Doctor Who: So what was it all about?

First, and most important: many thanks to Billie for inviting me to be a guest blogger.

Warning: this contains spoilers for most of the Doctor Who Ninth Doctor episodes, including the finale Bad Wolf/The Parting Of The Ways.

The first new Doctor Who season's just ended (in the US, at least). And it was a biggie. You don't revive a 42-year-old franchise without it being a biggie. So after the big finale, what do we know about the man the series is named after? Just who (excuse the pun) is the Doctor that left so soon?

All season long, the Doctor hasn't been the man long-term fans used to know. He hasn't been the guy you can rely on - instead, he's frequently been the most dangerous person to be standing next to. He's bitter. He's broken. He never has a plan. He says sorry, all the time. He might save the day, but don't count on it: chances are it'll be someone else who has to step up to the plate.

At first glance, "Bad Wolf/Parting Of The Ways" looks like more of the same. In some ways, it is more of the same. Billions of humans are dying and/or hoovered up to become baby Daleks. So what's the Doctor going to do about it?

True to form, he doesn't have a plan. Theoretically, it's possible that he has Plan B tucked up his sleeve and was interrupted before he could swing into action, but in practice, that ain't gonna fly. You only have to look at his face to know he's got nothin'. It's up to Rose to do the galloping up on a white horse.

So just what kind of limp lettuce leaf is this guy, anyway? After all, take a look at his track record: in "Rose", Rose has to save the world from the Nestene Consciousness. In "The End Of The World", it's Tree Girl who makes the hard decision to die for the cause. In "The Unquiet Dead:, it's Gwyneth who chooses to die. In "World War Three" the Doctor gets to duck the decision whether to risk Rose's life as Rose decides. In "Dalek", it's true that the Doctor does make the tough decision, trapping Rose with the Dalek in order to save the world - but when he realises Rose is still alive he elects not to do the same thing again, thus cancelling out the first decision. The Doctor's then faced with whether to be as evil as his enemy, but again is spared when Rose makes the decision. In "The Long Game" it's Cathica who chooses to risk her life. In "Father's Day", although admittedly the Doctor sacrifices his own life, that's not enough and it's Rose's Dad who saves the day. In "The Doctor Dances", first Nancy puts herself on the line by acknowledging Jamie as her child, then Jack prepares to sacrifice himself to get the bomb away from Earth. And notoriously, in "Boom Town" the Doctor's faced with a hard decision but never has to make it.

Pretty feeble, eh? Why can't he do something? Can't he get a plan? Can't he get a clue? And when's he going to stop saying sorry?

Well, now we know. "The Parting Of The Ways" suddenly makes it clear that complaining the Doctor's no longer the hero of his own series misses the point entirely. Rose's speech puts the whole series into a new perspective: what this Doctor actually does is much less important than the effect he has on others. Look again at that list: every person on it becomes a hero because of the Doctor's influence. And in the end, that's a lot more important than his personal derring-do. He's only in one place for a short time - but after he leaves, his influence on the people he's met goes on, and it's that which makes the universe a better place.

So the Doctor may be saved by Rose in "The Parting Of The Ways", but that's not simply because he's lost his mojo and somebody has to do it. It's because of his influence on Rose, and because of his influence on Jackie, and because of his influence on Mickey. There's no doubt he's not the same Time Lord he was, but through his influence he's pulling the strings just as much as he ever did.

It all makes sense. Just when we're about to lose him, we finally get what the Ninth Doctor's all about. It's a triumph of writing that pulls together the threads running through all this series and weaves them into a coherent and satisfying conclusion. We might be sad that the Ninth Doctor's gone after so short a time, but it's a good kind of sad.

4 comments:

Scuttlecliff said...

The 9th Doctor's life was all about the isolation and guilt of being a lone survivor. The Doctor is now the last of his kind alone in the universe and the cruel joke is that it was of his own fault. We've never been given any great details about the Time War but from what we've seen and heard it was the Doctor himself who is responsible for the destruction of both the Daleks and the Time Lords. For the Doctor, a man who treasures life above all else, to be responsible for so many deaths is heartbreaking. The Doctor became a wounded sole wondering through time and space all alone in his little blue box. It was only through his relationship with Rose and his love for her that he can begin to feel alive again. It is ironic that only by dying to save her did the Doctor truly begin to live again. Now we have a 10th Doctor so alive with energy and excitement as if his discovered joys of life for the very first time. But dig beneath the surface and we find there is still a lonely immortal traveler fearing the day when he will have to say goodbye to this mortal girl he has come to love. And that day is almost upon him.

shawnlunn2002 said...

Billie I have reviews for the first two seasons of the new Doctor Who on tv.com. Pretty lenghty. This was my fave ep of Season 1.

Ben said...

I assume you write for Androzani.com. This is practically identical to their review lol

Billie Doux said...

The writers at Androzani.com are indeed friends of mine, and one of them posted this review quite awhile back. I have ads for Androzani on a couple of my site pages.