Doctor Who: Heartbreaker

Filed under:Reviews,Television — posted by Anwyn on July 3, 2007 @ 9:37 pm

David Tennant, I think you’re the best thing ever in my limited experience of British TV, even including Hugh Laurie, but your show done broke my heart for the second season finale in a row.

**SPOILERS** for Doctor Who S3 after the jump.

I watch Doctor Who because I love a good love story, and the weekend’s finale seemed to chop short the tale of unrequited love between the Doctor and Martha Jones, companion of one season after last year’s horrifying loss of Rose. After saving the world (again), Martha decides that she must leave the Doctor for her own good, as she loves him in a way that he apparently will never return. He accepts this in stride. While I applaud the move strictly from a plot-based point of view–it is the best choice her character could make and the Doctor remains on the safe side of the line he has drawn for himself of no romantic involvement with a companion–it is a thoroughly depressing move for a show that has already seen two major lead changes in its first three years of life. First the Doctor shifted actors from Christopher Eccleston to Tennant after one season; then Billie Piper, companion Rose, left after two seasons. I may say that both changes were excellent across the board; both Tennant and Freema Agyeman, as Martha, are better than their predecessors. But that’s the very reason why I’m annoyed at the thought of going on with the show and having to get used to yet a third companion. Reports are that Agyeman will return after a stint on spinoff Torchwood, but the question left unanswered is why?

The new announcement leaves a vacant space in the TARDIS. A new companion for The Doctor, who will join the new series for the entire 13 week run, will be announced shortly.

If Agyeman will return partway through the “series,” as Brits call their TV seasons, then what will be her role relative to the companion who will play the whole run? I’m not happy about it but I’m willing to wait and see if they will eventually return her to prominence and the continuance of her story with the Doctor–I’m thinking requited love would be a great way to develop the Doctor’s character. What makes me most unhappy, though, is the emerging and crystallizing bleeding-heart slant of the producers and the resultant absolute selfishness and arrogance of the Doctor.

Brief summary of the three-part finale: the Doctor runs into an old nemesis, another Time Lord called the Master. This joker returns to Martha’s present and gets himself elected prime minister, then proceeds to welcome an alien race he calls the Toclafane down to Earth to commence the literal decimation of the human population. After capturing Martha’s family, Martha, the Doctor, and their sometime associate Captain Jack Harkness, the Master ages the Doctor 100 years to a stage of helplessness and suspends his ability to regenerate his physical form. Martha, on whispered instructions from the Doctor, vanishes from the Master’s sanctum and spends the next year roaming the world, witnessing the destruction and enslavement of humans under the Toclafane and becoming a legend among the people of Earth as she looks for the ultimate defeat of the Master. Under a ruse, she arranges to have herself brought back into the Master’s presence at the correct time for the “weapon” she spent the previous year preparing: for all humans left on earth to join in a single, powerful thought that will be magnified by the Master’s telepathic satellites and beamed into enough power for the Doctor to reverse the aging process and hold the Master at bay.

Here’s where it gets sick-making: after asserting his dominance over the Master and exposing Martha’s ruse–she was never intended to kill the Master, as most people thought she would–the Doctor not only refuses to kill him himself, but intends to become a one-man insane asylum, assuming responsibility for his care and keeping in perpetuity. When the Master’s companion, seething with vengeance of her own, shoots him instead, the Doctor holds his dying form in his arms, weeping over him and begging him to regenerate–after telling him that he forgives him.

“As if I would ask her to kill,” the Doctor says of Martha. Well and good, but how about doing it yourself, Doctor? This creature has killed millions of human beings, and the fact that the TARDIS is able to reverse the damage in no way alters the nature of what the Master is–perpetually insane and forever evil. The Master refuses to regenerate, if indeed he has any regenerations left, precisely because he retains enough awareness of his insanity to wish to be free of it. The Doctor’s mad desire to keep him alive, with no prospect of curing him, represents the height of selfishness, as does the spectacle of him weeping over the dying body of his enemy while the most devoted Martha is forgotten in the background.

Not to mention the specious forgiveness–it is not only the Doctor who has been wounded by the Master. Is the Doctor authorized to forgive on behalf of millions of dead human beings? We’ve seen in a previous episode what the Doctor’s idea of ultimate punishment is–it’s perpetual damnation. If it’s leftist “forgiveness” and get-along-ness you’re after, Doctor, how is perpetual torment more merciful a punishment than death?

There was a number of other decidedly lame aspects to the finale–the deletion of a year of human existence almost at the snap of the Doctor’s fingers, the revelation of Captain Jack’s identity as the “Face of Boe,” the fact that the simplistic, silly Toclafane are actually human beings at the end of all possible humanity–but I don’t watch the show for realistic sci-fi in the same way that I watch, say, Battlestar Galactica. I watch it for the human interest, and The Selfish Doctor is not calculated to increase that interest for me. It reduces him to an arrogant jerk who not only reserves the role of judge and jury to himself but judges poorly, begging his enemy to live on in his pitiful state of constant schism and all but ignoring his faithful allies, merely because that enemy happens to be of the same species as the Doctor. After all, it’s not like the two of them, both male, can repopulate the Time Lord species–unless the speculations of a few Whedonesquers (reg. required) that the Master has regenerated as a woman come true. I hope not. I love David Tennant, but the show’s writers are wearing my patience thin. Stick to a companion. Develop the character story along those lines. Work on improving your cast of villains, stop slurring human nature every couple of episodes (“Don’t let me hurt anybody. We can’t have that, and you know what humans are like” says the Doctor to Martha as he becomes a human with no memory of who he really is), and let the proper punishment rest where it belongs–on the guilty.

one comment so far »

  1. Daddyman was right about sci-fi network; my tivo’s about to pick up a marathon of last season with Rose, then it looks like it’s going to start running the Martha season. Guess I better not read this. :-(

    Comment by Anwyn's sister — July 4, 2007 @ 7:34 am

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace