I should stop reading comments on Doctor Who pages. Mainly because of the hate. And also people don’t get story telling and context. Fans are rabid about change, and angry when they don’t change fast enough or in the way they want or understand. I don’t understand it. Even if I haven’t loved every episode of the last 10 years, no one can expect to. I fail to see how the legacy has been wrecked, not by any producer or director or writer or actor either.
24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE: It’s my belief that history is a wheel. “Inconsistency is my very essence” -says the wheel- “Rise up on my spokes if you like, but don’t complain when you are cast back down into the depths. Good times pass away, but then so do the bad. Mutability is our tragedy, but it is also our hope. The worst of times, like the best, are always passing away.”
You belong to me
I think it all this feeling has to do with nostalgia and protection. It’s all this ‘my Doctor’ stuff. If the writers are loath to kill their characters, the fans are even more resistant to accept that things change. However, if there are any ‘fixed points’ in the story they are: Tardis (same outside continually changing inside), The Doctor travels with the Tardis, The Doctor has companions, and finally The Doctor travels. Everything else is up for grabs, characters can change, plots can be ‘rewritten‘ and heroes can be ‘retconned.’
I think this message from Matt Smith’s last episode is probably not so much for The Doctor’s enemies, as it is for viewers.
DOCTOR: Did you mention “the rules”? Now listen, bit of advice – tell me the truth if you think you know it, lay down the law if you’re feeling brave! But, Daleks – never, ever, tell me the rules!
As Asylum of the Daleks demonstrated, anyone can be a Dalek. Child ballerinas, space ship crew, people who insist they must be right and everyone else is wrong about the direction of the program. To quote Owsin, I am not a Dalek. Like The Doctor, I insist on change and will always find something to appreciate in each episode.
The nostalgia is about fans preferring ‘the old stuff.’ These best periods are whenever any single person was probably watching when they first became a fan. Probably as a teen or child. Mostly, this is because of neuro-chemicals and brain development. It’s why we love the music of our youth more passionately than whatever ‘this new alleged music is’ (insert whatever you think is rubbish). I’m not a scientist, but influences during youth stay with us for life. Like song lyrics. More on this later.
People attack the things they love out of fear of losing them. Losing the way it made you feel as a child, losing a character, losing a kind of story. However, even if Doctor Who had remained exactly the same, viewers will not feel the same because *they* have changed. As Gatsby clearly proved, you can’t relive the past. Not even with time travel.
Remember when a dream appears
The official canon of the program is that there is no canon. And fair enough too. How can there be, for an ongoing program more than 50 years old, with a main character who lies and tells us so, and can travel through time and space and occassionally, other dimensions, which is already full of plots that contradict each other? Not to mention the licensed productions in audio, television, film and charity specials and all manner of printed and digital material.
If there is something you don’t understand about an arc or episode, then the story or the theme is probably referencing itself. Because, while there is no canon (an overused term few understand) the program is nothing if not full of in-jokes, and jests with punch lines made 30 years later…or earlier. And rather than flaws in characters…dare I say perhaps they are more reflective of flaws in perception?
What I’m trying to say, is that viewers should stop being wedded to one idea about what this program can be or how a character can be like, because more than anything, it is a program about change. It demonstrates the pain of change, the randomness and inevitability, its speed (or not). And because so many people don’t understand this, the writers have The Doctor tell us:
DOCTOR: We all change, when you think about it, we’re all different people; all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good, you’ve gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.
Just remember darling all the while
Since my previous post, I’ve time to watch the episode again. There’s enough in Hell Bent for proof it was a suitable and appropriate ending to an era, and why the ending to the episode was also thus. This era, as I will now term it, is the Remembrance Arc and this end of season episode was the culmination of the arc, which was inculcated by the appearance of Oswin Oswald, in Asylum of the Daleks.
However, it wasn’t Oswin’s death that initiated this, so much as the Dalek’s nano cloud working it’s thang on Amy. The Doctor posits that remembering will stop her becoming a Dalek.
DOCTOR: Keep her remembering, keep her focused. That’ll hold back the conversion.
From this The Doctor thinks holding onto the past can prevent change, but really, he’s lying. He’s already given Amy the bracelet to prevent the change that would have been inevitable.
We should note it is The Doctor remembering things about Daleks that identifies Clara inside the shell and saves her life on Skaro. Remembering and Daleks are inter-connected through Clara, given Oswin’s delete stunt.
Just remember till you’re home again
For a being that believed for a long time he was the last of his kind, remembering the past is important. (As for the last of his kind, there maybe other Gallifreyans, and there maybe Time Lords, but I’m not sure there are or were many like him.) And he holds more past than most. As a traveller too, he is the collector of experiences. So, while normally he wouldn’t need to be told to remember, with Clara, there is a point.
OSWIN: I am Oswin Oswald. I fought the Daleks and I am human. Remember me.
DOCTOR: Thank you.
When they next meet in The Snowmen, he has learned his lesson.
DOCTOR: It was soufflé girl again. I never saw her face the first time with the Daleks, but her voice, it was the same voice.
JENNY: But Clara’s dead. What’s he talking about, finding her?
(Clara Oswin Oswald. Remember me, we shall meet again. Born November 23 1866, died December 24, 1892.)
Remembering Clara becomes his new mission and she rightly points out that he mostly doesn’t remember her, because what she does to make him remember, only happens at Trenzalore. Once there, he realises who she has been and how her sacrifice saves his life.
CLARA: Run. Run, you clever boy. And remember.
But in the way of things, her sacrifice wasn’t so very consequential. It’s not like she died.
VASTRA: I don’t know, but perhaps the universe makes bargains after all.
Ok, they were consequential, but not in a death way. Jumping in a Timelord’s time (death) stream results in stuff happening. He speaks to the dead – that is River, but also Clara’s development kicks up a gear. And not only that, but her actions affect The Doctor. I would go so far as to say they redefine him. She was in his time stream. This is coupled by the fact she helped heal his childhood in Listen. She shaped some of his core beliefs and even helped him decide which Tardis to take. (She probably got the one he wanted). She is his teacher, metaphorically and literally. After spending all this time thinking how she was becoming The Doctor, it has actually been the other way around. Or, they are meeting each other in the middle. Thus, how could he not be attached to her? It explains why he could fracture time to save her when he didn’t for Rose.
DOCTOR: I will not forget one line of this, not one day, I swear.
But just like when the two sides of the fissure in time from Amelia’s room shouldn’t meet, these two shouldn’t meet. They are both catalysers. They maybe responsible for each others lives, but they aren’t always good for each other.
The other thing is, if anyone else had been responsible for her death, I think he would have acted differently. That it was The President of the Time Lords makes his mad impulse to save her a given, because only the Time Lords have the tools he needs to make it possible.
Because he does have rules, he accepts that Clara can’t be with him. Spending 4.5 billion years in a prison made it clear. It made him the hybrid (or not). And Clara did what she was always going to do as Doctor Clara.
CLARA: I’d know you anywhere.
In their Doctor Donna rerun, everything is reversed, but it always had to be, since before this regeneration remembering and forgetting have been huge issues. He erased himself from history, only to be reconstructed from his absences, and he made a promise to remember himself. But Clara is equally correct about owning her past. Like River, she doesn’t want any of it rewritten.
This Clara, who has splintered and died in many lives, might be undead or almost dead, but is not a ghost.
CLARA: [leaning on Clara Oswin Oswald’s tombstone] Nah. I don’t believe in ghosts.
However, in her final conversation with The Doctor, she is the ghost to him. It is Clara, not River, who is the dead person speaking to him. And while he could listen and see River, he can’t see the person he’s talking to as his dead – but- not Clara. Yet, she is nothing but truthful. All her statements about her self become true. She is the person whose existence can be reconstructed from her presence.
CLARA: But here we are, talking. So I am a ghost. To you, I’m a ghost. We’re all ghosts to you. We must be nothing.
So, again, this stranger in a diner is nothing because to The Doctor she is not her. Yet, like in The Snowmen, she is (almost) dead, and he still talks of finding her.
Watch the sunrise from a tropic isle
They had to end up talking in a diner in the US. Back to somewhere familiar, symbolic of times when lines split into multiple directions depending on what River did (shoot him, refuse to shoot him, try to stop herself shooting him). It is just another indication of how Clara and The Doctor’s timeline can split too. He can continue running and tinkering with songs he can’t remember, and I can be sad for him in the same way I was sad for Donna. But it is right that he will see River after this. She was there when Clara jumped into his time steam and suddenly, she’s back, just as Clara’s been erased from it.
Clara can run her lap the long way around to her actual death via a distant Gallifrey. And in case you think the foreshadowing hasn’t been obvious enough, like Ashildir, she is now also The Girl Who Died and the Woman Who Lived. She can remember, and travel with Ashildir, who always forgets. Together, they can be 24 Hour Party people. By my estimates they have about 5 billion years.
I might leave you with this, thinking as I have been of life and death , circles and time, and remembering:
In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! we are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory.