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