The Day of the Doctor: a Case of Canon vs. Canon (Part 4/5)

I know it’s been a while since I posted my analyses on how the ending of the 50th counters major canon points of previous years. It took a back burner for a couple weeks. XD Anyway! The previous sections showed how

  1. DotD contradicts established fact that the Doctor actually witnessed Gallifrey falling
  2. DotD contradicts the Doctor’s morality on Daleks and his abhorrence of killing en masse other life forms without proper consideration of the life he’s taken.
  3. DotD contradicts the Doctor’s moral stand on saving Gallifrey: how saving just Gallifrey does nothing to eliminate the Daleks or other evil forces in the Time War, since in End of Time, bringing just Gallifrey back brought back a hat of other bad creatures. DotD does not address this.

This segment proves how the end of the Time War World differs morally between the RTD era and the 50th, with War II imagery paralleling the Time War.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
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WILF: Oh, 1948, I was over there. End of the Mandate in Palestine. Private Mott. Skinny little idiot, I was. Stood on this rooftop, in the middle of a skirmish. It was like a blizzard, all them bullets in the air. The world gone mad. Yeah, you don’t want to listen to an old man’s tales, do you? (4.18 “The End of Time Part 2”)

The World War I and World War II imagery in the Nine-Ten eras is quite thick. We see it not only in this example but in stories like the setting of 1.9-10 “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances,” the Holocaust imagery in 2.5-6 “Rise of the Cybermen”/”Age of Steel,” the moral of 3.8-9 “Human Nature”/”Family of Blood,” and imagery and some settings of 4.12-13 “The Stolen Earth”/”Journey’s End.” The Doctor is sometimes presented as a soldier (“You keep insisting you’re not a soldier, but look at you, drawing up strategies like a proper general. (…) You are such a soldier.” 4.6 “The Doctor’s Daughter” and “By fighting. On the front line. I was there at the fall of Arcadia.” 2.13 “Doomsday”) and the point I feel is that RTD is paralleling the great war fought by the Doctor to the Great Wars fought by Britain in the recent past. Wars that are clearly horrific and terrible, that end the lives of both enemies and friends and innocent civilians and children, but in the end,

LATIMER: I’ve seen the future and I now know what must be done. (…)
MARTHA: You don’t have to fight.
LATIMER: I think we do.
(3.9 “Family of Blood”)

The moral being that there are some wars which must be fought and won, even if they are horrific and unforgivable, but have to be won to stop powerful evil men who’d kill even more if they are left unchecked. That’s the dark complexity of the World Wars, and the same complexity of RTD’s Time War.

Coming back to the Wilfred quote above, “the world gone mad” — a parallel to what happened in both the World Wars and the Time War, on Gallifrey. The allusion I see here in this quote by Wilf is that the “skinny idiot” (ala “Time Crash”) represents the Doctor (dry humor and symbolism, gotta love it) who also stood in the midst of battle not a coward but a warrior still, facing the world that had gone mad. His world, Gallifrey, parallels the real world in the 40s, with the twist being that it’s the Time Lords who are worse than the Daleks (with the Daleks themselves originally based off Hitler and the Nazi regime).

RASSILON: Now the High Council of Time Lords must vote. Whether we die here, today, or return to the waking world and complete the Ultimate Sanction. For this is the hour when either Gallifrey falls, or Gallifrey rises!
TIME LORDS: Gallifrey rises!
(4.18 “The End of Time Part 2”)

The reason the Doctor doesn’t want Gallifrey to rise. Because the Time Lords intended to destroy reality and all of time by the Ultimate Sanction. I want to note how similar this sounds to the Final Solution, that is, the morbid plan of Nazi Germany to purge all Jews (and other races) from the Aryan lands. Yet more of the World War II imagery of this episode (and Davies’ era in general), including the WW2 vet Wilfred Mott and the idea that some (Time) wars, no matter how regretful or horrible, are meant to be fought. Or else a worser evil will be enacted.

RASSILON: The vote is taken. Only two stand against, and will stand as monument to their shame, like the Weeping Angels of old. Now the vanguard stands prepared, as the children of Gallifrey return to the universe. To Earth. (…)
(Behind the Lord President, the Woman lowers her hands and looks over the Doctor’s shoulder. He turns back to face the Master.)
DOCTOR: The link is broken. Back into the Time War, Rassilon. Back into hell.
VISIONARY: Gallifrey falling! Gallifrey falls!
(4.18 “The End of Time Part 2”)

This is the moral complexity and tragedy and beauty of what the Doctor did in the Time War. There were only two objectors to the Final Sanction, only two whose hands were clean of impending blood. These two knew what the Doctor would do next, in using the Moment. And yet one of these truly innocents opened her eyes and told the Doctor it was okay, it was right to do the thing he was about to, to take the final act of blood on his hands to save all Creation and stop the madness and pain to the suffering lives in the Time War. RTD included this woman to represent the good people in the Time War, the innocent people who didn’t want the Ultimate Sanction, and to show that they too were willing to end their lives to save the universe. This woman told him it was right this time to be the universe’s most shamed killer to be the universe’s great hero. For it all to fall on his shoulders, the weight of guilt and pain as his consequence for saving the universe, and for freeing the cycle of bloodshed of even the innocent in the war. It’s goodness and heroism and tragedy and darkness and blood all mingled in a single act, and that’s what makes the Russell T Davies vision of the Time War beautiful, it’s one of the foundational reasons of what makes the Doctor in the rebooted series so complex and heroic and tragic. And it’s what makes the Doctor’s joy so liberating when he is happy, because he does have a history of actual guilt, yet it does not mean his happiness and his fun is not real. Doctor Who to me is about paradoxes and the Doctor, his past, and the themes of the stories he experiences is at the center of that. An eccentric madman and yet the man you rely on, a freewheeling reckless joyrider and yet the most morally responsible man in the world, a sad hopeless man with a heart of kindness and fun and true optimism. That’s what I loved about the Doctor, and what sings out so clearly to me in these episodes.

DONNA: But your own planet. It burned.
DOCTOR: That’s just it. Don’t you see, Donna? Can’t you understand? If I could go back and save them, then I would. But I can’t. I can never go back. I can’t. I just can’t, I can’t.
(4.2 “The Fires of Pompeii”)

The reason he can’t go back to save them is that if he does, then everything bad that occurred in the Time War would come back too. On the surface this line looks like he’d want to save his people, but with “End of Time” backing it up, I think this quote means something even deeper, that he can’t change his people themselves anymore, their own free will chose to be the evil creatures they’d become, and if he could save them from that he would, but the Doctor cannot change someone’s free will, and that’s why he ended the Time War.

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


5 thoughts on “The Day of the Doctor: a Case of Canon vs. Canon (Part 4/5)

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