Sunday, June 10, 2007

Latest Thoughts on Doctor Who

I think watching Doctor Who last night might just rank as one of the most terrifying televisual experiences of my entire life.

The plot was a "Doctor lite" episode and revolved around the idea that the Doctor and Martha had been cast back to 1969 by a species of interstellar psychopathic "assassins" known as "the weeping angels". They don't kill you exactly... they remove you from your current life and send you back to some obscure point in the past, to live out your days among strangers. Fortunately for us, these assassins are "quantum locked" - if anything living sees them, they instantly turn to stone. Furthermore, they are a little like the gorgons from Greek mythology... for if they look upon one of their own kind, they become forever set in stone. Here is a clip of them in action... but I don't recommend looking at it if you are easily scared. Never has a statue been as terrifying:
I was genuinely petrified (pardon the pun).

Still... in between the heart attacks, I was more than compensated by the pleasing on screen demeanour of Carey Mulligan:

Wow! I was a very happy man. I may even have to consider making an exception to my "No Jane Austen" rule (she appeared in the recent big screen adaptation). I really hope we see much more of her acting on stage and screen... it seems likely as judging by the roles she has been winning for herself, her star is in ascendancy.

All the same, I don't think I'll be attending a cemetery or figurine sculpture exhibition for a long time to come after watching Blink. All in all, an excellent one shot drama in it's own right it was a strong enough plot not to require the presence of the Doctor.

This episode followed in the wake of last week's conclusion to a two part Doctor Who adventure... and that gave me a lot to think about.

First we had the Doctor, in the guise of "John Smith" - facing his own Gethsemane moment. To avoid being captured by "The Family of Blood" (although really as it turned out, he was trying to hold himself back from judging them), the Doctor took on human form, storing his personality in a pocket watch. Unfortunately, the problem with taking on human form, is that you also take on human feelings and human desires. It isn't long before the Doctor falls head over heels for a matron in 1913 and has grown very attached to his mortal life.

Unfortunately the Family of Blood have managed to track down the Doctor and set about causing mayhem, in pre WWI England. the only person who can stop them is The Doctor... but the Doctor is John Smith now... and if John Smith chooses to become the Doctor, then John Smith dies.

We are treated to a glimpse of what life would have held for John Smith if he had remained as a human and not become a timelord. His life literally flashes before his eyes. This is very much the kind of idea explored by Scorsese in The Last Temptation. The idea of an alternate future being presented to the hero (the Doctor/Christ), as a form of temptation. You really gain a small insight into how hard a choice Jesus made, when you look at it in that way.

That said, once the Doctor is re-established, he acts like a god... but in some ways he comes across more like a Greek god... rather than the more benevolent Christian God (I'm not saying that God does not judge, but he always offers people the opportunity to repent). He consigns all the troublemakers to live out eternity under individual terrible punishments:
  • wrapped in unbreakable eternal chains
  • thrown into the event horizon of a dying sun
  • trapped in every mirror in existence
  • and lastly...
... and most poignantly of all, one of his enemies is put to work watching the fields of England as a scarecrow. He becomes the symbol of John Smith's death and The Doctor's victory, for all to see... and as a scarecrow he tellingly symbolises that paradox, cruciform - the shape of the cross.

Here is a visual summary I found on YouTube, set to the music of Evanescence... it's been put together really well:
A good couple of episodes... and now we are hurtling towards the climax - the final three episodes of the series. I can't wait.

In a couple of days I'm going to respond to an article I read in a recent science fiction magazine. that attacked the idea of religious concepts being used as credible themes in the science fiction genre. It may be quite hefty... so watch out for it!


  1. i know what you mean, terrifying or what? I had to record the last half because of a prior meal engagement, and then played it the next day... very glad i didn't decide to watch it at 11pm when i got back!


  2. ...but what are your feelings on Catherine Tate as the new companion?


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