Appearances to the contrary, I have put aside my Doctor Who obsession and am working on original fiction at the moment. However, in the course of outlining and fleshing out my own work, I often find myself referencing Russell's work. Take for example...a recent flowchart I was constructing around my hero's journey. It gave me some sharp insight into what is truly wrong with the whole "business as usual" attitude of Doctor Who when applied to what we've seen since it returned to our screens in 2005.
Let me explain...
A few of us...maybe many of us...but definitely a few...were disappointed to the core by what the Doctor did to Rose and Donna at the end of Journey's End. Yes, we were Rose fans or Donna fans for the most part...and we couldn't believe THEIR journey's would end so meaninglessly. However, as I have been saying, the real issue, for the future of the show...is that the Doctor's future is now pointless. And my prediction about that is playing out in Humperdinck fashion...as we see the Doctor now as an aimless drifter who can never be happy for long.
Flawed heroes earn our forgiveness by growing and changing.
In the beginning...the Doctor didn't fundamentally change...but then...he was NOT a flawed hero. He was a wise elder archtype. Sure, he had a little anarchy in his soul...but he wasn't a tormented guy. He swooped in to save the day with a song on his lips and a glint in his eye and everyone thought he was a "splendid chap."
Now, the Doctor is troubled, flawed, lonely and needy. He wanted to love Sarah Jane, but didn't dare...because...he tells us...it would have been far too painful to watch her wither and die. He craves a normal life and "Forever" with Rose Tyler, but feels he "cannot" have those things. He is tormented by his sins and, yet, continues to punish others and himself, driving anyone who would care for him away. Yet, while giving us all of this depth and emotional baggage, RTD appears to cling to the idea that the Doctor is still a child-like wanderer, happy to be experiencing new things, someone the young audience will look up to and admire. But the Doctor as he stands is a being who lives in the moment because he knows that's all we really have, a few stolen moments before it all ends in pain and suffering. Only...he doesn't quite LIVE in the moment...he runs away from it, avoiding any messy reality...unless it is punishing him somehow.
The problem with this attitude of avoidance is that it is antagonist behavior...not protagonist behavior. The audience can certainly sympathize with a well-drawn villian, feel his pain and understand why he makes his twisted decisions. We all can relate to the Doctor being afraid to face Rose Tyler and Donna Noble dying. We understand that he will have to face the loneliness of losing Rose if he goes to her, of watching their kids age and die...and we understand that he will have to face that over and over again if he decides to accept the limitation of being "the last of his kind." We know that the work he does is very vital to the universe and he must, in a few decades, put the desire for the normal life behind him and return to the fray.
David Tennant and RTD both dance around the concept of dancing, of the Doctor truly giving in to his needs. How much does the Doctor feel for Rose...how much of a normal life could he give her. Is she being mature to settle for 10.5 because he's "the best she can hope for"...or is there hope with the Doctor. Did Rose get the shaft...and the cloned shaft at that? This leads me to wonder about Moffat...because Moffat is the one that introduces sexuality to the Doctor in the first place. He does it when he suggests that the Doctor has "danced" and he wants Rose to see him as a man, as a rival for the newly arrived and uber-erotic Jack. He does it, again, in Blink when he suggests that the Doctor was been married. But he goes further than that in Girl in the Fireplace...where quite obviously sex is on Madame's mind and again there is "dancing." And in Silence in the Library when we are asked to assume that one day the Doctor has frisky interaction with handcuffs and such deep intimacy with River Song that she has a screwdriver and his name. All of this in the middle of RTD denying Rose and Ten their happy for her lifetime.
So, we do not really have the balm we used to have of the Doctor being "too high minded for sex". And while we can understand why the Doctor runs from the pain of loving and losing people...we can't accept this rabbiting as heroic. He fails to act in a way that earns him our respect. And once the audience no longer respects the hero of a piece...they find his antics tiresome...and they transfer their affections to another character...in this case, many people transfered their affections to 10.5 or Donna.
I do hope that David Tennant isn't just blowing smoke when he says that the Doctor will be forced to confront his emotional issues in the final episodes. But more than that, I hope that he confronts them like a true hero. That he changes for the better. That he allows himself to love and be loved. Because the promise of a return to the status quo of 1989...of the Doctor being happy to wander... or of the Time Lords coming back to make it all better for him...that's just another way to avoid all of the issues RTD has forced onto us. It is rather like a 25 year old moving back home when he finds he can't cope with real life on his own. We are expected, then, to seal off the work of RTD, let it scab over and eventually...pretend it never happened. The Doctor was never challenged. He never failed to deal with change. But it did happen. And if the Christmas specials fail to address it, if RTD doesn't take responsiblity for finishing the story he started, the wound will be there in the canon...lurking and waiting for someone...some child watching today...to try to repair it in 20 year's time.
Yet another Doctor Who Post about the Pony!
July 30th, 2009