Flatline – Clara’s Choice
Seems some people are upset with Clara, mainly for not wanting the kids saved in Flatline. I think she spoke as a someone who has seen a bit of the universe and seen how lonely and dangerous it is for survivors. I also think she spoke as someone who has lost her mother and spent her working life attempting to be a kind of parent. Saving a handful of kids would have been both cruel and kind. And I liked her answer, she wasn’t staying because Danny, who wouldn’t leave the kids, she wanted to stay so as to not to be the last. For all her wanting to be a ‘Good Doctor’ she doesn’t want the one thing that defines his iterations since 2005 to be the only one, since she has seen his despair and rage and lostness.
While there are parallels to Fires of Pompeii and The Doctor and Donna’s decision to ‘save anyone’ this was on a larger scale and in the end it became more like Amy’s Choice. Amy chose to risk death because of her love, and The Doctor followed suit by attempting to blow up the TARDIS. As an episode it demonstrated again how Clara and The Doctor are on different paths. He and Donna were together in their decision, Amy and the Doctor make similar decisions, but Clara goes her own way.
Anyway all that’s beside the point…
Peter Capaldi’s Doctor spends a lot of time highlighting aspects of his character that are rude, supercilious and judgemental. Plus a little ignorant. I mean of course trees communicate, has he not heard of symbiotic fungi? Some suspect him of being Autistic, but that’s not right. His behaviour is a choice. Much too, has been made about the age of this Doctor’s incarnation. Yep, physically he looks older and there maybe a plot reason for this, but emotionally and mentally he has regressed and is less mature.
Queue The Evidence
The Doctor has always missed human social and interpersonal cues for appropriateness. Up to a point this is played for laughs and it can be endearing, like when Rose gives him a look about not eating straight out of (someone else’s) jar in Fear Her. This is a visual short cut to render him an outsider, Other. However, most of the time it’s his choice. In his rush he doesn’t have time for courtesy – sometimes this is fair enough – he does tell Queen Victoria to go for a jog when they are being pursued by a werewolf. Of late though, this impatience with manners and other people speaking has been turned up a notch. In almost every recent episode he is telling people to shut up, rather than finding other ways to get thinking time – like fingers on lips (Fear Her) or hands across mouths (Vampires of Venice).
He may play with humans and indeed breathe their air, but The Doctor doesn’t live by their rules, which are for ‘little people’. What happened to The Doctor thinking of humans (like Wilfred Mott) as giants?
I get that he elects to eliminate certain things from his focus to solve the problem at hand, but this is not exactly working is it? In trying to see the big picture he has stopped listening to people, Clara in particular. I don’t know if this is a clue to us that he doesn’t trust Clara, but it’s infuriating.
The Doctor has always been a kind of Alien Sherlock or Space Gandalf, but Sherlock was always obvious about his motives for his analytical behaviour and honest about his emotional capabilities, and while Gandalf often brought bad news he was never mean or unfeeling about it. Yet, while The Doctor seems exhibits traits akin to Sherlock Holmes’ those with Autism have capacity to care. I’m wondering if the Doctor does…because he seems mostly not to and since he doesn’t care he doesn’t mind saying so, especially to people like Courtney. I’m hoping there is a reason for all of this.
When he does care it’s with all the maturity of a sulky kid as he lets others around him interpret his silences. It’s Danny who has the insight into what The Doctor feels about Clara. This Doctor also fails at detecting human emotions. Once he could ‘read’ Amy and Rory and now he is completely unsure about how Clara feels unless she tells him. Lucky for us she does (or does she?). Except sometimes he doesn’t listen and Clara resorts to yelling or insisting he listen. This happens on the Orient Express repeatedly. Instead of The Doctor telling people to shut up I want Clara to tell The Doctor to grow up and do the one thing almost each of the episodes has told us to do – Listen.
It’s true The Doctor’s ability to focus to solve problems often presents him as some kind of savant. His recall and long history combined with his superior technology often get him the win. Yet The Doctor is a genius born of experience, there are far more intelligent beings out there who’ve passed exams, like The Master, for instance. Recently though, Clara is the one doing the problem solving. He knows the big picture, but she sees the solutions that saves people – like with her hair-band on the train in Flatline. And since when does a genius focused on solving problems refuse to provide all the information required to those tasked to make a decision – as in to Clara in Kill the Moon?
The Doctor as Henry Higgins
Don’t get me wrong, as a hero The Doctor is pretty entertaining. Yet he has always been bit of an egotistical mansplainer. The Doctor believes he is the smartest person in the room and the one with all the answers, which he eventually provides. This model of older authoritarian white man telling younger women stuff is a tired trope in Western culture and exists in everything from Pygmalion to 50 Shades of Grey. This is why the show needs The Doctor to stop dismissing people, which is the point about having graffiti teen and voices-hearing school girl save the world. It’s just a pity that the lesson he teaches in In the Forest of the Night – to listen – is the one he most needs to learn.
However, I think most of what I want to say about women I’ve addressed in posts about Kill the Moon and The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe.
One out of one aliens can’t tell the difference between humans and otters
The Doctor has fixations, mainly about people. This doesn’t put him on the spectrum though. He stubbornly gets an idea in his head and with his vast intellect he can’t find it in himself to call Danny by his name or acknowledge that he is indeed a maths teacher and not a PE teacher. With Mickey/Ricky that was a gag that became meaningful. But with Danny it’s just dismissive. He also fails to see that Danny is the child Rupert he spoke to and also the ancestor of the first time traveller he met and rescued. For someone fixated on seeing the truth he can’t see it very well at all. He prolly should wear his glasses again.
Some on the spectrum are good at organising data. The Doctor uses his abilities to reduce people to categories. Sometimes this is necessary, so in Smith and Jones The Doctor identifies Martha as helpful, and one of her colleagues as someone who will ‘slow them down’ because of her panic. Again, with limited time and oxygen, this is probably fair. In Flatline Briggsy becomes ‘Local Knowledge’ along with other less complimentary titles told to his face, just like Danny is PE. His hasty categorisations are becoming lasting judgements, often completely wrong and against the spirit of ‘never cruel or cowardly’.
However, there maybe one difference The Doctor can see.
Not Good Enough
First there was Mickey ‘the Idiot’ Smith, the man not good enough for Rose and who was replaced by The Doctor himself, and now Danny ‘PE’ is the man who must prove himself to be good enough for Clara. However, The Doctor assumes Clara falls for the (white) literature teacher because of his bow tie and awkwardness. This is either a clumsy attempt to allow The Doctor to imagine Clara with a poor clone of his former self (metaphorically speaking) or reflects his inability to see how Danny could be with Clara.
Martha, the rebound Companion, is never quite good enough compared to Rose (Shakespeare Code). I thought this was to demonstrate his grief and guilt, but is it really? It’s interesting that when The Doctor and the TARDIS imagine a human life for him it is a particular era where Martha is only let in as a servant and is subject to racist taunts.
Then I remember Donna with her husband Shaun who ‘doesn’t earn much’ and how The Doctor rescues them both with a lottery ticket. Then’s there’s her first husband who sold her out to a giant alien spider. Does Donna have a type or are the husbands too harshly portrayed – especially Shaun? Is this the Great White Saviour deigning to help his less capable, intelligent and deserving rivals who are never good enough compared to him? Then there is The Doctor’s treatment of Courtney – he tells her she is worthless and then claims the credit regarding her later importance. I can’t recall a single individual he has called unimportant, until Courtney?
I’m not sure this is deliberate, and perhaps I’m the one with the problem, grouping disparate characters like this. Yet, if I am right the theme here is that PoC are being cast as characters who either see themselves or are seen by others as Not Good Enough. Not good enough as boyfriends or husbands, not good enough as providers or companions and not good enough as individuals.
Am I finally reading too much into a family TV show?
The test is whether I apply Good Enough to all the other Companions. Captain Jack – too much ego to admit he is not actually Good Enough; Rose grows from shop girl to dimension jumping saviour of the world but she never feels like she doesn’t deserve The Doctor; Donna never feels like she doesn’t have the right to get in the face of The Doctor, despite her insecurities. Amy feels entitled to The Doctor and is powered by her restored faith in him. Rory, although competing with The Doctor, is powered by his devotion to Amy and he never feels he doesn’t deserve her. River, as the combination of best and worst attributes of Amy (& Rory) and somehow Captain Jack, is never Not Good Enough. If anything, despite her long tragic trajectory, she is too much for The Doctor. As for the Paternoster Gang, the 19th Century London Steam-punk Lone Gunmen, they are uniquely Other and awesome on their own and they know it – even though The Doctor treats them all badly as a kind of reluctant dependent.
If there is one character who subverts the Not Good Enough test it is Danny. Apart from being a bit awkward initially, Danny is not stupid, nor does he think of himself as such (like Mickey). He has already been a soldier so he doesn’t need The Doctor weaponising him. He doesn’t need saving because he saved himself from the potential legacies of his childhood. He is already a fully formed character of small flaws and heroic attributes. He is a carer and counsellor and a man of action and reason. As In the Forest of the Night demonstrates, he is someone who has thought about what he wants – to understand what he sees. He is more mature in The Doctor in this way. Maybe Danny is the true test for Clara, rather than her adventures? Maybe she will need to measure up to him? Just as The Doctor needs to act like the kind of Doctor Clara has become? I hope Danny is not too good to be true…and I hope understanding what he sees helps in the finale.
Speaking of which
Right up until the Dark Water preview I thought we finally had a handle on Clara. She, as apprentice Doctor, was doing much better at solving problems than our Timelord. She has Danny, a job with responsibilities, and the opportunity to see the universe. The only mystery about her is how she got the TARDIS phone number.
I’m thinking Missy.
Clara – know your enemy
With Clara – at all times she is someone different to him – Eliza Doolittle Barmaid and Secret Nanny, Dalek/Entertainment Officer/Genius, Modern Nanny, Teacher, Liar, and with the preview not even Clara? It seems this entire season she has been memorising The Doctor’s modus operandi and has been using it to solve his problems and now I suspect, using it against him. Not just to lie about and to Danny, but to other ends.
I’m conflicted about this upcoming finale. I don’t want Clara to be a victim without agency, but I don’t want her to be without redemption or restoration.
Missy and Clara are linked. There is a nethersphere, there are cybermen and the dead.
- Clara is an amnesic Master stuck as a human (again). Or Missy is The Master and Clara is her daughter/something and they are raising the dead to inhabit cyber suits? Just like they raised the Master a while ago?
- If Clara isn’t Clara, is Danny real, is Coal Hill? Do Danny and Coal Hill exist because The Doctor has been infiltrated? Just like Plastic Roman Rory was ‘invented’ through Amy? And this is all Missy’s doing because cybers?
- Missy is a another renegade member of the Church of the Mainframe out to get The Doctor. Clara is her acolyte. This time they are raising a dead army against him.
- Missy is a corrupted file of River in the Library (even the biggest computer in the world must get corrupted files – or corrupted duplicate files). And Clara is some kind of virus as she is ‘mentally linked with’ River.
- Clara is another ganger, like with Amy, but programmed by Missy. They want to revivify the dead to make them cybers.
- Clara is just a ‘repeated meme’, Missy is the enemy. Cybers are a type of meme.
- Missy is a galactic infectious epidemiologist from Appalappachia’s medical ward out to clean up The Doctor (as the only surviving person from the planet) using Clara as intelligent disinfectant?
- Is Clara a ghost in the machine? When she gave her ‘we’ll all dead to you speech’ in Hide was she telling the truth and her body is in the nethersphere?
What I really want is the why of it all. And it better be good – long, strung out preludes for underwhelming main events suck.
Please add your theories to the mix. The wilder the better. Or arguments as to why I’m completely wrong about stuff. This is, after all, only one reading of the text.