Friday, May 24, 2024

The Doctor Dances with Monsters

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Texts from the Tardis is an ongoing Doctor Who rewatch  in which we compare the reactions and analysis of a first time viewer (Peter) to a long-time Whovian (Andy). In “Father’s Day”, all of Pete’s questions about the rules of time travel are answered, and the WWII two-parter “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances” ends with the best meme on the internet.

Episode 8: Father’s Day

Andy: Ah, Pete, I was so excited last episode when you went on your little tangent about the rules of time travel in this universe, because I knew this episode was coming next and would answer all your questions!

dw-e8-alter-timePeter: It totally did! I’m always nervous when shows start messing with time (although I love it from a lore perspective!) Are they going to reset everything like a chessboard at the end of the game? Or is the timeline going to be irreparably damaged by the butterfly effect and spin out of control?

And now we have the answer on Doctor Who: time is a fragile thing because Rose just broke the universe. And the Doctor is pissed.

Yeah, things definitely escalated quickly. Whatever butterfly effect Pete’s death should have had didn’t happen, and somehow that leads to monsters ripping out of the sky. Small wonder the Doctor is concerned!

I definitely think the Doctor overreacted. I mean, yes, Rose did just change time but he does that all the time.

This is true. And there is something there to be said about the continuity, since I don’t think it’s made clear why exactly this time is different than all the other times.

Except that this was the first time Rose altered time, and the Doctor wants to know why. His first suspicion is that Rose planned this from the beginning, which, talk about the long game, but it’s also pretty insulting to Rose. They’ve been through a lot together by this point, how can he think Rose had ulterior motives all along? What does it say about the Doctor that this is where his mind goes?

Nothing good.dw-e8-time-dragon

I wasn’t happy about the Doctor’s behavior early this episode either, but he made up for it later on as he tries to protect people from the monsters. He’s such a confusing mix of passions. So self-righteous.

Those monsters were terrifying, by the way. Also terrifying: the idea that coming into contact with your previous self is a paradox. Where did this get started? Can we stop it now? They are still just two human beings, and two people touching has never spontaneously combusted a universe. Probably. I just don’t understand why this would cause the universe to explode.

Yeah, I’ve never gotten that either. Is this like an anti-matter thing, where two identical molecules cancel each other out or something? Regardless, it’s a terrible plot device to get an extra big monster into the church so the Doctor can sacrifice himself.

dw-e8-deny-time-travelIt was much more interesting to see Rose interact with all the other characters from her past. (This show continues to do such a great job building up secondary characters.) We just met Rose’s dad, and yet I felt like I got to know him in this episode. When he told Rose that all the things she told him about the future “weren’t him”, it was like he was confirming what we already knew.

It was such an unexpected moment, not just because of Pete’s (hey, you guys have the same name!) brutal self-honesty, but because it goes against what we’ve been trained to expect from these kinds of family stories. Rose is going through the same disillusionment: her father has been idealized her entire life, and she’s already started to figure out that was a lie. She lies to him in this scene for the same reason Jackie lied to her all those years: it’s a lie meant to comfort the other person, it’s what you wish were true, but it’s utterly empty. When Pete rips that cover away, at first we’re shocked, because the truth is painful for both of them, but it is what lets them have a moment of real connection.

And on top of Rose’s dad, we have the adorable almost-newlyweds who…aww, think they are red shirts! The last couple episodes have had a trend of good writing and acting.dw-e8-who-says-youre-not-important

Yes we have definitely hit our stride. According to IMDB, this episode was Billie Piper’s favorite to film.

So back to what the hell happened this episode: I am super confused about how much of time got reset. Rose’s dad definitely re-died, but this time at the church. Did he ruin the wedding? Did they get their deposit back? Does that Doctor remember getting EATEN?

Episode 9: The Empty Child and Episode 10: The Doctor Dances

This two-parter is one I have been anxious for us to get to, since they are considered some of the best episodes of the series. (They were also written by Steven Moffat, who would go on to become the series showrunner in Season 5.)

dw-e9-whats-a-moffatWe are back in the past again though. You know how I feel about that!

Yeah, but it’s World War II, which is…unending tragedy, actually, so nevermind.

WWII was actually one of my favorite parts of history class growing up, although I have to wonder why there always have to be Nazis on space shows? (I’m looking at you, Star Trek.) I just can’t even.

I think it’s because it would be hard to pinpoint a single other event that had as large of an impact on human history. It makes sense that it would come up a lot in time travel stories.

The Nazis are definitely not the focus of this episode though. In fact, the setting for this episode is only important insofar as it sets up “volcano day.” Remember to set your alarm!

Captain Jack’s introduction was amazing. I mean, I identify as hetero and even I’m a little into his swagger. He’s like part Daario Naharis, part Han Solo, and all cheekbones.

Finding out he was a conman and not a real space captain was like finding out that the princess is in another castle! Not the end of the world, but still a tiny bit devastating.

Was it really so surprising though? I realize that it could be read it as chemistry, but the way that Jack came onto Rose when they first met was so aggressively calculated that I knew he was up to something. I think the psychic paper is also a tip-off: why would you need psychic paper in the first place if you’re legit?dw-e9-captain-jack-is-kirk

That’s a really good point. Now that I think of it, that scene was also when the show introduced the nanogenes, which turned out to be the problem/solution! There were so many hints hidden under Jack’s swagger. That is very good writing.

I think the reason that I was bummed Jack turned out to be a conman is that he was introduced as the “B” plot, and I thought his flash was part of that. I mean clearly, the focus of this episode is the tragically heartwarming orphans. Stealing food while the family hides out in the bomb shelter is brilliant! Dangerous, but no more dangerous than starving to death, so fair trade.

This episode had a big horror movie feel. (Maybe it’s cause they’re using a Moffat now? Is that the thing?) I’m not a big fan of the sci-fi/horror aspects usually, but the way that the gas masks erupted from people’s flesh was extra scary.

And the British accent made it extra creepy.
And the British accent made it extra creepy.

But then, for one of the creepiest episodes yet, this one actually had a happy ending!

These two episodes are a turning point for the Doctor’s character, in a positive way. All season we’ve seen the Doctor’s passion and anger flare up at inopportune times, but in part two of this episode Rose tries to get him to open up in a healthier way. Setting aside the metaphor of whether or not the Doctor dances, what Rose is really doing here is trying to peel back the Doctor’s guards. He’s still trying to find a way out, even though Captain Jack is on the way, and Rose wants to remind him that there’s more to life than saving the world. He needs to stop and smell the roses…so to speak.

The bodycount did not increase today! This show’s body count has been enormous to say the least. If you want to get technical the casualties are as high as an entire universe’s worth of people, cause when you fuck with time in this show, it erases the original timeline and sometimes but not all the time the universe gets eaten. (That’s how that works, right?)dw-e10-everybody-lives

Coming towards the end of the season, the moment when the Doctor remembers how to dance is incredibly important to his character. He needed to be reminded that living — not just life — is good. The horrors of the Time War are still with him, but so is hope. That’s what this episode is about.

So to say that the Doctor is merely thrilled when “everybody lives!” would do his real reaction a disservice. I mean, just look at that face. He is happier than Scrooge McDuck in his gold coin swimming pool. He is happier than Steven Universe with a freezer full of Cookie Cats. He’s happier than I feel finally KNOWING WHAT THAT MEANS!

Question of the Week: Would you change time in order to save a loved one?

Please do not spoil Pete in the comments!

Images courtesy of BBC. 

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