Sunday, May 01, 2011

"Doctor Who" thoughts

We're two episodes into the new season of Doctor Who and I'm having thoughts. I haven't written about the show in a long time, so please indulge me.

Honestly, I'm conflicted. I really liked many things about the first two episodes; the Silence are good monsters, although - as others have pointed out - many aspects of who they are aren't exactly original. Loved Canton Delaware (and Mark Sheppard, who is apparently required to be in every show I watch) and the reveal at the end, although a little too easy, made me laugh. I also dug the "Welcome to America" moment, although I disapprove of violence being the go-to solution on this particular show.

Which brings me to the "gunfight" at the end, of which I am very much of two minds. First, it gave River a very awesome, kick ass moment. Second, it fit with the Western feel that the episodes seemed to be going for; while neither really had the structure of a traditional Western, the setting and some of the ideas were there, so the end worked on that basis. On the other hand, I don't think violence has never been suggested as the solution to any problem on Doctor Who before. Not only do we have the gunfight at the end, but we have the Doctor planting the idea in everyone's head that the Silence must be killed. It seems very, very much not something the Doctor would do.

River Song is, of course, my biggest area of conflict. In many ways, I really like the character; she's brash and confident and takes no prisoners. Her cockiness sometimes annoys me, but as we've spent more time with her and understand her better, I find it less of a problem. My big issue is the romance with the Doctor.

I was more or less fine with the Doctor/Rose romance in the first two seasons because it was mostly subtle; there was obvious affection there, but most of the time it was an undercurrent rather than text. The thing I hated most about season three was Martha's obvious crush on the Doctor. It felt like we'd already done the romance thing and it was time to move on. It also really weakened Martha as a character to me; I liked her far better in later episodes when she seemed to have moved on. Jack also pretty clearly had a crush on the Doctor, but it never seemed to get in the way. One of the best things about Donna was that she didn't have a crush on the Doctor and we could see how much they loved each other without the romance being an issue. That, to me, was so much better.

To some degree, yes of course every companion is going to love the Doctor in some way. Being selected as one of the few people who get to travel with him; seeing amazing, wondrous, unbelievable things; and being, to a large extent, the focus of this incredible person's attention must be intoxicating. He's amazing and he thinks you are amazing - what could be better? But, for me, the romance angle takes it too far.

Everyone gushed about how amazing "The Girl in the Fireplace" was, and I liked it a lot - except for the romance element. I'm pretty sure that would have annoyed me even if we hadn't been in the middle of the Doctor/Rose thing. And it's not that I feel like Rose was the Doctor's one great love; aside from the fact that in 900 years one would assume he'd loved other people, I was never that invested in their romance, although, as I said, I didn't have a problem with it. You could also argue that Ten loved Rose, and the current Doctor - Eleven - is in many real ways a completely different person, so it would make sense that his feelings are different.

My bigger problem is with the forwarding of the romance as a key part of the text. I really didn't like Amy aggressively hitting on the Doctor last season, even leaving aside the fact that she was engaged to Rory. The relationship with River has clearly been positioned as a relationship, not a flirtation or something else. I tried to come up with alternative ways they could know each other after "Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead," but any suggestion of something else has been pretty thoroughly squashed at this point. And to me, that's not what Doctor Who is about, and not what the Doctor is about.

I do like the tragedy of their relationship, however. I just rewatched "Silence/Forest" this morning to see if I can see the sadness in River, given what we know about how their timelines match up. You can see it, although it's perhaps not as obvious as I would have hoped. Of course, by this time she no doubt knows that they are near the end of the relationship. We have to assume that there was a meeting with Ten that we never saw; River mentions that he showed up with a "new haircut" - by which we have to assume face, I think. We know that the majority of her interaction we know will (likely) be with Eleven, and although she doesn't know that, she does know that Eleven didn't know her that well when they meet in "The Time of Angels."

So, yeah, conflicted. I think I'm growing to like her more the longer she's around, but I'm a little concerned because the more time passes, the more romance we're going to get. They are both moving toward that tipping point, where they've known each other for about equal amounts of time and, presumably, their feelings are roughly equal. I'm not sure how I'll feel about things then.

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