 9 to 5 job, and it’s not what Rose wants either. TARDIS Jr. works too don’t get me wrong, but part of the magic of season 2 is that they go off and see all the wonders of the galaxy and then they (both of them) go and have tea with Jackie some days because having that homebase is also important to them.
    Rose has shown repeatedly that she’s not waiting around for anyone to make her choices for her any more, and I love that about her. She’s not dreaming of escapism, she’s making it happen, she has a goal when she goes for it, knowing that the Doctor is still there and that life is what she wants. And I don’t want her to lose that just because she got him back, because there was more to it than that. And there’s no reason why having their adventures is mutually exclusive from building a home and a life anew.
    But yeah, I think we’re pretty much on the same page overall.

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