Lib gets a life!!

June 9, 2008

Stephen Moffat rules!!

All right, so I’m a big Doctor Who fan – the new series, I confess David Tennant’s looks have a lot to do with it. But I’ll not deny it! (I’m seeing him in Hamlet next summer in Stratford, I’ll keep you updated!). Be careful before you read on though, there are going to be spoilers here…

So far, there have been four series (fourth one is aired on BBC at the moment) and, in my humble opinion, Stephen Moffat’s have been the best episodes we’ve seen. Six episodes, all in all, including two two-parters:

– series 1: The Empty Child + The Doctor Dances. The Doctor and Rose travel ton London during the Blitz, save the world from turning into one frightened hurt child, and meet Captain Jack Harkness on the way, who is to be a recurrent (and don’t we love him!!) character.

– series 2: The Girl in the Fireplace. THE episode who made me fall in love with David Tennant – and hooked on the show. The Doctor and Rose travel 3000 years in the future and open time windows onto pre-revolutionary France. They meet Madame de Pompadour who, but who will blame her, falls head over heels for the Doctor. Who cares about Louis XV when you have a Doctor in your fireplace??

– series 3: Blink, a ‘Doctor lite’ episode, where you see a little bit less of the Doctor. But the episode is so beautifully written that it is the best of series. Don’t blink!!

– series 4: Silence in the Library + Forest of the Dead. The Doctor and Donna Noble walk into an empty library where shadows eat people and where the Doctor encounters a stranger from his future. Who knows much more about him than he thinks anyone has ever had.

What I’d like to do with you in this review is to try and see all the recurrent themes and patterns that are at work in Stephen Moffat’s Doctor Who universe – and it’s not all about bananas. Not in a posh, academic way, no. Just for fun, because we all like the Doctor and it’s nice to link different series to one another and to stay with the Doctor at his best, for a little bit longer…

First of all, what struck me was the childhood theme. Obviously, because these episodes are filled with kids. But also because they appeal to the children we once were – or still has, since Doctor Who appeals to a young audience as well. Actually, it is designed for young viewers, but we’re still children at heart, aren’t we? The first episode Stephen Moffat wrote is called The Empty Child. And it’s about a frightened boy who’s lost his mummy – and he would destroy the world to get her back. Haven’t we all wanted our mummies so badly we thought we could tear down brickwalls to get them? And it turns out the boy’s mummy, Nancy, is still, in a way, just a child herself, lost in the Blitz, trying to save other starving children in order to make up to her lost son.

Then, The Girl in the Fireplace starts with the Doctor meeting a little girl who’s looking for a friend in her fireplace because the monsters under her bed are terrifying her. I’ll skip Blink for the moment, but fear not, I’ll come back to it in a minute.

Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead have got a little girl as a key to the plot. CAL is not only an imaginative little girl, we understand that quite quickly, and when it all makes sense, the conclusion is quite endearing: the knowledge of the world is all contained in her mind. Isn’t it a beautiful idea? There are another couple of children in Forest of the Dead – Donna’s fictional kids. I don’t know about you, but the scene where she blinks and they’ve gone just broke my heart. Maybe they were fictional, but still, she loved them as her own. In a way, it is comforting to find out that, thanks to the Doctor, River Song is able to go back to this saved world so she can take care of this fictional children – they may are not true, they still need a mummy, after all. The connection to the first episodes becomes quite clear.

There is another way to relate these episodes to childhood, and that’s the fear they made us experience. Well, true, this fear is Doctor Who’s trademark, this fear that made kids hide behind the couch when the Daleks came on screen, back in the seventies. Thing is, nowadays, children have grown tougher – and harder to impress. Instead of going over the top – the way Russell T. Davies is trying to scare us with Daleks and Cybermen… ok, they’re monsters, but we got the hang of it now, and I’m not sure pepper mills on wheels are as scary now as they were back then. But maybe I’m wrong… and this is not the point anyway. The point is, Stephen Moffat wakes up primal fears in us. The fear to lose your mum. The fear of monsters under your bed. The fear of inanimated things that come to life when you don’t look at them to spring at your neck. The dear of the shadows… it’s all so familiar, to anyone. Who needs Daleks or Cybermen to shit their pants? Invisible shadows will do just as well.

Let’s focus on the Doctor now. He’s always all right, he tells Rose and Donna after losing Reinette and River Song. Well, of course he’s not, he doesn’t fool them – or us. He loses two women he’d grown to like a lot in a very short space of time. Two women who knew much more about him than than his companions. Reinette walks into his mind as he’s reading hers, she digs up the lonely little boy under all the Time Lord bravado. River Song… River Song knows so much about him we don’t even know who she will turn out to be. She knows his name, for Christ’s sake! So who is she gonna be? His next assistant? Too predictable. His wife? Really far-fetched… or is it? We can speculate away… thing is, River Song is a very important woman in the Doctor’s life. And this encounter adds another layer to the Doctor’s character, it puts him through another ordeal… and promises him that there are more to come. Children are important to Stephen Moffat. So are women. And that’s great.

And there are all the tiny details that come back, to our great enjoyment… the bananas lines are legend.

The Doctor: Sonic blaster, 51st Century- Weapon factories at Villengard?
Capt. Jack Harkness: Yeah. You’ve been to the factories?
The Doctor: Once.
Jack: They’re gone now, destroyed. Main reactor went critical. Vaporised the lot.
The Doctor: Like I said, once. There’s a banana grove there now. I like bananas. Bananas are good.

That’s from The Doctor Dances. And look up the script from The Girl in the Fireplace…

[The Doctor stumbles in; tie tied around his head, wearing sunglasses, and carrying a glass of wine]
The Doctor: [singing] I could’ve spread my wings and done a thou… [breaks off] Have you met the French? My God, they know how to party!
Rose: [disgusted] Oh, look at what the cat dragged in: “The Oncoming Storm.”
The Doctor: You sound just like your mother.
Rose: What have you been doing? Where have you been?!
The Doctor: Well, among other things, I think I just invented the Banana Daquiri a couple of centuries early. Did you know they’ve never even seen a banana before? Always take a banana to a party, Rose. Bananas are good.
He’s not the same Doctor, but he still has the same references… and notice that the sonic blaster Jack shows off in the first excerpt makes a come-back in Silence in the Library… in River Song’s hands.
And to finish with… maybe we could talk about unrequited love. Reinette’s for the Doctor. Louis XV’s for Reinette. Lawrence Nightingale’s for Sally Sparrow. Rose’s for the Doctor – and the way she tries and finds comfort indulging in Jack’s harmless flirting. A little boy’s for his mummy that’s running away from him. River Song’s for the Doctor – or is that more complicated than that… Moffat’s episodes are thrilling. They are beautifully written. The are a pleasure to watch and watch again. But most of all – and maybe
that is the reason why they are all working so well – they are about human feelings, human passions – all these reasons to live, all these reasons to keep on going that make us all human. Even the Doctor, all Time Lord that he is.
Now, if you indulge me, I’d like to finish with a few of my favourite clips from these episodes…
Are you my mummy?
Thick Thickety…
Blink, and you’re dead!!
Opening Scene from Silence in the Library

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