Thursday, May 19, 2011

One Doctor, Furnished in Smarmy Gaiman
"Fear me, I've killed dozens of Time Lords."
"Fear me, I've killed them all."
The Doctor and The House, "The Doctor's Wife"

Just when we thought the Doctor couldn't get himself any deeper into trouble, a proposal falls into the lap of fantasy writer, Neil Gaiman: write a script for Doctor Who. The result: "The Doctor's Wife", an episode as clever and inventive as befitting both novelist and Doctor. "The Doctor's Wife" combined Gaiman's story telling with a firm re-grounding in the past lore of the Doctor and his past. Upon closer examination, it is unclear where the Gaiman ends and the Doctor begins. In this tale of seamless writing and flawless wit, the two seem inextricably intertwined.

Basic Plot

The Doctor is lured outside the universe by an oh-so tempting bit of news: other Time Lords could still be alive. He takes the Tardis, Rory and Amy to a satellite outside the known universe (imagine a bubble on the side of a much larger bubble and it wouldn't be anything like that all, or so it goes). There, they are greeted by Aunt, Uncle, Nephew (Ood), hogde-podged bits of people caught outside the universe in the catch-all that is The House. The House, looking for Time Lords to devour, lures the Doctor and the Tardis into its maw. Aunt and Uncle separate the Tardis matrix from the machine and implant it in the body of a young woman, Idris, who enjoys biting and kissing equally and not exactly in that order. The House traps Amy and Rory inside the Tardis and uses them for entertainment, recreating rooms, separating them, playing before them scenes of horror, especially for Amy. The Doctor must build another Tardis, with the help of The Tardis, to reach Amy and Rory before The House destroys them.

Gaiman's Writing

I do not have to expound upon Gaiman's writing style or his long bibliography. The man's name speaks for itself. I will restrict my fan-girlish comments to myself regarding his hair and resist the urge to brag about having met the man on my honeymoon. So, onto the episode.

This episode smacks of a distinct difference in character that is all-too-Gaiman, but stands firmly grounded in the danger and madness that is the Doctor. My opinion is that the episode, where it not advertised at all that it had been written by Gaiman, would not stand out from the rest of the series. This is a good thing. Gaiman has successfully and seamlessly written an episode in true style while still inserting enough of his own style to mark this episode as unique, but does not break continuity for the sake of artistic licence. In the hands of another writer, this could have ended badly, like letting John de Lancie write a Star Trek novel. The most interesting aspect of Gaiman's episode is the relationship or--dare I say it--marriage of the Doctor to the Tardis. One cannot travel without the other. The Doctor needs the Tardis to travel space and time. The Tardis is all time and space at once, but needs the Doctor or other Time Lord to traverse it. The analogy is further enriched by trapping the only married couple in the series inside the Tardis and putting them through the emotional wringer.

Rory and Amy, after some mild questioning regarding Amy's loyalty, are inseparable, and inside the Tardis they are each other's only hope for survival against The House. The House is especially fond of targeting Amy, who is easily upset at the thought of death, whether it is Rory's or the Doctor's, when she is powerless to stop it. Gaiman uses this as a reference to tie this episode to the others, especially episode three, when the Doctor reminds Amy that Rory is counting on her to save his life. The same could be said for the Doctor, if it were cosmically possible.

People are So Much Bigger on the Inside

Gaiman does a fantastic job of anthropomorphizing the Tardis in the form of Idris. Gaiman explores the relationship between Tardis and Doctor by giving the Tardis a voice and giving viewers some of the most touching scenes in the series. Before this episode, I do not recall the Doctor ever crying. Trust me, he wasn't the only one in the room that was. Even my husband teared up a little when the Doctor and Idris/Tardis had to say good-bye. But it was not good-bye; it was "hello" for the first time in nine hundred years. In that time the Doctor had always been frustrated with the "unreliability" of the Tardis.

"I've always taken you where you needed to go," the Tardis said. Realizing that a sentient matrix controlled the blue police box, the Doctor has a brand new idea of how to operate with the Tardis.

Gaiman also explores the nature of people's emotions. When the Tardis is inside a human body, she comes tries to find a word, a big word to describe herself that is also so very sad. In the end "Alive" is sad because something that is alive must also die. In this case, the body holding the Tardis dies but the matrix lives on, voiceless but alive nonetheless. The subject of being dead and alive and its impact on those around us has been the central theme of this series, starting with the Doctor's supposed death in "The Impossible Astronaut" and Amy's fear regarding the potential for both Rory and the Doctor to die in their adventures. Emotions, in this series, are also continuing to run high. The Doctor continues to seek forgiveness for what he's done to the other Time Lords. His desperation leads him into the trap set by The House. Amy is still guilty for what she cannot tell the Doctor about his death in 2011. Rory is still wary but has renewed his confidence in his wife.

All things considered, this episode, in terms of sheer emotional value, shines as a prime example of progression. As one travels through space and time, whether over the course of a life time or via a time machine, life must inevitably end, sparking new beginnings. This episode begins with marks the beginning of a new phase in the Doctor's life with the Tardis.

Best Scene
The best scene of this episode, aside from Idris alternating between kissing and biting the Doctor, is the scene where the two Tardises become one in an effort to override The House's control. It is synonymous with Idris' death. She releases the Tardis matrix back into the time machine, subsequently dying. She reappears to the Doctor a final time, not to say good-bye, but to say hello.

"It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Doctor," she says. After nine hundred and more years of silence, the Tardis and the Doctor can cement their relationship grounded in true understanding of one another. This is the essence of marriage, which is presumably why this episode is called "The Doctor's Wife". It can be speculated, hopefully without presumption, that this episode, following closely on the heels of Gaiman's re-entry into the married life, is not based entirely in fiction. This season has been closely analyzing the married couple's relationship via Amy and Rory and all of their predictable attitudes. The only relationship yet to be explored was the Doctor's hypothetical, and now totally believable, relationship to the Tardis, who he often refers to as "Old Girl" and "Sexy", as if she were truly a real person. Leave it to Gaiman to open up the possibility that the Tardis really has a life of its own. We just never realized it until now.

The Doctor is a Time Lord of the planet formerly known as Gallifrey. He travels through space and time with his loyal friends and the fickle personality of the Tardis (who has only just recently had a new idea about kissing). For all of his cleverness and confidence, he can never truly shake the guilt of what he has done in the past. However, he is slowly coming to realize that the forgiveness he seeks can be found in those that love him.

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