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03 January 2011 @ 07:18 pm
belated "A Christmas Carol" meta  
Okay, two-quotes-next-to-each-other time (one quote is a spoiler for the Christmas special):

1. Baines/Son-of-Mine, in "Family of Blood":
"He never raised his voice. That was the worst thing. The fury of the Time Lord. And then we discovered why. Why this Doctor, who had fought with gods and demons, why he'd run away from us and hidden--he was being kind."

2. Amy, in "A Christmas Carol" (to Kazran Sardick):
"He was trying to make you a better person. He was trying to do it nicely."

Oh, Doctor. I watched a little bit of the Christmas special again today--not the whole thing, just bits--and Amy's line there really struck me, this time around. Despite all the (real, proper) snow and the sleigh rides on sharks and the singing, there's a surprisingly dark-and-creepy core to the special. Which makes sense, I suppose, since I've read since that Moffat borrowed the idea from a pretty dark story he wrote about the Doctor manipulating and rewriting someone's life in order to get what he needed. What I noticed this time is that that darkness is muted, perhaps, but it's not overlooked: it's still there, lurking in Kazran's protests about the Doctor's actions (the way he refers to his other life as his "real" one, or tells Amy that the Doctor has changed Kazran's life to suit his own needs), and in Amy's inadvertent reminder to us that the Doctor, regardless of how he twirls and grins and rubs noses with snowmen (bless), always has another side--and sometimes he has to use it. It's incredibly screwed up, in a way, that rewriting a man's life is the nice version--but it makes sense, too, because it's not just about Kazran, it's about what the Doctor could have done to him, but didn't. The Doctor, playing Father Christmas, tries to save Kazran, but he's also saving himself.

Perversely, though, the Doctor's actions mean that Kazran's refusal to save the people on the ship actually makes more sense, not less, than his initial refusal. Then, he was just being callous; now, it's clear that part of what he's reacting to, blindly, is anything to do with the Doctor. He hates those adventures, the fact that the Doctor caused him to meet Abigail; he tosses them away in a drawer, with the sonic screwdriver and the souvenirs of all the places they went to, and he shuts his heart the harder for its having been opened once. And the Doctor blunders through the entire episode--utterly sure that he's doing the right thing, and getting it all wrong. If the people on that ship have to die so that Kazran can prove that the Doctor can't rewrite him--and he tells Amy to tell the Doctor that, in pride and spite--then that's what will happen.

Which is why it takes the child, still open, still in flux--the child who still loves the Doctor, not the man who hates and resents him--to show Kazran just how far he's fallen. Kazran's absolutely right; showing him his own future wouldn't have changed anything, because he anticipates it, almost relishes it, in a way: "I'm going to die cold and scared and alone. Everyone does." See? I always knew it would come to this. But the little boy, seeing the man he will become, and unable to recognize himself in that man--only able, disbelieving, to see him as the cruel father he knows--can change things. (Though that change ultimately--and utterly--defeats the Doctor's plan, since Kazran can no longer work the controls. There's a flaw built into the plan the whole time, and the Doctor misses it. And I love that--that fallibility.)
viomisehuntviomisehunt on January 4th, 2011 06:54 am (UTC)
In Human Nature the Doctor messes up royally. He was being kind but the hapless village was destroyed, people, two families we know for sure lost their lives.

But yeah, the Christmas special was entirely different. He wanted to bring a frighten little boy hope and joy, so he wouldn't grow up bitter and indifferent, and he ends putting things into motion where the man has to make a sacrifice. I don't know if the "Doctor" still didn't quite get it. Maybe he wouldn't have tired to change things quite that way, but it was too late to go back.
tempestsarekind: eleven is awkwardtempestsarekind on January 4th, 2011 11:49 pm (UTC)
Yes--one of the things that I love about the Doctor is that even with the best of intentions, he can still be wrong and make a mistake. I'm not always pleased with how that gets handled, but so far I'm pleasantly on-board with Eleven's tendency to admit mistakes and apologize for them. (I was just watching "The Time of Angels" yesterday and loved Eleven's apology to the bishop when he realized that he'd led them all into danger.)
harder, harder, hardest; i am the artist: dr who -- eleven | jumperradiantbaby on January 6th, 2011 12:00 am (UTC)
I've actually had that old Moffat story ('Continuity Errors' -- you can read it here) open in a tab for days now to read. I really can't wait to get to it! :)

I have to admit, I actually like the whole dark!Doctor-manipulating-someones-life angle of 'A Christmas Carol'. Yeah, it's not pretty, but it's interesting to me. Maybe it's my love for the Seventh Doctor's era showing, but I think that is such an intriguing side of the Doctor's character -- manipulating things for what he thinks is right and, then in some cases, royally screwing it up despite his good intentions.

(Maybe that's why I adore the super-dark Ten/Martha fanfic by ionlylurkhere called 'The Game of Making'. I love the idea of the Doctor manipulating someone for his own ends, even if, in the case of this fic, it might only be mostly all in Martha's mind. I think he always has good intentions -- at least in his mind -- when he embarks on such a thing, but it's interesting to watch how it can unfold for him in varying circumstances.)
tempestsarekind: eleven and amytempestsarekind on January 7th, 2011 01:28 am (UTC)
Ooh, thanks for the links!

Evil characters being manipulative actually does very little for me, but good characters being manipulative apparently hits a very specific button of mine. Maybe because I expect evil and manipulation to go together more naturally, so there's so much more of a tangle to unpick with good characters.
harder, harder, hardest; i am the artist: dr who -- timelord-y ten/DTradiantbaby on January 7th, 2011 12:15 pm (UTC)
I think that's what it is for me, too. Evil characters being manipulative is a bit cliche, but good ones? That's where things can get really interesting.

Like with the Doctor, he generally thinks he's doing The Right Thing when being manipulative, but, in actuality, he's operating from a different sort of morality a lot of the time (which sort of gives him his 'morally grey' moments). Does that make him wrong or right? Is it more complex than that? I love that stuff.
tempestsarekind: world in peril? have some teatempestsarekind on January 7th, 2011 06:39 pm (UTC)
Yes--if an evil character is being manipulative, presumably there are few if any boundaries he won't cross, so it's not as exciting. But a good character being manipulative is using a particular moral code (possibly of his own devising, but still), and so it's interesting to see how that plays out, how he keeps making the manipulation accord with that code.
clean all the things!!!: fantastic rory funny rory gorgeous rory thepresidentrix on January 6th, 2011 05:10 am (UTC)
Now that you mention it, the doctor's agenda really does make his interference in Kazran's life kind of creepy. But I remember hearing that line of Amy's and thinking only, 'Amy, noooo! Don't put it that way! It sounds so manipulative!'

Without, that is, really registering that it sounds that way only because it's true. Apparently I have a high threshold for manipulation!

Then again, maybe I've been reading Plato too long, but I'm still not really all that troubled by the way the Doctor messes with Kazran. For one thing, somebody actually showing up on the night you learned that 'nobody comes,' isn't all that awful of a way to come 4004th - which is what the Doctor openly warned Kazran would be happening. Second - and this is where the Plato comes in - being a rotten old man isn't good for the old man Kazran and it isn't good for the little boy Kazran, either. All that selfishness, we might say, harms the soul. It's a really interesting thing Kazran says, to be sure, when he calls the original timeline his 'real life,' but I guess I just can't embrace the idea that there's something essential or proper to his person in growing up to be a buttmunch. (Not that this was your point; I'm just wondering aloud to myself about why it doesn't bother me too badly).

Of course, the Doctor doesn't and shouldn't get credit for *selflessly* or *indifferently* interfering just because children are crying - not this time - but trying to change a bad man's outlook with some overarching goal in mind simultaneously? Well, Kant has a problem with it, but I'm not sure I do...

The Doctor's interference in Abigail's life, on the other hand, might trouble me more, but I just don't quiiiite buy into a couple of moments from that part of the story, which redirects my critical impulses away from asking what the Doctor ought or ought not to have done and toward whether I believe he'd really have done it like that at all.

Like, the bit where the Doctor is fussing about Marilyn Monroe while the two of them are kissing, and then he can't figure out why Kazran suddenly shuts him down? It's important, of course, that Abigail herself can object to their Christmas Eve arrangement at any point, and doesn't. But I would *TOTALLY* be peeved at the Doctor anyway for not noticing/anticipating Abigail's situation if I actually bought that he didn't - or wouldn't. I mean, he had already asked her, all serious-like, whether she needed a doctor. And he knew that she dodged his question. Frankly, I think the only reason he doesn't know exactly what's going on with her is that the arc of the story requires him not to know until it's too late. This doesn't dampen my enthusiasm for the program, overall, but I do think it's a little cheap.

I'm not sure I'm making any sense at all, LOL. I may look at this comment later and have no idea what I was trying to get at...

Anyhoo, main point: you definitely bring up an angle on the Christmas special I hadn't really examined or taken seriously before.
tempestsarekind: rory and amytempestsarekind on January 7th, 2011 01:42 am (UTC)
Yes, and everything you bring up regarding Kazran is what I find so interesting about the episode. Is it possible to be both manipulative and kind? It's easy to consign manipulation to the negative camp, but the Doctor is trying to rescue a crying child--and save a ship full of people. What interests me so much is the fact that he seems to think it's all sort of simple and open and straightforward--rescue the child, change the man, save the day, happy Christmas--and it keeps getting more fraught and complicated, underneath.

Re: Abigail. I'm a little bit of two minds about it. I agree with you that there's a sort of element of necessary blindness going on, so the story will work; at the same time, I think it makes sense to me that Eleven, in particular, stores up the right information but then gets distracted by some other shiny thing in his path, so that he just forgets the thing he noticed until it's too late. (I'm thinking of that scene in "The Eleventh Hour" where he suddenly stops and realizes that he saw Rory taking pictures of Prisoner Zero; it takes his brain a while to process what he's taken in.) So it might have been possible to mitigate that sense just by having the Doctor say that he noticed it but then put it aside.

But yes--it does feel, as written, that the Doctor just doesn't know Abigail is dying because she "has to" die at the end, because Doctor Who is equal parts "everybody lives" and "everything has its time, and everything ends," and even the Doctor can't rescue everyone from everything. Which I like, thematically; but it is a problem--why doesn't he just take her to a hospital on some other planet or something?