tempestsarekind: (brighter than sunflowers)
So way back in series 5, when Amy tells us that her favorite story as a kid was the story of Pandora's box, and I commented that this was clearly the TARDIS (as I said back then, "a box full of monsters and hope")?

How has it only just occurred to me that in "The Eleventh Hour," Amy is repeatedly told not to open the door to the room where Prisoner Zero is hiding - and she does it anyway? And yes, she lets out the monster - but she also opens the door to the thing that will save the planet, because if she hadn't opened that door, and seen Prisoner Zero's true form, she wouldn't have been able to remember it, and use the psychic link (with the Doctor's help) to turn Prisoner Zero into a perfect copy of itself.

Monsters and hope, on day one. How did I miss it?
tempestsarekind: (clara and eleven and shards)
The DVD set for Doctor Who season 9 was in at the library, so I decided to watch it, just to see if maybe I'd like it more than season 8… And at least this way I'd finally get to see "The Husbands of River Song."

I confess to being largely disappointed by the quality of the episodes themselves: a lot of ideas with potential, but the execution consisted of way too much running down dim corridors for me, while key elements of plot and character were left muddied and muddled and underwritten. (I mean, I wanted to like "The Girl Who Died" / "The Woman Who Lived" so much! Humans who become immortal are one of my favorite things! Maisie Williams was delightful! And yet…I never quite felt that I knew Ashildr well enough to be totally invested when she forgets who she is and becomes Me, to actually feel the loss of her. Maybe if we'd spent less time on broad comedy about Vikings who can't fight, and more time establishing who she was and why she loved her village, I would have cared more when she couldn't remember either one.)

But I think my overarching intellectual and emotional disconnect from the season - and the last one - has to do with the nature of the Twelfth Doctor, too. It's no secret that I think Moffat writes his best Who when he's writing it as a comedy. Not just when he's writing humor - although one of the reasons that "The Husbands of River Song" is a welcome breath of fresh air is that Moffat seems to be back on his game, writing those screwball rhythms for River and the Doctor. But comedy: comedy is about hope, about dancing faster than death can catch you, about our better angels winning out. And seasons 8 and 9 are mostly tragic. Season 9 in particular is all about the Doctor going too far and being justly punished, and that's Greek tragedy; even if Moffat can't avoid putting a little fillip of death-cheating on top, for Clara, the cherry can't disguise the makeup of the whole sundae.

And in Twelve, he seems to be trying to write a Doctor who has Rules About Time - temporal strictures that shade into becoming moral and ethical ones. And breaking those rules leads to tragedy. (This seems to be what's going on in "Under the Lake" / "Before the Flood": the Doctor is tempted to break the rules of time to save Clara, even though he won't even do that to save himself. But the episode is - again - muddy enough that I can't figure out exactly what rule he's tempted to break, since Clara, unlike O'Donnell, hasn't yet died. It feels, in retrospect, like the episode is trying for foreshadowing that the setup hasn't actually earned.) And when the Doctor breaks those rules, he is punished, and he declares, in the S9 finale, that this is right. Moffat even brings in the Sisterhood of Karn to declare that the Doctor, in trying to save Clara, is breaking every rule he's ever lived by - to give that statement narrative weight and grandeur (weight and grandeur that I don't think it earns otherwise, because…well, see below).

Except…? Not that long ago, the Doctor was Eleven - and while I'm sure that Eleven has rules about time, his entire tenure as the Doctor is about figuring out just when and where one can bend and break those rules. One could certainly argue that it's only when he accepts his own death that the universe allows him to cheat its way out of it, so there is a moral angle to his bending of the temporal rules. And there are, of course, things that even the Doctor cannot change or "fix," the death of Vincent Van Gogh being one of the most memorable. But Eleven's rallying cry is "Time can be rewritten" - comedy, not tragedy - and how do you go from a universe where that is true, to one where it isn't, without ever giving a reason? How do you go from a universe where Eleven can unhappen the destruction of Gallifrey, to one where no one can be saved from death, without explaining what changed? How can I believe that the Twelfth Doctor's only recourse is to break every rule he's ever lived by, when the Eleventh Doctor would have slipped merrily out of those rules' grasp? (Or at least he would have tried and failed: that's more or less what happens in "The Angels Take Manhattan.") It's like Moffat wants to write a story about someone like "Waters of Mars" Ten, full of hubris and engaging in reckless, selfish tyranny against the laws of time (even if we are moved by why he does it), having forgotten that in between, the Doctor has been far more trickster than tyrant.

There seem to be a couple of deliberate callbacks to Ten in this series: the finale also touches on Ten's decision to wipe Donna's memory rather than let her die on her own terms - only here, he is (again) punished for his arrogance instead. And Twelve finally "remembers" why he gave himself a familiar face for this regeneration, that of Caecilius from "Fires of Pompeii": it's supposed to be a reminder to save the people he can, even if he can't save everyone. Only that backfires too: has he really saved Ashildr, or condemned her to something terrible? I'm not sure - but what really puzzles me is the decision to say "I need to be reminded to save people" in this episode, only to go on throughout the season to suggest that saving people is impossible, could fracture the universe, and deserves punishment. What?

(I should say that I think the critiques of the Doctor's decision are spot-on: Me's "We have no right to change who she is"; Clara's own "Tomorrow isn't promised to anyone, but I insist upon my past." I just don't understand the need or the decision to make the storytelling decisions that got us to that point - where the Doctor needs the critique - in the first place.)

I can understand feeling the need to scale back on the idea that time can be rewritten - or even just to want to try your hand at writing something new. But you still need to set up the new rules in a coherent way, first, and I don't feel like that ever happened with Twelve.

Also…I'm just going to quote myself here, because it's easier. From my post on the S8 finale:
If season 5 ends with the myth of Pandora's box - as I said back then, "a box full of monsters and hope," so very like the TARDIS - season 8 ends with the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. If Amy is Sleeping Beauty inside the Pandorica (though waiting for her own childhood self, not the kiss of a prince), the promise of that story is that Sleeping Beauty eventually awakens. And Amy and Rory have always had "Tam Lin" echoes for me, because Amy loves and claims Rory so stubbornly that nothing can take him from her, not even time. But Orpheus and Eurydice is about the fact that the dead cannot return, no matter how much you try to win them back. The Ponds are miracle-makers, even if those miracles are sometimes imperfect (Amy and Rory do get to raise Melody in some way, even if it isn't the way they wanted), but there's no miracle for Eurydice. Clara doesn't get Danny back.

So what's the story of S9, then? In some ways, it's still Orpheus and Eurydice. And that's very much a story worth telling - but it's also definitely not a comedy or a fairy tale. And Moffat's telling that story in seasons 8 and 9 still feels like an arbitrary switch-flip - "okay, the universe is now like this" - rather than a set of situations carefully constructed so that these stories had to turn out this way. I'm sure I'd still be pretty Not My Scene about the change, but it would feel like it made more sense to me, at least.
tempestsarekind: (never really just a passenger)
…is kind of adorable? I might have to start watching Doctor Who again? (In like a year, or whenever it actually starts up again.)

In related "news," I saw a gifset of the Ponds today and my whole self went "waaaaaaah," because apparently I am never letting my babies go.
tempestsarekind: (amy and roranicus)
According to the BBC's official Doctor Who website, today is the Ponds' wedding anniversary!

…maybe I will use this as an excuse to watch some of season 5 or 6 tonight.


Apr. 5th, 2015 10:14 pm
tempestsarekind: (martha + ten + TARDIS)
I am entirely too amused by the fact that in the credit sequence for Wolf Hall, Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Harry Lloyd got a title card all to themselves, seeing as they were both in "Human Nature/Family of Blood."
tempestsarekind: (amelia pond (ready for adventure))
Someone on the internet mentioned that "The Eleventh Hour" was five years ago today, and now I am all sad and nostalgic. :( I loved Eleven and my Ponds (River, too) so very much, and while I know that it wasn't to everyone's taste, I miss that fairy-tale quality that seasons 5 and 6 had, with their girls being brave in the darkness of the forest, and people being separated from their loved ones by dislocations in time - but finding them again, too, because they never stop looking and loving even when they can't quite remember… Without any particular reason, I was worried that Moffat Who without Eleven would become (as I put it right before seeing any of S8) colder, and flintier, and less full of joy. What's odd is that even though I had no particular reason to worry about this - no spoilers or interviews or anything like that - I wound up being right.

Ironically, given how much I loved "The Eleventh Hour" right away and how much real and proverbial ink I spilled over Eleven, Amy and the gang over the course of their run, I wrote almost nothing about it on my first viewing - just this lonely little sentence from April 4, 2010: I've only been watching for fifteen minutes, and Amy Pond has already broken my heart once.

I have a pretty full account of my feelings about S5 in real time, because by the second episode, "The Beast Below," I was already in full meta mode. But I've only ever written about this first episode in little dribs and drabs here and there, on the way to something else - a post about Amy's abandonment issues here, a disquisition on Eleven and his interactions with children there. I've never really sat down to write about this episode, and how joyful it was, how it felt like we were turning a corner away from the Last-of-the-Time-Lords angst of Ten and toward someone who could call yogurt "just stuff with bits in," like a child himself; how we were meeting a Doctor who could come to a child's rescue and take her seriously within moments of meeting her; how we were getting a new TARDIS that looked like inside of a mad inventor's shop and a girl who could fly off with the Doctor in her nightie like Wendy with Peter Pan. I've never written about how much I love the awkward gangly grace of Matt Smith in this episode, the way he struggles against handcuffs or leans out of a hospital window like a spaniel straining against a leash; or how I fell in love with Karen Gillan's odd, airily furious delivery of "Twelve years, and four psychiatrists," or how she broke my heart all over again with the way she yelled at breaking point, "Why did you say five minutes?" I've never written about little Amelia eating ice cream off of the ice-cream scoop, or that first time Eleven tastes the name "Amelia Pond" on his tongue. Until now, I suppose.

It's always hard to talk about what this episode, and season 5 generally, means to me. Other people have much more dramatic stories about how the show has helped them through hard times, and fortunately that isn't the case for me. But "The Eleventh Hour" felt like getting reacquainted with the stories that had shaped me as a child, getting back in touch with that magic after feeling for a long time that I had to put that sort of thing behind me. It was a reminder that stories don't have to be Serious and Important in order to matter very deeply to someone, that a little girl getting her prayer to Santa answered could be moving and true. I'll always be grateful for that, for Amelia Pond and her Raggedy Man.
tempestsarekind: (don't get clever in latin! [donna])
I'm going to go ahead and post the last couple of things I've written about trying to read Wolf Hall recently (I figure I should try to read it before I see the miniseries? I have until April - which is when PBS is airing it), even though I am kind of embarrassed by them (why can I not appreciate this book that everyone else in the world loves? What is wrong with me?), but for the sake of honesty, here we go.

18 January 2015

Somewhat perversely, I would like to read some criticism of Wolf Hall by someone smart and thoughtful who didn't like it; maybe it would help me like it better, knowing that someone out there hadn't praised this book to the skies when I am not enjoying it. Admittedly I have only managed to struggle through the first three chapters - this is only partly the book's fault; I haven't been reading it consistently - so maybe I haven't adjusted to the prose yet and I will enjoy it more as I get used to it, but right now the book's very syntax is grating on my inward ear. Stop cramming all the paragraphs with so much syntactically unconnected detail, Hilary Mantel! Stop changing point of view in the middle of paragraphs! (You can't just throw "We hope he'll grow up tall" in the middle of a paragraph about Cromwell's son when the whole rest of the paragraph is being narrated in the third person, what are you even doing!) Also, I know this book is all dudes*, but if you could be a little bit clearer who you're talking about - so that every sentence isn't "He said to him that he was a great scholar" or whatever, although this would be less difficult to figure out if every paragraph weren't crammed with so much detail, because each one of those three pronouns could refer to a different man mentioned in the last two sentences, for all I know - that would be nice. (Yes, yes, I'm sure this is on purpose. That doesn't mean it doesn't grate.)

Also, the dialogue is also irking me, but this is more personal; it just sounds so terse and modern that it actually feels at odds with the way that Tudor people seem to me to think. Even their personal letters are more playful and elaborate with language than we are today - they like playing with words and coining new ones; they weren't like, "ah yes, in the halls of power we get right to the point, none of this fancy-dancy speechifying." And their speech could still be muscular and vivid - but they were not exactly a terse people. I know historical fiction doesn't have to represent the speech patterns of its historical period exactly, even in stories about speakers of whatever language one is writing in (a book set in ancient Rome but written in English is never going to sound like Latin), but still.

*This bit actually sounds more sarcastic about Mantel than I meant it to; it's not her fault that every important person in this period is a guy named Thomas!

21 January 2015

Still trying to read a chapter or so of Wolf Hall before bed; right now I am only managing three or four pages every couple of nights, but hey ho. I hit one of those bits last night where Mantel apparently uses what reviewers actually called "ye olde speech," because why not, in order to make a humorous contrast or whatever:
Above all, Mantel avoids ye olde-style diction, preferring more contemporary phrasing. Small rises in the level of language are frequently used for comic effect, as in: "Well, I tell you, Lady Shelton, if she had had an axe to hand, she would have essayed to cut off my head." The effortless-seeming management of contrasting registers plays a big part in the novel's success, as does Mantel's decision to let Cromwell have a sense of humour."

And this is even more grating than the lack of clarity regarding third-person singular masculine pronouns, because it's indicative of a thing that feels to me like a failure in the world being imagined. It's the same problem I had with Desperate Romantics, a not particularly good miniseries about the PRB, in which all the painters spoke in relatively modern speech, except for Millais (played by an adorably hapless Samuel Barnett), who was supposed to sound so quaint and prim and prudish...except that all he really sounded was Victorian. You know, like all of the other characters in the miniseries are as well. Or "The Shakespeare Code," which is supposedly set in 1599, but has an exchange between two of "Shakespeare's" actors in which they complain that they never know what old Will is going on about (yeah, Early Modern English must be really hard for you sixteenth-century guys to understand), and the only characters in the episode who ever sound remotely Elizabethan are the Carrionite "witches," who are supposed to be from the dawn of time. I mean, I get it: modern readers and viewers hear that language as old-fashioned and ridiculous, but that doesn't stop me from wanting to yell "do better!" at people when they pull this nonsense. It never stops bothering me when historical fiction or historical drama takes the language that people actually spoke and turns it into nothing more than a ridiculous joke. Surely historical fiction is supposed to be about imagining what the past was like, to the degree that we ever can, and trying to conjure up an actually different world, in which people thought - and yes, spoke - very differently from the way we do? And wouldn't it make more sense for critics to - let's get crazy here - respect that endeavor, instead of demeaning the so-called trappings of historical fiction as nothing more than "ye olde-style diction," and only praising those books of historical fiction that "make the past seem just like today" or "make the sixteenth-century court seem just like the modern halls of power," as though the erasure of difference and such easy parallelism between then and now are things to strive for?

I know I have ranted this rant before, about RTD-era Doctor Who historical episodes (oddly enough, Moffat managed to ameliorate this not by having a companion from the past - which I still want, and I'm still wistful about Victorian Clara - but by changing the Doctor so that he no longer says things like "This lot have still got one foot in the Dark Ages," but instead remarks offhandedly that he's on Virginia Woolf's bowling team, and has longstanding relationships with figures like Churchill, and takes Vincent van Gogh seriously and befriends him instead of making jokes about him like Ten does to Shakespeare), but still. This attitude is like nails on a chalkboard to me; I can't help it. And it's such a waste. (As much as I find myself yelling "what are you even doing right now" at Sleepy Hollow on a regular basis this season, one thing that they got right is that Ichabod's old-fashioned language doesn't mean that he's a joke - even though he is often funny, and Abbie rightly laughs at him when he takes refuge in an even greater level of formality because he doesn't want to deal with something. He speaks the way he speaks not because he's some kind of prudish fussbudget, but because he's, you know, from 1781. They spoke like that then. And he can still be curious and tender and exasperated and everything else in that language, because it is an actual language to him, not just an affectation a writer has him put on when he wants to make fun of someone else. I can't wrap my head around Mantel's decision, after reading what must have been tons of Tudor documents and history, to look at the way they spoke and then decide to use it only in mockery. Why not just choose not to use it at all?)


Jan. 17th, 2015 08:06 pm
tempestsarekind: (eleven is awkward)
wow, so I guess I still feel like crying when I come upon pictures or gifsets of the Eleventh Doctor unexpectedly; that's apparently a thing -

(seriously, I did not think it would be quite this much of an issue, and I don't know how to explain it or put words to it - it's just this little preverbal wail of missing him)

but if I were to aim for a very few words, they would be ones about how he crept up on me and made Doctor Who mean so much more to me than it did before his arrival - even though I loved the show before - because for a little while, he made the show a show about hope and family; because he let people love him, because he didn't glorify being the Last of the Time Lords, because he made friends with Vincent van Gogh and nursed a flatmate back to health; because he was always a little girl's imaginary friend first...

I just miss his little face, sometimes, and the kind of story that he was.
tempestsarekind: (clara and eleven)
I'm not sure how I feel about the Christmas special yet, and suspect I'll need to watch it again, but I already have a lot of feelings about small spoilers )

BBC America has been running a Doctor Who marathon, as is their wont this time of year, and as I kept it on in the background, I...accidentally got my mom to watch the second half of season 5? Whoops. She voiced her annoyance with me at intervals - "you've gotten me hooked on this stupid show!" My mother isn't really the kind of person who actually gets hooked on TV shows - she's not going to keep up with the show once it's not already on because someone else is watching it - but it was funny all the same.
tempestsarekind: (amy and her boys)
And Eleven feelings, too:

The Eleventh Doctor's Legacy Was Loss and Failure

I don't know that I agree with everything in this piece (or at least, I don't give the same weight to everything mentioned in this piece), but the first paragraph hit a little too close to home:

"Whovians have only had one season away from the Eleventh Doctor, and it’s rough for some to remember that this year isn’t a brief reprieve before his return. Fans are missing his childlike wonder, his comforting cadence, his attractive-science-professor fashion sense, his undeniable sweetness in the face of a universe worth of terrors."
tempestsarekind: (brighter than sunflowers)
So I mostly just feel like I'm glad to be done with that season? There were some bright spots, but man, it was grim. And I didn't like the episode, for reasons that have way more to do with what I like in stories than anything about the episode, probably, but it wasn't the note I wanted to end on. (Like, there were several things that, if they had happened in a different episode, I would have been all over, but instead I just felt like it all felt weary and hollow, to me. This is not objective! I hope everyone who wanted to love it was able to love it. I just didn't.)

And I really hate being That Person, but I miss Eleven and my Ponds more than ever now.
tempestsarekind: (amy eleven TARDIS)
- It's snowing. Boooooooooo.

- I just realized I forgot to listen to "Tam Lin" on Halloween like I usually do, and now I am sad. :(

- My mother was apparently looking at a Doctor Who book in a bookstore, and someone who worked there interpreted that as a sign of her own interest in the show. Apparently my mom had a whole conversation with this guy (although she did inform him that she didn't actually watch the show, her daughter did), and the subject of "favorite Doctor" came up. My mother couldn't remember whether my favorite was - her words - "the one with the floppy hair" or "the one who looks like him."

("…they don't actually look alike at all, but is the one with the floppy hair the one with the bow tie," I asked. Yes, yes he was.)

So I told - well, reminded - her that obviously, Eleven is my favorite, and now I am having all of these unwieldy Eleven feelings, which are helpful in no way at all.
tempestsarekind: (clara/tea OTP)
I am so worried about you, dear. Minor spoilers for In the Forest of the Night and Flatline )

Another thing these two episodes brought home to me, though - and possibly it comes from having two teachers for characters - different minor thematic spoilers )
tempestsarekind: (eleven is awkward)
Seven episodes in, we've now seen more of the season than we haven't, and it's official: I am finding it impossible to like the Twelfth Doctor. I find him not just gruff or irascible, but out-and-out mean and cruel. And the show seems to be aware of this, which means that it doesn't make me angry the way that it did with Ten (where the show always seemed to be in the position of ignoring his dark side and his callousness, selling the problems between him and Martha solely as "oh, she fancied him and he didn't fancy her - so awkward!" and ignoring his more hypocritical moments). When Twelve behaves appallingly to Journey Blue and Danny Pink just because they are (or were) soldiers, we're meant to see that behavior as limited and wrong, and about his own inability to face the soldier within himself, rather than being expected to laugh along, as the show seemed to want us to do whenever Nine and Ten were rude about Mickey. (Although his behavior toward Danny was so terrible - and so tinged with an uncomfortable racial dimension, as the Doctor kept insisting that this Black man couldn't teach anything as intellectually challenging as mathematics, and had to be the PE teacher - that I kept getting knocked out of the episode.) Every episode has forced Clara to look at this new man's behavior and wonder whether she actually *does* know him anymore. So it's a deliberate thing, rather than a weird, discordant accident, the way it was with Ten. But…I still don't really enjoy watching it, even though I appreciate that awareness.

Twelve was always going to have a hard row to hoe with me, anyway, because I while I like him just fine, I didn't love Peter Capaldi like some people do, and I wasn't particularly excited about his casting when it was first announced. And while I absolutely understand Matt Smith's desire to take on new challenges, and felt that he'd probably taken his version of the Doctor as far as he could, I wasn't ready to say goodbye to Eleven and welcome someone new. But I keep missing the Eleventh Doctor because of things like tiny spoilers for 'Kill the Moon' )
tempestsarekind: (eleven)
Hmm. one-sentence spoiler )

This morning I was thinking about episodes that, for whatever reason, feel to me to “belong” specifically to their Doctors – an episode with Ten that I can’t imagine Nine in, etc. The first of these to come to mind was “Vincent and the Doctor,” because I’d already thought of the episode in those terms before: I’d said that I couldn’t imagine Ten being kind to Vincent in the way Eleven is, not given the way he’d treated the people who should have been closest to him, like Mickey and Martha and Jack. And after “The Day of the Doctor,” I’m even less able to imagine Ten giving Amy Eleven’s “pile of good things” speech, because Ten can’t think that way; still mired in his grief over Gallifrey, he’s horrified by and scornful of the mere idea that Eleven has found a way to come to terms with that loss, because he can’t imagine a way of healing that doesn’t entail forgetting. How could he ever say to Amy that the bad things don’t make the good things unimportant, when he can’t imagine anything beyond the terrible thing that’s happened to him?

(Weirdly, even though I know that the plot was originally developed in a comic starring Ten and Mickey, I can’t imagine Ten in “The Lodger,” either – this time because so much of the episode is about how alien the Doctor is, and Ten spent so much time trying to pretend that he knew everything about humans and could easily “pass” for one. Can you imagine Ten racing to defend Craig still shower-slick, hair in wild disarray, wielding an electric toothbrush instead of the sonic screwdriver? Or saying, “Can you hold, please? I have to eat a biscuit”? Can you imagine him being so unselfconscious about how uncool he’s being in those moments? – It is also the case that I can’t imagine him gently taking care of Craig and telling him that he’s important, either, even when Craig has no desire to travel to London let alone the stars: not Mister “Not her; she’d only hold us up” and “You’re not special, or important,” but I am actually trying to let that go, despite appearances.)

The point of all of that, though, is that I can’t quite imagine Eleven in either “Listen” or “Time Heist.” stuff about Listen )

stuff about Time Heist )
tempestsarekind: (clara/tea OTP)
god why am I up?

--no, I know why I'm up, it's because I watched "Listen" and I can't get it out of my head, and spoilers for Robot of Sherwood and Listen )
tempestsarekind: (amy eleven TARDIS)
(I wrote this a little while ago, but then school happened.)

31 August 2014

I’ve been having a lot of tag-team feelings about both Amy Pond and Eleven over the last couple of days, which are only sort of tangentially related to the season 8 premiere (they started before that, but are probably related to the fact that I’ve been thinking about “The Eleventh Hour” and how quickly I fell for these two characters).

So…Amy. I guess the thing that’s breaking my heart about her at the moment is actually a realization that I had about “The Big Bang.” In “The Eleventh Hour,” Amy comments that she went through four psychiatrists, because she “kept biting them” for saying the Doctor wasn’t real. And that’s always absolutely informed the way I’ve thought about her character – both the stubbornness of her belief, which is a theme that runs right through her character arc (remembering Rory and the Doctor back into the world, being hunted by the Minotaur for her belief in the Doctor in “The God Complex,” believing in him in “The Wedding of River Song” and making all those drawings and notes so she won’t forget her memories, setting a place for him at the table every Christmas because she believes that one day he’ll come to the door), but also the sense that Amy is the odd girl in the village, that she’s thought of as a bit mad, a bit weird, a bit unstable. And so believing in the Doctor isn’t just about him; it’s also about the fact that she has to believe in what’s going on inside her own head, that all of those things are true, that she can trust her own mind. Which is actually an issue for Amy from almost her first words on the show: “There’s a crack in my wall. Aunt Sharon says it’s just an ordinary crack, but I know it’s not…” Already we see her fears being dismissed, and Amy having to hold on to her belief in what she knows to be true.

(This adds subtext to S6’s “Night Terrors”: Amy reacts to that message from scared little George by being determined to find him, while Rory brushes it off – there’s probably nothing wrong, kids just have overactive imaginations. Even knowing that Amy’s imaginary Raggedy Doctor and the crack in her wall were always real, Rory didn’t live that ridicule and rejection like she did – twelve years, and four psychiatrists – and his first instinct is to dismiss the child’s fears, not investigate them.) [I still wish they hadn’t switched around the episode order, because “Night Terrors” sits so uncomfortably after “A Good Man Goes to War,” in which Amy and Rory have had their daughter taken from them – and yet Rory has no reaction to a scared and hurting child. The Rory of that episode is pre-Melody Rory (it was supposed to be the third episode of the season), and his attitude would make perfect sense if the episode had fallen where it was supposed to. In his childhood, nightmares were just nightmares; they were never real.]

So, in “The Big Bang,” the Doctor never crash-lands in Amelia’s back garden, but she still believes stubbornly in the existence, the realness, of stars, even though they’re not visible in the sky. What struck me, when I was thinking of this episode, was how young Amelia is when she’s talking to that therapist – how quickly her aunt has decided that Amelia needs “help,” needs to be fixed. For the best of reasons, I’m sure – she says she’s worried that Amelia will grow up and fall in with “one of those star cults” – but Amelia is nevertheless a small child who hasn’t really done more than paint some stars in a painting from school, at an age when lots of kids still kind of think they can fly. And there’s so much disappointment in Aunt Sharon’s voice – “Oh, Amelia…” – when she sees that childish painting… This suggests that Amelia was put into therapy at the same age in the original-flavor, star-filled universe, after her meeting with the Doctor – when plenty of parents would still humor their child about an imaginary friend, not jump straight to professional help. I’d always sort of vaguely known that she must have seen those psychiatrists at some point during the twelve years that the Doctor was gone from her life, but I never stopped to pinpoint when that might have been. But it looks like Aunt Sharon didn’t waste any time. And even Amy’s parents, in the rebooted universe, did the same thing to her: on her wedding day, when Amy stands up and says that when she was a little girl she had an imaginary friend, only he wasn’t imaginary, her mother sighs – as if ashamed – “All those psychiatrists we took her to…” They didn’t know what to do with this little girl, so fiercely armed with her belief in something they couldn’t see or believe in, and it feels like – probably with all the love in the world – they just tried to shove all that away and make her “normal” as quickly as possible.

So, Eleven. Eleven lands in her back garden, hears about the crack in her wall, and the first thing he asks, intuitively, is, “Does it scare you?” That’s all he needs to know. Later he reiterates this; when Amelia protests that she’s not scared to be left at home all alone (oh, my girl: already so quick to put up that armor), he says, “Of course you’re not! Box falls out of sky, man falls out of box, man eats fish custard – and look at you, just sitting there! So you know what I think?...I think that must be one hell of a scary crack in your wall.” He hasn’t seen it, doesn’t know anything about it – but after a few minutes in her company, this stranger trusts her perceptions, trusts her, and doesn’t dismiss what she has to say. What a gift that is, for that little girl who’s been left alone with this terrifying secret. And I think this is one of the things that made me fall in love with Eleven so quickly, so that by the time he said, “Trust me, I’m the Doctor” a few minutes later, I was already on board. Yes, I warmed to his childish exuberance, his delight and mad energy in discovering the limits of his new personality (“Can I have an apple? All I can think about, apples…Maybe I’m having a craving! That’s new”), but the heart of that scene for me is the way he absolutely believes in a little girl. Small wonder that she grows up believing so absolutely in him.

I wrote way back during season 5 that children, and especially the Doctor’s interaction with children, had already taken on a more prominent role than in the RTD era. The reason I mention this is that Eleven is repeatedly on a child’s wavelength – and sometimes this means that he thinks bunk beds are the coolest (“A bed – with a ladder!”), and dances with all the kids at a wedding, and plays with toys in a department store. But it also means that he comforts a little boy who’s embarrassed about his dyslexia by saying, “That’s all right, I can’t make a decent meringue” – like it’s exactly that inessential to who he really is – and tells a frightened little girl that she is unique in all the universe; and when another little girl on a swing set, with red barrettes in her hair, gives him good advice, he takes it seriously, because of course good advice can come from children, why wouldn’t it? One of the things I have really loved about Eleven is that Amelia Pond is only the first child we see him believe in.


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September 2017



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