R.J. Anderson (rj_anderson) wrote,
R.J. Anderson

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Can I please move to a safer planet?

Oh dear. Here we go again, I'm afraid. If you are heavily emotionally invested in the Doctor/Rose ship, to the point that you get angry at the mere idea that there might be something not quite healthy about it, you might want to turn back now, because I've just seen "Father's Day", and not only did it fail to change my mind about the theory I mentioned last week, it actually seemed to confirm it.

Before I go any further, however, I want to establish that I am not, and never have been, opposed to the possibility of the Doctor falling in love with a companion. Quite the opposite, in fact. Back in the early nineties when most of the Who romance and erotica was still in fanzines and the bulk of online stories were "traditional" action-adventure pieces, I posted a series of six stories to rec.arts.drwho.creative which involved a future incarnation of the Doctor in a romantic relationship. I believed then, and I still believe, that under the right circumstances and given sufficient time, such a thing could happen -- even between the Doctor and a human female nearly a thousand years younger than himself. So I am definitely not a Doctor/Rose hater, and my feelings about the way their relationship is developing in this first season has nothing to do with what I think should or could happen between them in the long term.

However, I reserve the right to call things as I see 'em, and right now... I'm more than a little worried about the Doctor's mental health.

Okay, let me get this straight: Rose wants to go back and see her father, although she realizes right off the bat that this might violate some kind of law of time. The Doctor says, No worries, I'm a Time Lord, I can do anything I want. So they go watch Rose's parents' wedding. Harmless enough. I can see the Doctor agreeing to that. But then Rose says she wants to see her Dad die. Hmm, kinda iffy, but again, the Doctor says okay. He obviously wants to please Rose, and probably figures that as long as he's with her, she can't get into too much trouble.

So they watch Pete die once, and now things get even more complicated when Rose says she wants to be with her father as he dies and the Doctor starts to look a little itchy around the collar. Still, he agrees yet again. He trusts Rose, and he genuinely seems to think she'll listen to him when he warns her to wait until their past selves have moved on and not to reveal herself. Of course, as we know, she doesn't listen, she saves her Dad, and then we get that lovely bit where they go back to Pete and Jackie's place and Rose babbles on with desperate cheer because she knows she's done a Bad Thing and the Doctor just stands there glowering at her until they have a full-on row.

So far, I'm still on board, and in the true spirit of the Eighties, I'll take a page from Howard Jones and say that No One Is To Blame. The Doctor trusted Rose too much, but then he didn't exactly warn Rose of the dangers as fully or severely as he might have done. And although Rose anticipates that there might be problems as the result of altering time, she has no way of knowing the extremity of the horror that will ensue. Even the Doctor may well not have anticipated the coming of the Reapers or realized the extent of the "sterilizing" they would do, as he's still getting used to his people not being around to fix temporal mishaps (and as an aside, may I just say how nice it is to hear that the Time Lords actually served some useful purpose in the universe, and didn't just spend all their time swanning about in ornate robes and grousing at the Doctor for involving himself in the affairs of lesser beings?).

So, like I said, I don't really have a big problem with the Doctor's behaviour or Rose's in the first part of the episode. Yeah, she did a stupid thing, but you can understand why. And when the Doctor stomps off to the TARDIS in a huff to do something-we-know-not-what (except that it wouldn't have involved leaving Rose behind -- we know that, because he tells her so) only to find that it won't let him in... that seems to be the first time he realizes that the timeline has been compromised enough to put Rose, let alone everybody else, in mortal danger.

However, in the words of Pee Wee Herman, "Everybody's got a big BUT," and this is mine. What the Doctor proceeds to do, once the Reapers arrive, is more than just questionable -- it's downright scary if you ask me. They're all trapped inside the temporal anomaly Rose created, and there is no guarantee or even encouraging evidence that they can escape it, so as far as the Doctor knows, they're all doomed. The Reapers are eating the world's entire unsheltered population -- billions of people -- in what looks like a decidedly painful way. And eventually they're going to claw their way into the church and eat the few remaining survivors as well.

There is one simple way to stop the Reapers, and the Doctor already knows what it is -- sacrifice Pete and restore the timeline to its original state. We're shown that the Doctor realizes this when he sees the car going around the corner and vanishing, and that's relatively early in the crisis. But instead of putting the needs of the many -- indeed billions -- first, as any of his previous selves would have done (albeit with varying degrees of angstiness about it), he keeps his knowledge to himself and doesn't even tell Pete or Rose that this is what's needed. He doesn't even drop a hint, for Rassilon's sake. He acts as though Pete's death, under any circumstances whatsoever, is simply not a viable option.

In other words, the Doctor is prepared to sacrifice the entire population of the planet Earth including the bride and groom whose lives he's just promised to save, and in the end he even gives up his own life -- for what? As far as I can tell, it's solely to spare Rose more emotional pain. In "Dalek" the Doctor was still able, though it cost him dearly, to make the decision to sacrifice Rose's life when he knew millions of other lives were at stake. But now he'd rather see billions die than tell her that her Dad has to go?

I'd like to believe that all of this crazy behaviour is because the Doctor knows everything will be all right in the end, that the timeline will be repaired and that the people eaten by the Reapers will come back. But he gives no sign throughout the episode that this is the case -- not until Pete has actually gone out and put himself in front of the car to restore the timeline. It really looks as though the Doctor thinks the crisis is real and indeed potentially fatal, has no idea how to resolve it short of Pete's death, and is looking to the TARDIS as the only hope of escape for the few people that are left. Which, if it had panned out, would leave Earth desolate and the Doctor, Rose, and the other folks from the church as the few survivors.

Am I the only one who finds this disturbing?

Of course, it's possible that this is just a case of bad writing on RTD and Paul Cornell's part (much as it pains me to think so, as Cornell's always been one of my favorite Who authors), and that they only meant the Doctor's actions toward Rose to come across as sensitive and understanding and maybe a bit romantic. I mean, that seems to be the force of the scene where he asks her to say she's sorry, and then gives her a big grin, caresses her face, and hugs her as soon as she mumbles her apology. And judging from all the reviews I've read in the past couple of days, that also seems to have been the way most viewers regarded the episode -- as a touching family drama with romantic overtones. But if that's really the effect the writers were going for, they would have done better not to overlook that little detail about the billions of other people who died, methinks.

However, having addressed my misgivings, I will say that the Doctor struck me as more likeable and compassionate and altogether attractive in this episode than he has for the last couple of eps. He seemed considerably more balanced and in control of himself on the whole, and I really liked the scene where he asks the bride and groom how they met and promises to save them. I'm even assuming that when he sacrificed himself to the Reaper that got into the church, he did so in an effort to fulfill that promise. That seems like a very Doctorish thing to do.

So I'm not saying the Doctor is completely off the deep end. But I can't say that I feel very confident in his moral judgment at the moment, especially where Rose is concerned...
Tags: doctor who, essays, nine/rose
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