The Divided Self – Thoughts on Ten’s Character, and how he became Eleven

There have been some fascinating discussions about Ten’s character arc recently, particularly some of his darker aspects like his behaviour at the end of FoB. This sparked off a train of thought rather too lengthy for a comment. It includes quotations and discussion of School Reunion and Family of Blood, among others, but no significant spoilers beyond The Eleventh Hour and even those are of a very general nature.

My problem throughout S5 was I simply couldn’t reconstruct the process in my mind by which Ten become Eleven. He went out fighting to stay exactly as he was, and the assumption seemed to be that he loved his life too much to let it go, though that was barely tenable by the end of EoT. We certainly didn’t see any sense that replying the end of the Time War brought him closure, or signs that he was primed to become the person we see Matt Smith pretending to be.

So, this got me thinking about short-term and long-term memory, and the mechanism we human apes have for filing away memories when we’re done with them, and it isn’t helpful or desirable to have them hitting us on a daily basis. What would it be like if we could live for centuries and have many different bodies and personalities? If we’d evolved those physical powers, how would our brains have adapted to accommodate them?

And this took me back to something the Second Doctor once said to Vicky about remembering his family: I have to really want to, to bring them back in front of my eyes. The rest of the time they… they sleep in my mind and I forget. What if, instead of just two types of memory, Time Lords had numerous levels, maybe even one for each incarnation, and possibly with much more control than humans over how and when their long-term memories are retrieved? Suppose that the default setting, as it were, was that upon regeneration they locked away the memories associated with their previous incarnations somewhere relatively inaccessible. So, if a Time Lord is remembering his past with the immediacy and emotional involvement of a human, it is atypical – pathological even?

What kind of circumstances might disrupt healthy long-term memory processing in your average Time Lord? Severe trauma, perhaps, or a voluntary decision to retain memories that would be better archived. Ten has several strong motivations for doing this. One could be guilt – that he feels he doesn’t deserve to forget his people. Also, of course, if he does take that road, he loses them forever. If he doesn’t remember them, who will? But there’s also the human factor that he falls in love with Rose. When we love someone, we want to become like them, or at least to understand them. I think we can see this developing all the way through S2 – he really wants to give Rose the gift of himself. He wants to love her the way a human would (or so he thinks). In School Reunion, he tries to explain why he doesn’t keep returning to his past companions, but he can tell Rose is shocked by the emotional implications of this. And so he tries to change, to meet her on her level:

ROSE

This is really seeing the future. You just leave us behind. Is that what you’re going to do to me?

THE DOCTOR (abruptly)

No. Not to you.

Ten is always making promises he can’t keep. All through S2 he continues along the blind alley of trying to be human for Rose’s benefit. You can see it in his blocking and his inner struggle when Rose mentions living together and getting a mortgage. He’s still fantasising about it when he asks, “How long are you going to stay with me, then?” He already knows the answer to that question, but he wants to delude himself a little longer. Isn’t that what people do when they’re in love?

Sadly, this is probably the worst thing possible for Ten’s emotional health at this point. By passing as human he finds a temporary relief from his demons, but only by forcing his mind and memories into a mould they were never designed to fit. It’s very familiar to anyone who has experienced grief to be torn between moving on and forgetting, and clinging to what little we feel we have left of the person we have lost. Ten ends up doing this twice over, because he’s already primed to cling to memories of Gallifrey rather than deal with them in the appropriate way, and now he’s holding on to memories of Rose as well, still struggling to be the man she could understand and dream of staying with for ever. If he stops trying to please her, he’s admitting that he’s lost her forever.

It’s not surprising that we see him suicidal and genocidal in The Runaway Bride, spilling out his memories to Martha in Gridlock, and then expressing a clear death wish when he encounters the Daleks again. In The Shakespeare Code he says that Rose is the name that keeps him fighting, but who is he fighting – the baddies, or himself? Already two of his adversaries have recoiled from the darkness within him, and it’s only the second episode. It’s even less surprising that a more serious moral crisis is precipitated when he inhabits a human body as John Smith. He is exposed to the full force of human emotions and memories – perhaps, for the first time, experiencing for real all that he struggled to understand and feel when he was with Rose. And it hurts, again. It hurts to wake up and find you’re still a Time Lord, that the people you love just don’t get you, and maybe fear or despise you. Joan is older and wiser than Rose was, and she says the hard things Rose didn’t or wouldn’t say:

JOAN
What must I look like to you, Doctor? I must seem so very small.

THE DOCTOR:
No. We could start again. I’d like that, you and me. We could try, at least. Because everything that John Smith is and was, I’m capable of that, too.

JOAN:
I can’t.

THE DOCTOR:
Please come with me.

JOAN:
I can’t.

THE DOCTOR:
Why not?

JOAN:
John Smith is dead and you look like him.

THE DOCTOR:
But he’s here. (walks to JOAN) Inside. If you look in my eyes.

JOAN:
Answer me this, just one question. That’s all. If the Doctor had never visited us, if he’d never chosen this place on a whim…would anyone here have died?

(I’d forgotten, until I went back to the transcript, that this conversation actually takes place after we’ve seen what he does to the Family. It says a lot about Joan’s strength of character that she can infer the kind of things we’ve just been told).

It’s no wonder that the events of 1913 affect the Doctor so badly. He’s thrown, once again, into the front line of a war, this time as a human, affected by the Doctor’s memories but unable to understand them (Presumably, the Chameleon Arch changes the biological structure of his brain, but what if there was some overspill when he changes back, so that he experiences the Time War afresh, but as a human, with a Time Lord’s powers but human emotions?) He’d have no mechanism for dealing with it, none of the objectivity that the Time Lords developed over generations. Just the raw power, and the rage of a thwarted human being. He understands, finally, what Rose wanted from him, he’s experienced it. But it’s all too late.

Soon he’s facing another crisis. He’s seeing Jack running towards him, and he recoils. In a reaction against recent events, he’s swung right back to the opposite pole of his alienness; he’s found out how dangerous it is to deny his identity as a Time Lord so he lets his natural revulsion dictate his actions. Of course, little does he know that by fleeing Jack he’s running right into the Master, but the Master, for all his faults, feels like home. That’s why Martha and Jack both desert him after The Year That Never Was. They’ve seen how alien he really is.

By now it’s pretty obvious to everyone except the Doctor himself that passing as human is a dead end. He’s tried the hybrid existence but blood will out; he’s tried offering a relationship to the only remaining Time Lord, but the Master is nobody’s pity project. In an exquisitely painful irony, he warps his next regeneration to give Rose her human partner when, arguably, she’s just grown up enough not to demand one any more, and then he sees Donna faced with the situation he’s battled with himself, and he can’t bear it. He can’t bear to see her suffer, but also he can’t bear to have someone else around with his very specific issues. He’s something of a narcissist and there’s a kind of perverse pleasure in keeping that agony unique to himself. Yes, he did it to save her life, but with Ten on so many occasions, saving someone is on his terms and according to his agenda.

Why does he feel he will die when he regenerates? Because it will be the end of his futile attempt to be a Time Lord with a human’s emotions. He knows, deep down, that he can’t sustain this particular metacrisis, but he’s a stubborn bastard and he wants to be the first person to prove the pundits wrong. So he fights it, and the more it tears him apart the more he fights. (All this makes what he does to Donna even more horribly ironic than it already was). Not only is the struggle bad for him – it’s killing him. In WoM we see him totally at the mercy of his two warring identities, the human who wants connection and the Time Lord who sees the big picture. The Time Lord Victorious is his last, and most dangerous, attempt at metacrisis.

Looked at like this, Ten’s feelings about his death, that a different man will go sauntering away, are entirely accurate. And, like us 21st Century humans wanting to control everything, particularly our own ageing process, our fierce belief in our own individual selves and their cosmic importance, he fears annihilation, because having lived as a human, he will die as one, too – with an atheist writing the script.

I still feel that many opportunities were missed in TEOT, and one of them was to show Ten reaching acceptance of his fate – not only to die, but to fail at the impossible task he’d set himself. The vindication of his original choice to murder his people, complied with the old warrior’s wisdom of Wilf and his interactions with The Master, would have been a perfect opportunity to show Ten at a place where he could credibly reclaim his Time Lord birthright, put his memories into sleep mode, and make peace with himself. If there’s one thing about ourselves we can never change, it’s our species. In some ways, Ten increasingly resembled another icon we lost in 2009, the little boy-man who lived in Neverland, adored by many but ultimately unsuccessful in his struggle to turn his black skin white. Both were damaged children and, though brilliant and loved by millions, evidence of the dangers of too much emotional self-indulgence. Princess Diana, who was hailed as a saint as much for presenting herself as a victim of adultery as for comforting the sick, was another iconic figure of the ninties and early 21st C.

Times change, however; Princess Diana’s boy has grown up, decided to wed his nice girl friend and begun to show a receding hairline that looks uncannily like his youngest uncle’s. The new slogan is “Keep Calm and Carry On”, the mood is retro as baby-boomers fondly recall a rose-tinted version of their childhood, stuffing each other’s Christmas stockings with facsimile Eagle annuals and Ladybird Books. Finding our inner child can wait, these days; most people would just settle for a regular income.

And the tweedy Eleventh Doctor steps into the spotlight, his painful memories filed away, in the true spirit of the command-and-control generation. He’s content to let governments rise and fall without telling the Prime Minister how to do her job and he saves the day with an impersonation of Fireman Sam rather than Errol Flynn. Trinity Wells has retired and the Doctor has both bigger and smaller things on his mind; a crack in the universe and a child who needs sorting out. It’s inevitable, and it’s healthy, but it makes many of us feel a little sad. It would help if RTD hadn’t been rather too like his own volatile creation, the Doctor whose final words were a howl of thwarted entitlement:

I don’t want to go.

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27 thoughts on “The Divided Self – Thoughts on Ten’s Character, and how he became Eleven

  1. Wow. I think this is spot-on, myself. See what doing an MA will do to you? I spoke like a professor for a year after mine–not that you are, but that the habit of deconstructing and interpreting doesn’t go away easily! And I don’t honestly want it to, as long as you continue on with well-thought-out, intelligent commentaries like this one.

  2. I’m not sure the MA has changed my blogging style so much…the problem is the reverse. I keep getting rapped on the knuckles because my essays are too informal and I don’t cite enough sources to support my wild claims. I didn’t realise how easy blogging meta was until I wasn’t allowed to get away with it any more.
    So how’s your bread doin’? We’ve just been quoted £25K for a new kitchen! Back to the drawing board on that one, methinks.

  3. Ooooh, I like this!
    The Tenth Doctor is so often described as the most human of the Doctor, but I’d never thought of it as a deliberate choice on his part. I like this. It also fits very well with his very black and white view of humanity: He’s either extolling all their virtues [I want to be like you!] or he’s excessively condemning [I am The Timelord!]
    but the Master is nobody’s pity project.
    Just wanted to say that I love how you put that!
    Why does he feel he will die when he regenerates? Because it will be the end of his futile attempt to be a Time Lord with a human’s emotions. He knows, deep down, that he can’t sustain this particular metacrisis, but he’s a stubborn bastard and he wants to be the first person to prove the pundits wrong. So he fights it, and the more it tears him apart the more he fights.
    *nods a LOT* This, so, so much!
    It’s very late, so I’ll just point you towards this post – or rather, the first comment, because in many ways that’s exactly how I see it too… 🙂
    Thank you for a brilliant post!

  4. This is a lovely, insightful essay. Thanks so much for sharing!
    The Doctor has made humans his family of choice for so long. It’s no wonder that he tried to be increasingly human after the War, when his people were gone and he wanted to connect with Rose, but he also insisted on retaining the power aspect of being a Time Lord, powerful enough to save everyone he wanted. Ultimately, though, even a Time Lord’s power is limited, and he’s not successful at building a hybrid identity.
    I love your comments about the missed opportunities in EoT. It was so immensely frustrating to see a Doctor (and a showrunner) I cared about go off in a self-involved mess.

  5. sahiya is a favourite of mine – I love her Doctor/Jack fic, but thanks for putting me onto that post. It’s a great conversation and it’s good to be part of it.
    It looks like I may have to check out some Buffy, though. (Incidentally, there’s someone at the Shakespeare Institute, where I’m doing a part-time Masters, working on a PhD project on Shakespeare and American TV, with particular reference to Buffy. It’s my secret dream to do something similar with Who).

  6. I fear you might be disappointed. They aren’t online but if you send me a message with your email I could attach one or two. My favourite was definitely the one about the bear in The Winter’s Tale!

  7. I think even official opinion is beginning to out itself on RTD’s excesses. In their review of the year DWM, who are usually completely uncritical of the show, actually commented that Ten ended us as “a maudlin, irradiated dead man walking.”
    We can rationalise it all we want but in reality it’s highly unlikely that RTD and SM sat down and worked out any artistically coherent handover. Quite the reverse, I think RTD behaved like a Broadway diva snatching the microphone and demanding endless encores of his tearful eleven o’clock number.And I often wonder what it was like for DT, basically a decent man, caught in the middle. Still, if there’s one way to get an actor eating out of your hand, you write the ultimate death script for him.

  8. I still feel that many opportunities were missed in TEOT, and one of them was to show Ten reaching acceptance of his fate
    Wouldn’t that have been so much better, all around? But as you say, the Doctor is basically being made to channel RTD increasingly as the Specials go on, and we all know who it really was who didn’t want to go, and who insisted on writing this regeneration as a death even when from the traditional/canonical standpoint of Who that made no sense.
    It’s always both delightful and frustrating when fandom essays, like this one, demonstrate they have a better handle on a character and a show’s arc than the writers (or The Writer, in this case) did themselves…
    I can only watch and enjoy Eleven (which I do) by completely disregarding any possible connection with Ten, since there doesn’t seem to be one, which is rather sad given that part of the joy of the regeneration trope used to be the continuity-with-variation.

  9. sahiya is a favourite of mine – I love her Doctor/Jack fic
    I shall have to check that out when I have some time. Thanks for the heads up!
    but thanks for putting me onto that post. It’s a great conversation and it’s good to be part of it.
    My pleasure. And it’s one of the things I love about LJ – how someone writes something, sparking other posts, and then others…
    Btw, if you’re interested in my ‘Eleven & TenToo meet’ fic, you can find it here. Crack!fic with a ton of meta underneath, and has a lot of my thoughts on Eleven and what he thinks about his past self. (I have a tendency for turning meta into fic…)

  10. This is a really fascinating post; I love your thoughts about a Time Lord’s memory and how this might have affected Ten.
    Unfortunately, for me the fourth wall was already broken too thoroughly to even make a serious attempt to connect Ten and Eleven; as far as I’m concerned, the entire mood and tone of the show shifted so much that the lack of continuity in the Doctor’s characterisation was the least of my problems and only another symptom of a bigger change.
    I realise this is an unpopular opinion, but I have to say I liked the ‘I don’t want to go.’ There is a monstrous sense of entitlement in his rant before he comes to his senses and saves Wilf, but acknowledging that he’d rather not die once he’s done the right thing and knowingly chosen death strikes me not only as human and natural, but even as necessary in view of Ten’s occasional bouts of despair, or Martha’s remark about him finding something worth living for. Nine welcomed death as an escape from an impossible situation; it made me happy that it was Ten’s love for life that once again shone through at the very end, not his pain and despair. I’d have hated for his arc to end on a quasi-suicidal note, and dying for Wilf would have meant nothing if had been only a glorified suicide.
    And I don’t see much of a possibility for a middle ground between these extremes; not for Ten. I simply can’t see someone who fought the necessity of death and the state of the universe as much and as hard as he did becoming more serene about accepting death than he was in the end. Anything more would have been out of character, IMO.

  11. It’s always both delightful and frustrating when fandom essays, like this one, demonstrate they have a better handle on a character and a show’s arc than the writers (or The Writer, in this case) did themselves…
    Is it fair to blame RTD for not writing the story you wanted to see, though? Ten reaching acceptance of his fate isn’t the story he wrote, and (presumably) not the one he wanted to write. Ten’s story is the struggle to accept death as part of the universe, as part of life, and in the end as part of his life, and as far as I’m concerned the last three specials were a very good conclusion to this arc. I’m not saying the finale was perfect, there were some over-the-top elements I could have done without, but the death theme in my opinion was the part of it that was handled completely satisfactory.

  12. I probably wasn’t sufficiently clear about separating the issue of death from the issue of the Time War.
    The biggest adjustment for me to make between Ten and Eleven is that, with one very brief exception in TBB, there’s no sign that any of Ten’s experiences affected Eleven at all. That in itself indicates that a degree of closure has been reached.
    You’re right, of course, to say that in the end it’s up to the writer how things are (or are not) resolved. In DW, however, there’ll always be some continuity issues. I personally felt that (a) we, the audience, had invested a huge amount of emotion in the Time War narrative and (b) a Christmas/New Year special shouldn’t be entirely bleak and devoid of optimism.
    So I was a bit disappointed not to see a resolution of some kind, something that would have allowed Ten to move on and not be quite so tortured with guilt and regret. There’s always things people would have liked to see, and didn’t – that’s why we write fanfiction, and that happened to be my sense of loss. Also, I found it difficult to feel that Ten had any genuine love of life. It seemed to me that he’d been deeply unhappy for a long time, that he felt (with some justification) that any intimate relationship he might embark on was doomed and that existence had become a burden to him. I accept that some people interpreted EoT differently – they saw him discovering, too late, that he loved life after all. I didn’t see that, though. To me he seemed a completely broken man.
    The question of whether terms like “death” and “suicide” can apply to someone who regenerates is a philosophically fascinating one, worthy of a post in its own right because it goes to the heart of what we mean by personal identity. I wouldn’t have seen his sacrifice for Wilf as being a glorified suicide, because suicide comes from despair and is, in essence, an act of selfishness, whereas giving up your life out of love for someone else has very different moral implications. But feel free to disagree.

  13. (I have a tendency for turning meta into fic…)
    Me, too. Sadly, my writing has fizzled out somewhat since Journeys End – I tried numerous times to “fix” it and never really did to my satisfaction. And I can’t write Eleven at all, so I’ll be interested to see what you do with him. It seems to me that RTD’s characters have lots of untidy loose ends to inspire the writer (I wrote about all three of the RTD companions), but Moffatt’s come to us as a far more hermatically sealed package.
    Also I can’t stand Amy, though I hope she’ll be different after her life with parents and the wedding to Rory.

  14. Also, I found it difficult to feel that Ten had any genuine love of life. It seemed to me that he’d been deeply unhappy for a long time, that he felt (with some justification) that any intimate relationship he might embark on was doomed and that existence had become a burden to him.
    Up until the S4 finale I can absolutely see it. I don’t think he was lying either to Martha or to himself when he told her that there’s always something worth living for. It’s not ideal, but most of the time there’s a sort of balance, a modus vivendi. You could of course argue that all the travelling is just running from himself, but to me his joy in seeing new things, the birth of new life forms, the forces of life at work in the universe, always felt sincere, an essential part of who and what he is. The S4 finale is the turning point, IMO; Davros’s words forcibly reminded him again of the presence of death in his life, and on his own without another companion he starts obsessing until this thought overshadows everything.
    I wouldn’t have seen his sacrifice for Wilf as being a glorified suicide, because suicide comes from despair and is, in essence, an act of selfishness, whereas giving up your life out of love for someone else has very different moral implications.
    No, I completely agree with this distinction, which is why I think it was so important to make it clear beyond a shadow of doubt that he didn’t act out of some kind of hidden death wish, but chose to sacrifice himself, even though he wanted to live.

  15. Very interesting, as usual 🙂 I read this yesterday and have been struggling to find something substantive to add.
    I do agree with you about wanting Ten to have found some closure, although I’d argue that I did get a sense of validation of his actions during the Time War. It wasn’t much – but that line It’s how I choose to remember them coupled with the obviously bonkers-ness (!) of Rassilon and his plans to destroy time – managed to do that for me.
    I like your thoughts about how memory might work for Time Lords as they move from one body to the next, and it certainly makes sense when you consider that there is so little of Ten in Eleven – at least so far. It’s something I’ve ranted about on more than one occasion – not that I want to see Eleven aping Ten (and of course, it’s never happened like that anyway) but I need to know that he’s still in there somewhere.

  16. his joy in seeing new things, the birth of new life forms, the forces of life at work in the universe, always felt sincere, an essential part of who and what he is.
    Totally.
    It was JE that broke him finally – not only did Davros’ taunts strike that chord, but Ten had to “kill” his best friend.

  17. Sorry for butting in, but this caught my attention:
    I accept that some people interpreted EoT differently – they saw him discovering, too late, that he loved life after all. I didn’t see that, though. To me he seemed a completely broken man.
    I’m one of those who agrees that Ten discovered too late, that he loved life after all. In TEoT, Ten was expecting–and willing–to die by Rassilon’s hand. He acknowledges it, he’s resigned to it. His “I know” sounds more like “Let’s get this over with already.” To me, that’s completely broken.
    As I see it, Ten regained his will to live when he wakes up after the Time Lords have vanished. Ten says “I’m still alive!” like he realizes the universe has given him a second chance. He’s ready to embrace it. Then Wilf knocks, of course, and Ten sees that hope slip away. So I think his rant was justified. Certainly it was healthier than his previous resignation at the hands of Rassilon.
    He doesn’t sacrifice himself just for Wilf though. He hears himself in his rant and realizes he’s turning into exactly what he had just fought. So he knows he has to sacrifice himself for the sake of the universe, too. By WoM he was focused so much on his own pain that he lost sight of the big picture. In TEoT he starts to see the big picture again. It’s all in his “Lived too long.” So I think Ten begins to reach closure, starts to attain a sense of place in the universe which I don’t think he’d had for a long time.
    I think his delaying regeneration to the last possible minute was another sign he was regaining his sense of place. From JE on, he basically denied he had a family. Ten’s last acts in life were to ensure his “family” would be okay. (Which was why I loved Verity Newman’s appearance in the goodbye tour, because of the throwback to John Smith’s death scene in FoB.)
    It doesn’t mean Ten was going to accept his fate with equanimity, though. *g*

  18. It would help if RTD hadn’t been rather too like his own volatile creation, the Doctor whose final words were a howl of thwarted entitlement
    I keep seeing this sentiment, yet my impression from The Writer’s Tale: The Final Chapter was that RTD was more than ready to leave Doctor Who behind. I do think RTD was too caught up in the temptation to go out with Best! Epic! Ever! which resulted in an overwrought mess. Take out the spectacle from TEoT and there’s a wonderful story there.

  19. Here via the newsletter 🙂
    I always thought a regeneration made up for what the Doctor perceived as weaknesses in his previous regeneration – Four was wacky and madcap, so Five was passive and thoughtful, and Six was arrogant to the point of recklessness, and then Seven liked to control everything and everyone. Then Eight came along and wanted to love and save everyone and everything 🙂
    I think Eleven is a response to all the loss Nine and Ten had to go through, so he’s flighty and less reliant on those around him.

  20. Take out the spectacle from TEoT and there’s a wonderful story there.
    I couldn’t agree more. The story of the Doctor and death was wonderful; the scenes with Ten and Wilf in my opinion are some of the best he’s written for DW, and Ten’s conversations with the Master are also very good. The part I thought was seriously overdone was the Master’s resurrection, potions, super powers and all, and the resurrection gate/’Master race’ part.

  21. I’m coming to this post in general late; I read it before Christmas, and wanted to let it cogitate. This comment had a few thoughts, though…
    It’s always both delightful and frustrating when fandom essays, like this one, demonstrate they have a better handle on a character and a show’s arc than the writers (or The Writer, in this case) did themselves…
    The saddest thing in reading The Writer’s Tale: The Final Chapter is to find that RTD had no idea of what to do with the specials. He had a couple of ideas he wanted to run with, but he didn’t have an overall story arc and, contrary to fan expectations, he didn’t have an endgame in mind. He was too close to the material, which is why he couldn’t see why he was flailing, but he had also reached the point where he didn’t have anyone who could or would check his excesses or tell him when he was going wrong.
    I can only watch and enjoy Eleven (which I do) by completely disregarding any possible connection with Ten
    I’ve tried to imagine a fifth season with Tennant rather than Smith, but Sensiblecat has convinced me, with this post, why it wouldn’t have worked — tossing out the baggage of the RTD’s era, as Moffat did, also required a change of the Doctor, as Tennant couldn’t have been the Season Fnarg Doctor in quite the same way that Matt Smith was without betraying the emotional underpinnings of the RTD era.

  22. Gosh. I’m honoured to have you on my blog.
    I think what you say about Tennant and S5 is very interesting. Don’t agree with all of it – to me there was so much desperation in Waters of Mars and Ten’s ensuing midlife crisis I could hardly bear to watch, but I certainly take your point that it takes Eleven a long time to shed the ghost and become his own man.
    I’m not sure he’s completely there, even now. I saw long patches of pure Ten dialogue in the early scenes of Christmas Carol. It seemed a retrograde step to me, because I felt Smith had been defining the character much better towards the end of S5. There’s a detachment and kindness, a gentleness in Eleven which I think he definitely brings to the role and Tennant lacked, except with the occasional person like Rose that he happened to be emotionally sensitive to.
    Eleven is a lot more self-contained. I don’t feel he’d enjoy travelling alone but I don’t think he needs companions to keep him straight in the way Ten did. The down side of that is he can also be very indifferent to people’s individual feelings – does he really think about the morality of what he’s doing with/to Abigail and Karzan in ACC?
    If I had to pick one word to define Eleven, it might well be “perspective” – I think it surfaces at the little moments of thoughtfulness when he comments generally on his past – the “good things and bad things” speech at the end of VATD, and the moment of reflecting on a last day with your beloved at the end of ACC. I’m looking forward to seeing where he goes with S6 – I’m looking foward to a much more confident and assured performance all round.

  23. The saddest thing in reading The Writer’s Tale: The Final Chapter is to find that RTD had no idea of what to do with the specials. He had a couple of ideas he wanted to run with, but he didn’t have an overall story arc and, contrary to fan expectations, he didn’t have an endgame in mind.
    [Nods]. I get similarly frustrated about the way he describes the writing and rewriting of Journey’s End – he knows the Two-Doctors element doesn’t work, Billie Piper knows it doesn’t work, he can analyse very cogently the reasons it doesn’t and the corner he’s written himself into, far too late to get out of it; and then he pretends he’s fixed it.
    (At least, my personal hunch is that he’s lying consciously when he says it’s fixed, rather than lying to himself, just because I don’t feel much conviction in the way he writes about his ‘solution’ – which is sad, because so much of the book has been so searingly honest. But I suppose he could hardly come out and admit that the end of S4 as they filmed it stank…)

  24. Yes, that was a tough part of the book to read. (Actually, if you’re any sort of Davies critic, it’s a difficult book to read in general, because he makes it so easy to armchair quarterback all of his creative decisions. Obvious solutions stare the reader in the face, so why didn’t/couldn’t Davies see them?)
    The problem with “Journey’s End” is that Davies begins with the premise that the episode is about the Doctor and Rose and so his emotional climax has to be there. Unfortunately, we had already had our emotional climax with Rose, two years earlier, and Davies never fashions a compelling reason to revisit it — and certainly not at this particular juncture, nor at the expense of achieving other emotional beats. But by putting his energies into revisiting Bad Wolf Bay, he drops the ball elsewhere.
    What Davies never seems to realize is that by putting all of his emotional energies there, he undercuts the real emotional drama in the episode — what happens to Donna and how the Doctor responds to that. The scene of Donna’s brain going on the fritz is painful to watch, because what happens just happens, and there’s no explanation for why it happens. One or two more lines of dialogue from the Doctor, along the lines of “Donna, if my choice is to let you stay like this and you die or take this all away from you and you live, I have to take this all away from you,” would have sold the events that unfold. (Doctor Who Magazine‘s “The Time of My Life” comic strip manages to handle the end of the Doctor/Donna partnership far better — and with deeper emotion — than the television series did. That’s a sad indictment of Davies.)
    I think that Davies does come away believing that “Journey’s End” works, that he’s not living a self-deluded lie about his work on the story. (I seem to recall a passage in The Final Chapter where he rewatched the episode while visiting the United States many months later, and he was impressed with it. Though now I wonder if I’m misremembering and it was actually another episode that he saw in the US.) Davies strikes me as someone who is incapable of taking suggestions, such as when he tries to blow off Ben Cook’s suggestion that the Cybermen “What? What? What?” gag at the end of “Journey’s End” be cut. He seems unable to view his work in any sort of critical way.

  25. Obvious solutions stare the reader in the face, so why didn’t/couldn’t Davies see them?
    At least in part, perhaps, because he is such a hopeless procrastinator that he is always, always writing completely up against (and often way beyond) deadlines. There’s never any time to reflect on anything he’s written; by the time he’s got a draft of the script out it’s straight to the production team. Sure, he tweaks lines (doesn’t he talk somewhere in the book about a previous show he did where the cast would be handed revised scripts ON SET? Ye gods!) but there’s never any time to redo anything substantial.
    He and Moffat run into the same problem when they realise far too late that they’ve basically written the same Donna-in-an-alternate-version-of-reality plot for Silence in the Library and Turn Left – I remember grumbling when those episodes aired that they were repeating themselves, and arguing with friends who thought there might be Some Terribly Clever And Moffaty reason for this, and not knowing whether to laugh or cry when I reached that section of TWT and was confirmed in the suspicion that no, it had just been Utter Cock-Up. Sigh…

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