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12 April 2010 @ 05:47 pm
one more brief thought about "The Beast Below"  
So, assume that in this post I'm still observing a separation between very welcome theme and potentially shoddy execution...


"The Beast Below" is, of course, all about false dichotomies. You either forget, or protest. You either forget, or abdicate. And the way the episode is set up, the Doctor is supposed to provide the third option--"Help us, Doctor, you're our only hope!" Because that's what the Doctor does.

Except...well, he doesn't. Instead, he only provides himself with an equally stark false dichotomy: he can either kill the whale, or kill everyone on board. And as I mentioned in a comment on one of stoplookingup's posts, that's a thing that's very Ten. Either the Racnoss die, or the humans die. (Yes, he offers the Queen of the Racnoss the choice to leave--but he doesn't consider their forced removal an option. Once she's turned down the single offer of reprieve, that's it: no second chances. He's that sort of a man.) It's either Pompeii, or the whole world. Donna either forgets, or dies. And Eleven looks to be about to trap himself in that same logic: he's seeing himself only as the man who has to make the hard choices, not the man who provides another way.

And so it's Amy, who has been thinking about Eleven for far longer than he's been thinking about himself, who can see a different option, a different man, and can act accordingly. She's the one who can introduce kindness and grace into the equation when even the Doctor can't. She's been that lonely child the Doctor wanted to rescue (as the flashbacks remind us), and she knows that he's a man who combines fish fingers and custard; the normal, everyday rules don't apply to the madman in the box. And for once, the universe obliges. It may not, always; Eleven will likely have some hard decisions ahead of him, somewhere. But I loved that here, at least, there's a third option.
 
 
 
La Reine Noire: Cate with lacelareinenoire on April 12th, 2010 11:19 pm (UTC)
I have nothing to add save that I agree with everything you said here.
tempestsarekind: amelia pond (ready for adventure)tempestsarekind on April 12th, 2010 11:47 pm (UTC)
*glee*

Thank you!
Neaneadods on April 13th, 2010 12:46 am (UTC)
that's a thing that's very Ten.

I hadn't thought about it, but you're right.

It's also a twist on companion-saves-Doctor in that she didn't save his life, but she certainly saved his identity.
tempestsarekind: amelia pond (ready for adventure)tempestsarekind on April 13th, 2010 03:28 pm (UTC)
Yes--I liked that twist. In a way, the mercy killing of the star whale (if it had happened) isn't the worst thing the Doctor has ever done, not by a long shot--but it's the worst thing this *new* Doctor has done, and I find it interesting that he would have given up being the Doctor, after doing it, because I don't think Ten would have.
(no subject) - neadods on April 13th, 2010 05:26 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tempestsarekind on April 13th, 2010 05:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - neadods on April 13th, 2010 11:07 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tempestsarekind on April 13th, 2010 11:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Emily-- Toppington von Monocle: eleven [doctor who]sadcypress on April 13th, 2010 02:32 am (UTC)
Everything you say here is SO spot on. It really pegs a problem I could never quite articulate about Ten, one that really frustrated me and kept me from jumping wholeheartedly on the Ten bandwagon.

I think that I really had hoped that Nine's journey might have cured Ten of those dangerous binaries, but you're right- those false dichotomies were devastating. I love that this ep was hopefully a kick in the pants to Eleven that the POINT of being the Doctor is to find the better way.
tempestsarekind: bananas are goodtempestsarekind on April 13th, 2010 03:31 pm (UTC)
Bowtie!

The journey from Nine to Ten is really peculiar; it *seems* like that's the direction the story should go in, that Nine's journey allows Ten to let go of the Time War, but it's spectacularly not what happened!

the POINT of being the Doctor is to find the better way

Yes, this. I hope so too.
Emily-- Toppington von Monocle: tardis [doctor who]sadcypress on April 13th, 2010 03:48 pm (UTC)
bowties are cool!
I remember being SO DAMN HAPPY when I saw Ten sitting down to Christmas dinner with Rose and her mother. It seemed like SUCH an obvious gesture that with this regeneration, the man who was Nine now could 'do domestic.' It was an idea that had been set up as an impossibility for Nine that he overcame as Ten.

It had seemed at the time that the whole journey of Nine was to take him from someone who pressed the button and destroyed two civilizations to someone who knew better than to make that choice again. When he saved TARDIS!Rose, it was SUCH a powerful act of sacrifice that was also a fulfillment- he could take that step that cemented just how far he had come from the button pusher. It was a moment about finding peace- he had stepped back from being the destroyer of worlds again and could save his best friend's life. I don't think he could have done either of those things when we first met him. That was a season dedicated to showing a man who survived by committing an act of genocide and how he was able to find meaning and joy again. Do normal people walk away from that act? Hell no. But this was TV, and a show that's written with children in mind. When Nine dies with a smile on his face, we take that as a sign that he found peace, that the scars of the Time War were just that- scars, a part of him but not something that defined him anymore.

So yeah- we come into Ten thinking, yes. It was terrible to lose Nine so early, but Nine's sacrifice was the final step of his journey back from the button.

AND THEN. Ten becomes so much about buttons- those either/or choices that destroy, one chance and then no mercy. To me, it takes SO much away from Nine and that HURTS- Nine is so very much my Doctor.
Re: bowties are cool! - tempestsarekind on April 13th, 2010 04:24 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: bowties are cool! - neadods on April 13th, 2010 05:31 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: bowties are cool! - tempestsarekind on April 13th, 2010 05:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: bowties are cool! - neadods on April 13th, 2010 11:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: bowties are cool! - tempestsarekind on April 13th, 2010 11:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: bowties are cool! - neadods on April 14th, 2010 02:11 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: bowties are cool! - tempestsarekind on April 14th, 2010 03:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: bowties are cool! - neadods on April 15th, 2010 12:27 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: bowties are cool! - tempestsarekind on April 15th, 2010 03:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: bowties are cool! - neadods on April 13th, 2010 05:32 pm (UTC) (Expand)
viomisehuntviomisehunt on April 13th, 2010 05:37 am (UTC)
Fascinating thoughts, especially:

"And Eleven looks to be about to trap himself in that same logic: he's seeing himself only as the man who has to make the hard choices, not the man who provides another way."

What was scarier about Ten -- and frankly made him unattractive-- is his certainty that his choices are "The Way", and that he actually bought into the Time Lord myth that the Classic Doctors rebelled against. For me the moment was with Harriet Jones. At that point of Ten's developement you can see this dark, uncompromising, aspect of his personality. Ten had a great deal of power, and not one ounce of the kind of mercy one needs when dealing with other fallible beings. Amy sounds like a mixture of the best qualities of the companions who came before her. I'm looking forward to seeing her debut in the USA this Saturday.
tempestsarekind: ten is a bookwormtempestsarekind on April 13th, 2010 03:35 pm (UTC)
Oh, YES. Ten always reminds me of a line from Measure for Measure: "It is excellent to have a giant's strength, but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant." Time and time again he cites himself as the highest authority, and you're right--that's tons scarier than RTD's Master, but it's never really explored.
Emily-- Toppington von Monocle: procrastination nation [doctor who]sadcypress on April 13th, 2010 03:52 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry, but I LOVE that you took it to M4M. :D (it's so true)

It's such a pity that we got a season of specials. When the Doctor turned SO dark, he did so for what- ten minutes? It would have been SO fascinating for the show to explore just how dark this Doctor had become, and it ended up being a wasted opportunity.

I mean, true. Kids' show. BUT STILL. It could have been AMAZING, and I would have loved to see Tennant do it.
(no subject) - tempestsarekind on April 13th, 2010 04:29 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - sadcypress on April 13th, 2010 06:15 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tempestsarekind on April 13th, 2010 06:29 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Edited reply - viomisehunt on April 14th, 2010 05:34 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Edited reply - tempestsarekind on April 14th, 2010 07:06 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Constant Reader: doctor who - emoskirmish_of_wit on April 13th, 2010 10:43 pm (UTC)
I imagine that the incarnation of the Doctor that turns into the Valeyard owes quite a lot to Ten.
(no subject) - tempestsarekind on April 13th, 2010 10:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
stoplookingup: eleven amy applestoplookingup on April 13th, 2010 08:49 pm (UTC)
Very well put.

This reminds me of how early studies about personal morality concluded that women were less moral than men, because the studies themselves were based on binary questions: If your kid is dying and you can't afford life-saving medicine, should you steal the medicine or let your kid die? The right answer was meant to be "steal the medicine," but they found that women taking these tests often tried to come up with a neither-A-nor-B third answer that worked around both moral dilemmas - like, explain the problem to the pharmacist and see if you can work out a compromise.

If you look at it that way, Ten is very traditionally masculine in seeing problems in a binary way, and Amy is leading the Doctor away from that.
tempestsarekind: martha at the globetempestsarekind on April 13th, 2010 08:54 pm (UTC)
That's so interesting! A little depressing that the conclusion was "women are less moral," but it just goes to show that questions really matter in a survey!

Go Amy! Fewer binaries would be a lovely thing.
(no subject) - stoplookingup on April 13th, 2010 10:23 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tempestsarekind on April 13th, 2010 10:29 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Constant Reader: doctor who - rainbow tardisskirmish_of_wit on April 13th, 2010 10:50 pm (UTC)
Amy, who has been thinking about Eleven for far longer than he's been thinking about himself, who can see a different option, a different man, and can act accordingly

Oooh, yes. I've seen some people being frustrated that Amy's already acting like Eleven's best friend (one person made a really interesting post based on the idea that "The Beast Below" is actually two episodes, one of which should have featured Ten and Donna) but I think this makes a lot of sense.

It's weird to me to be so excited about Doctor Who even without David Tennant. I expected to lose interest, I guess since Ten without Tennant would have been unbearable? I am so delighted that Eleven's starting out better!
tempestsarekind: ten and marthatempestsarekind on April 13th, 2010 10:59 pm (UTC)
Ten without Tennant would have been unbearable

Heavens, yes. Though I was wondering how I'd react to Eleven, too: for all that RTD frequently drove me up a wall with the Last of the Time Lords stuff, Ten was my Doctor. But so far I'm really pleased.

And Amy--I guess I can see that point of view, from an episode-by-episode standpoint, but Amy *hasn't* just known the Doctor for two episodes. She's known him most of her life. She's made toys of him, had pretend adventures with him, probably written stories about him...and defended him to the point of biting people! I think she's earned a bit of insight. :) (Though I would be interested to see whether her imagined Doctor ever clashes with the Doctor in front of her.)