Happy new year, everyone! Here’s wishing you the best in 2014!
I realized the other day that I really love images of the Tenth Doctor wearing his glasses. Not the 3-D ones. Those pictures actually annoy me, because that look has become so iconic for the Tenth Doctor (so many t-shirts showing all eleven Doctors have Four with his scarf and Eleven with his fez, and then Ten with the 3-D glasses), and he only used them in one episode! It’s the horn-rims that should be his iconic accessory! Anyway, that’s beside the point. It occurred to me that one of the reasons why I do so love the glasses is that I identify with him: the Tenth Doctor is a science nerd. While all the Doctors are all scientists and engineers, some are more so than others, and Ten is one of the nerdiest. He loves to tinker and find tech solutions to problems (“It’s a machine that goes ding. Made it myself. Lights up in the presence of shape-shifter DNA. Ooo. Also it can microwave frozen dinners from up to twenty feet and download comics from the future. I never know when to stop.”), spouts technobabble all the time, and loves to explore. I really love that the Tenth Doctor saves the universe wearing nerdy glasses.
Another thing that I was thinking about recently is how much we rationalize things in this show. “The Day of the Doctor” had people upset because they felt it invalidated the show’s history from 2005 until that episode. I didn’t have much of a problem deciding that all those events did happen and that the events in the episode also happened, but that didn’t stop me from coming up with my own theory of how it all really works out, and that took a bit of work. Now we have “The Time of the Doctor,” which is causing the same consternation: if the Doctor didn’t die at Trenzalore, then he could have never gone there during “The Name of the Doctor” to see his timestream and have the Great Intelligence and Clara jump into it. This means that the entire second part of series 7 didn’t happen, since most of it has to do with Clara being the Impossible Girl from jumping into the timestream. I tried to work it out for myself the way I did for “The Day of the Doctor,” but it doesn’t work without bringing in the “it’s timey-wimey” excuse. I plan to try harder to make it work sometime later.
As I thought about it more, though, the problems with the show and how we deal with it tells us a lot more about ourselves than it does about the show. If you think about it, this show, with its 50-year history in TV, books, audio, and comic books, and its differing narrative objectives over the myriad of producers, writers, and directors, has always been at odds with itself. You can’t hand the show to a new set of people and expect that everything is going to stay consistent. Heck, it’s even hard to stay consistent with your own work. Here’s a few examples:
- The UNIT dating controversy: The shows in the 70s and 80s differ on when UNIT began and who was where when, which is why in “The Day of the Doctor,” when Kate Stewart asks for the Cromer files, she says it’s either in the 70s or 80s depending on the dating protocol.
- The Doctor’s age: The Seventh Doctor says he’s 953. The War Doctor implies he’s in his 800s, and the Ninth and Tenth Doctor say their in they’re 903-906.
- “Blink”: The Doctor states that the Weeping Angels turn to stone, but the final montage, which implies that any statue could be an angel, includes bronze statues. This is an inconsistency within a single episode.
So, it really comes down to how big an inconsistency must be to bother you. The UNIT dating controversy and the inconsistencies in “Blink” (there are actually quite a lot of them) don’t bug me: the first really doesn’t matter, and the second can be overlooked and should, because that episode is fantastic if you don’t think too hard about it. The Doctor’s age bugs me, because his age adds to the feeling of timelessness associated with the character and he should be able to keep his claims consistent. I’ve rationalized this as either the Doctor doesn’t know his age because he’s jumping around in time all the time and it’s too hard to keep track (I’d think the TARDIS could keep track for him, though), or he’s lying and choosing an age that sounds good to him. As for the can of worms opened by “The Time of the Doctor,” I’ve just decided that all of the season happened and left it at that.
You might already see where I’m going with this. The reason why we pick apart the show and get upset about these problems is that we care: we’re immersed in the Doctor Who universe and we desperately want it to make sense beyond just watching the episode for the adventure of the day. And, we’re going to get a lot more upset about the inconsistencies of the characters we care about. For me, I care so much more about the Ninth and Tenth Doctors than I do about the Eleventh Doctor, so I’m willing to hand-wave away the problems with “The Time of the Doctor,” but I spent hours crafting an explanation for “The Day of the Doctor” to make sure that the trials of the Ninth and Tenth Doctor didn’t get invalidated.
It’s interesting that our love for the show can manifest as anger, but then I suppose that’s completely natural: we get angry when people we love let us down, too. I suppose the real challenge is finding the happy medium, in which we as the audience can accept the inconsistencies and move forward with them while the show itself doesn’t mess itself up too much.