If my mom were to read this post — which she will not — she would undoubtedly tell me I’m “crying before I’m hurt.”
When I first saw this story go up on SciFi Wire, I thought, “Well, it’s SFWire. They get shit wrong all the time. And they’re awful with anything to do with non-American SF/F. Forget it.”
And then I saw it on the Guardian:
“The moment comes in the CBBC spin-off show, The Sarah Jane Adventures, which stars former companion Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith. Matt Smith, who plays the current Doctor Who, guest stars in a two-part episode called The Death of the Doctor, to be screened on October 25 and 26. While the Doctor and Clyde Langer, played by Daniel Anthony, are in the process of outwitting spooky vulture undertakers the Shansheeth, Clyde asks how many times he can regenerate. The Doctor indicates that there is no limit. The action continues.”
Well, as the article says, most of us have been waiting for something like this for quite some time.
Lets face it: the reborn DW has to be one of the most insanely successful franchises on the planet at this point. Far from shoving it off on BBC Wales because they’re sure it will tank, the BBC can’t hug our errant Time Lord any closer to its loving little Auntie Beeb heart. And Russell Davies and Steven Moffat both love their jobs. Not to mention Matt Smith, Elizabeth Sladen, John Barrowman, the camera-men, the publicity assistants, the stunt doubles, the script copiers, the tea lady, and everyone else associated with the not-so-last Gallifreyan. So, not being an entirely stupid person, I knew something like this was coming.
Of course, the problem here is that I haven’t seen the SJA episode in question, so I can’t judge if the Doctor is pulling Clyde’s leg, or if Clyde (who is an excellent human barometer) takes him seriously or not. If it had been said to Sarah Jane — well, that would be a different ball of wibbley-wobbley, timey-wimey stuff. And all of this is information that would help no end in deciding whether or not RTD/SM are honestly planning to take the dear ol’ Doc into baker’s dozen territory.
‘Cause all us old-style fans remember what happens at 13, don’t we folks? Yeah….juicy goodness.
|“He’s still…juicy.” The Master in The Deadly Assassin.|
Now, I don’t know about you, but I have no real desire to see what came before that. Seeing that was traumatizing enough! I still don’t like watching the episode and it horrified me as a child: what could happen that would make someone look like that — and still be alive?
But the malicious power of the Master is not the point here — or perhaps it is because the Master went past 13 and survived. Sort of. He had to squish around Gallifrey looking like that for quite some time, then steal someone else’s body after exploiting their planet’s hospitality rather grotesquely. To say nothing of what happened between Survival and Utopia — some bad shit involving the Time Lords (oh, pardon me while I have a fangirl squee about how awesome it is that Rassilon is a bad guy — oooh, so happy!) evidently.
So if that’s our blueprint for how you have to get past 12 — well — I don’t know.
Personally, I’ve been looking forward to seeing the Doctor die.
Now stop screaming and listen a minute.
My point is not that I want him to die. I’m not subscribed to “fucknothedoctor” blogs on Tumblr; I don’t cast malicious spells on filming days; and I don’t plot to bring down the BBC Wales studios.
I cannot begin to describe to you my absolute delight when I watched “Rose” — and it was amazing. And it is fucking amazing — for all that I bitch about Rose being chav and Martha being damp and why didn’t the Doctor keep Jack and what the hell happened with Donna and why the fuck did— if RTD hadn’t done a fucking fantabulous job rebooting the series, I wouldn’t be able to do any of that. And he did it with rocksolid attention to the tradition — and, more importantly, the feel — of the original series and a love only a diehard fan could muster. I mean — the Macra?! Who the fuck even remembered the Macra, for God’s sake?
And he also did it by throwing certain things out the window. The relationship between the Doctor and his companion had been getting more fraught for several years at the end of the original series. Tom Baker was the last one who really managed to pull off the innocence of the relationship — remarkable, given that he was married to Lalla Ward for several months at one point while she was on the show. With the fourth Doctor and Tegan, it just became harder to pretend this was the same relatively un-charged, friendly relationship it had always been (and I can hear the “What abouts…” and “But don’t you remembers…” lining up; just throw ’em in comments if you’ve got ’em. I’m talking generalizations here.)
RTD very intelligently decided that the pretense had to be over. He may have made it a bit too much text for my taste — I might have liked a tad more subtlety — but I have to admit, it added dimension to the Doctor. I think it also contributed to Eccleston’s decision to leave at the end of season one (for which I will never really forgive him or RTD), but Tennant did marvellous, strange, and beautiful things with it and that was lovely. And they were often about things stopping — things he couldn’t do: couldn’t fix, couldn’t bring back, couldn’t do over.
I think my point here, before I wander too far, is that, if the new series has had one big overarching theme, it seems to be that things end. They stop. And sometimes? You can’t bring them back; you can’t restart them. Rose, Jackie, Mickey, Jack, Donna, the Time War, Midnight, hell, even the cute little Adipose were kind of about how the Doctor can’t fix everything. Not a bad lesson for him to learn.
And, yes, the old series had these elements, too — hello, Logopolis and E-Space; we’re looking right at you! not to mention Susan, pretty much anything to do with the Daleks, or the Master — but the new series has made it a mainstay. And I think part of the need to deal with things ending is the need to deal with the end of the Doctor.
We saw what happened to Tennant in End of Time: he knew he was coming and he was terrified — which is terrifying for the audience! I mean — WTF! The Doctor doesn’t get scared! He gets annoyed, sure, and possibly angry, and then he gets down to it and figures things out, usually with the help of some awesome gadget and our helpful alien-of-the-week. He doesn’t foresee the dissolution of his own personality and freak out about it! No, no–
But that was interesting. Had all the regenerations had that problem before? (Bar, say, third, fourth, and ninth Doctors who were pretty badly injured and probably just thinking, “Ow.”) What does death mean if it never really comes? Or does it just come bit by bit as you remember being another person — but that isn’t you any more? I haven’t seen the new season yet — so don’t for the love of God spoiler it for me! I’ve had a hard enough time dodging spoilers! — but I’d love to think that the 11th Doctor has to deal with a bit of that. Surely he can remember 10’s fear, the way he clung to being himself — doesn’t that leave a mark?
The first time I thought about the possibilities inherent in the new series for RTD to just make the Doctor go on “forever,” I thought, “Great. This can just keep going.”
But, of course, it can’t.
And I don’t want the Doctor to do something ghastly to prolong his regenerations and, from a fan/real world perspective, I don’t want the show to drag on so long it becomes a joke, a ropey parody of itself.
It’s taken me awhile to come to terms with this, as a dedicated fan. I love the episodes where the Doctor fixes everything as much as the next person but…maybe not with this. Perhaps this time — we shouldn’t stretch it out anymore. Maybe this time is about coming out from behind the couch and…having an end.