“Doctor Who” Question

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Okay, I’m sorry, I have to continue my current “Doctor Who” rant, because there’s something I’ve been thinking about and I can’t figure it out and it’s bothering me. Does the Doctor love River? Does he? I can’t figure out if he does or not. I really can’t. I mean, I get what Moffet was trying for with this storyline, I really do. I’m picking up what he’s putting down. He’s trying for a retelling, or maybe reimagining is more accurate, of “The Time Traveler’s Wife”, which I haven’t read, but I quite enjoyed the movie. So, fine, cool, whatever. Meeting in the wrong order? Fine. It’s a weird and cool way to tell a story, if it’s done in the right way. She knows him more as he knows her less, and vice versa? Really a very cool way to tell a story and show just what it is that makes each of them fall in love with the other, showcasing what each of them finds most attractive in the other, what draws them in, despite everything. It can’t help but be tragic, as there is that short, so short, period of time, where each really knows the other, truly loves the other for all that they are, before they each start to move in opposite directions, each destined for that day when they look into the other’s eyes and see no recognition looking back. Awesome, epic idea- if done right. See, that’s the problem I think. It hasn’t been done right. For that kind of story, you need possibly a stand alone kind of character in a stand alone novel or movie, not something that is so decade- sprawling as “Doctor Who”. This needs to be something where it’s just those two, it will always be those two, with their love blazing away, in defiance of time and space.

I don’t feel like that’s happening here. For starters, I’m not even entirely sure if the Doctor really loves her. She loves him, very clearly, and has, very clearly, from the beginning. Even from her beginning, when you watch her grow up obsessed with the Doctor. Quite rightly obsessed, since she had been brainwashed to kill him. She probably thought about him a lot for most of her life, what with the brainwashing and being best friends with Amy, the girl who waited. So, you put her face to face with him, of course she’s gonna go a bit bonkers, which she did. And then she blew past “a bit” into I don’t even know what. She wants to marry him, then she kills him, then she sacrifices all the rest of her regenerations to save him. That’s… that’s a bit extreme. But, again, to be fair, she was raised to be a psychopath. Then, she crafts the rest of her life around the Doctor. She becomes an archaeologist in order to find him again, she tracks him down, again and again, she breaks Time itself, shatters it, in order to save him. She says that her suffering at having to kill him would be worse than all the suffering of all the billions of people in all the universe. Which is kind of sweet and kind of creepy. I mean, if she had said something like what Rory said way back in the Pandorica episodes, that, to paraphrase, the Doctor was more important than the rest of the universe to her, then I wouldn’t have a problem. But the way she put it? That’s pretty extreme. Like, really extreme. And being more afraid of the day when he wouldn’t recognize her than of his death or hers? We’re entering into fatal attraction territory here. But whatever, I get it, they’re going for a great, epic love. And God knows she has the pedigree for it, it’s in her blood. Her father guarded the Pandorica for about two thousand years, just to keep Amy safe. He would do absolutely anything for her, protect her from anything, fight through anything, do whatever it took, even if it meant giving her up for someone she wanted more. And Amy was willing to die several times to either get back to Rory or stay with him. That is deep, true, epic love. So it’s in her blood. But, I don’t know, it just seems a bit much to me. But I’m a cynic, I’m probably the wrong person to ask.

Then, we have the Doctor. What proof of love do we have on his side? He married her, that’s true. But why did he marry her? See, that’s where the problem comes in for me, because he flat out says “I don’t want to marry you.” And yes, marrying her wasn’t really presented as a condition of her touching him and going back to the beach, so they could fix Time, but I look at it this way: they say earlier in the episode that no one is sure if she is the woman that marries him or the woman that murders him. So, what if he saw it as he had two timelines to choose from? Or if that’s what he thought she thought? What if he thought he had to choose one, marriage or murder, and she wouldn’t accept the second option without shattering the universe. So that left him with one option. He had to marry her. I mean, they argue on top of that pyramid for several minutes before he busts out the bow tie. And the whole thing, to me, didn’t feel very romantic. It was more “end- of- the- worldy” than romantic. But, hell, when you’re over a thousand years old, you can certainly do things for more than one reason. So, maybe he does- a little. Because, recently, when I was spelunking in the internet, to try and figure this out, I read a quote from Stephen Moffet, that said that the Doctor feels very responsible for River (incidentally I would cite that quote but I have no idea now where I read it. But I promise that, unless the website I was reading lied to me, it is true). Responsible. He looks at this woman, crying and loving him with all her heart, just as she has the entire time he’s known her, destroying the entire fabric of the universe in order to save him, and how can he not give her something in return? How can he not give her this thing that she clearly wants, and what he probably knows she had to begin with. What is a Timelord to do? Save the universe and all of time, as well as give her what she wants/needs, not to mention keep him promise to Amy (to take care of her daughter) or to not?

Also, there’s this: in the killing Hitler episode, when he’s in the Tardis talking to the visual interface he asks it to show him someone he actually liked instead of an image of himself. So, let’s examine who it shows him: Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, Donna Noble and then little Amelia Pond. At no point does it show him River. I mean, even if it was working chronologically, wouldn’t River be between Donna and little Amelia? (Incidentally, when I googled this earlier, “Does the Doctor love River”, all I got was people arguing about was who was a better match for him: Rose or River? Not only does this not answer my question, thank you Google, but I maintain that the question doesn’t matter. Not only is Rose in another universe, hopefully living happily ever after with 10A, but he let her go. When 10 is dying he goes back and basically says good- bye to everyone who had been important to him, leaving Rose for last and then he walks away. He is letting her go. He accepts that they can’t be together, he’s accepted that for a while, and no matter how much he loved her, and he loved her a lot, he has to let her go. So he does. And then he regenerated, which really helped that process along. He told everyone goodbye and now he pretty much never references them. So, the whole Rose or River thing isn’t even really a question. He probably still loves Rose, but in that way where you’ll always have feelings for that person, you’ll always care for them and they’ll always be very important to you, but it fades, so that they’re simply special to you, and no longer the sun and the moon. But that’s just my opinion, we’ll find out for sure on the 50th anniversary special, when David Tennant and Billie Piper guest star, which I’m really looking forward to. Ten bucks says he stammers a lot and knocks something over.)

Anyway, there are all sorts of little things they show that says he cares about her, is attracted to her, worries about her and values her, but I can’t say as any of that adds up to “love”. They flirt constantly, he calls her a “bad, bad girl”, and every now and then they kiss but I don’t know if he loves her. Admittedly, the Doctor is pretty famous for playing it close to the chest, in any incarnation. He is a man with secrets and is very reluctant to give any of them up. Nor does he strike me as particularly emotionally aware. He isn’t given to much introspection, unless he’s yelling at himself for something. So, maybe he does love he and just doesn’t show it for some reason. Or maybe he loves her and doesn’t realize it. But then, why would he flirt so much with Clara? The one from the Christmas episode, not modern Clara, though I’m sure that’s coming. More to the point, why would he react like that when she kissed him? At this point, he is in fact a married man, yet when Clara kisses him he looks astonished and confused and maybe a little thrilled, like something confusing but awesome just happened, such as a pretty, smart, fun girl grabbed him and kissed him. Not the look of a man who has been kissed by someone who is not his wife and lady love.

Then there’s a separate question: in the “The Angels Take Manhattan”, at the end, after Rory and Amy went back in time and essentially died, the Doctor asks River to travel with him and she says no. She says she’ll have adventures with him, but she won’t be his companion, after having a pained look on her face. And she comes from his future. And, at some point after that, he finds modern Clara and they start traveling together. So, after they have such great chemistry together and the kissing and the attraction, does something cook up with Clara and River knows it? Is that why she wouldn’t travel with him? Because the reason she gave is just bullshit. “There should only be one psychopath per TARDIS?” What kind of excuse is that? Not any kind. It’s the kind of thing you say when you’re trying to avoid saying the real reason. And since she comes from his future, she would have seen that he has Clara later and, based on the kiss and attraction and her look of pain, there’s something there.

All of this brings me to one very unfortunate conclusion, which I really wish was the opposite: I don’t think the Doctor loves River. I think he cares for her, a lot, that she’s special to him and that he feels a great deal of responsibility for her, not only because she’s his dead best friend’s daughter but because when they first met she sacrificed her life for his and then tried to do it again later. And then again, when she used up all her regeneration for him. Of course he feels responsible for her. She pours so much of herself into him and this relationship that she insists is there and we have seen no real evidence of. He’s not the kind of man to just walk away from that kind of responsibility, that weight. He’ll carry it and take care of her, but I have yet to see real evidence that he loves her. Which, btw, makes this whole story arc they have going, officially one of the most depressing things I’ve ever seen. Here’s hoping that I’m really, really wrong.

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“The Long Earth” by Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett

This book caught me by surprise, mostly because I had no idea it was coming out. Which is kind of unusual, since I normally keep a pretty close watch on my favorite authors, but somehow this one slipped by me. Anyway, I liked this book, even though it was rather odd. And I don’t mean odd like most of Terry Pratchett’s books, where it’s weird but completely awesome and hilarious. I mean, it was awesome and funny in parts, but it was not like his other books. This one was apparently written because he and Stephen Baxter had an idea and decided to write about it. You know the kind of book I’m talking about. The kind where it’s a great concept, and the author talks at length, and with great eloquence, about that concept for several hundred pages before all of a sudden apparently realizing that they need to have a plot or a conflict in their book, which is when they toss in a sudden kidnapping or whatever, that is very quickly resolved and then all of a sudden the book ends. I have never encountered Terry Pratchett doing that before. I’m not sure how to feel about that. Normally I ding an author for that kind of behavior, but I have long since canonized Terry Pratchett so I don’t think I can do that. He is my very favorite author, ever. This is coming from someone who can never pick a single favorite anything, so the fact that he is my single favorite author should tell you everything you need to know. This book though… this book was different.

Okay, so- the long Earth. The concept with that is basically the multiverse, which, if you haven’t heard of it, is the idea that for every decision you make, or don’t make, every thing you do, or don’t do, somewhere out there there is a version of you that did the opposite. That, in some parallel universe, there is version of you that is living every single possible life that there is. Which is kind of a nice thought, really. Somewhere, somehow, everything has happened, and there are no true missed opportunities. Anyway, well this book plays with that idea. Basically, there are infinite earths and people have figured out how to go to them. You have the original earth, the Datum Earth in the book (datum is a reference point for measurements, like if you were saying “blank miles from Chicago”, Chicago would be the datum) and from there you can East or West, left or right, even though technically those directions mean nothing, it’s just a way to understand it. And from there, they apparently stretch on to infinity, or as near as makes no difference. And the further out, the stranger they can get. In one, the dinosaurs never went extinct. In several others, there’s an Ice Age going on. In another, there is no moon. It goes on and on. Evolution going in all different directions, creatures that we can only imagine, in fact every creature you can possibly imagine exists somewhere on the long Earth. And part of the reason it’s called “long” is that how you get there is by stepping. Most people use this little technological gizmo to get them there, but mostly that’s for show. You don’t actually need it to get there, it just tricks your mind into figuring out how to do it, like showing it this door that wasn’t there before.

Anyway, and in all these other Earths, there are no other humans, or there weren’t until people started going there. Apparently we are a unique phenomenon to Datum Earth. There are other bipedal humanoids out there, some benign, some malignant, but none that are human human. Which means, basically, that there is this whole new world, infinite whole new worlds, for us to explore, to colonize, to harvest from. There is suddenly infinite resources, for everyone. Any man can have a gold mine, if he goes out far enough. Any man can have anything, if he wants it. And all of a sudden, gold has no value except for how pretty it looks. All of a sudden, all the things that we have spent all of human civilization building up, seem kind of empty. How can you have an economy when a huge part of that is based on you having a limited amount of something that other people value? What would happen to our culture, our civilization, when anyone can have anything, when a huge part of the way we work, the way we look at and act upon the world is based on the fact that there are only so many resources and we have to do our part to get it. What happens when we no longer need to farm, because there’s enough resources that we can be hunter- gatherers forever? I have to tell you, reading it, it feels a bit like the apocalypse. Not necessarily in a bad way, because lots of good things come out of it, but it is definitely the death of the old world, the old way of life, and the birth of the new. In the book, they never really tell you what year it is, or what year the plans for making a stepper appeared online, but they always tell you, whether in a flashback or not, how many years it’s been since the Step Day, the day when so many people unwittingly stepped out of our world, our universe. There’s a very good reason for that.

And, beyond that, there’s the fact that there’s a full fifth of humanity that cannot step, no matter what. They can be carried to another world, but it makes them violently ill. A full fifth of the world that cannot take part in this new world, this new age of exploration, can’t go to another world, can’t experience the world as it is without people, the unspoiled beauty, the endless possibilities, can’t reap the rewards of unlimited resources, nothing. Well, they can’t reap the rewards directly. A big part of the book is actually an expedition that is being undertaken to find the end, if there is one, and it’s being done on board an airship, which can travel world to world. No one else had figured out how to do that yet, and if it worked out then it would revolutionize trade and Datum Earth’s flagging economy would be revamped, not only revamped but take off like a rocket. However, these people don’t know that. All they know is that they can’t go there, they are apparently evolutionarily backwards and they have been left on what must feel like a dying world, a world with taxed resources and an economy in the toilet. Which, when they describe it like that, makes you cheerful as all get out, let me tell you. So of course they’re angry and of course they make groups and of course someone does something stupid.

By and large, the book is overwhelmingly in favor of a return to a simpler lifestyle, and they make some excellent points about it. How, with less crowding there would be less crime. I have no statistics to back that up, but it does sound about right. How things would be more fair, that the working poor and worse could get away from their lives. That they could just walk away into what is basically unspoiled paradise. How you can just walk away and start anew, anywhere you want, on a whim. It all sounds great but they did forget a few things which would make it a little less than great. If you’re a pioneer and you get into an accident, what happens? You end up crippled or dead. If you’re a pioneer woman and you’re giving birth and things go wrong, what happens? You die. If you’re a new mother and your baby won’t nurse, where do you get formula? Nowhere. Basically, they forgot about things like medical emergencies, childbirth and infants. Inconvenient little details like that. But other than that, yeah, I guess it would be better. I would sure miss my air conditioning though.

It’s a very interesting book and I couldn’t stop thinking about it while I read it and I haven’t had much success since I finished it, but I have to say, there’s not a whole lot of plot. There’s the expedition, and there’s the hate groups back home with their developing story, but other than that it’s a bunch of vignettes of what the authors think the world, so to speak, would be like if this happened. Like I said, it’s like they had an idea, wrote about that idea, and then tried to shoehorn a plot in afterwards. That being said, it was wonderful and wonderfully written and a fascinating concept. If for no other reason than that, I recommend it.

“Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins

I finished this book yesterday, so it should be fresh in my mind but honestly the whole thing feels like a blur of impressions and crazy crap happening. So I’ll just tell you what I think and hope that it’s in some sort of order.

First of all, Katniss is screwed. Seriously, she’s never gonna shake her PTSD. To go from one arena, to fearing for everyone she knows, to another arena, to her district being fire bombed and most of everyone being killed, to a war zone. That kind of PTSD just doesn’t go away.

Second, what the hell is wrong with the Capitol? How could they do that to Peeta? That’s terrible! I realize in that a series where terrible things happen more often than not, it really shouldn’t seem like that big of a surprise that they did something terrible to him, but somehow what they did just seems so much worse. More personal, maybe. I mean, they didn’t just torture him, they reached into his head and twisted things around, twisted his memories and his reality, and twisted his emotions. They took away his love. His love for Katniss has been one of his main motivating factors for years. It’s so strong that he was prepared to die for her, more than once. And they just took it away. Just like that. Like it meant nothing, like he meant nothing. I realize that that’s a stupid thing to say about a group of people that firebombed an entire district and had hundreds of children slaughter each other for years but that… Death happens. Violent death. All the time. And in a war, bombs will be dropped and large groups of people will be killed. It’s a thing that happens. Even sacrificing the losers isn’t that unusual, not back in the old days. The way they did it was way worse than anything I can remember offhand from the history books, but it’s still a thing that happened. But to take someone and to take away a huge part of who they are, how they feel, who they love… that’s just horrible.

And on the subject of horrible things, lots and lots of those things happen in this book. All the time. It’s not a book to get comfortable in. It’s not a book that’s entirely enjoyable to read, I have to say. I hate to say it, I do, but it’s not fun. It’s a good book, it’s a good series, but it’s not one of those where as you read it you find yourself falling in love with the author all over again. It’s just not. It is, I believe, meaningful. It’s a story about injustice, resilience, surviving against the odds, about revolutions and knowing who you’re friends are, who the enemy is and how to keep true to yourself, no matter what. But it bears saying that by the end, I kind of felt like I was getting PTSD. It’s one of those books where like 90% of the cast is dead by the end. This is including Prim, Katniss’ little sister, the one she gave everything to protect to begin with. And poor Peeta and Katniss are left with flashbacks and daily nightmares for the rest of their lives.

They were used by the government of Disctrict 13 just like they were used by the government of the Capitol, in the end. The ones who were supposed to be the good guys, the rebel alliance against the evil empire, turned out to be just as bad, just a manipulative and calculating, as the enemy. That itself was terrible. It left the book with few safe places to rest, few places where it felt like everything was okay or was going to be okay. It didn’t even end with the feeling like it was going to be okay. It ended with the desperate hope that it would be, that this time the peace would hold. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’m a person who likes a good happy ending and I’m not sure if this counts as one. Yes, Katniss and Peeta get married and have kids and presumably spend their lives together happily, but they live on top of a graveyard and they were essentially abandoned by the new government as soon as they no longer had a need for them. The minute they no longer had a use for them, they were dropped like a bad cell plan. Where’s the gratitude? Where’s the loyalty? It’s left on a rather disquieting, vaguely hopeful, haunted note and I wish it were more concrete.

And for those who got all wound up about the love triangle, which I honestly never gave too much of a crap about, I’ve kind of already covered how it turned out, and I don’t blame her for one second. I liked Gale better at first, but it wasn’t too far into the second book that I decided I loved Peeta. I liked Gale, but I loved Peeta, so I wasn’t upset at all when she picked him. Honestly, she picked him in the second book when they went back into the arena and she let Gale go to focus on saving Peeta. She took awhile to realize it, as one of the least emotionally aware people ever, but she loved him and needed him. She fell apart when he was in the hands of the Capitol, and it shattered her when they got him back and he was so damaged and tried to kill her. Gale was awesome but I just wasn’t as impressed by him. Also, he helped develop the plan that killed Prim, might even have built that bomb. There’s no getting past that. Yes, he never intended that, never would have intended that, it doesn’t change the fact that his actions led to her death. As a sister, I don’t blame Katniss at all for letting him walk away. And, like she said, she needed hope, the promise of a better day, not more fire, more anger. She needed Peeta, not Gale.

So, I like these books but they are not ones I’ll read all the time or even very often. They’re good and huge, epic things happen, but they’re not books you read often. Too many bad things happen to too many characters you love. I’m still sad about Finnick.