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25 November 2013 @ 08:20 am
The Day of the Doctor  
I’ll admit it: I wasn’t particularly excited for “The Day of the Doctor.” I wasn’t excited about having Ten and Rose back without any of the other companions, and I wasn’t excited about the “War Doctor” and the fact that telling a story with him pretty much meant that it was going to be a Time War story – the Time War being a thing I’ve never been especially interested in, because it’s a part of the tragic weight that made less and less sense as Russell Who progressed. And particularly at a point when one wants to celebrate the show as a whole, all fifty years of it, I didn’t like the idea of fixating on this – well, this tear in the fabric of the conceit of the show, the thing that got the “Lonely God” ball rolling, the thing that Moffat had seemed to be dancing so hard to work around and partially repair: giving the lonely Doctor a family and even a wife; having Oswin erase the memory of the Doctor from the Daleks, so that he was no longer the Predator or the Oncoming Storm. Why take us back to all that?

The answer, of course, is to fix it. (And here’s where I don’t think big enough, because I never thought he’d do it.) He took the ultimate cry of nullity – no more – and turned it into presence: well played, sir. And in retrospect, Moffat has been playing a long game (or at least he's very good at looking like he has been): time can be rewritten; if something can be remembered, it can come back. All the way back to season 5: we’ve been watching these smaller rewritings in preparation for the big one, for the possibility of the return of Gallifrey. And of course it’s Eleven who changes his mind, because it’s Eleven who really believes in that possibility of time travel (“Time mends us. It can mend anything”); because he’s the madman, the trickster, rather than the Lonely God, and he cheats death rather than shouldering its burden; because those extra four hundred years have kept the calculations going and given him the possibility of grace. And because – unlike the War Doctor, who takes the Moment so far out into the desert that even the TARDIS can’t see him; unlike Ten who is at this point traveling on his own – Eleven brings Clara along, and she serves as witness (and as conscience, the way the Moment does). Here’s another rewriting: “I think sometimes you need someone to stop you.” I’d say that more precisely, in Moffat Who, it’s “sometimes you need someone to remind you.” In Moffat Who, the companion doesn’t pull the Doctor back after he’s already done the terrible thing; the companion stops him by reminding him of who he is, and that there’s always another way. Which is another aspect of the long game, all the way back to “The Beast Below” – it’s practically the same setup: kill a starwhale to save thousands; kill a planet to save the universe. And it’s the memory of children that stops it, both times; and both times it’s the companion seeing the third option that the Doctor, maker of hard choices, cannot see. Both times the Doctor is ready to throw away his name as punishment for his crime, and both times the companion says – no. Be a doctor. This is who you are. Which is another reason that it makes sense that it’s Eleven who changes his mind: he’s had four hundred years to grow reaccustomed to hope.

So that’s the meta-angle, all the What It Means for the overarching mythology of the show – but what about the episode as an episode? I thought it was very tightly plotted, especially considering that it was basically two episodes in one (Zygon invasion and Time War story). The guest cast was quite strong, and while I’m never going to be pleased about the whole Queen Elizabeth thing, I did like her cleverness in turning the Zygons’ plan against them by pretending to be one of them. I liked Osgood and her scarf (I had to have this pointed out to me, because I’d already slotted the scarf into the category of “in-joke” well before the end of the episode came around, but I suppose she actually got the scarf from the Doctor, without knowing it?) And Kate Stewart was a treat to see again. In Doctor news, Eleven being all judgey of Ten warmed the cockles of my little heart. (How had I forgotten how annoying Ten could be? I mean, I know “rude and not ginger” is his thing and all, but ugh, it does not make him fun to be around sometimes. And so grandstandy, my word: so quick to pass judgment on Eleven for “forgetting” – which Eleven never actually said, by the way – as though figuring out a way to live with your pain is a terrible thing; as though four hundred years later he should still be mired in grief and guilt and unable even to see past them. Making your pain a virtue – that’s Ten’s thing, not Eleven’s, and I can understand that Ten thinks that moving on is the same thing as forgetting – he’s still too close to it all, and punishing himself for things rather than grieving for them is part of Ten’s modus operandi – but I’m so glad not to still be watching that show.) Seeing the two Doctors together really brought it home to me: sorry Ten, but Eleven is my beloved space idiot; you just can’t compete. (This is honestly no reflection on David Tennant, whom you know I love, and who was perfectly Ten in this episode. It’s not his fault that I fell out of love with the character as the seasons went on.) (Also, Matt fairly broke my heart in the smallest of moments: that little hesitation before stretching his hand out fully to cover the “big red button,” that reticence he often has before touching another person in a fraught moment; the little-boy sadness and compassion in his face when he says “You don’t have to do it alone”; the way he offers himself up meekly, even pleadingly, to Clara’s tearful critique, no bluster at all in his “And who am I?”) (Jenna did a lovely job in that scene, too: I find Clara a little frustrating, because Jenna absolutely sells me on how much Clara cares about the Doctor, but I don’t feel like I’ve really been shown why. But her heartbreak for “her” Doctor was very touching.)

I thought Billie Piper – whom I really hadn’t wanted to see back, through no fault of her own, just not wanting to see Ten and Rose again when I’ve long thought they brought out the worst in each other – was wonderful as the Moment, a bit bonkers and a lot kind, full of gravity and humor and fondness. (Her face at “Same software, different face”! She’s so pleased! And it’s just what the War Doctor needs at that moment, when he declares that he doesn’t know either of the two men before him: to be reminded that the surface might have changed, but not the essentials.) And I quite liked the concept of a weapon with a conscience, one who grows to care about the Doctor. (Yeah, I got a lump in my throat at the bit about the TARDIS noise bringing hope to anyone who hears it – and I loved that the Moment stayed the War Doctor’s hand for just a bit, so that he could hear it for himself.) The episode looked lovely as well, full of expansive location shots, but there was still lots of room for quiet, meaningful conversations between various characters. (I loved the move from the violence of the Time War to the “violence” of a sugar cube splashing into a cup of tea – lovely shot, and a perfect summary of how this show operates.) And I don’t even know what to say about the ending except eeeeeeeee.
 
 
 
Emily-- Toppington von Monocle: eleven/tardis otp [doctor who]sadcypress on November 25th, 2013 05:55 pm (UTC)
Yes. Yes. Yes. You and your Doctor Who posts are always the best. :)
tempestsarekind: clara and eleven and shardstempestsarekind on November 25th, 2013 06:10 pm (UTC)
Aw, thank you, dear! That's so nice of you to say. :)
Emily-- Toppington von Monocle: eleven [doctor who]sadcypress on November 25th, 2013 06:19 pm (UTC)
One of the things I liked so much about the special was how so often, you see that the story is trying to make a meta gesture. Moffat knows how beloved Rose is, but he doesn't necessarily want ROSE back... so he brings in Billie and does something just lovely with her in a way that leaves Rose alone. It's transparent... but it still WORKS so beautifully in the story.

And then there's Tom Baker. It makes ZERO SENSE to have him there, but the loveliness of having the icon of Classic Who (sorry, other Doctors, but it's still Baker who dominates that landscape) there to be kind and twinkle at New Who makes it worthwhile. It's batty, I have no idea what I'm supposed to make of it, but it DOESN'T MATTER.
tempestsarekind: eleven is awkwardtempestsarekind on November 25th, 2013 07:59 pm (UTC)
I'm invoking the "cheap tricks" rule from "Smith and Jones" re: Tom Baker. Don't ask me how he'd aged, but oh well! It was still awesome!

And yes - I can't imagine a good story with Rose - she's already come back so much for someone trapped in a parallel universe! - but bringing Billie back as the interface, which acknowledges that Rose means a lot to the Doctor but allows Moffat to do something new and interesting, was a lovely move.
Enlevéenleve on December 13th, 2013 06:47 am (UTC)
I felt many of the same things watching it. And I loved the Adventure In Space And Time biopic too.

I'm glad the Doctor did something different than mass murder his own people. That part of the backstory of his character doesn't sit right.

I loved the title of the painting at the end. Clever.
tempestsarekind: brighter than sunflowerstempestsarekind on December 13th, 2013 06:46 pm (UTC)
I haven't seen An Adventure in Space and Time yet, but I've heard good things!

It started to feel to me like the whole Time War thing was about trying to make the Doctor a different kind of hero than he is - an angst-ridden tragic figure, rather than…well, a guy who goes traveling around through space and time, getting into trouble and solving problems. And I think that fundamentally, he's really a comic hero, not a tragic one. So I'm not upset about the idea that this undoes Nine's arc or what have you, even though I can see why that might bother people.
Enlevéenleve on December 13th, 2013 11:15 pm (UTC)
An Adventure in Space and Time is lovely. You have a treat to look forward to.

Yes, I like the Doctor more this way than as the angst-ridden tragic figure.

I don't think it undoes Nine's arc really. After all, thinking that he did terrible things that he didn't is its own kind of tragedy. But yes, I can see how some people might prefer that version, and not want the revised version.
tempestsarekind: bananas are goodtempestsarekind on December 16th, 2013 06:47 pm (UTC)
Oh good!

Personally, I am glad if the Doctor no longer has to bear the burden of having killed his people, even if Nine still thinks he did (I'm fuzzy on whether or not that's the case), but to each her own!