Dr Who: Book Ends

Steven Moffat. So very, very clever. He made Dr Who into a fairy story or, if you like, a myth, but not about the ever-continuing adventures of a mad man with a box, no. It’s a parable about writing, which is a metaphor about life and memory. At the end of this latest series or season or arc, he has killed his darlings, as every writer must. Much like Cabin in the Woods (see earlier posts) was about the writer as creator so too Moffat has used the stories of River, Amy and Rory to reflect on writing and life.

Anyway the Moff once said about The Library that the Doctor gave River Song the run of all human history and literature as a retirement plan. He has given Amy (and Rory) something similar. Of all the series since Amy Pond arrived she has been the narrator of each episode, introducing each adventure, but in those gaps between each adventure she becomes (eventually) a travel writer and a publisher. And like her mother, River Song becomes the writer of her parent’s adventure with the Doctor in a book The Angel’s Kiss (under the name Melody Malone). Her daughter Melody/River is also the diarist of her own search for The Doctor. River and Amy are stories, those lives that for The Doctor ‘flare and fade’ but whose chapters are muddled. The audience sees their lives mostly from the Doctor’s perspective, like him we dip in and out like opening books in the middle and end before reading the start. Moffat even makes this obvious, by having say the Doctor never reads the last page. Thus the audience sees River die before she was born, we see her as a Professor before she was a Doctor and see Amy and Rory, her parents, greet her as an adult weeks after she was born and River’s own parents meet their child as an adult before they realise they grew up with her or that they will become parents. (My question as a writer is, do the scriptwriters have a special grammar?) After such temporal confusion it is right that the passing of both Amy and River are book-ended, literally and metaphorically.

How soon does the book close?

For River the Doctor leaves her Diary in the Library, because he knows it contains his future and for all his travels he can’t read ahead on his personal timeline. For Amy he reads finally reads the last page of The Angel’s Kiss when he realises it is Amy’s last message to him. It completes her story and it closes the book on Amy.

These ends are as difficult and as touching as any. Like every character in books all of them have died, but remain alive on the page (or super computer hard drive) and in our memories. They are trapped in existences and world’s that are mostly beyond the Doctor but each managed to fulfil their dreams, mostly. Again, just like any well-drawn character confined to the bounds of a page or story.

And yet the story continues, River has just lost her parents and is free, but refuses to travel with The Doctor (fans know this, she is not the new companion). The audience  too, has skipped ahead and know her end. Only now we can see her moving towards it: she has been released from the Storm Cage and is now a Professor. I continue to hope she has much more to do before her book closes.

And there is the new companion. Someone we have seen who rewrote the history books on the Doctor’s greatest enemy and died a hero. Much props to Moff for endearing the audience to a new companion before she properly arrives and for (again maybe) somehow killing her before we really get to know her. Unless, of course, it isn’t her.

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