a case of canon vs canon, david tennant, doctor who, doctor who 50th anniversary, eleventh doctor, john hurt, matt smith, russel t davies, steven moffat, tenth doctor, the day of the doctor, the doctor, tv reviews
I’ve spent five essays on the important issue of how the 50th anniversary episode doesn’t gel with the objective logic or moral conclusion of previous years of canon material. Such as,
- DotD contradicts established fact that the Doctor actually witnessed Gallifrey falling (read here)
- 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. (read here)
- 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 host of other bad creatures. DotD does not address this. (read here)
- DotD contradicts the established fact that the Time Lords had become corrupt and were in fact worse than all villains in creation, and that their destruction is not only justified but morally sound. (read here)
This segment concludes my thoughts, focusing on how Russel T Davies and Steven Moffat differ in their idea of the meaning of the Time War.
Davies’ view of the Time War is inherently different from Moffat’s, and that’s where most of the discrepancy between the 50th and the RTD era comes from. In “End of Time” we saw the Doctor affirm that it was right for him to stop the Time Lords and by extension, send them back into the hell of the flames of the Doctor’s final act in the Time War. For a while there, it even felt like that’s where the story of the 50th was going to go, to the Doctor again reaffirming the choice he had made. All the Doctors supporting one another in making the hard decision to use the Moment, for the good of the future and the many worlds he would save. It was a beautifully complex moment, of one man choosing to be the villain to create good. The theme was even offered, “Great men are forged in fire. It is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame.” What a beautifully mature message, a recognition of the purpose of some evil in the landscape of life, with the heroism of the War Doctor being that he did become the lesser man in one sense to ultimately save reality. But now that rich moral complexity is erased, because apparently no adverse consequences would result from saving Gallifrey? It’s a beautiful, strong moral incentive to save Gallifrey to save the children who died, but I wish the 50th addressed the fact that the Time Lords had actually grown very evil and that much more was at stake than just Gallifreyans being defeated by Daleks. The fate of all reality was at stake.
I admire Steven Moffat for trying a game-changing move for the next years of Doctor Who. I realize the Doctor can’t live in guilt forever. And I wouldn’t want him to. But the solution to dealing with the pain in one’s history isn’t a pop back in time to change those events from ever having happened. What has been beautiful about Doctor Who was the human growth and lessons that it taught. If the Doctor should be guiltless, let him learn to forgive himself or find solace in the hero he became because of his actions. Something we all can learn along with him. As opposed to the “let’s change our past so we don’t have to deal with the guilt” solution that no one in the viewership can apply to himself and learn from. I feel that the 50th gave the Doctor an over-simplified “Disney” solution to life’s core emotional problems. I loved the fact that there were consequences to hard moral decisions, I loved the complexity and serious depth of thought in the core of the RTD reboot, and especially RTD’s vision of the Time War and its meaning to the Doctor.
Moffat brought Doctor Who to a whole different place thematically, not to mention stylistically. There’s an unbridgeable gap between how the Doctor viewed the Time War in RTD’s era versus Moffat’s, and it’s a writer’s choice more than the character’s. The two writers’ visions of the Time War and the morality of its conclusion clash.
I did actually enjoy watching the 50th, but its repercussions threaten to take a lot of depth out of Doctor Who. Moffat essentially removed the childhood of the reboot’s Doctor, the hard past from which all his characterization grows. He removed a defining trait of the reboot’s Doctor and offered nothing as inherently complex and defining in its place. I’ll still enjoy Doctor Who and track Capaldi’s adventures, but in my mind the Doctor Who universe shaped by Moffat lives in a completely parallel world to the rusty, balmy world that was created in 2005.