Monday, June 28, 2010

Doctor Who - The Big Bang

Who needs time travel? The latest series of Doctor Who finished this past weekend, and thanks to technological progress, nobody has to wait years before it shows up on television any more. Back in the eighties, the latest Doctor Who episodes didn’t show up on my TV until long after they’d premiered in the UK, which meant things like Colin Baker episodes were half a decade behind. Waiting that long for the sheer horror of the haircuts in The Twin Dilemma was hard enough, waiting for something brilliant like the first Eleventh Doctor series would have been agony.

Because this latest series really was sheer bloody brilliance on toast. It had the usual flat moments that you find in any television show, and it had large parts that didn’t make any sense, but for anybody who has ever had any connection to Doctor Who it was a series that really could be emotionally profound.

If you have ever had that sort of connection to Doctor Who, but haven’t seen The Big Bang yet, then don’t read any further. As River keeps annoyingly pointing out- here lie spoilers.

* * *

There is some disappointment in the final moments of The Big Bang, when it becomes obvious that all the big questions are not going to be answered. It’s still a mystery why the TARDIS was destroyed, or who was/is/will be behind it. At least it’s acknowledged and it’s fairly obvious it’s going to be a mystery that spreads right across the Moffat/Smith seasons and is bound to have some kind of important payoff. (My money’s still on the 12th Doctor….)

But never mind the big plot climax resolution stuff. Some people get far too hung up on that sort of thing in this sort of show, bleating about deux ex machinas, without really understanding what it actually means. The series is never going to end on a downer – there will be sacrifices and pain, but the Doctor and his TARDIS and his human friends will always be off somewhere new for an adventure in time and space at the end of the story.

So the universe is saved by somebody piloting a craft into the heart of the sun and the Doctor is saved by Amy Pond’s belief and they’re off again to fight some mad old god on the Orient Express….. in space. The future looks bright - there is a lovely new dynamic with Amy and Rory’s marriage, and not just because he really is Mr Pond. There hasn’t been a couple like that in the TARDIS since Ben and Polly, as long as you ignore all the Fifth Doctor fanfic where they were all shuffling rooms.

And it is genuinely nice to se Rory back – he isn’t quite the companion Amy is, but he is the boy who waited two thousand years to look after his girl. The man deserves a little happiness.

Saving the universe is what the Doctor does, so there should be no surprises there. The best thing about The Big Bang wasn’t that stuff, and it wasn’t even the Doctor’s glorious wedding dancing. It was the way he fades away at the end of the adventure, and the way he comes back.

The Doctor becomes a story – and a bloody good one at that. Living only as a dim memory in the mind of a little girl, an imaginary friend that everybody hoped she would grow out of one day. It’s a great big booming obvious metaphor to the audience’s one relationship with the doctor, and with all fictional characters. The Doctor isn’t real – he was created to fill television time in the early 1960s, but anybody who watches the programme as a child can tell you that he most definitely is real. He exists in all of our heads, along with all his friends and all his adventures and we know it’s stupid, but we can grow up and get married and have proper lives and still expect to stumble across that weird blue box on a street corner.

There is always a part of my soul that knows that the Doctor can still show up and take me away from the boring old world and show me something new and exciting. It could get a bit scary, and it can get a bit horrible, but it will always be exciting.

And Amy knows just what that feels like. Fortunately, the universe has been running right through her head for most of her life, so she can bring the big man back. He remains a story in our world, but the dancing fool lives in Amy’s world, and that’s good enough.

* * *

A lot of credit for the emotional impact of this twist in the tale has to go to Matt Smith. The usual knee-jerk reactions to the announcement that he would be the youngest ever Doctor can be thoroughly dismissed – this is the oldest Doctor so far. The Tenth used to have so much mercy, but his successor is just a bit tired of it all. He still has that passion for life and new experiences, but he can also be a bit weary.

In his last scene at Amy’s bedside, when his story finally comes to an end and he fades into oblivion, the Doctor really is an old man, tired of the fight but still disappointed to retire. He faces his end with dignity, happy to trade his life for the universe, and almost pleased to hand off the baggage of that impossible life.

And, of course, The Doctor is also thinking five steps ahead and an old man’s story about the best vehicle he ever owned is a nice little time bomb of resolution, laying down the foundations of his own return. He's clever like that.

* * *

Right before she buggers back off to the future, River Song warns the Doctor that everything changes the next time they meet, but it’s a bit of an empty warning. In the Doctor’s world, there is always change. He is definitely getting older, but he has enough life to go on for a long time yet and there will be plenty of other changes to come.

There will be new companions, new monsters and ultimately a new Doctor, but the madman in his box still has plenty of his story still to tell. If it's half as much fun as this most recent series, it will live a whole lot longer.


DazzyHitch said...

I stumbled across your blog a couple of weeks ago, and just wanted to let you know how much I've enjoyed reading it.
It's always nice to find someone with similar tastes to my own (Dr Who, Paradox Press's Big Books, Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis etc), so I printed off a big wad of the most interesting looking essays from your site, and have been reading them in the bath, which as everyone knows (G-Moz included), is the very best place to enjoy fine writing.
Anyway, I always think the life of a blogger must be pretty depressing if you get minimal feedback, so I wanted you to know you've enriched at least one fellow geek's life with your sharp and knowledgeable writing...

Bob Temuka said...

Aw thanks, mate. I do the blog for fun more than feedback, but kind words are always welcomed.

And I love printing out other people's blogs after saving them up too. Putting them up on the net is a great way of spreading thoughts and info, but I'm still all about reading hings on paper.