Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Who Musings.



In my article about Star Trek I mentioned that as a child I lacked Science Fiction in life, which is shocking considering how much I love it now. For the explanation of what I consider Sci Fi please see the same article. Before the high tech fantasy, exciting action, the science, the political, social and philosophical nature good Sci Fi has to offer, what fascinates me most in this genre is the writing.

Good Science Fiction exhibits a wonderful and rare amalgamation of creative freedom, which the Sci Fi stories usually allow and at the same time the great Sci Fi writing is one of the most disciplined, controlled and perfectionist kind of writing I have come across. It is as if creating the fiction in itself is science. Perhaps we should consider calling it Fiction Science, Fi Sci anyone?

Not that other don't offer equally brilliant writing. The Wire for example, is notable for its extensive and impressive research as well as superb and detailed writing, but its content is confined to the police drama genre, which doesn’t leave much room for the kind of plot craftiness that time and space travel, for instance, do.   

From the very beginning Doctor Who demonstrated this quality of Fiction Science most strongly, attracting an array of talented writers produced not just new original stories, some of which stand the test of time and space, but also created a unique concept. Maybe this is the secret of its success for fifty years. 

Steven Moffat's writing is certainly attune with this crafty Who writing and at his best he masters it like a conductor an orchestra. I wrote before, when discussing Sherlock’s The Reichenbach Fall and Doctor Who’s The Angel Takes Manhattan, about how Moffat’s writing shares the creative process in his works. Together with his skilled plotting, it's what makes Moffat one of the most interesting TV writers.   

Ho! How I loved The Name of the Doctor, which is, as it turned out, either Please or John Hurt, mmmm… Doctor John Hurt has a nice ring to it. From the clever play of words in the episode’s title to the resolution of the impossible girl this finale has taken hold of my heart and swept me away with it.

Not that The Name of the Doctor is free of problems. The godlike character the Doctor has become in Moffat’s hands, made even stronger by the sanctity of his real name that mustn’t be uttered, much like the real name of god for the Jewish people, is a bit jarring. However, with the exception of the episode Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, in this part of the season, most of the Doctor’s solutions are not godlike and I do think Moffat partly addresses the problems with such a character. Moreover, it seems like the godlikeness of the Doctor doesn’t have a religious cult like feel to it, unlike with some of the Russell T Davis stories. It rather feels like there is a genuine love for the Doctor from both the characters around him and the Moff and in a way it is similar to how any kind of fandom would attribute godlike quality to whoever it is aimed at. 

I have noticed that Moffat doesn’t like killing off his characters, at least not when it comes to Doctor Who but probably and understandably never, not even the minor ones. Some may see it as a problem, I think it’s kind of wonderful! Since Joss Whedon, who specialised in killing off favourite characters, had branded the loss of a loved character, it has become quite fashionable. Good television uses this to put viewers in a position where they are on edge and in constant fear for the wellbeing of their favourite characters as well as to create an uncompromising impace. In bad television, loss of characters becomes a gimmick which trivialises the effect this plot move can have.

Now it is interesting and refreshing to find a writer that struggles with killing any of his characters and therefore always leaves them an open window to come back. Why shouldn’t losing a character in such a final and determined kind of way, be a struggle? And since the Sci Fi, or Fi Sci, allows for it, why shouldn’t they come back? Like River Song says at the end of Forest of the Dead: "Everybody knows that everybody dies, and nobody knows it like the Doctor. But I do think that all the skies of all the worlds might just turn dark if he ever accepts it".

True, Jenny’s return from the dead in The Name of the Doctor has reduce the impact her otherwise quite brilliant murder scene, had and I did wish Moffat would let go in this case. However, no one was happier than I was to River Song again. Like the Doctor and I suppose Moffat too, I never really accepted River’s death, to me she was saved, her voice over continued in the Forest of the Dead: "Everybody knows that everybody dies, but not every day, not today", there was every reason to believe that she may still come back and that her timeline has not yet ended. The idea that she might still exist somewhere, loving and missing the Doctor but unable to be with him, can be more painful than death. Like the eleventh Doctor said, he can always see her, she is always there, lingering in the back of his mind and unlike dead people, won’t go away.

Because she has been an off screen companion, because her story was as curious and fantastic as the Doctor's and perhaps because I love her with all my heart, River’s story never really ended in my head or my heart. We got to see River falling for the Doctor and stopping time for him, we never really got to see the Doctor falling for River. The wedding’s circumstances could, for some people who are not me, make less of the love story.The Doctor has never been as forthcoming with his feelings as River was, and though we know he trusted her with his name at some point, we never got to know how that came about.  All of this has made it difficult, for me as River Song’s number one fan, to accept his flirting with Clara, in fact it made me angry and disappointed as if River meant nothing.

Imagine my surprise and the burst of joy that filled me when I first saw River, almost equal to the joy from seeing all the previous Doctors, but for different reasons. Initially I was simply happy to see a beloved character back to save the day. Clara’s comment that she didn’t realise she was a woman added to my annoyed feeling that River meant little or nothing to the Doctor. But from the moment the Doctor grabbed her hand and acknowledged her. the tears started pouring and I knew that the Doctor did and does still love River and so does Moffat and just like me they don’t want to let go and she had to force them and me to do so, not unlike her mother. How painful and yet wonderful at the same time! Though I know it has been said before, by me as well, I must once again drop my jaw and tip my imaginary hat at Matt Smith's brilliant acting, how one moment he looks so commanding and severe his tallness make Kingston look small and gentle and then in blink of an eye, when he is forced to say goodbye, he becomes fragile and helpless himself, he even shrinks a little. Not enough words to explain the awe I am in when faced with this man enormous talent. Also when Matt Smith and Alex Kingston are on screen together, nothing else matters!

Now that I am done gushing over River for now, I can turn to Clara. Following the change of mind I had about Amy, I am still reserving judgement about her. Moffat seems to like tagging the girls who accompany the Doctor. Amy was the girl who waited (I’m still not convinced by that btw) and now Clara was the Impossible girl. It is like adding some air of importance to the companions, they are a mystery to the Doctor as he is a mystery to them and they are as important to the show as he. Apart from saving his life by remembering him, Amy has also become his mother in law. And so, apart from saving his life by rewriting back his tampered timeline, Clara not only becomes the longest serving companion, but also the writer of his timeline. 

Now Clara is on a crossroad, she served her purpose, the mystery has been resolved, but unlike her in the voice over, I think this is where her story is just beginning and perhaps now we will get less mystery and more Clara. There is the possibility that Clara will remain a background and flat character, I hope that’s not the case.

By planting Clara all over the Doctor’s timelines and letting her influence it, Moffat is claiming ownership of Doctor Who, but he does it with grace and unlike J.J Abrams with Star Trek, from a position of a fan. Therefore instead of wondering if the previous Doctors existed or not, Moffat not only makes sure that they remain a part of the Doctor and send his character to fight those who are trying to rewrite it, but also he weave himself into the classic series in a bid to become a part of it. While Abrams took Star Trek out of its history to create a new Star Trek history that will appeal to non fans, Moffat embraces the classic Who and wants to be worthy to be a part of its history.




                                                                                                                                                        




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