Sunday, January 25, 2009

All the Fanwank in the World

I've been thinking that the next season of Doctor Who will be in good hands with Steven Moffatt. The first few seasons of Coupling, at least, were smart and hilarious, and he wrote two of the best (and definitely scariest) new Who episodes, "The Empty Child" and "Blink." But then last night we watched the two-parter that started with "Silence in the Library" -- a good creepy story with some emotional meatiness for our two leads, which was totally marred by the presence of someone the script hints will become the Doctor's wife.

Moffatt wrote this, so I feel free to blame him. The casting of the youngest Doctor ever (a twenty-something who looks barely twelve) doesn't add to my confidence that they will escape the trap of transdimensional soap opera, with which I am officially sick and tired. I just want the smartest man in the universe to go around saving people and planets and making witty quips while he does it. (Like "The Unicorn and the Wasp," an episode back. Now, that's Doctor Who).

We suffered through all the Rose angst (I know she's coming back, and I have an inkling something will happen that I'm really not going to like). We had Martha, a really good companion, unfortunately plunked into an unrequited love scenario; the overtly romantic suddenly-he's-ready-to-settle-down "Girl in the Fireplace" thing; the full-on outright romance, albeit with amnesia, with Jessica Hynes in "Human Nature;" the Kylie Minogue thing; even with Donna a surfeit of "no, we're not a couple" business. And now a swoony "oh, it'll all be true love when we meet in the future!"

Enough already! If the writers were curious about exploring "what if the Doctor really has feelings for his companions," and thought the audience was curious also, well, it's been explored. You've got all of time and space to play with, people, so let's stop rehashing and get to it!

It doesn't help, either, that "The Doctor's Daughter" episode revisited, too ham-fistedly for my taste, the whole idea of the Doctor's previous life. The Eccleston throw-away comment "I was a Dad once" is about as far as that needs to go. I was happy to have that comment, actually, because of the whole fan controversy about Susan and who the heck she was. Which has always amused me, since literally the first thing anyone knew about the Doctor was that he was this girl's grandfather. Then they found out he lived in a junk yard. In a police box. Etc.

So why shouldn't we assume that he was a dad once?

Of course, there's a problem with Susan, which is the fact that she met a fella, and the Doctor just left her there with him on a future Earth, but with no TARDIS and no explanation of what'll happen when the time comes for her to regenerate. (It's been years since I saw "The Five Doctors," where she made an appearance, mainly in a tea-making mode, so I can't recall if there was any mention of what she'd been up to since then. And since I don't remember it so fondly, I'm kind of putting it into the Paul McGann TV movie category of dubious canonicity).

This whole incident has always been fuel for the theory that Susan wasn't actually, literally, his granddaughter, but one of the numerous waifs he's picked up over the years, but one so young (and probably orphaned) that he raised her as his granddaughter. If she was really human, then extreme longevity and regeneration wouldn't be an issue, and he might have left her thinking it was better for her to have a life with other humans. Retcon can then fill in the blanks, with more recent episodes, to say that he somehow lost his pre-existing family, and adopting Susan filled the void, much like Rose gave him a connection to others again after the destruction of Gallifrey in the Time War.

Of course, continuity really is a lost cause at this point, because all the fanwank in the world can't change the fact that when the Doctor and Susan parted company, there were no enormous life spans, no regenerations, no Time Lords -- just the vague notion that they were from "another time, another world," which meant anything was possible and nothing about them could be proven wrong.

If Susan wasn't a real granddaughter, though, then the idea of the Doctor being a husband and a parent was created from a whole cloth by the "I was a Dad once" comment, forty-three years down the line, and really unnecessarily. I guess I'm just in the school of thought that too much backstory, and the bringing of subtext to the fore, has straitjacketed the show more than it's enriched it. The Doctor and Susan acted like grandfather and granddaughter, and that's all that mattered. He could feel and express affection for Jo and Sarah and Ace without seeming like a serial womanizer.

Romance is a crutch! Throw it away and walk!

Unless they cast Shah Rukh Khan as the Doctor, in which case he has a special dispensation to play the Doctor like he's James T. Kirk.

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