Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Doctor Who Series Recap: Season Three

At this point, the personality of the 10th Doctor is well established.  More than any other Doctor, the 10th is the one who should never ever travel alone.  As much as the Doctor is fascinated with humanity, he can at times forget to be humane and a companion serves to keep him grounded.  As far as The Doctor is concerned, Rose is pretty damn hard to replace, particularly given his romantic feelings for her.  He tries to pretend that he will be just fine but in his very first outing sans Rose, it's clear everything will not be  okay if he doesn't find someone soon.

Series Three resulted in one of my favourite episodes of Doctor Who of all time - Blink.  I was captivated as I learned about the lonely assassins (weeping angels) and found them to be a fitting match for The Doctor.  The Angels want to create a paradox from which they can feed and so the Doctor issues a warning from 1969 to Sally Sparrow, "Don't blink. Don't even blink. Blink and you're dead. Don't turn your back. Don't look away. And don't blink.” The Doctor and Martha don't even feature largely in the story but the terror the Weeping Angels manage to cause is absolutely captivating. I don't think I've looked at a stone angel the same way since watching Blink.

The third series begins with The Doctor meeting his future companion (and greatest companion ever if you ask me ) Donna Noble, when she suddenly appears on the Tardis.  Donna is beamed onto the Tardis in her wedding dress of all things and is certain that The Doctor is a Martian who has kidnapped her. The Doctor quickly realises that there is a mystery behind Donna's sudden appearance and after failing to get Donna to her wedding in a timely fashion, sets about solving it.  What ensues is absolutely hilarious, as the Doctor clashes with Donna's brash style.  She's not afraid to slap him when he gets to wrapped up in techno babble either.

In The Runaway Bride, Donna loses her job and her fiance in one day when she learns that Lance had drugged her coffee in order to make her suitable food for the children of the Empress of Racnoss. It absolutely fascinated me that the Empress was the last of her kind and that the Doctor had very little compassion for her.  He was particularly indignant about her race's history of violence and murder. The Doctor offers the Empress one last chance to give up, promising to relocate her if she agrees but the Empress refuses.  The Doctor takes his terrible justice by killing all of her children, as the Empress screams in pain.  It's Donna, who has to tell the Doctor that he can stop now.  In their parting scene together, Donna tells The Doctor that he needs to find someone because he needs someone to tell him to stop.

Martha Jones, The Doctor's companion for series three is introduced in Smith and Jones.  The hospital Martha works in is transported to the moon so that the Judoon can find an alien hiding there. Jones and the Doctor team up very quickly to assure that the correct alien is taken into custody and the hospital returned to Earth.  Upon arriving back on earth, The Doctor asks Martha to take a trip with him, making it clear that she will not replace Rose and that he is only offering one trip.  I suppose that's the Doctor's way of saying, "I'm just not that into you", but it doesn't stop Martha from giving him the eye for the rest of the season.

On their first trip together in The Shakespeare Code, The Doctor and Martha travel back in time to meet Shakespeare.  Martha is initially curious about what impact she will have being there and if she is going to get carted off as a slave - a valid concern for a woman of colour to have.  Unfortunately, the writers drop the ball by having the 10th doctor's response be glib.  I suppose it could be taken as the Doctor simply not really seeing Martha but I choose to see it as yet another example of the writers not knowing what to do with characters of colour.

Martha at first seems like a great upgrade on Mickey. She's highly intelligent, fiercely loyal and the Doctor not only seems to care for her, he takes her quite seriously.  The problem in their relationship stems from the fact that Martha is clearly in love with the 10th Doctor and he only sees her as a friend.  In The Shakespeare Code, Martha and the Doctor are forced to share a bed. Martha is clearly filled with expectations about what will happen and is openly very inviting; however, the Doctor barely notices her.  Martha in fact gets more attention from Shakespeare than she does the Doctor.

In Human Nature, Martha is forced to watch as The Doctor, who has submerged his identity, falls in love with Joan Redfern, the nurse at the school at which he is teaching. To this day, The Doctor's love for Joan absolutely sticks in my craw.  Yes, he was just coming off losing Rose and didn't know who he was but it still reads as Martha coming in second place to two White women. Martha even confesses to the Doctor when he becomes John Smith that he is everything to her.  No matter how accommodating (And that includes financially supporting him during Blink), beautiful or intelligent she is, Martha is permanently friend zoned and astonished that the Doctor fell in love with a human who wasn't her. Given the treatment of Mickey, it reads as a Black woman simply not being able to measure up.

Human Nature and its sequel The Family of Blood does however draw on what I like to call the Doctor's soul.  The school is being attacked and all of the students are in great danger.  The Doctor prepares to have the boys fight off the threat and it's Joan who tells him that the John Smith she knows wouldn't want the boys the fight, let alone The Doctor.  As John Smith, The Doctor actually picks up a gun but cannot bring himself to fire.  He watches horrified as the boys fire into the enemy, finally lowering his weapon and ordering the retreat.  Becoming the Doctor again is a decision he agonizes over because as John Smith, he has no one depending on him to save the world and has the two  things he wants or rather needs more than anything else: love and an end to his loneliness.  At the end of the day, when The Doctor returns to see Joan, he finds he cannot unring a bell.  Joan refuses him and once again, the Doctor experiences the pain of losing someone he cares about. It is a pain he will revisit before he regenerates.

Loneliness has always plagued the Doctor.  Yes, he's always had a companion but hanging over the relationship is the knowledge that no matter how close he becomes to his companion, the relationship will ultimately end.  Before becoming The Doctor again, John Smith gets a vision of exactly what his life would be like with Joan and he makes the Family of Blood pay for what he lost.  Each of them is horrifically trapped in an eternity which can only be described as hell.  What he did was cold, and vengeful and something I most certainly could not see the 9th Doctor doing at all.  The 10th Doctor plays the role of judge, jury and executioner and has no room in his heart for forgiveness whatsoever. It the Doctor feels pain, whoever caused it will also feel pain.

Loneliness more than anyone or anything is the Doctor's companion and this is why when he meets up with The Master in The Last of The Time Lords he wants to stop him but also takes responsibility for him.

In Gridlock, The Doctor meets up with the Face of Bo and learns for the first time that he is not alone in the universe.  Even though The Master is undoubtedly evil and bent on destruction, when the Doctor finally meets The Master in Utopia, The Master's very existence offers the Doctor some chance at redemption.  The Master, being the Master certainly does not make it easy for the Doctor.  The Master takes over the Earth, and forces the Doctor into a cage. The Doctor finally overcomes the Master thanks to Martha Jones, who spends an entire year walking around telling everyone she meets about the Doctor.  It's through humanity's belief in him that the Doctor manages to defeat the Master. The Master then refuses to regenerate, thus leaving the Doctor as once again the last of his kind.  Once again, loneliness and desperation strikes the Doctor and he is absolutely emotionally destroyed.  No matter what The Doctor tries, he cannot escape the inevitability of his isolation.  For the Doctor, The Master most certainly needs to be kept on a short leash but had he lived, the Doctor wouldn't have been the last Time Lord.

The Doctor isn't simply travelling; he's running from who he is and what he has done.  It becomes clear when he finally reunites with Captain Jack and admits to leaving him behind in The Parting of Ways. The Doctor finds Jack to be unnatural and points out that even the Tardis went to the end of time to try and escape Jack.  The question is, if Jack is unnatural, what does that make the Doctor? Jack sees the looming years ahead with fear now that it has been confirmed that he cannot die; however, The Doctor has no answers for him, perhaps because he has no answers for himself.

Captain Jack is the only LGBT character to appear in this season.  Though Captain Jack is bisexual by cannon, the only person he flirted with this season was Martha Jones and the Doctor was quick to put an end to that.  The story line captain Jack essentially centered on whether or not he could die and how uncomfortable it made him and the Doctor.

There was a brief mention of Torchwood and Jack swore repeatedly to the Doctor that since taking over the organization that he has changed it.  Despite the time that has passed, it seems the Doctor still holds much resentment against Torchwood for the loss of Rose.  I further believe that because Torchwood represents a strike of independence for humanity the Doctor's anger and distrust is at least partially based in a loss of control.   The Doctor has become accustomed over the years to being the final arbiter on all things human vs alien. The Doctor expects to always be in charge and as much as he is always going on about humanity always progressing forward and spreading out into the universe he wants to ensure his place in the hierarchy.  The Doctor reasserted his control when he broke the device that allowed Jack to travel through space and time, determining it should only be left to him.

The Doctor will always try to control what he can but at the end of the season when he ends up alone yet again, he realises that no matter what he does, there will always be some things he cannot have power over.  When Martha's family is threatened in The Sound of the Drums, she stops listening to the Doctor and no longer sees what is happening as just a cool adventure.  The Doctor wants to prioritize getting to the Master but Martha's top priority is her family and to that end, she tries desperately to get to them.  It's the first time all season that we don't see Martha in awe of the Doctor. Martha does eventually follow the Doctor's plan to save the earth but the year apart gives her the courage to acknowledge that she will never be more than a friend to him.

Martha leaving the Doctor is a double edged sword for me.  On one hand, I love that she moved on from a situation in which she could never really truly be loved and on the other, with Mickey gone, that means that there are no re-occurring characters of colour on NuWho.  I love Doctor Who for the possibilities and unique stories it presents but at the same time, the inclusion is not at all substantial whether we are talking about LGBT people or people of colour.

This is the 10th Doctor's second season and he has already run through a few companions for various reasons.  We have seen thus far that he is bright, sarcastic, sexy but also a control freak, angry and incredibly lonely.  The fact that he would consider taking responsibility for The Master of all people evidences the degree to which his life and the T.A.R.D.I.S at times are like an exotic prison.  He wants to stop and have what he sees all around him but he cannot and he knows it.  We also learned that the Doctor's vengeance is beyond cruel. Behind the laughing, smiling and quick wit lies a very dark figure.