Sunday, October 9, 2011

What It Really Means When We Ask "Doctor Who?"

Silence Will Fall when the Question is asked "Doctor Who?" but what does the question mean?  A lot of people have interpreted the question literally, what is The Doctor's true name.  I think that misses the point entirely. What good would it do us to know that The Doctor's real name is Elbin Smartleportal? Would it enhance your understanding or appreciation of The Doctor in any way?  No.
Can that really be all that Steven Moffat is building up to? I don't think so.

It is my theory that the question is not what is The Doctor's name, but literally "Who is he?". What is The Doctor's true role in the universe? Is he really just a renegade Time Lord who grew tired of life on Gallifrey? Or is there more to The Doctor than we've been lead to believe? Does The Doctor have secrets he's kept to himself that have only been hinted at? Classic Who began to hint at greater mysteries right as the show was cancelled.

Towards the end of The Seventh Doctor's run script editor Andrew Cartmel felt mystery needed to be restored to the character of  The Doctor. Cartmel felt that years of explanations about the Doctor's origins and the Time Lords had removed much of the mystery and strength of the character of the Doctor, and decided to make the Doctor more than a mere Time Lord. Elements of this effort were liberally scattered through Series 25 & 26.

When Doctor Who was cancelled that effort, known now as "Cartmel's Masterplan" was cut short. It was revived to some extent in the New Adventure novels. Perhaps Moffat plans to see Catmel's vision to completion as New Who faces some of the same challenges.

So what was the masterplan? What was the mystery regarding The Doctor? It was the implication that The Doctor was one of the three founding fathers of Time Lord society, the mysterious The Other.

The Other was a shadowy figure in Time Lord history, one of the founding Triumvirate of Time Lord society. The other two members of the Triumvirate were Rassilon and Omega.

Of the three, the Other's origins are the most obscure, with the circumstances of his birth and appearance being a mystery. Like Rassilon, various contradictory legends surround the Other, some hinting that he had powers surpassing that of Rassilon or Omega, and some even suggesting that he was not born on the Time Lords' home world of Gallifrey. Even his name is lost to time, which is why he is simply referred to as "the Other".

Could it be Moffat plans on revealing The Doctor's true nature? I believe so. It may not be the exact fufillment of Cartmel's plan, but I think it will be a fufillment of his vision, to introduce a new backstory to The Doctor and reintroduce mystery.

I look forward to seeing how it will all play out.  Let hope it's more that just finding out the Doctor's name is Roger.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Counter-Arguement For The Ponds Are Bad Parents Crowd

There's been a lot of chatter online arguing that Amy & Rory have been horrible parents for accepting the los of their child so quickly and continuing seemingly unphased on their romp through time and space. I'd like to take a moment to inject a lttle calm into this debate and consider context.

First Point: Amy Never Experienced Her Pregnancy. Amy may have been pregnant but she never experienced the pregnancy. Her mind was in a ganger evading well dressed invaders, fighting pirates and running for he life down hallways. She never became attached to the thought of being a mother. She never bonded with the child in her womb.

Second Point: She Only Ever Held Her Baby For Less Than 3 or 4 Hours
Flying right past the pregnancy Amy has the baby in the 52nd century. One has to assume 52nd Century medical science has advanced significantly from 21st Century obstetrics have made pregnancy a pretty quick and painless process. In no time Amy is holding a baby in her arms she didn't even know she was having. Except how long did Amy really spend with baby Melody? From Demon's Run the amount of time Amy spends with her child before her rescue seems neglible. Rory holds Melody for even less time. I've held coworkers babies at the office longer than Rory held baby Melody.

Third Point:It Wasn't Even Their REAL BABY!
Forgetting the fact that neither Pond had much time to bond with their baby, it wasn't even their baby! The baby they held at Demon's Run was a ganger baby. Did Amy ever hold her real baby in her arms or was the switch done immediately? We can be pretty certain that Rory never held his real child in his arms.

Final Point: Timey-Wimey
Considering the Ponds experience alternate realities and timelines 3 times before breakfast, is it possible the idea of a baby as a hypothetical might be easy for them to accept? Especially considering points 1-3? Technically Amy and Rory spent more time with AARP Amy, the girl who waited. AARP Amy had more an emotional impact on the Ponds because they actually, you know, spent actual time with her. Then there's the fact that they know what happpened to their child (River Pond) and they did spend their lives (unbeknownst to them) with young Melody. So given all these factors, is their calm acceptance of Melody's disapearance all that odd considering the context of their lives?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Why Stealing A TARDIS Is Not Like Stealing A Car ( or Why The Doctor Is More Of A BADASS Than You Thought)

I think people overlook how significant it is that The Doctor 'stole' the TARDIS.

TARDISes aren't like cars in Time Lord society. They're not accessible to all. Every Time Lord doesn't get the keys to a TARDIS from their parents when they turn 16.

TARDISes were used by the Time Lords to observe places in time and space in person, only when absolutely necessary.

Time Lord society, at the time The Doctor lived on Gallifrey, was isolationist. They were content to simply observe from The Citadel on Gallifrey. They did not interfere in events, much to the frustration of The Doctor.

The TARDISes were under the control of the Time Lord ruling body. They required several Time Lords to pilot it. Possibly due to the complexity of travelling through Time & Space. Possibly as a safety measure to prevent a renegade from absconding with a TARDIS and causing havoc with timelines preserved by the Time Lords.

The TARDISes were heavily gaurded. Stealing a TARDIS wouldn't at all be like stealing a car. Stealing a TARDIS, to put it in contemporary terms, would be closer to stealing a nuclear powered submarine.

Keeping the analogy, of an equivelant in our society to what The Doctor did, it would be as if a Senator plotted, and successfully executed a plan to steal a nuclear powered submarine on his own! Then used that nuclear powered submarine to travel the globe sightseeing, all the while avoiding persuit of his former government trying to reclaim their stolen property.

However, The Doctor didn't just steal the TARDIS, he also stole The Hand Of Omega ( as told in 'Rememberance Of The Daleks). The Hand Of Omega was a remote stellar manipulator, invented by Omega, which produced supernovas and black holes. So to continue my analogy, The Doctor didn't just steal a nuclear powered submarine, he stole one with a nuclear warhead!!

Side Note about the Hand Of Omega: Seeing as when The Doctor was finally caught during his second incarnation (and every subsequent trial) no mention was made of the theft of The Hand Of Omega, it is feasible to assume that The Doctor stole this from Gallifrey without any knowledge of The Time Lords. It has been demonstrated in several serials of Classic Who that, by The Doctor's time, Time Lords had lost track and meaning of some of the technology from the time of Rassilon and Omega. How The Doctor knew about the Hand Of Omega when others did not may be explained by the theory that The Doctor may be The Other ( a topic for another post).

Classic Who supplies hints that The Doctor was able to steal a TARDIS because the TARDIS he stole was a old model, close to being decommissioned and in need of repair. It stand to reason that perhaps the security around a TARDIS about to be decommissioned, a model that was already old when The Doctor was young, and one in need of repair - would have lessened security. Still, even decommissioned submarines that are only on display for tourists, have enough of a security detail that an average citizen on his own (or let say a man with his grandaughter) would have a lot of dificulty running of with one.

Niel Gaiman's 'The Doctor's Wife' also states that the TARDIS was looking for a Time Lord to steal herself. The TARDIS has always been described as 'sentient'. Perhaps the TARDIS did so out of a sense of self preservation. Knowing that it was likely to be decommissioned or stuck in a museum never travel in time and space again. Perhaps that is why The Doctor selected that particular TARDIS as the one to steal. He would require a 'cooperative' TARDIS.

Think of the sheer audacity and risk it would take for The Doctor to steal the contemporary equivalent of a nuclear powered submarine and a nuclear warhead!! This isn't the story of a silly man who ran off with a time's the story of a clever son of a bitch with balls the size of Pazithi Gallifreya (the copper moon of Gallifrey) who ran off with two of his governments most powerfull weapons.

For a Time Lord to do all that, well he'd have to be a 'Madman'.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The 'Uncanny' Similarities Between X-Men and Doctor Who Series 6

Stop me if you've heard this one already:
Gorgoues ginger has boyhood friend who adores her. This boyhood friend grows up to be 'A Good Man' that eventually wins said ginger's affection. However, the good man is insecure about their relationship. He thinks he may love the ginger more than she loves him.
Enter a new man into their relationship. He's a 'bad boy'. He's a hero with a dark side. The ginger and the good man get engaged but the attraction between the ginger and the badboy seems palpable.
The three travel together and enter many dangerous situations. However, when things seem bleakest it's always the bad boy that comes to the ginger's rescue.
The sexual tension between the ginger and the bad boy becomes an issue in their relationship. The bad boy will not allow himself to entertain a relationship with the ginger. He is hundred of years old and will never age. When he's injured or near death he 'regenerates'. The bad boy has entered into relationships with human women before and lost them as they aged or left him.
The ginger and the good man get married. At some point the ginger is lost and replaced with a doppleganger who is identical to the ginger in every way. At some point they have a child that is taken from them. A child is taken due to it's genetic potential.
The child is taken to the far future and raised there as a gun-toting warrior. The child returns
to the present and interacts with it's parents. The child is now much older than it's parents. It keeps it's identity from them for quite some time until 'their darkest hour'.
Is this the plot to Series 5 & 6 of Doctor Who? No, it's a history of the love triangle between 'ginger' Jean Grey, 'good man' Cyclops and 'bad boy' Wolverine. The child? It's not River Song - it's Cable.
The similarities between X-Men and Doctor Who? Uncanny.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Regeneration (but were afraid to ask)

Doctor Who has introduced us to the concept of Regeneration. However, it has left it to the fans to parse through nearly 50 years of programing to piece together the clues and hints left throughout the series to try and understand this mysterious and alien ability.

Regeneration allows Time Lords,when mortally wounded or old, to undergo a transformation into a new physical form. The new form is usually accompanied with a slight change in personality.

The different personalities of The Doctor and his radically different appearance occassionally leads fans to ponder: is this a new man who just has the memories of previous Doctors?

I would argue that, to quote the 10th Doctor after his regeneration, It's "..the same man, new face. Well, new everything."

The change in personality is probably caused by alteration of the Doctor's brain chemistry. It's not a stretch, we see that in nature today. Why are some people perpetually depressed without cause? Occassionally it's due to body chemistry. If the Doctor is inhabiting a completely new body, it seems plausible to think that the body chemistry differences from body to body might affect changes in personality. He has the same knowledge and memories but the physiological changes affect his personality, energy levels, etc.

There is also the impact that appearance has on how people relate to the Doctor. Since the Doctor doesn't control the appearance he obtains after he regenerates he has to accomodate to how people react to his physical form (and the assumptions people make about him based on his appearance).

Perhaps the Doctor, for example, at his core has always been a ladies man. However, due to his physical appearance he hasn't always been able to act on those urges. It seems unlikely that 20 year old blonde shop girls or medical residents would be throwing themselves at a Doctor who looks like Hartnel or McCoy. So the Doctor takes the attitude of wise old man or father figure based on how people are reacting to him.

A clearer example of this concept, of the Doctor manipulating (or adapting), to peoples perception of his appearance is Troughton's Doctor. We all accept that the Doctor is no fool. However, the second Doctor often appeared and acted the part of the clown. The second Doctors greatest weapon was getting his enemies to underestimate him. Once he regenerated into the third Doctor, his aristocratic, dignified appearance no longer allowed him to rely on that bag of tricks.

So I would argue that at his core the Doctor is essentially the same man. His soul, and moral center are not altered. He maintains his core personality traits: insatiable curiousity, wanderlust, sympathy, heroism, intolerance of injustice.

Any changes in personality are the result of a number of factors: physiological changes to his brain chemistry, the effect a change of appearance has on his attitude (younger body - more energetic, etc), and a conscious decision on the Doctor's part to utilize others perceptions of him to his advantage.

Finally, I would argue that even if the Doctor was not changing physical form, life events would cause changes in personality. When we first meet the Doctor he is about 200-300 years old. He is now over 907 years old. How many literary characters have we followed for over 600 years of their life? The Doctor is unique in this regard.

Have you maintained the same personality throughout your entire life, or has it evolved? Do people have the same personality in their teens than in their 30s? The answer obviously, no. So changes in the Doctor's personality could also be attributed to his aging. While televised portions of the Doctor's life occur within a decade of real time, withing the Doctor's chronology occassionally hundreds of years have passed. While in New Who the Doctor's adventures appear to be occuring in real time (the Doctor appears to have only aged the amount of years the show has been on the air) in Classic Who hundreds of years were said to have passed between regenerations. The fourth Doctor for example claims to be less than 500 years old while the 11th Doctor is now said to be about 907. Obviously, 400 years haven't passed since Tom Baker donned his long scarf so Classic Who allowed for gaps in time between televised adventures.

Beyond simple aging, life experiences affect personality as well. Much has been made of Eccleston's Doctor being darker than Tennant's as proof that the Doctors are different men. This doesn't account for the fact that those the Doctor was in different places in his life. Eccleston's Doctor was fresh out of the Time War. He had emotional wounds that had yet to heal. He was bitter.

Rose changed that. Rose brought hope and joy back into his life. Rose helped the Doctor heal. So it's little wonder that Tennant's Doctor was more joyful and lighthearted than Eccleston's Doctor. He wasn't a different man, he was just in a different place. In the same way someone a week after the death of a parent would behave much differently then they would 5 years later.

How do the Doctors differ per regeneration? I would say it's the same man, just at a different point in his life. The fact that his life evolves different than ours is what makes him alien and fascinating.

A Brief History of Regeneration

The first regeneration, though it was called renewal at the time, occured at the conclusion of 'The Tenth Planet'. The first Doctor collapses from exhaustion and comments that his body was "wearing a bit thin". He then regenerates into the second Doctor Patrick Troughton.

In the second Doctor's first episode, 'The Power of the Daleks', the Doctor draws an analogy between regeneration and a caterpillar turning into a butterfly.

When the second Doctor underwent regeneration it was forced on him by the Time Lords at the conclusion of 'The War Games'. In 'The War Games' it was referred to as a "change of appearance". This suggested at the time that it was a superficial change. The second Doctor protests "you can't just change what I look like without consulting me!". Here the change is discussed as superficial not as the death of the second Doctor as an individual.

The first official use of the term "regeneration" occurred during the regeneration from Pertwee to Tom Baker (third to fourth Doctor). This is also the first time the personality shift is mentioned. In 'Planet of the Spiders' it was explained that the Doctor's brain cells had been shaken up in the process. That his behavior would be erratic for a time.

In 'The Deadly Assasin', a fourth Doctor episode, it is stated that a Time Lord can regenerate 12 times before dying. A total of 13 incarnations per Time Lord. In 'Mawdryn Undead' the fifth Doctor explicitly states that he has 8 incarnations left.

The Master is an example of a Time Lord that has exhausted his regenerations. When The Master finds himself at the end of his cycle of lives he escapes death by taking possesion of another body, transfering his mind.

In 'The Five Doctors' The Master is offered a new cycle of regenerations, implying the 12 regeneration can be circumvented. It also may imply that the regeneration process is achieved through science and is not a biological ability (my theory has always been that it is achieved through nanites - check one of my other posts in this blog for more on that topic).

The only time the Doctor makes a distinction between his death and the death of a particular incarnation is during 'The End of Time'. The Doctor makes it clear he regards regeneration nearly as bad as death because, as he claims, "he dies and a new man walks away". On a smaller scale though, I would say that humans experience that as well as they transition from major life events (graduating from college, turning 30, the birth of a child, middle age, etc). How many of us at times have felt that the person we used to be is dead and another person has taken their place? Are you still the carefree partier you use to be in college or have you become someone altogether different, someone with a job and responsibilities?

In the end isn't that what good science fiction is supposed to do-give us an allegory for our own lives and experiences?

In conclusion, I believe The Doctors are all the same man, so should you.

P.S. Don't judge him based on his evolving wardrobe either, I'm sure you have some pretty questionable outfits in the back of your closet.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Why Amy Pond Might Be Able To Produce A Baby With Time Lord DNA

'Amy Pond is not an ordinary girl. She grew up with a Time Crack in her wall, the universe pouring through her dreams every night.' ~ The Doctor in 'The Big Bang'.

The big question in every fans mind is "How can Amy have a baby with Time Lord DNA?".
Moffat may have been dropping hints since Series 5.

What makes Amy special? Here's a list:

  1. Amy grew up with a Time Crack in her wall, the universe pouring through her mind and body. This point was made in the Series 5 finale 'The Big Bang' by The Doctor himself.

  2. Amy Pond has traveled through time in the TARDIS. In the episode 'Flesh and Stone' Amy asks The Doctor how she can remember the Weeping Angel that was in her head if it ceased to exist. The Doctor answers that she is different now that she has traveled through time in the TARDIS. She can remember altered time lines.

  3. Amy was locked in The Pandorica's regenerative field for 2000 years. The same Pandorica The Doctor was previously imprisoned in. Amy was ressurected by the regenerative field of The Pandorica. Perhaps it altered her DNA as well with DNA of the previous inhabitant (our favorite Gallifreyan).

  4. She conceived a child while traveling in the Time Vortex. An event that may never have occurred before, given the fact that Time Lords didn't travel in TARDISes for long periods of time and as a race 'quickies' seem uncharacteristic.

  5. And then there may be an event that Moffat has yet to share with us as we still don't know when Amy was taken.

So in conclusion, it seems unlikely that humans just having sex in the TARDIS would result in a 'Time Lord' child. However, as The Doctor has stated on many occassions, Amelia Pond is 'the girl who didn't make sense'.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Moffat Quote from 1995 Regarding The Origin Of The Word Doctor

"Here's a particularly stupid theory. If we take "The Doctor" to be the Doctor's name -even if its in the form of a title no doubt meaning something deep and Gallifreyan - perhaps our earthly use of the word 'Doctor' meaning healer or wise man is a direct result of The Doctor's multiple interventions in our history as a healer or wise man. In other words, we got it from him. This is a very silly idea and I'm consequently rather proud of it."

Stephen Moffat Quote from January 8th 1995

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Significance of the 51st Century in Doctor Who

The 51-52 Century has been a significant time period in the chronology of Doctor Who. It also seems to have captured the imagination of Steven Moffat.

  • The 51st Century is the start of "The Great Breakout", an expansionistic period where mankind headed for the stars. First mentioned in the Classic Who episode The Invisible Enemy.

  • The 51st Century is the era where K-9 was created.

  • The 51st Century is when humans begin early expirements with Time Travel.

  • The Time Agents are established in the 51st Century.

  • The 51st Century marks the rise and fall of the villainous Magnus Greel from the Classic Who episode 'The Talons of Weng-Chiang'.

  • The epsiode 'The Girl in the Fireplace' (written by Steven Moffat) took place in the 51st Century.

  • The 'Silence in the Library' and 'Forest of the Dead', which introduced us to River Song (also written by Steven Moffat) took place in this era.

  • The 'Time of Angels' and 'Flesh and Stone' (written by Steven Moffat) also take place in this era.

  • The Stormcage Containment Facility, where River Song is imprisoned, is located in the 51-52 Century.

So every time you hear a Doctor Who episode mention the 51st or 52nd Century , you should take note. It's probably relevant.

Jack Harkness, The Time Agent who Arrests River Song?

If the events in 'The Impossible Astronaut' indeed show River Song killing The Doctor (in the astronaut suit), if this is the event that leads to her impisonment in The Stormcage - how did she end up in a 51st century prison for a crime committed in 2011?

Wouldn't it be appropriate if she was followed back in time by a Time Agent and arrested?

The Time Agents we are told in 'The Empty Child' are based out of the 51st Century.

Is it a coincidence that the century River Song is imprisoned in is the same century the Time Agents are based out of?

Also keep in mind, 'The Empty Child' was written by a writer named - Steven Moffat.

What if the agent that arrests River Song is our favorite Time Agent, Jack Harkness. Jack Harkness, a character introduced in a Steven Moffat episode. Jack Harkness, a characted Steven Moffat stated he'd like to bring back to his series of Doctor Who.

Also, one of the mysteries introduced in 'The Empty Child' was that Jack Harkness quit the Time Agent because he had lost two years worth of his memories. Were these memories of The Doctor that needed to be removed so he wouldn't recongnize The Doctor when he met him in his future during 'The Empty Child'?

Wouldn't this just bring Steven Moffat's story arc full circle.
Time-Wimey. All speculation on my part, but I'd pay to see it happen.

You read it here first.

River Kills a Good Man, The Best She's Ever Known

A lot of theories after the airing of 'The Impossible Astronaut' that the Astronaut is River Song and we have witnessed her kill "the best man she has ever known", The Doctor.

The theory also goes that this is the event which leads to her arrest and imprisonment in the Stormcage.

Good theory. I tend to believe it myself.

One logic issue that Moffat will have to deal with. If that is River Song in the Astronaut suit, she killed The Doctor in 2011. She is in prison in the 51st Century.

How is it that the 51st century would hold River responsible for a crime committed in 2011?


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Regenerations: Science or Genetics?

Before we begin, I would like to agree on some basic assumptions:

1) If there is a contradiction between Classic Who canon and New Who, Classic Who is the trusted source. Over 40 years of back story should outweigh 4 years of RTD.
2) If New Who introduces a concept that was never covered in Classic Who, then it is canon.

Now my first contention is that not all Gallifreyans are Time Lords. There is ample evidence for this premise in Classic Who. However, that is a discussion for another post. I would argue, based on Classic Who, that only Time Lords are able to regenerate, not all Gallifreyans. The ability is granted to Gallifreyans who join the exclusive fraternity of Time Lords.

Position Statement: Regeneration is a scientific accomplishment of The Time Lords and not a genetic trait they are born with.

Which episode supports this theory? The episode I would quote is 'The Five Doctors'.

In 'The Five Doctors' The Master is summoned to Gallifrey. The Master has used all of his 12 regenerations (yes, Time Lords can only regenerate 12 times) and is nearing the end of his life. The Time Lords request The Master assist The Doctor against a major threat. In return the Time Lords promise The Master a fresh cycle of regenerations.

It would seem obvious that if The Time Lords can grant The Master a fresh cycle of regenerations, then the ability is likely based on science and not genetics.

What if the Time Lords just have the ability to obtain an unlimted number of cycles?
You might ask if this doesn't just imply that the batch of regenerations are easily obtainable on Gallifrey. I believe the same episode proves that is not the case.

The premise of 'The Five Doctors' is that President Borusa is attempting to obtain immortality. Obviously, if a Time Lord can just take extra cycles of regenerations at will they would approach near immortality. If anyone could obtain them it would be the President of the Time Lords.

So we can probably conclude that the cycles are difficult to obtain. Perhaps obtaining the new cycle took approval of the entire senate of Time Lords. Or perhaps there is a limit to how many cycles a Time Lord can take before they cease to function.

*  Regenerations are granted to Time Lords through science. *  The cycle of regenerations are difficult enough to obtain that they are beyond the casual reach of even the President of Gallifrey.
*  There must be a limit to the number of cycles a Time Lord can consume or Borusa would not have needed to go through so much trouble to obtain immortality.

Fanon: Regeneration Trivia
Before New Who was back on television it was generally agreed upon by fans that Gallifreyans are not born with two hearts. It was argued that they were born with a single heart and upon their first regeneration they obtain the second heart.

The thought was that regenerations might be triggered by nanites which then adjust the Time Lords physiology to an optimal configuration (not one which they were born with). Again, this was fan speculation but it was pretty mainstream for decades.

I must admit I'm fond of this theory although there is nothing concrete to support it (other than the fact it was never mentioned that the first Doctor had two hearts).