Friday, August 13, 2010

Doctor Who: The Season in Review

I wrote more than 5,500 words on the new book yesterday. It was what I'd originally planned as the first chapter, but it's too long for a chapter, and I think there's still some development I need to do on this part that will make it even longer, so it will end up being the first two chapters. I did that in only a little more than two hours, and I think I could have gone on to write more, but that passed even my "bonus" goal for the day, so I deserved a break. I've been trying to decide whether to fix this first part today or just plunge ahead. It's possible that the stuff I need to fix could affect what happens next, but then the stuff that happens next could affect how I see the beginning, so I'd have to fix it again. I think I'll plunge ahead and write until I run out of story, and then that should help me go back and flesh it all out.

I do think I like it so far. I'm really enjoying the heroine/narrator, who has quite a dry wit. She's someone who is very, very nervous inside but who fights not to let that show by trying to act totally cool and collected, which is a challenge to write, but it means the interior monologue is fun in contrast with her behavior, since on the inside she's going, "Eeep! Yikes! I'm gonna die! Help!" while on the outside she's calmly saying, "My, isn't this interesting?"

I was reminded that I'd never discussed the season finale of Doctor Who, or even the season. It has now aired in the US on BBC America, and even Mom has seen it (though the season has just started on my local PBS station), so I'm going to assume that if you care all that much, you'll have seen it already. If you do care and haven't seen it, the rest of this post will be very spoilery, so go away now, come back Monday, and have a nice weekend.

I have to say that in general, I loved this season. It hit most of my writing/plot/characterization buttons, and in a good way. It was almost like it was designed just for me (hmmm, there's someone I should probably talk to about that ...). There were some weaker episodes, but not really anything painfully bad (to me), and I liked the way it all added up to come together in a big story. There was just the right mix of whimsy and drama, without the overblown angst that the series had gone into recently. I have to admit that I was initially leery of the casting for the next Doctor. After the previous season (before the year of specials) had ended up with such a fanfic-like, tween girl-friendly romance, I was very nervous about the casting of such a young actor and then an even younger female companion. I was afraid we were doomed to more romantic angst.

And then I actually saw the season, and the very interesting thing was that Matt Smith may be very young (I think I own clothing older than he is), but he's playing the character as a very old man who sees himself as an old man, no matter what his face may look like at the moment. He may look young and hot, but it doesn't seem to have occurred to him that anyone might see him that way, and he's rather surprised when they do. That's come up with all kinds of fun visual gags, like when he needs a photo ID and uses one with the first Doctor's face on it, or when he's testing a gadget that identifies things, and the picture of him it spits out is the first Doctor. Or there's the fact that he doesn't see any flaw in the plan of him posing as Amy's father. That made for a fun contrast to all the Rose/Doctor stuff that almost turned me off of the series.

And that brings me to the other thing that helped prevent the Doctor/Rose type stuff: Rory, Amy's boyfriend (in the first episode), then fiance and now husband. I was a little worried when he joined the crew that it would be Mickey 2.0, the guy who mostly existed just to make the Doctor look super-awesome in comparison, but I should have been paying more attention to that first episode. Rory wasn't introduced to us or to the Doctor as Amy's boyfriend, just an adjunct of her life. When we met him, it was on his own terms, apart from Amy, doing his own job. Both we and the Doctor first saw him as the guy who'd figured out that something was going on and who had the presence of mind to record the evidence. Only then did we find out that he also happened to be Amy's boyfriend. He was presented as the ordinary guy who had modest dreams in comparison to the Doctor, but he wasn't shown as being wrong about that or inferior for wanting little more than to be a small-town doctor with a wife and family. And then they killed him, and I was crushed because I liked that dynamic among the three of them. I actually squealed in glee when he appeared again near the end, and then he completely won me over with possibly the most romantic gesture ever: standing guard over the woman he loved for nearly 2,000 years. Yeah, it wasn't really Rory. It was the Auton version who was the Big, Damn Hero, but it was his mind, his essence, and his soul that made that decision and then stuck it out. Now, his being focused and having relatively small goals and no hunger for danger and adventure was actually an asset. Someone who wanted much more than a quiet life with the woman he loves would never have survived that.

They kept bringing up the "fairy tale" concept all season, and that's probably what pushed a lot of my buttons because I'm a big fairy tale fan. I'll have to rewatch the whole season to see how many motifs I can pick up, but it did seem like they used a lot of thematic stuff from fairy tales, like the idea that small acts of kindness could come back in a big way, just when you needed them. Then there's the whole idea of stories holding truth and power, that holding onto the story of the Doctor was enough to bring him back from the other side of the void.

I really loved the fact that they remembered they're playing with time travel. Yeah, it got very wibbley-wobbly/timey-wimey, and your head will explode if you think about it too much because there are all kinds of time loops going on, but it's nice to see time travel actually used in the plot beyond just traveling to a time and place to have an adventure. And things get complicated when there's more than one time traveler involved. I've seen complaints that the final episode was a letdown from the huge cliffhanger of the previous one because it slipped into almost slapstick, but I rather enjoyed that, with all the complexity of bouncing around time to make things work (I've seen a thing online where someone charted all the time traveling in that episode, and it was impressive). Even cooler was that we had already seen one of those visits to the past in a previous episode in something that looked like a continuity error, but which turned out to be something different entirely.

To make the final episode and the ending with the wedding even more fun, right before I saw it, I was singing at a wedding, and then serving cake at the reception. I had friends over for a viewing party, and since I was serving the cake and there was tons left over, I got to bring home wedding cake (as well as some of the flowers used to decorate the church). That meant our refreshments for viewing included wedding cake, so I guess we were part of Amy and Rory's wedding reception. The "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" referring to the TARDIS was another squeal for joy moment, and I totally know what I'll have to have at my wedding if I ever manage to get married.

I might get more analytical upon a rewatch, but for now, I feel like a kid when thinking about it all. I'm really looking forward to seeing what they do with the next season. I'd thought during the couple of episodes when Rory was on board before he was killed that this trio has a kind of Harry Potter cast dynamic -- there's the lead/hero who's a bit set apart and who has the weight of the universe on his shoulders, and then his two best friends are a bossy, headstrong girl and an ordinary guy with comic-relief tendencies, and the two sidekicks are romantically involved with each other instead of the hero getting the girl. It gets especially interesting going forward if Rory really does remember everything (there's an almost throwaway line during the wedding reception when Rory is remembering the Doctor and he blurts out something about how he used to be plastic that hints he remembers at least something) because if Rory has nearly 2,000 years worth of memories, that makes him closer to being a true peer to the Doctor, and I don't think we've seen anything like that when the Doctor wasn't hanging out with another Time Lord.

Maybe I'll do a more in-depth analysis that goes beyond fangirl squealing when the DVD set comes out and I can really re-watch it all.

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