The journey never ends

I have this perverse attitude that I don’t want to do something long, but then do two or more short things that take up more time than the long thing would have. In specific, I almost never sit down to watch two-part episodes of the modern Doctor Who. I don’t have this problem with the classic series, maybe because they’re four- to six-part serials of 25 minutes per part, so I don’t mind watching a couple and then, if I feel like it, go do something else and watch the rest the next day. But for some reason, modern stories with two 45-minute parts are daunting to me. I don’t have a problem watching “Human Nature” / “Family of Blood” any time it’s suggested to me, probably because I love that episode to bits, but any other two-parter elicits a groan from me, and instead, I sit down to watch a single episode. Then another. And often another. And then kick myself that I didn’t just sit down and watch the two-parter.

Three episodes, but worth every minute of it!

Three episodes, but worth every minute of it!

Because of this, I actually haven’t seen most of the two-part episodes more than three or four times (and I know I’ve only seen the three-part “Utopia” / “The Sound of Drums” / “The Last of the Time Lords” twice, even though I love it to death). I didn’t really realize this until I sat down to watch “The Stolen Earth” / “Journey’s End” this week. As we got to the scene were the Doctor suppresses Donna’s memories, I realized that the fanfic I had written that referred to that scene was written in February, and I hadn’t seen the episode since. That means it’s been at least nine months since I’ve seen one of my favorite episodes, and it’s all because for some reason, I won’t start two-part episodes. That’s just crazy.

Be that as it may, I thoroughly enjoyed watching TSE/JE for the first time in a very long time, and it amazed me how much subtext was written into it. Maybe it’s because I’m writing my own stories, but for some reason, I’m starting to see a lot more subtlety in the RTD-era episodes than I have before. (I have no idea how much subtlety the Moffat-era episodes have. I like to think that Moffat is not a subtle writer, but I’m perfectly willing to admit that I know and understand his seasons a lot less well than I know the RTD seasons.) Everything that happens in TSE/JE was written to highlight Davros’ reveal of the “Doctor’s soul.”

Rose, not at her most flattering

Rose, not at her most flattering

All of the Tenth Doctor’s companions return in this episode. Jack, of course, is part of Torchwood. Martha is part of UNIT, and she goes to prepare the Osterhagen Key. Sarah Jane goes to the Crucible armed with a Warp Star. Most tellingly, Rose comes to find the Doctor armed with the biggest gun in the show, and Mickey and Jackie, who follow her, are also armed similarly. She even pauses in her search to threaten some petty looters with it. Remember that the three came from Pete’s World, where the stars were going out, and they had no idea what was causing it, and though the Doctor always tried to teach them non-violence, they came armed with weapons mighty enough to kill Daleks in one shot. Jack, Martha, and Sarah Jane knew what they were up against, so they at least have a reason to feel that violence was warranted; Rose had no such excuse. She’s the prime example of the character who the Doctor molded into a soldier, and this might very much be why the Doctor chose to place her back in Pete’s World.

(This is a common argument. Not only was Rose very much a soldier when she returned, but she had already been building the dimension cannon to break down the walls between the universes when they started seeing the stars going out. She knew that the cannon would start breaking down the universes, but still chose to do so just to return to the Doctor. Discounting the at least two years he had to move on from her, this character development, towards violence and irresponsibility, could have soured him against her.)

Interestingly, the one person who didn’t follow the Doctor, and the one person who he has condemned for violence, Harriet Jones, is the only true pacifist here. I’ve written before what a magnificent character she is, and this is one of her shining moments. In “The Christmas Invasion,” the Tenth Doctor’s very first full episode, she disagreed with the Doctor about what was right for the defense of planet Earth. Both of them were right: the Doctor sees things from a different view and wanted to protect the Sycorax as much as Earth, and did not like that they were shot in the back, while PM Jones knew that the Earth couldn’t let itself rely on the Doctor to be there every time danger lurked. In TSE/JE, she stood by what she believed, but works for it not by raising an army or developing weapons, but by building a communications network to contact the Doctor when he was needed.

Davros and Dalek Caan

Davros and Dalek Caan

The soldier companions converge on the crucible, with Rose and the Doctor imprisoned, make their threats, and reveal the Doctor’s soul, as described by Davros. This is what breaks him, and what makes him vow never to have another companion, which, of course, leads to his downfall in “The Waters of Mars.” The problem, of course, is that the Doctor is far too willing to blame himself for everything, and even though the judgment passed on him is given by an enemy filled with hatred for him, who he knows is completely amoral, the Doctor still completely agrees with him. Interestingly, though, the most objective judgment comes from Harriet Jones, the one person in the entire story who can be called neutral: she neither follows the Doctor nor hates him. She tells Jack, “And you tell him from me, he chose his companions well.” She sees that they are all brave and trying to do what’s right, and that sometimes what’s right requires violence, but they aren’t needlessly violent. Sadly, Jack never passes on her message, something the Doctor needed to hear.

The only other non-violent character in the story is Donna. She gets infused by the metacrisis and is able to stop the Daleks, but that’s the thing: she stops the Reality Bomb, confuses the Daleks’ circuits, and defuses the energy generator by sending the planets home, but she never attacks anyone. She even tries to stop the Metacrisis Doctor from destroying the Daleks. And for her efforts, she’s rewarded with a mind-wipe. Only the Doctor’s soldiers survive this conflict. It’s all very well-woven.

Probably a half an hour before the Doctor is alone once more.

Probably a half an hour before the Doctor is alone once more.

The conclusion of the story continues to reinforce the Doctor’s problems. Sarah Jane tells him, “You know, you act like such a lonely man. But look at you. You’ve got the biggest family on Earth,” and immediately runs off to her own family. Jack, Mickey, and Martha similarly leave, and of course, Rose, Jackie, and the Metacrisis Doctor stay in Pete’s World. They all unconsciously reinforce to him that he’s just a friend that they once knew but have moved on from, almost more like a co-worker from a job they left long ago. “Hey, it was great seeing you again. We did some great things together. Let’s go out for drinks sometime.” Of course, the Doctor contributes to his own problems by making decisions for everyone else like he always does – he forces Rose back to Pete’s World, insists that the Metacrisis Doctor stay with her, and removes Donna’s memories against her wishes – but in the end, everyone contributes to his eventual loneliness, feelings of inadequacy, and self-hatred.

Much of this is readily not apparent until you watch the episode two or three times, but it really is beautiful. There are a few quibbles with the narrative that are certainly justified, especially the rather deus-ex-machina-y ending with Donna suddenly beating Davros, but the deeper story is where it really is all at. Oh, and I have to mention that Dalek Caan is one of my favorites ever, with his manipulation of the events as he decreed, “No more!” His soothsayings were also very clever: the Dark Lord (oo, the Doctor as the Dark Lord, that’s chilling), the Threefold Man, “The Doctor will be here as witness, at the end of everything,” meaning, of course, the end of everything Dalek. In my opinion, while this episode isn’t the best at straightforward plot, it really shines with theme and character development.

Advertisements

Favorite scenes – Tenth Doctor

David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor

David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor

Here is a list of favorite scenes from the Tenth Doctor, who, I should note, is the Doctor I know the best, so the list is longer than you might expect. This list is in broadcast order, not in any ranking order.

“The Christmas Invasion” – The Doctor appears: From “Did you miss me?” to “No second chances. I’m that sort of a man,” the Doctor keeps up what amounts to a twenty minute monologue which demonstrates to us exactly who he is.

“School Reunion” – Sarah Jane meets the Doctor: Just beating out John Smith’s stunned babbling when seeing Sarah Jane for the first time in hundreds of years, this scene has Sarah Jane confronting the man who ran out on her thirty years before. Ms. Sladen switches beautifully between surprise, hope, love, and anger, all in the course of a short couple of minutes.

“The Girl in the Fireplace” – The Doctor is stranded: This is one of the episodes in which my favorite scene is probably very unexpected. The Doctor looks up at the stars, realizing that he’s now living with the humans just like they do, and may never return to the TARDIS and the rest of the universe again. He starts to think about what that really means, and how he’s going to survive. I couldn’t find a video that showed just this one scene.

“The Age of Steel” – Mickey triumphant: Once the Doctor regenerated into his tenth form, he started to respect Mickey more, though he still always put him down. At the end of this episode, the Doctor instructs Mickey clandestinely on how to shut down the Cybermen, relying on his computer skills. Mickey succeeds and then rescues them all from the exploding factory. Mickey finally comes into his own right here.

“42” – The Doctor in the stasis chamber: Fighting back against his possession by the sentient star, the Doctor instructs Martha to put him in the stasis chamber. He cries out, “I’m scared! I’m so scared!” and it’s not because he’s afraid of dying, but because he knows that if he loses the battle, he’s going to kill everyone on board. The Doctor showing fear is chilling, and the reason for it is still so the Doctor.

“The Family of Blood” – The Doctor returns to Nurse Redfern: For all of the wonderful scenes in this, my favorite episode, the final scene with Nurse Redfern is still the best. After we’ve watched an hour and a half of Mr. Tennant as John Smith, the human teacher living his life and falling in love, now he’s back to playing the Doctor, and the contrast between them is startling. Even though he’s no different than the Doctor in any other episode, he feels alien here, and perhaps for the first time we truly realize that he doesn’t think and feel like humans do. He invites Nurse Redfern to travel with him, in an attempt to give her hope and love, but only succeeds in being cruel, because as the Doctor, he can’t truly understand her. (The video link only shows half of the scene. The other half can be found by the same poster, under “scene 16.”)

“The Last of the Time Lords” – The death of the Master: I really don’t have much to say about this one. It makes me cry every time.

“Time Crash” – The whole thing: I’m just going to call this one long scene and say that everything about it is wonderful: the writing, the acting, the humor, the interactions between the two Doctors, the tribute to the Fifth Doctor. If I could call it an episode, it’d be at the top of my favorite episode list.

“The Fires of Pompeii” – “Donna, human, no!”: From the Time Lord and the audience perspective (because we know how the laws of time work), Donna may be wrong, but this scene establishes the lengths she’s willing to go through when she thinks she’s right. She’s willing to stand up to the Doctor and fight, without whining or complaining, and without backing down.

“The Poison Sky” – Luke saves the Doctor: Two things about this scene. First, Luke, the completely unlikable genius, redeems himself, without fanfare or heaps of schmaltz. Second, when the Doctor returns from the Sontaran ship, Martha hugs him and Donna punches him. They are completely in-character, and it’s little things like this that make this show so good.

“Journey’s End” – Genesis of the Meta-Crisis Tenth Doctor: Not the actual birth of the MCTD, but the interaction between him and Donna. Mr. Tennant and Ms. Tate work together so well, and to top that off, Mr. Tennant plays the Tenth Doctor with Donna’s mannerisms. Excellent performances from both of them. Sadly, I couldn’t find a video for this.

“The Next Doctor” – Jackson Lake’s story: Jackson Lake’s story is so beautiful, and David Morrissey’s performance in this scene is heartrending.

The End of Time – Four knocks: For all that I love the end of The End of Time, from the moment Gallifrey appears to the Doctor’s regeneration, the best scene from it is when Wilf knocks and the Doctor realizes that he hasn’t escaped his fate. For once, the Doctor voices the thoughts he normally keeps inside: that he doesn’t want to die, he wants to keep fighting, that he wonders what makes someone else’s life more valuable than his own, and, finally, that he’s lived too long. Then, like the Doctor always does, he sacrifices himself for someone else. I couldn’t find this video either.

Mickey the Idiot

Watching “The Stolen Earth”/”Journey’s End” last night, I got to thinking about one of my favorite characters in the reboot series, Mickey Smith (played by Noel Clarke). He wasn’t always my favorite character – in fact, I really disliked him early on – but he developed, perhaps more than any other character in the show.

Mickey Smith

Mickey Smith

Mickey started out as Rose’s clingy boyfriend. He had a “thick” air about him, which is something that never appeals to me, but he really wasn’t stupid – he was at least of average intelligence, if not higher than average (he was a bit of a computer whiz, as well as a gamer). The thing about him was that he was just an average, non-adventurous guy that happened to meet the Doctor: he couldn’t handle the thought of the alien Doctor and the TARDIS at first, and he didn’t have any interest in the kind of life the Doctor seemed to live: he refused the offer when it was made. Rose wanting to travel with the Doctor was incomprehensible to him. His dislike of the Doctor was compounded by the fact that the Doctor had no respect for him: the Ninth Doctor routinely dismissed what he had to say, refused to say his name correctly, calling him “Ricky,” and nicknamed him “Mickey the Idiot.”

Of course, the biggest insult was that Rose left Mickey in the dust, running off with the Doctor without a second thought about their long-term relationship. He loved her deeply, enduring her absence of a year (during which he was suspected of killing her), and waiting for her through four seasons of the show, even during the time that they were both trapped in Pete’s World and she ignored him, pining for the Doctor and trying to find a way to blast through the dimensional barrier to return to him.

The thing is, Mickey could have remained a one-dimensional character, following Rose around with puppy-dog eyes every time she deigned to return to the Powell Estate, but instead, he grew. The first time Rose returns, in “Aliens of London”/”World War Three,” Mickey shows his resourceful and resolve. With help from the Doctor, he gains control of a missile and makes the decision to fire it into London and possibly kill a lot of people, in order to prevent a greater disaster. He stands up to Jackie when she begs him not to fire. The Ninth Doctor gains respect for him here, and the nickname “Mickey the Idiot” starts to become a term of camaraderie. Later in the season, in “Boom Town,” Rose summons Mickey to Cardiff, flirts with him and leads him on, but runs off to the Doctor as soon as trouble arises, and Mickey decides that it’s time to give it up, to move on. At the end of the season, Rose resolves to return to the Ninth Doctor, who is facing certain death against the Daleks, and, knowing that if Rose can’t return, they can live out their lives normally, Mickey instead sacrifices his wishes and helps her.

During the second series, Mickey begins to find his own life. He begins to try to do something important with his life and uses his computer skills to investigate possible alien activity on his own. He discovers a school getting record results not long after multiple UFO sightings in the area (this was shown in a Tardisode), and he  calls Rose and the Doctor to investigate, but makes it clear that it was the only reason he called, not some ploy to bring Rose home. Rose, being the heartless tease that she is, leads him on again. In this episode, Mickey realizes that he’s the “tin dog,” the one left behind and not cared about, and he asks to join the Doctor, so that he can see what’s out there. Part of his motivation was certainly wanting to be with Rose, but she, in typical Rose fashion, gets angry with him for responding in kind.

And then they land in Pete’s World. He meets his parallel Ricky and watches him die, and fights the rise of the Cybermen. The trapped Doctor uses the code words “any idiot” to signal to him what to do, and Mickey rescues them all as the Cyberman factory is destroyed. He chooses to stay in Pete’s World to fight the Cybermen, where he knows he can make a difference: he finds his strength as he cuts himself off from the poisonous Rose. He still loves her, but he knows that she doesn’t want him, though she’s immature enough to want to keep him as a plaything.  But he’s still human: when she gets trapped in Pete’s World with no hope of returning to the Doctor, he waits for her to return to him. She, of course, never does, and when the Meta-Crisis Tenth Doctor joins her, he is strong enough to admit that it’s done, and he returns to the main universe.

In a nutshell, Mickey started as a simple, average guy, then, enduring years of emotional trauma at the hands of the woman he loved, became a tough, courageous man who found his own purpose in life. He didn’t start with a strong character – unlike all of the main companions: Rose, Martha, Donna, Amy, Clara – but instead developed completely during his brief appearances on the show. A lot of the story in Doctor Who revolves around the story of the companion, but there are a lot of other wonderful personal stories to follow, and Mickey’s is one of the best.