clocketpatch: A small, innocent-looking red alarm clock, stuck forever at 10 to 7. (TARDIS Blue)
[personal profile] clocketpatch
Warning, the following was written on very little sleep. I've been awake for over twenty hours (night shifts, they will mess with your circadian rhythm like whoa). This is partially an episode reaction to Face the Raven, but it is also a reaction to the entirity of series 9 and its themes. It is a collection of thoughts I've been having for the last several months which have grown stronger with each episode. It is a collection of thoughts that I had to think really hard about during a recent phone conversation.


Clara, Clara, Clara. Some days she annoys me. Some days she enchants me. She's the impossible girl. A thousand things at once. She's coming and she's going. She's nothing but a plot twist. She's an independant young woman searching for her place in the world. She's beautiful, bisexual, brilliant, damaged, addicted, and not certain if she's running to or away from the future. She's the Doctor's carer. She's the Doctor's charge. Of all the Doctor's companions in NuWho, she's the one who I've found myself relating to the most on a personal level.

She's also very probably dead. And maybe the Doctor is too.

That ending, with Rigsy painting the TARDIS, broke my heart into little tiny pieces.

And who's fault was it? Was it Twelve's for saving Ashieldr? Was it Clara's for trying to save Rigsy? Was it Ashieldr's for creating the situation? Or the Mire Warriors for attacking Ashieldr's village in the first place? Or Rigsy's for asking for help and giving Clara the burden of his life? There are a lot of intersections where blame can be laid.

And in those intersections there's something there which I've been noticing in this series since the very first episode. It's a common theme, or set of themes, and its very, very topical. The media was talking about it a lot in the Zygon episodes, because they weren't especially subtle, but the same theme is everywhere, in every episode.

This series is about compassion and helping people. It is about the fact that helping a stranger IS a risky thing to do. It can go wrong. Sometimes terribly wrong. Sometimes you save a girl from a Viking Village and Clara ends up dead.

In the Magician's Apprentice/The Witch's Familiar we are re-confronted with the Doctor's moral quandary from Genesis of the Daleks - if you meet a child and know that he will grow up evil, can you kill that child? What happens to us when a scared child in a warzone is the enemy? It is about the guilt that will destroy us if we turn away from our conscience and the dangers that may also destroy us when we follow it.

In Before the Flood/Beneath the Lake we meet the Tivolians again, a race who allow themselves to be conquered while bending over backwards to help their conquerors feel happy and comfortable. There is also the theme of people being assimilated into The Enemy which crops up again and again this series. It's hard to know who your friends are. It's hard to know who to trust. Your friendly Medieval Pal might just be a Dalek Duplicate. It's so hard to tell when the Bad Guys don't wear labels…

In The Girl Who Died/The Woman Who Lived the character of Ashieldr is set up, and there's a flash-back to where Twelve saw his face before in Pompeii, which I found interesting. Twelve took the message to be: "I'm the Doctor and damn the rules of time, I can save people!" but the message, given the events of Fire of Pompeii could have just as easily been, "Sometimes, for the greater good, you cannot save everyone." After all, the Doctor deliberately caused the eruption of Pompeii in order to save the world.

In the Zygon Invasion/Inversion… well, like I said, they weren't exactly subtle episodes, which doesn't mean they weren't good, and there are quite a few people I've dealt with in recent days who need a load of clue bricks dropped on their heads if you're going to get through to them. But still, the same themes of how helping others can backfire, of how you don't always know who the enemy is, and of how sometimes you have to protect yourself (five rounds rapid), and how sometimes we are deceived (the Zygons in the church). There are consequences to every action: when you strike out you don't know where, ultimately, that blow will fall. When you help someone, you can't always predict whether that person will go on to do something good or bad.

Sleep No More was a very ambitious, experimental, and perhaps not entirely successful episode (I'm still the only person I've met who enjoyed it), but even in its jangled confusion it still hit on the themes. The team goes to rescue Gagan Rassmussen (and presumably we're watching the video because we want to find out what happened to him and help him if we can) and yet doing so only helps him in completing his plan. Gagan Rassmussen wants to help the Sandmen, who he describes as "children" and yet this is clearly a very bad idea, because they consume him. There is also the moment when Nagata wants to help her crew mates and the Doctor stops her, "because getting yourself killed saving them won't help you or them."

And now, back to Face the Raven, where the traditional baddies of the Doctor Who universe are disguised as ordinary people trying to live their lives. And they do. They live and co-exist and are safe from the wars and chaos they have fled from. But the peace is only maintained because of Ashieldr/Me's ironfisted full and lack of mercy. According to Rump, keeping the peace is worth anything, even the death of an innocent – especially if that innocent is a stranger.

And then Clara dies, because of the Doctor's compassion for Ashieldr, because of Clara's compassion for Rigsy. Because both of them took a risk to help a stranger without knowing all the facts or thinking the situation through to its conclusions.

Maybe I'm seeing patterns where they don't exist. Maybe the state of the world is blurring into how I perceive everything, even slightly campy time-travel scifi. But I really feel like there is cumulative message in all of this, whether it's intentional or if it's just seeped in because it's the current zeitgeist and these thoughts and fears are on everyone's minds, not the least the Doctor Who writing team.

Darvos asks the Doctor if compassion is wrong. The Doctor responds that we must always, always have mercy, but mercy doesn't seem very high on his priority list at the end of Face the Raven. It is on Clara's list, however, and she tells the Doctor he cannot, must not seek revenge. He must not be a warrior. He must strive to be a healer.

He cannot continue the cycle of violence. He must end it. That is his choice. That is all he has going into the next episode. In the end, that is all any of us have.

I don't know what the Doctor is going to face next week. I have some ideas. For one, when the main villian in a Doctor-only episode is named The Veil it makes me think the Doctor is going to step back a Yard and do some heavy self examination. Or I could be completely wrong. I've been very wrong before.

I am excited for Heaven Sent (on a purely id-filled level: an hour long episode of Peter Capaldi shouting and monologueing and running from monsters? YES PLEASE!!! Can I have this yesterday?), but I am also nervous, because if I'm not just seeing patterns, if Davros' question has been echoing through this series, then these next two episodes will be where the Doctor answers.

Where he makes his confession, if you will.

And where we learn what the overall moral (if there is one) of this series has been, truth or consequence:

Help the stranger in need?

Or turn away to avoid being hurt?


Date: 2015-11-22 11:59 pm (UTC)

From: [identity profile] a-phoenixdragon.livejournal.com
This is beautiful....thank you...

*HUGS*
Date: 2015-11-23 01:57 pm (UTC)

lost_spook: (dw - oswin)
From: [personal profile] lost_spook
This series is about compassion and helping people. It is about the fact that helping a stranger IS a risky thing to do. It can go wrong. Sometimes terribly wrong. Sometimes you save a girl from a Viking Village and Clara ends up dead.

Ahh, thanks for this. It's really interesting. I'm enjoying this year (mostly, so far!) but not the way I did last year, but it's so cool to see you draw out a theme, which I couldn't see until you did that. Last year it was so much about the monstrous and the unknown turning out not to be as bad as you feared (and this unknown Doctor still turning out to be the Doctor) (with Listen as the epitome of that), all sandwiched in between two macabre things about robots wearing the skins of dead humans and dead humans wearing robot casings (but again, love more powerful than fear or death). And whatever anybody else thought, I loved that so much, even in the weaker eps.

But this is interesting & I think you're right about the overall theme & that's great. :-)
Date: 2015-11-25 09:03 am (UTC)

lost_spook: (dw - amy)
From: [personal profile] lost_spook
I can see it now you've pointed it out, which is great - but I saw last year's theme as much tighter and more obvious (and appealing more to me, at the time anyway). So, this was v interesting to read!
Date: 2015-11-27 09:23 am (UTC)

lost_spook: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lost_spook
I suppose it's a lot about what's chiming with us particularly, too. :-)
Date: 2015-11-23 03:13 pm (UTC)

From: [identity profile] garpu.livejournal.com
I think you're on to something. And that we don't often see the Doctor's compassion backfire. (This series has a lot of parallels with the last season of Eight/Lucie, too.)
Date: 2015-11-23 03:22 pm (UTC)

liadtbunny: (DW TARDIS)
From: [personal profile] liadtbunny
I found the flowers on the TARDIS moving too - linking in with recent events.

I enjoyed the Nosferatu finger shadow refs in the promo for next week - I am easily pleased.

Date: 2015-11-25 03:59 pm (UTC)

liadtbunny: (Mad Scientist V.Price)
From: [personal profile] liadtbunny
I am enjoying the trailers for the up coming ep:)
Date: 2015-11-25 10:13 pm (UTC)

From: [identity profile] eve11.livejournal.com
I just got caught up yesterday. Thanks for posting this; it has given me a lot to think about. The other "theme" as it is, is hybrids. How might those work in to things do you think?

I am not convinced Clara is dead. Maybe she's now the hybrid, who knows?
Date: 2015-11-26 11:28 pm (UTC)

From: [identity profile] ellenlou.livejournal.com
The last few episodes I've been incredibly confused... ('though DW confuses me anyway but I *like* Clara - too many "clevers" thrown in though :s)

This (what you wrote) makes it make some sense.

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