This post contains spoilers. You’ve been warned.
Well. That was a ride and a half. And it was Moffatt at his very best. I got the feeling that he’s been wanting to write that finale ever since he got the DW job, and he’s found it really difficult to care all that much about anything that didn’t feed into it. Hence the uneven quality of the last series.
It was ambitious, it was scary, it had some great one-liners. Fan service galore, and a lovely intellectual conundrum at its heart – what time traveller hasn’t had to deal with the temptation to find out about his own death? The production values and direction were top-notch. It was, genuinely, the best finale since POTW, possibly even better. I have to hand it to Moffatt, that was one heck of a piece of TV.
I’ve been trying to put my finger on what bothered me, what didn’t feel quite right. At first I thought it was the impossibility of Clara, of trying to stitch her into canon. I kept thinking of things like, why wasn’t she there in Waters of Mars? How could she bear to see the state he was in after Doomsday and offer him no comfort? (Ditto the Time War, of course, but more of that anon).
So, saving the Doctor. Well, that’s a nice way to spend your eternal life. Certainly makes the universe a safer place. What does saving the Doctor actually mean? Is it just something you do, or does it come from a real relationship, a place of love? Are you doing it for the world, the universe, yourself, the Doctor, or just because you are a piece in a puzzle that has to be slotted in for everything to work properly?
If it’s about a relationship, actually being there for him and making him a better person, then to single out Clara’s specialness seems like a kind of insult to all the other people, from Susan, through Jo, Sarah Jane, Tegan, Rose, Donna…who did exactly that. If it’s a force, something like Bad Wolf (and I think maybe this is the way Moffatt would have written that concept), then it’s rally hard to start putting it into the story at this stage when it’s never been there before.
All the time she’s been there, never intruding, just quietly in the background making sure the Doctor gets out of things okay. Not demanding anything in the way of emotional growth or character development, so he doesn’t go on making the same mistakes. Just there, not making any demands, even though to carry out this role she has to die over and over, in an unimaginable number of different ways.
We saw that happening to the Doctor, just the first few deaths, and it wasn’t pretty. There he was rolling around on the floor, in agony, and everybody was worried about him. But if we follow the storyline through to its logical conclusion, that’s nothing to what Clara will have to endure. Dying and being reborn, over and over, and over, and nobody even notices.
I hope somebody writes the fic where Clara meets Jack. I think they’d have a lot in common, and they’d probably have some hot sex as well.
So she’s the impossible girl, a kind of Metacrisis Donna on steroids, but no ancient Romans are making monuments to her, nobody is singing songs about her. OTOH, she seems to get to keep her memories, which isn’t necessarily desirable, considering some of the places she must have got to see.
Come to think of it, she could have an interesting talk with Martha Jones sometime.
Anyway, so much for the Impossible Ultimate Companion Clara, who seems to be better at symbolising the Companion role than actually embodying it. Moffatt is big on that.
And then there’s River Song. Again, what a model of discretion she is, as she meekly begs the Doctor for some kind of acknowledgement of all she has been to him (or so we, and she, like to think). Again, functioning best when she isn’t even noticed, just whispering in the ear of the Doctor’s latest hottie, the two of them collaborating rather like the two wives of the ghastly man in Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns. You know what? I think I’d have liked River’s ghost to slap him across the face, push him into his timeline and say he got what was coming to him. But of course she wouldn’t, because for all the badass and designer shoes, River knows that when push comes to shove a woman should stay in the background, never intrude on the Big Damn Hero’s hangups, take what she can get and save the world in some act of cosmic sacrifice.
That kind of thing has been going on in religions since time immemorial.
I cant imagine Jackie Tyler doing it, though. But she was a real person, not an icon.
It was a day or two before all this started to percolate through, and this brilliant piece of meta definitely helped (thanks to green_maia on LJ for that link). In SM’s Doctor Who, it’s all about the Doctor. We look after him, and if we’re lucky, he’ll look after us.
Everybody is obsessed with the Doctor, and he’s obsessed with himself. Nobody else really gets a look in. Yes, he cried in this episode (bring it, Matt!) Contemplating his own death. Not Clara’s sacrifice, or River’s hollow martyrdom, or yet more of his friends lying dead and broken on the floor, but he cried because he had to go to Trenzalore. Which admittedly wasn’t a very nice place. But still.
It was an intimate kind of a finale, and I kind of liked that. But that meant that it didn’t focus on any Big Bad – frankly Richard E Grant was a sideshow compared to the Doctor’s demons. And now, like anyone who gets in too deep with an abusive, controlling man, Clara is lost inside his head, trying to figure out how to change him, and she’s seen something that he really, really, didn’t want her to see.
Okay, I’m only human, and the John Hurt character fascinates me. He fascinates me a lot more than Eleven (or is it Twelve now?) because etched on that face is unbearable suffering and the evidence that it’s actually affected him. Yes, he’s the shadow, the Bad Doctor, the Valeyard perhaps, the elephant in the room…but he’s real. Eleven is never real like that; he comes over as a narcissistic creep.
I really will have a problem seeing Matt as Good Doctor to this character’s Bad Doctor. The edges are pretty blurred these days. I’ll go on watching, but it’s John Hurt I’ll be watching it for.