Puppets are great metaphors for writers. Writers are the string pullers of their worlds. They are the will behind the action, the sleight of hand making things happen without seeming to do much at all (except typing), the voice of the work behind the words. They are ventriloquists who throw their voices and make matter live (pixels and ink and paper instead of wooden dolls). But you get my drift.
The Doctor too, likes to think of himself as a string puller. I mean with a few words he can depose a PM or hold off an army ( I guess like a writer can eh). But he is being manipulated by the Tardis, who sees all of time, is influenced by his companions and by the laws of time and timing. Sure the Tardis brings him to a world so he can get a clone/daughter. But the timing is off (thanks Martha) and he loses her…
Anyway, so yeah, like I was saying about ideas coming from everywhere. It’s not like puppets haven’t been used to tell stories before…
New Who has delighted at length in making every day items and phenomena uncanny, or alien or dangerous. Or all three. Dust motes in sunlight – a horde of hungry Vasta Nerada. Elaborately dressed Clockwork Robots – out to harvest the brain of Marie Antoinette. Santa parade? No, it’s a march of doom with trumpets as weapons. Boring manikin? No. Living angry plastic out to get you. You see what I mean?
I love the uncanny. I know I’m being manipulated into a feeling in a story like this. But the idea is to let go and revel in it. Aristotle understood. It’s about catharsis.
And it should get a reaction. The real made unreal, darkness made menacing – in actual fact that’s the point. The otherwise naturally occurring absence of light is made into ‘darkness’ by the fact things lurk in it, use it, hide in it and mess with us in it. Stories teach about the danger.
But when childhood items are made uncanny, it ups the level of tension. Innocent drawings or a prison made of special energy? Wooden dolls with extra-large bobby heads with tiny facial features – yes weird. But even weirder when they are people transformed. Yet this time the uncanny comes to toys and puppets. At Christmas. Like we probably all knew it would one day. A lil bit how the Doctor made a present of a portal to a forest that one time. (As you do).
But we’ve seen it before. Last Christmas. Remember when perfectly everyday seeming snowmen and ice sculptures attacked? There were puppets too:
Now maybe I’m being manipulated into making connections that aren’t there because the BBC insists on releasing promo pics, but I think this time the table has turned.
This time the Doctor is not just pretending to be a puppet in a show, but actually is really inside some kind of ‘toy world’. This time, instead of Clara inside his head, he is inside something-ish. Yes there are call backs to the pictures during the London Olympics and to all his great enemies, but whatevs, it’s the toys and child-like items that make it more unsettling.
But what would be even more unsettling is if this world was some how the Doctor’s mind as a child. Trapped, like River was once as a child. He is always being childlike and often childish. What if…
Now that would be unsettling.
Perfect for an uncanny Christmas really.