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21 May 2013 @ 04:00 pm
thinking about The Name of the Doctor  
This has been a half-season of disintegration and reintegration, and Clara bookends it by bringing the Doctor back to himself: it's when Victorian Clara forces the Doctor to help her that he discovers that he's managed, without even thinking about it, to put on his bowtie after its long absence*; and it's modern Clara who, in scattering herself across time and space, gathers the Doctor back together. In "The Bells of Saint John," Clara gets uploaded and then downloaded/made whole again. Key to "The Rings of Akhaten" is the Story of Merry - how the universe expanded and contracted, how particles joined, to make every person - and the Story of Clara, in which every particle of her parents' histories had to come together in just one way to make Clara Oswald. "Hide" is a ghost story in which the "ghost" is a time traveler echoing backwards through time, one fragment at a time (which foreshadows Clara's act in "The Name of the Doctor"). "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS": bodies disintegrating, timelines fragmenting backwards and forwards, the heart of the TARDIS splintering into silver shards, in a frozen explosion. "Nightmare in Silver," the Doctor playing chess against himself, reading his own thoughts. And of course, the finale.

What I haven't figured out yet - and maybe this won't make sense until we know who or what John Hurt is - is why the season is also so intent on making the Doctor a monster, from "Every lonely monster needs a companion" to the explicit labeling of him as such in "The Crimson Horror," to the monster literally inside him in "Nightmare in Silver." (And oh, I wanted to write about that, and how wonderful Matt Smith's performance is there, because he creates a very sharp separation between the Doctor and "Mister Clever," but not by creating a totally separate character, which would have been easier, although more generic; the way that he does it is by playing parts of the Eleventh Doctor *as* evil. So much of what we love about Eleven is still there in the Cyber-controller, the babble and the twirling; even the name "Mister Clever" harks back to Eleven's penchant for accidentally giving himself ridiculous titles ["Call me the Rotmeister - no, I'm the Doctor, don't call me the Rotmeister" (The Lodger); "I'm the King of Okay - oh, that's a rubbish title; forget that title" (The Impossible Astronaut)]. But it's all twisted around and made...not just threatening, because Eleven can be threatening when he needs to be, but cold and smug and mean. What's missing is his delight, his daffy joy [the delight in his face when Clara slaps him, because she got it right, and knew he wasn't himself, is darling], his ability to be wounded or care. The Cyber-controller becomes a monster and a mirror.)

And central to that is forcing Clara to confront who the Doctor is: is he the kind of man who has zombie creatures aboard his spaceship, or isn't he? Who is it that's looking out from his eyes right now - the Doctor, or a Cyber-imitation? Can she trust him, or not? Who is he? ("Trust me, Clara - I'm real!" he says in "The Name of the Doctor" [we've heard him say the first part of that sentence so many times - "Trust me" - but it's usually his name that follows; strange that it doesn't, here, when his name is foregrounded over and over again in this episode], and also that his real name doesn't matter; what matters, always, is what he chooses to be, what he promises to be.) I'm fascinated to see whether this will continue to play out next season.

*Which is also how we know he's beaten the Cyber-controller, with that cocky straightening of the bowtie at the end. Oh, you ridiculous darling Time Lord.
litlover12 on May 22nd, 2013 02:12 pm (UTC)
"What I haven't figured out yet - and maybe this won't make sense until we know who or what John Hurt is - is why the season is also so intent on making the Doctor a monster."

I keep wondering about that myself.
tempestsarekind: eleven wears a fez nowtempestsarekind on May 24th, 2013 03:00 pm (UTC)
It's so odd - but too consistent to be random! I guess the question is whether it will actually mean something specific, or whether it's just a timely reminder: maybe after Amy, Eleven is less of a madman with a box and more of a monster with a spaceship?