The Day of the Doctor: a Case of Canon vs. Canon (Part 3/5)

The 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who troubled me for several reasons, and in the previous two parts of this analysis, I outlined how the 50th jars with canon in (1) how it contradicts the established fact that the Doctor was eyewitness to his planet being burned, and (2) how the 50th counters the Doctor’s morality on Daleks and his abhorrence at killing other life forms without a consideration of the life he’s taken.

This section outlines one of the major contradictions between the 50th and previous canon, namely, the moral question that lies at the heart of the rebooted series.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
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On the moral integrity of destroying Gallifrey/using the Moment

PARTISAN: (a woman) But we know his intention. He still possesses the Moment, and he’ll use it to destroy Daleks and Time Lords alike.
CHANCELLOR: The Visionary confirms it.
VISIONARY: Ending, burning, falling. All of it falling. The black and pitch and screaming fire, so burning.
CHANCELLOR: All of her prophecies say the same. That this is the last day of the Time War. That Gallifrey falls. That we die, today.
VISIONARY: Ending. Ending. Ending. Ending!
PARTISAN: Perhaps it’s time. This is only the furthest edge of the Time War. But at its heart, millions die every second, lost in bloodlust and insanity. With time itself resurrecting them, to find new ways of dying over and over again. A travesty of life. Isn’t it better to end it, at last?
(4.18 “The End of Time Part 2”)

The Partisan here represents the Doctor’s moral choice, that it’s better to end the madness in one horrible swash of genocide, than let the more terrible cycle of endless death continue. It’s not just a war, it’s time bringing back the dead to make them die again. That’s the hell that the innocent were experiencing in the Time War.

Again, we see here that the visionary foresaw the destruction of Daleks and Time Lords alike. The “burning of Gallifrey” is expressly not mere wartime destruction, not side effects of general war nor is it just the fall of the Daleks, but specifically the fire caused by the Moment being used on both sides by the Doctor to, as the Partisan states, “end it at last,” the travesty of life in a trapped and horrible cycle of death. Like was discussed before, the failure of a prophecy of a Time Lady Visionary should be explained in some way, instead of ignored, like what we got from the 50th.

It’s interesting that the Doctor didn’t use the Moment to kill his enemies primarily, but to stop the suffering cycle of death. The Doctor hates genocide, even of his enemies, so the only time he’d be brought down enough to do something so heinous is to offset the suffering of those same billions. And if the Time War is still Timelocked, then the cycle of death is still going on, to the Daleks in the crossfire, but also to the other forces in the war. The Partisan states that Gallifrey is on “the furthest edge of the Time War” with millions much farther away dying over and over again, every second. If the Doctor saves Gallifrey, those millions are still in torment, and the suffering is not ended. The 50th doesn’t address this at all, especially emotionally, with the Doctors. The War isn’t over if Gallifrey vanishes, because Gallifrey and the surrounding Dalek fleet are only a small segment of the conflict. The Time War is being fought across time and space, beyond Gallifrey.

MASTER: I remember the days when the Doctor, oh, that famous Doctor, was waging a Time War, battling Sea Devils and Axons. He sealed the rift at the Medusa Cascade single handed. (3.13 “The Last of the Time Lords”)

DOCTOR: You weren’t there in the final days of the War. You never saw what was born. But if the Timelock’s broken, then everything’s coming through. Not just the Daleks, but the Skaro Degradations, the Horde of Travesties, the Nightmare Child, the Could-have-been King with his army of Meanwhiles and Never-weres. (4.18 “The End of Time Part 2”)

When the Time Lords brought Gallifrey back, just Gallifrey, they brought back a whole host of hellish creatures along with that planet. It wasn’t just Time Lords and Daleks, and it wasn’t Daleks only above Gallifrey. Daleks stepped into the Sky Trenches and are on the surface of Gallifrey. There were other belligerents and other forces on Gallifrey, the complexity of which doesn’t really crop up in the 50th, but imparts tremendous meaning to the Doctor. I wish the 50th at least showed the Doctors considering what they were doing in hiding away a planet that had Daleks, Time Lords, and other horrible creatures on its surface, because as it stands, the Doctors just saved a whole planet of warfare, and Rassilon still has imminent motivation to use the Ultimate Sanction.

DOCTOR: The War turned into hell. And that’s what you’ve opened, right above the Earth. Hell is descending. (4.18 “The End of Time Part 2”)

Hell is what the Time War had become. It was no more a noble battle, and the evil of destruction has passed from not only the Daleks, but more importantly, the Time Lords themselves. Horrible weapons that were created by Dalek and Time Lord alike, the War brought out the worst in each side, but most horribly, in the side of the Gallifreyans, because with their knowledge and length of life and all that pompous wisdom had made them arrogant and self-preserving, the two traits the Doctor has been running from throughout his life (especially noticeable in the Russell T Davies era). The theme of 4.16 “Waters of Mars” was specifically that destruction follows one’s arrogance to try to live beyond one’s appointed time. The Doctor tried to defy a fixed point in time (by keeping Adelaide alive) to test his power against Time itself. Why? Because he didn’t want to have to face another prophecy or coming fixed point in time of his own death at the hands of the “four knocks.” A Time Lord could be very dangerous, specifically because of his wealth of power and knowledge, but those same traits could make him arrogant in the face of “unimportant people” and resort to horrific means to save himself. This is what threatened to happen to the Doctor’s moral compass in “Waters of Mars” and what did actually happen to the Time Lords at the end of the Time War. The Doctor knows what dark hearts were born in the Time Lords, and he’s not fooled by the image of their pomp and false splendor. They only look glorious from afar, like monarchy, but are cold inside. I wish we’d seen this angle addressed in the 50th. It’s the most incongruous part of the 50th and the Doctor’s character, that Ten can go from all smiles to save the Time Lords and then in his time line head into “End of Time” and take up a gun to stop the horror and malevolence that is his people.

JACK: But all the legends of Gallifrey made it sound so perfect.
DOCTOR: Well, perfect to look at, maybe.
(3.12 “The Sound of Drums”)

MASTER: It began on Gallifrey, as children. Not that you’d call it childhood. More a life of duty. (4.18 “The End of Time Part 2”)

WILF: But you said your people were dead. Past tense.
DOCTOR: Inside the Time War. And the whole War was Timelocked. Like, sealed inside a bubble. It’s not a bubble but just think of a bubble. Nothing can get in or get out of the Timelock. Don’t you see? Nothing can get in or get out, except something that was already there.
WILF: The signal. Since he was a kid.
DOCTOR: If they can follow the signal, they can escape before they die.
(4.18 “The End of Time Part 2”)

Interesting to note here, but what the Doctors in the 50th did was exactly what the malevolent Time Lords were trying to do in “End of Time”: have just Gallifrey escape before it dies. The Time Lords brought only Gallifrey back, just Gallifrey. If the Doctor felt bringing the planet back was good, why didn’t he let Rassilon continue his plan? But the Doctor can’t let Gallifrey live, because (1) Earth would be destroyed, but more importantly, (2) the Time Lords are going to use the Ultimate Sanction, against the belligerents already on the planet and across time and space, across the whole front of the Time War. The Time Lords are still malevolent, inside the Timelock or not, they still have that dangerous thirst for self-preservation.

DOCTOR: If they can follow the signal, they can escape before they die.
WILF: Well, then, big reunion. We’ll have a party.
DOCTOR: There will be no party.
WILF: But I’ve heard you talk about your people like they’re wonderful.
DOCTOR: That’s how I choose to remember them, the Time Lords of old. But then they went to war. An endless war, and it changed them right to the core. You’ve seen my enemies, Wilf. The Time Lords are more dangerous than any of them.
(4.18 “The End of Time Part 2”)

DOCTOR: And that’s how the Master started. It’s not like I’m an innocent. I’ve taken lives. I got worse. I got clever. Manipulated people into taking their own. Sometimes I think a Time Lord lives too long. I can’t. I just can’t.
DOCTOR: A Whitepoint star is only found on one planet. Gallifrey. Which means it’s the Time Lords. The Time Lords are returning.
WILF: Well, I mean, that’s good, isn’t it? I mean, that’s your people.
(The Doctor takes Wilf’s revolver and runs.)
(4.18 “The End of Time Part 2”)

The whole point of “The End of Time” was that the Time Lords were not the wonderful people the Doctor remembered them as, but the madmen he had to leave behind. The Doctor himself has felt the curse of living too long, of growing too self-important and killing others for his own gain. “Sometimes a Time Lord lives too long” applies as much to him as it does to his people on Gallifrey, the people whom Rassilon had contrived into long life (he created the concept of regeneration). Much of the Russell T Davies era has been a statement of the danger of trying to live too long, the idea that trying to do so only results in loneliness and malevolence (4.6 “The Lazarus Experiment”). The Time Lords were an ultimate example of that grown selfishness.

RASSILON: I will not die! Do you hear me? A billion years of Time Lord history riding on our backs. I will not let this perish. I will not! (4.18 “The End of Time Part 2”)

The pride of life, of trying to live too long, of feeling oneself too important to give in to one’s time to die. Rassilon feels that his life and his own history is more important than the lives he’s going to kill in using the Ultimate Sanction. That mindset is set within him and his people already, and it’s why he wants Gallifrey alive. The 50th gave us none of this Time Lord malevolence. I wish Moffat had addressed the change in characterization, because as it stands, it’s a tremendous characterization hole (which to me is even less tolerable than a plot hole).

RASSILON: We will initiate the Final Sanction. The end of time will come at my hand. The rupture will continue until it rips the Time Vortex apart.
MASTER: That’s suicide.
RASSILON: We will ascend to become creatures of consciousness alone. Free of these bodies, free of time, and cause and effect, while creation itself ceases to be.
DOCTOR: You see now? That’s what they were planning in the final days of the War. I had to stop them.
(4.18 “The End of Time Part 2”)

Again we see the heart of the Time Lords of Gallifrey. That they would stoop to such depths of universal violence to save their own lives. It’s the hardened hearts of his people that cursed them and what made it hopeless for the Doctor to save them, because in their hearts they had already chosen self-preservation over preserving the lives of the universe. It forced the Doctor to make that choice for them. To save the universe, all past and present, he killed the enemies he tried to save and the Time Lords who had turned their hearts on goodness, trapped in an endless hellish cycle of death. The 50th’s supposed elimination of the threat of the Daleks (by hiding Gallifrey) does nothing about changing the hearts of the Time Lords, which is shown quite clearly to be lost. So where is the horror of what the Doctor shall find on this saved Gallifrey? The 50th makes it sound warm, but as Ten said to Wilf, “There will be no party” in seeing his people (not just the council, “End of Time 2”). Moffat had better address this issue, on how the Time Lords are actually corrupted people that planned the most heinous act for preserving themselves. There is absolutely no mention of the Ultimate Sanction in the 50th, and that I think is unforgivable, because the whole thematic point of “End of Time” was that some things needed to be stopped because the core darkness was too strong for even the Doctor to change.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5


7 thoughts on “The Day of the Doctor: a Case of Canon vs. Canon (Part 3/5)

  1. “DOCTOR:
    You see now? That’s what they were planning in the final days of the War. I had to stop them.”

    Is clear that the Doctor during the time war killed the time lords because also DURING THE TIME WAR he was aware of what the time lords were planning, he was aware of the Final Sanction. Why didn’t tDotD show this?? This is absolutely unjustifiable.

  2. And if they were planning the final sanction beause they couln’t survive the hell, the hell that was on Gallifrey’s surface, hiding Gallifrey in no way helped the time lords O_o
    I’m sorry I had never understood this

    if I am wrong please tell me

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