Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sunday Morning, 3 AM - and the Depression of the Doctor

Actually, that time was over 20 minutes ago, but I don't want to lose the Simon and Garfunkel reference, which was a Wednesday anyway. This day and night have gotten away from me again; sleeping in, a new Doctor Who episode, beta reading and Wikipedia sure can fill up the hours! I ended up writing most of the synopsis for the episode in the Wikipedia article about it. I also researched citations for films and tv shows made in Tucson, two ships called the U.S.S. Tucson, and Jack Kerouac's visit to Tucson for the Tucson article, stumbled across an article about Linda McCartney's death, and failed to find an online reference to the fact that Ina Road isn't pronounced the same way as the person for whom it was named.

Oh, and I managed to put my back in spasm, just bending over to get a pan lid from the cupboard.

The episode that aired on the BBC this weekend, "The Lazarus Experiment", featured another scene that had me thinking about the Doctor's more melancholy outlook this season. In the 2006 series, with Rose at his side, the Doctor seemed to enjoy his life most of the time, even taking a moment to enthuse with Rose in "Tooth and Claw" about seeing a werewolf (much to Queen Victoria's disapproval), and laughing with Rose at the suggestion in "The Impossible Planet" that if he thought the place was dangerous, they could just leave. As long as he had Rose with him, even trouble was part of the fun. But then Rose was stranded forever in another universe, a loss that made him even more aware of past losses, and accentuated his loneliness. He soon picked up a new companion, Martha Jones (after being turned down by Donna Noble, which was just as well), but tried to limit his emotional involvement with her, offering her "one trip only."

So far in the 2007 season, the Doctor has repeatedly mourned the loss of Rose in front of Martha ("Smith and Jones", "The Shakespeare Code"), lied to her by pretending that his home planet, Gallifrey, still existed before eventually telling her of its destruction ("Gridlock"), and told a showgirl named Tallulah that his enemies the Daleks "always survive while I lose everything" ("Daleks in Manhattan"). By the time the Daleks attack Hooverville in "Evolution of the Daleks", the Doctor has moments in which he is nearly suicidal. Tired of his endless fight with his oldest enemies, and hoping that it will somehow result in the Daleks sparing the humans, he actively and frantically invites the Daleks to kill him. Later, in the theater, he braces himself for death when the Daleks prepare to exterminate him, only afterward maneuvering the Daleks into siccing the "human Daleks" on him instead, tainted as they are with the Doctor's DNA. Then at his final confrontation with Dalek Caan, he is angrily disdainful of Caan's threat to kill him.

"The only certainty is that you end up alone."

In "The Lazarus Experiment", the Doctor isn't so much suicidal as world-weary. He tells Lazarus that a long life can be a curse, and later says,

"I'm old enough to know that a longer life isn't always a better one. In the end you just get tired, tired of the struggle, tired of losing everyone that matters to you, tired of watching everything turn to dust. If you live long enough, Lazarus, the only certainty left is that you end up alone."

"There's no such thing as an ordinary human."

Yet he also says, with a hint of a smile, "There's no such thing as an ordinary human." He may be tired and lonely, worn out with centuries of fighting in behalf of humans on Earth and elsewhere; but he still stands as their champion, as the Sycorax leader once put it. Nor is this sad speech without an underlying purpose - two of them, most likely. The Doctor has been circling Lazarus, looking around the cathedral for ways to defeat him, and also trying to reason with him about his determination to survive at any price, regardless of how many people he kills in the process. Naturally he's not going to put a happy face on his longevity in those circumstances.

At the end of the episode, we see a more cheerful side of the Doctor, as he and Martha both admit they have had fun in their adventures together. When she insists on returning to the TARDIS as a friend rather than a passenger on a short excursion, the Doctor accepts her terms. Perhaps the Doctor has realized, in remonstrating with Lazarus, that for the moment, at least, he need not be alone after all.

Two episodes from now is the one I've been looking forward to and dreading, "Human Nature." "The Lazarus Experiment" concluded with a trailer for the second half of the season, featuring several scenes from the two-part story, Human Nature / The Family of Blood. One of these seems to imply that the Doctor becomes temporarily human for some urgent, desperate reason, and depends on Martha to restore him when the time comes. Another one shows the humanized "John Smith" speaking with innocent wonder of a dream (I assume it's a dream) that "all took place in the future." A third excerpt has Smith much less happy as he urgently asks Martha, "What exactly do you do for him? Why does he need you?" Perhaps he suspects by then that his Time Lord alter ego will soon supplant him.

I hope that along the way, the Doctor will recover a bit from his melancholy, but it's hard to say that he will, given the anonymous description of the Doctor that ends the trailer: "He's fire, and ice, and rage. He's like the night, and the storm in the heart of the sun." Yes, well, I hope he's more than that. Cheer up, Doctor!


Next time: "Be Careful What You Google For."

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