Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars (Spoilers and Speculation)

Having watched "The Waters of Mars" on Sunday, it's been an interesting couple of days catching up with various people's opinions, theories and tweets about the special Doctor Who episode.

So what did I make of it?

Frankly, I spent the first 20 minutes freaked out by the image of the"water possessed" crew members. I was transported back to the old days of Doctor Who... the days as a child when you spent a great deal of time watching the show from behind a sofa. I must confess that I was quite literally watching those freaky people through my fingers... until I'd "adjusted".

I'm quite a sensitive soul really... when Obi Wan Kenobi died in Star Wars, I was so freaked out I couldn't watch it... I think that must have been the case until I was er... 12.

The story was set on the 21st November 2059... an auspicious date in the calendar for me (God willing, I shall be celebrating my 85th birthday).

It was good to see that Shane from 1980's Neighbours found himself a new job some time in the distant future. Is Doctor Who becoming a refuge for Aussie soap stars in the same way that The Bill has become one for ex British soap stars?

I did feel that the pacing in the first half was off... and it seemed to drag a little. However in the last 20 minutes as the episode reached it's climax, it more than made up for this... it was literally as if a switch had been flipped and the script was running on a burst of nitrous oxide.

It was a very intriguing end and it has left my friends a little divided. Half of them feel that they didn't like it because of the dark way The Doctor was being portrayed. The rest of them (and I am in this camp), thought that it was fantastic.

I think it is important to realise that the Doctor is not a black and white character... he is flawed, just like everybody else. He has a streak of darkness that runs subtly through his valour and nobility. I think some times people are a bit too idealistic and like to sweep that under the carpet.

In his tenth incarnation alone we've seen some pretty intense moments of anger. He nearly blew the head off his daughter's killer... OK so he held fast and described himself as "a man who never would", but you really got the impression from the way David Tennant played that scene (particularly in his eyes), that there was only a thin veil between that pledge and the alternative.

Then lets not forget the way that he dealt with The Family of Blood. He ran away as an act of kindness... but then when cornered he unleashed the fury of a Timelord by forcing his enemies to eternally endure their own personalized Hell. If you look at the way he dealt with them... it's not unlike the way the Greek gods dealt with their enemies.

And that is where the Doctor has ended up at the end of The Waters of Mars... playing the part of God. The concluding scene doesn't show quite the full intensity of the Doctor's emotions (as seen in the few minutes prior to it), but it drives the point home well enough I think:

The Timelord victorious is a created being claiming mastery of the created order. Adelaide Brooke was right in her assertion... it's not right.

It's nor right, not so much for the things that one in that position might do (even a good character like the Doctor), but more for what you'd inevitably become in the process of doing those things.

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

There's a moment when the Doctor realises he's pushed the boat out too far. As he turns, he hears Adelaide's suicidal gunshot (an odd decision for a character to make - was it driven by her sense of needing to restore what she perceived as the natural order of events... or out of spite at the Doctor's arrogance in trying to change them? Or perhaps it was both). He turns once more and senses the presence of Ood Sigma. It is then that he has a sudden flash of remorse for his rash action... even the TARDIS picks up on it as it mournfully tolls the Cloister Bell.

However, it is a Rubicon moment. The Doctor has resolved to cross the line (from the character exposition it seems clear he is quite literally Hell bent on bringing Gallifrey back from the abyss); having stepped into the waters... he knows full well that the die is cast...

... or to borrow a line from another science fiction franchise "the avalanche has already started, it is too late for the pebbles to vote".

Whenever someone rises up to assume the part of God... be that in fiction or fact, they inevitably find that there is a price to pay... and quite often that price is very high indeed.

Here is a brief trailer for the final Tennant double-bill, Doctor Who: The End of Time:

It seems way too obvious that The Master is the would be assassin who will knock four times. Look at who the Doctor is talking to the most in that clip. I think the tenth Doctor's killer is going to come out of left field. I think that Wilfred Mott is going to be put in a terrible position. I think the Doctor is going to go momentarily off the rails (some people have speculated on the influence of the Valeyard) and inadvertently do something that endangers the existence of Earth. I'm hedging my bets that this might have something to do with an attempt to recover Gallifrey (principally because we have Timothy Dalton making an appearance playing yet another Timelord). It does seem as if Russell T Davies is restoring a status quo so that his successor, Stephen Moffat has a clear run to do what he wants with the Whoniverse.

I think the Master is a big bluff. I think that Wilfred Mott with heavy heart and deep regret, his eyes full of tears... is going to be the one to pull the trigger (or whatever the fatal mechanism may be).

Whatever happens, I think that it's going to be epic.

Tune in to BBC 1's Children in Need on Friday to see a further clip of Doctor Who: The End of Time.

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