The Eleventh Doctor (from Doctor Who)

I’m going to do something I’ve ragged on people for.  Well, it’s still in the SPIRIT of my original intent, but there’s stuff that needs to be said.  In the end, I blame Welshy.  I’ve been responding a bit to some commenters on his video countdown of his Top Ten Eleventh Doctor moments (find it here).  And since I don’t want to write books about it, suck up his page, and otherwise be a pain in the ass, I’m going to bring those points here.  This is more of a personal post, which I never really wanted to do (more than just, personal motivations for reviewing something).  It’s also about an “in-progress” character, which I also never wanted to do.  This is also probably the most “persuasive” styled post I have ever written, so far.  Weird, right?

But, really, I have left the job half finished.  There are two halves to “The Point” that I wanted to get across with the Tenth Doctor review.  One half of that point is with Doctor Ten and David Tennant and RTD.  I think I managed to get about 90% of that across.

But the other half lies with Steven Moffat, Doctor Eleven, and Matt Smith.  And while I did kind of lean heavily on them in my “here’s what other Doctors do” points, I don’t think that that review can stand as complete as I wanted it to be, without DIRECTLY confronting these three factors in the current run of Doctor Who.

So, here I go.  You might want to read the Tenth Doctor review first, but I’ll try to keep this stand alone. Wish me luck.

So, the background: When David Tennant left the series in 2009 (2010 by 24 hours, technically) Matt Smith was selected to replace him.  Smith is the youngest actor to ever play The Doctor, and for many reasons, the least of which WASN’T a bunch of lonely businessmen in love with Tennant, like every Doctor casting since John Pertwee, caused a bit of controversy.  This time, though, it was a WHOLE ‘nother level.

Now remember when David Tennant was cast HE drew criticism as well.  And, like Smith, people did it before they even SAW his Doctor.  You’d think that these people wouldn’t be so quick to judge Smith, but they were!  The same thing happens with James Bond, of course, and any comic book hero casting (though sometimes more deserved than not, Toby Maguire for instance actually FITS Stan Lee’s -original- conception of Spider Man quite well, so, his origin story, rather than the Peter Parker we see in current series, but that’s another post).

Usually people shut up.  USUALLY these “fans” can see the casting in action, and say “Well, he’s not MY Doctor/Bond/Japanese Schoolgirl, but it’ll do”, or maybe they love it! Or, maybe they understand, at least, and begrudgingly accept it.

Not so with Doctor Eleven.  People still cry.  So I’m going to try and give some scope, and try to NOT be a mean bitch while doing it, because I understand that some people were RTD fans, and that some people have only been exposed to the new series (one of my best friends was one such person when Tennant first appeared, but I have since converted her >:D )

The Transition:

Now, admittedly, part of that was the prep.  When the promotional pictures for Eleven came out they looked like a Twilight reject poster.  I actually took pause, I WAS concerned that we might be getting Angel.  But, I did give it the benefit of the doubt.

To this end, Matt Smith made a huge contribution.  He looked at the outfit that the producers had given him, and said “That’s rubbish, The Doctor would never dress himself that way”.  Matt PICKED his own costume, and not because he wanted a purple lightsaber, but because he was SO in tune with the character, he understood what that character would want in fashion.  That is a whole level of immersion and acting that not everyone can do.  It’s like when Harrison Ford knew exactly what to say when Han Solo got frozen: the actor is in touch with the character more than the director and writer.  And remember, all the Tennant lovers say it was brilliant when he asked to be credited as “The Doctor” instead of “Doctor Who”.  This is the same thing. With bow-ties.  Bow-ties are cool.

Come on, that's not cute?

Further, some people complain Matt Smith isn’t attractive.  To which I saBOLLOCKS! Matt Smith, is cuter than David Tennant.  Simple as that.

No honestly.  I mean, I can -understand- why people think David is attractive, but I personally don’t see it.  Give yourself a moment to wrap your head around that sentence.  I also think Matt IS cute.  Him I can get behind.  And under.

Wait I think I had a point here…

Actually it was to say that part of what Matt Smith can bring to the table AS The Doctor is that because he is seen as “less attractive”, the audience doesn’t WANT to see him romantically involved with his companions.  RTD fans, get ready to have your minds blown…

THAT’S A GOOD THING.

The Doctor has never, NEVER been involved romantically with companions prior to RTD with the exception of the TV movie, which had big movie-marketing influences pressuring it to be more mainstream anyway.  RTD never HAD those kinds of pressures.  Sure, he was reviving Doctor Who, but nothing was compelling him to make Doctor Who into Melrose Place, only to make it a good sci-fi adventure show.

The fact that The Doctor can now step back, emotionally, and assume a more objective role in the series is a net positive.   If Ten’s romantic entanglements had actually led to character growth, I would be less harsh on it.  But it didn’t. He was still pining for Rose until the very end, he never moved on, he never coped with anything.  When the First Doctor lost his companions, and was left alone, and broken in his TARDIS, from that point on in the series you could see him shift to be a more attached individual.  And, part of what made that moment so powerful is until that point, The Doctor had never appeared to regard his companions very highly.  We had never seen him so vulnerable.  When you’re vulnerable ALL the time, it’s not moving, it’s pathetic and grating.

Which brings me to Eleven’s humor.  Many people hate how “silly” Eleven is.  But the thing is, Moffat writes dark.  Very dark.  But to punctuate the drama you MUST have humor, even if it’s dark humor like the Dream Lord.  The audience needs to be wrung around their emotions in order to squeeze the desired responses out.  If you believe that a dark story must always be dark, with no romance or humor or silly inanities, you, sah, are an amateur.  There is no (respectable) story that keeps the same tone the ENTIRE story.  That’s why we forgave the touchy feely moments between Frodo and Sam in the LOTR movies, because it was punctuated by Gollum’s humor and life and death action scenes.  We would have despised it if it had been ALL “Why are we going on Sam?” “To save what’s good Mr. Frodo”  “I don’t feel like there’s good in the world Sam” “I’m telling you there is Mr. Frodo and I won’t let you stop believing” “Don’t let me die a virgin Sam” “I can take care of that, too, Mr. Frodo”

History of The Doctor

One of the things that REALLY pops up a lot is the nature of The Doctor.  Specifically, how Eleven appears incompetent.

Well, that’s how The Doctor normally acts, Moffat is just embracing the tradition.  It was RTD to tried to make The Doctor space jesus.

In the original series The Doctor was always seen as a Time Lord dunce.  He couldn’t control his regenerations, he always took longer than the other Time Lords to figure things out, and he  was always given the menial missions for the village idiot.  That’s how Time Lords saw The Doctor.

But The Doctor was made Lord President.  Precisely because he broke the rules, he was street smart, and more capable than the puffy chested librarians that made up Gallifrey to deal with external threats.

And really, most of Eleven’s “dumb moments” (basically, moments where he’s outshined by another character) are emotional moments.  Where his lack of understanding regarding social relationships and general awkwardness of it all just makes him socially clumsy.  But, just watch the Christmas Carol, Eleven can still take control of a room with little effort as Tennant did, with little effort and masterful leadership.

River Song

One thing that people tie directly to Eleven is River Song.  I think this is totally unfair, she’s her own component, but let me give her some lip service (no you can’t take pictures) in the interest of diffusing this issue.

Moffat has been purposefully elusive with the nature of River Song.  Any theories about her relationship to The Doctor or her origins are just that. Theory.  I even suspect (but I have no proof) Moffat might have wanted to draw her out for another season but in the face of criticism might have decided to give us her payoff sooner rather than later.

The fact is the only hard facts we know about her are that she knows The Doctor’s name, and calls him “sweetie”. Hardly enough to make a good theory.

“But Anna, in “The Pandorica Opens” she says “I’m sorry, My Love”” Yes but we have no idea WHO she’s actually referring to.  She could just as easily have promised her Love that she would HELP The Doctor no matter what, and protect him.  Remember “The Pandorica Opens” is still our earliest known encounter with River.  And, EVEN IF SHE DOES love The Doctor, do I need to remind you about Martha Jones?  Future Doctor may like her, certainly trust her, but we have no proof that he loves her.

“But Anna, in the new trailer (here) she’s kissing The Doctor!”  For a moment.  And we know that River’s criminal weapon of choice is the Psychic Lipstick. She could easily be an adversary in that scene. We have NO idea where she came from.  She could originally be an agent for The Silence sent to assassinate The Doctor. She could be working for the Daleks, hell we see Amy shoot someone, maybe she’s Amy with a memory erasure, wibbly wobbly timey wimey (a term that was -coined- by Moffat, I remind you). Rory could be “my love” and “the very good man” she killed.  After all the Bishop didn’t know The Doctor but he seemed to be personally familiar with River’s victim. No matter what, this is ALL speculation.

But this brings us to that new trailer…

Dark Doctor

Eleven is certainly not as depressive as Ten, but he’s just as threatening.

Just look at that new line.

“Fear me. I’ve killed hundreds of Time Lords.”

“Fear me. I’ve killed all of them.”

Moffat is the best writer I’ve ever seen who was able to take The Doctor’s pacifism and turn it into a weapon.  He constantly fights and intimidates his opponents with words.  The Atraxi, the Pandorica speech, the Library (a Moffat episode).  These are all cases where The Doctor is able to fend people off with merely the threat of action.

We’re going to meet The Silence as well.  Their motivation and possibly a member or two (as Moffat’s revealed there are many of them).  Personally I’d love to see Eleven take them down one by one anime style.  It is presumably to The Silence that The Doctor’s speaking in that scene, and a brand new member at that, as that voice doesn’t match Prisoner 0 or the Pilot from “the Pandorica Opens”.

But that brings us to a suspected member of The Silence. The Dreamlord. Anyone who doesn’t think that Eleven has depth, that he’s just a bumbling oaf, watch “Amy’s Choice” again.  Knowing that the Dreamlord IS The Doctor, his insults and antics (like, stripping in front of Amy) are that much more stinging.  And of course, there’s the moment where The Doctor lowers his voice when the Dreamlord scoffs at him that he couldn’t possibly know who he (the Dreamlord) is, to which The Doctor only callously replies “There’s only one person in the entire universe who hates me as much as you do”.  And the Dreamlord simply grins.

Amy’s Choice is a misleading title, and brilliantly so.  This episode is ALL about The Doctor.  What does Amy really have to do with this episode?  She picks Rory over The Doctor.  Like she did last episode. They really didn’t need to dedicate ANOTHER episode to that, you don’t HONESTLY think that, do you?

But how is it about The Doctor you ask?  Aside from the aforementioned interactions between The Doctor and the Dreamlord, which is basically internal monologuing on display for us, keep in the back of your mind that EVERYTHING that’s happening is because of The Doctor.  Rory even confirms it, “So that pollen was the Dreamlord?” “No, no no no. Wasn’t it obvious? The Dreamlord was me.”

It’s comical, how The Doctor describes having a “nightmare” about Rory and Amy, but it’s this subtle way he displays the workings of his mind.  In “Vincent and the Doctor” we see how Eleven loathes the passage of time.  He really is ADD without control.  But then you have to consider that the Dreamlord intentionally put them there.  Partly to disgruntle The Doctor, but also partly because it’s the worst kind of life he can think up, and wishes it on Amy and Rory.

There’s a very subtle “usery” component of Eleven’s relationship with his companions.  Not as strong as some other Doctors, like Two or Seven, but it definitely is there.  This could be because Eleven DOES hate himself so much, and the time old saying “you cannot love others until you love yourself”.

And even when he’s being a good guy, think of Gracewell.  Eleven tells him that “to be in pain is to be Human”.  It is his way of explaining his outlook on life, even when he is trying to be helpful.

Now, to bring us full circle, I bring these points up to display something.  It’s called “subtlety”, and RTD had none of it.  He had to spell out everything for us.  Moffat doesn’t.

I think Reality TV has desensitized us as a culture to simply enjoying a good story and letting there be a few questions and subtle cues, and trusting our storyteller to give us a complete experience at the end.  Moffat doesn’t really do bottle shows, his stories are big and vast and complicated and sometimes improbable things happen and we call them miracles.

Just, try to enjoy the ride.  Series 5 had to be slow and light, we needed to see Eleven’s status quo.  We have that now, so let’s enjoy the dive into the story.

Theme

Doctor Who will never again be a pop culture thing.  That was RTD’s thing.  And, admittedly, as far as strong, well told, MARKETABLE stories go, I do concede that he’s better in that regard than Moffat.  But Moffat’s stories are far more complex and much more subtle.  Like, Amy is more complicated than Rose, and we identify with both companions on different levels.

With Rose we sympathize that she doesn’t want to have a normal life when a life with The Doctor is standing right in front of her.  I would feel the same way.  But at the same time, Amy has known The Doctor since she was a child, and her affection for him has not waned with time.  Just like us.  Subtlety. (though wasn’t the pilot perfect for us long time fans? We felt abandoned and betrayed but Matt Smith won our trust back XD) Rose is our personification as a person, Amy is our personification as a fangirl.  They’re both important, but the latter is indicative of where Moffat and Eleven have taken Doctor Who.

Doctor Who is a science fiction show.  And it is choosing to remain a science fiction show.

Deal with it.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: