My favourite scene to come out of New Who is this one, from Parting of the Ways.
I never fail to tear up. Something about Billie’s acting, the superb contrast between the mundane and the fantastic. She’s in despair… a million years away the Doctor is dying, and all she can do is eat chips. It’s a scene in a suburban cafe. There’s no music, there are maybe two camera angles. It is so gut wrenching because it has beautifully simple concepts. The idea of being separated by distance… anyone can relate to that. It’s painful. There’s the idea that there’s a better world to be had. The idea that a better world is founded on the idea of helping people. There’s familial obligation. Familial love. Status. Frustration. The ‘chips’ motif is turned on its head, having been a symbol of loving the simplest things the universe has to offer. Now it’s a symbol of the repulsively mundane.
In that tiny little scene there is so much and I believe it’s the best New Who has had to offer so far.
Sometimes Moffat comes up with fantastic concepts. The idea of a ‘battery farm’ of humans living their lives over and over for aliens to snack on their energy is deliciously evil. It’s fabulous. And simple- anyone can imagine the horror of being stuck in one room your whole life. Everyone understands eternity. It’s delicious horror, that fear of imprisonment, you can do so much with that basic concept of running from being trapped in time.
Yet somehow he can bugger even this up and I really despair at the man.
I felt nothing. The Ponds ‘dying’ at the end was meant to be a sucker punch to the gut, but the narrative structure didn’t allow for it. You can’t have a second climax bigger than the first. I know exactly what he was aiming for; an echo of the horror of Tennant’s regeneration. After the climax of defeating the Time Lords, his realising he’s about to die in company with simple old man Wilf is a slow steady punch to the gut. No music, no fanfare, just two old men together. It’s simple and it works (until the Ood start singing). You know why it worked? Because it was set up. We were told that four beats would signal the Doctor’s death. We believed in the wrong four beats. The four beats didn’t come from the (expected) enemy, but the (unexpected) best friend, the old man. That is a perfect set up for a nasty shock.
I’ll tell you why Amy’s final scene didn’t work; just too much stuff and it wasn’t heralded properly.
They’ve been aiming for growth for her this season. Their attempts didn’t work; the ‘divorce’ and reunion in Asylum of the Daleks didn’t show a mature woman making an emotionally responsible decision to leave her lover for her emotional wellbeing, but two immature young people in an uncommunicative relationship. Amy and Rory’s relationship has been fucked up since day one, and Amy committing to Rory in eternity didn’t come across as a romantic finale but a hasty decision made out of the blue to the background of two people yelling at her.
If we’re to read a story off Amy, it’s the tale of a girl caught up in fairy tales and raggedy men, running away from reality until she matures and commits to something real that she loves. Unfortunately, Moffat didn’t realise this story until it was far too late; he gave us his own Scottish pixie dream girl without any interests or personality beyond ‘sexy-witty’. What does Amy Pond like!? Modelling? What else?!
…anyway. To resolve this story, the farewell needs to be from Amy to the Doctor. “I’m ready now, Doctor” it needs to say. “I can continue my life without validation from you, your validation of my fantasy world. I know that you will be fine without me, and I will be fine without you. There is something more important to me than time and space; instead of making worlds on other planets I want to make a world here with Rory. I’m not doing this just for him, or just for you; I want it because it secures me in a way I’ve never felt before.”
Rose’s story went something like this in the scene above. “I’m sorry, mum. I need to do this. I need to help people and I need to do it away from you. I still love you. I’m sad about this separation, but the call is too strong for me.”
That’s beautiful. That’s life. It’s simple and it works. Amy’s scene was too full… full of River shouting about love (Amy’s story shouldn’t have been written about love but about commitment) and full of the Doctor refusing to let go. She wasn’t even Amelia Pond anymore, she became Amelia Williams. She didn’t transcend; she became someone else, someone she never was.
Speaking of the Doctor, Moffat appears to have realised the error of his own characterisation in his own script… “a thousand year old god who chooses the face of a nine year old.”
Exactly, Moffat. Why does River Song sexualise this man when she’d be more attracted to Don Draper instead? Why does a thousand year old man pretend he’s an adolescent? More disturbingly, what do you mean, “never let him see you old?”
That’s disgusting. It’s counter to everything the Doctor ever was. He’s seen Jo Grant ‘old’. He’s seen Sarah Jane ‘old’. Seen the Brigadier ‘old’. These magnificent people were ‘old’ and kicking ass, and he celebrated it. HE is old. The Doctor may grow sad, but he doesn’t avoid death. He doesn’t run from it, he doesn’t fear sadness like some hipster scared of relationships. He’s so old as to have met Death itself. He understands life and all of its inherent sadnesses and happinesses. To have River Bloody Song trying to protect his feelings like a mother to some cosmic five year old shows a terrible misunderstanding of the Doctor’s character and role. He’s become a child who eats all the chips off his plate but never the greens. It’s gone too far so as to be comical anymore; why would anyone spend time with him? When the Doctor isn’t educating you anymore and has to be babysat, you know it’s time for a new showrunner.
Please give me this goddamn show, I want to show you how spectacular it could be. :(
Could never have put it better.