Magical Mommies

I want to love Dr. Who again.  I really do.  But it’s getting hard right now.  I admit Matt Smith just never quite worked for me.  The manic delivery, and the very strong sense that the solutions to the various problems were less solutions then just frantic hand waving didn’t help.  He did get better toward the end, but when Amy and Rory left the show my interest began to flag. 

Carpaldi is a terrific actor, but right now his arrogance is playing more like a petulant twelve year old which isn’t all that appealing.  The conceit of his rivalry with Robin Hood was just painful.

Then we come to Clara.  The Impossible Girl who is seemingly unmoored in time.  The mystery just seems to go on and on which means she has no agency or personality beyond being a mystery.  And now she’s turning into the female equivalent of the Magical Negro so beloved in Hollywood movies.  Only she’s the Magic Mommy Figure dispensing comfort to frightened little boys everywhere.

It was this week’s episode LISTEN that set me off on this train of thought.

———————SPOILERS!!!!!———————SPOILERS!!!!! —————-SPOILERS!!!!!——-

So it turns out that the thing that has frightened and obsessed the Doctor is an incident from his childhood when he was crying in his bed as a child, but the thing under the bed that frightened him was Clara except then she tells him to “listen” and she tells him not to be afraid and that he’s going to be a big hero someday, and then she leaves him this toy soldier except the toy soldier had been given to the guy she was trying to date — by Clara — when he was a scared kid, and when last we saw the toy it was in the hands of a descendant of the Date Guy…..

Okay, by now my head hurts.  A lot. 

And what does this bad date have to do with anything?   Is Daniel/Orson the new Rory?   I guess so and that does help a bit with Clara not having a story apart from being a mystery.  We’ll see how that develops.

Back back to what turned out to be the heart of the episode.  I always loved the old Tom Baker episodes that were set on Gallifrey.  I find the Time Lords fascinating and now we find out in this episode that there was/is the equivalent of Hogwarts for Time Lords called the Academy.  I would love to know more about The Doctor’s early life.  His parents, his time at this school, etc.  But I need those stories to be focused on him.  Not on the impossible Clara.

I’ve always felt like a movie, show book can only support so many “weirds”.  The Doctor is Doctor Who’s big weird.  To make Clara the focus of mystery is for me a mistake.  She’s not as interesting as a Time Lord, right now she’s just a conceit.  Not a real woman at all.  The strength of the companions (after they stopped being a gimmick so the Doctor could explain things) was to ground him.  Remind him that living in the moment is wise.  That kindness always has a place even when measured against all of time and space.

Clara is just another mystery for him to solve.  And at least for me it’s not working all that well.

20 Responses to Magical Mommies

  • Michael Dezotell says:

    I see Clara as a different kind of companion. In the original series, companions were little more than devices for furthering the plot and, regardless of where they came from, “normal” humans with whom the audience could relate. Clara is not like that, and I believe that is deliberate. Peter Capaldi being an older Doctor is also deliberate. The intent is for us to delve into the Doctor’s past this season, to see who he really is. As this plot develops, he will become more like the normal human that we can relate to, and Clara will be the mysterious, magical being that uncovers his secrets. This will probably be the final season of the show, and Steven Moffat wants to turn this last Doctor into a real person. Take away all of his mysteries and secrets, and psychoanalyse all of his motives and desires. To pull aside the curtain and reveal the old humbug as just another flawed mortal. A lonely old man in a blue box.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      That’s a really interesting take on this, Michael. I’m not sure I like it because I rather love the Doctor as he is or has been. Do you really think they would kill the show when it’s at the height of it’s popularity? I guess I feel like the show has lost it’s focus. I think Craig Ferguson was right when he said, “It’s all about the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.” I don’t want to find out his aversion to guns is because he was scared to become a soldier or some such thing. I want him to have an aversion to guns because he wants reason and decency to find a way. What hooked me on the show in the first place was when the Doctor refused to destroy the Daleks.

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    Here’s my other problem. The sonic screw driver really is turning into a magic wand which removes the necessity for the Doctor to be clever. It was my friend Peter Newman who point out that it was just a Harry Potter wand now, and I fear he is correct.

    • Wiredwizard says:

      I agree that they seriously need to tone down/cut back on the whole sonic screwdriver schtick. It’s gone from a quick handy gizmo (like it was back in the days of Pertwee & Baker) to a veritable crutch the writers are using as a stopgap measure to patch up their plotholes. It’s as if they’re going “Oh dear, we’ve written ourselves into a corner again! What to do, what to do? Frak it, let him use the Screwdriver again.” It’s getting more than a little stupid.

      “Oh the pointing again. They’re screwdrivers! What are you going to do? Assemble a cabinet at them?” – The War Doctor

  • Shelley says:

    The Academy was brought up during Ace’s run.
    The Doctor was grooming her for it.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      Help. Ace’s run. I’m not as up to date on Doctor lore as I probably should be.

      • Wiredwizard says:

        Dorothy “Ace” McShane (Sophie Aldred) – Companion to the 7th Doctor (Sylvester McCoy). Only person I’ve ever seen beat a Dalek to death w/ a baseball bat. Very fond of homecooked explosives (Nitro-9).

        • Melinda Snodgrass says:

          I wish I had seen that. It sounds rather hilarious.

          • Wiredwizard says:

            Ace was awesome. Unfortunately her run was part of the wind-down to the BBC shutting down Doctor Who, so the writers etc. weren’t putting a whole lot of effort into the show, but Sophie & Sylvester gave it their all & managed to squeeze some good episodes out of the dreck they were given to work with.

            Ace remains tied w/ Amy Pond & River Song as my all-time favorite Companion. =)

  • Mark Breuer says:

    In the 50 plus years of Doctor Who stories, we have seen a wide variety of companions and stories. The series started out with the companions being the main characters. Some have been little more than assistants, some have been friends, some have had major story arcs of their own. Is Clara unique? In some ways, but in most she isn’t. The Doctor calls her his impossible girl because she was splintered across his timeline. Outside of that she is just a companion who knows him really well. Probably better than anyone besides Romana or Susan. She is not the first companion to call the Doctor on his foibles. Tom Baker’s Doctor was called on all sorts of things by his companions. And the Doctor really brought this story on himself. He turned Clara loose in the telepathic circuits and he decided to unlock the airlock that caused Clara to try to move the Tardis herself. Really we can blame the Tardis for what happened because it went beyond probing Clara’s mind for her dream of something under the bed and found Danny Pink’s dream, his great-grandson’s, and the Doctor’s, but not Clara’s.

    The episode was designed to be spooky and creepy with a resolution that was chilling for a different reason. And it really tied back to the 50th Anniversary story, explaining where the War Doctor ended up and why. This story wasn’t about Clara. It was about the Doctor and Clara was the vehicle for us to explore his fears.

    I’ve long had a problem with many of the 7th Doctor stories because they focused too much on Ace. Those seasons were an exercise in what not to do with a companion. It almost became the Ace show. She was a neat character, but not used well. We’ve explored other companions in similar ways, like Rose and Clara, but in more effective ways. It’s all in the writing and the consensus from most reviews I’ve read of Listen places it as one of the best in the new series. I don’t know if I would go that far, but it is a damn good episodes and I was enthralled.

    One of the purposes of the companions is to help explore how alien the Doctor is. Clara has done that quite well in each episode of this season so far.

    The Academy has been mentioned many times and other than the barn and a scared child, there was nothing new added to the Doctor’s past and the barn we’ve seen before and now its significance is explained.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I did miss some of the Doctors after Tom Baker so I’m not as up to date on canon as I probably should be so I appreciate this background.

      I love the moments when a companion calls bullshit on the Doctor. Amy certainly did it, even the much maligned Donna. I think I’m just tired of these mysterious women (and Pond fell into that category too) who seem to have little reality beyond being mysterious. And this one just hit a button for me with Clara acting as mommy to frightened children. I’m also anxious to have the return to Gallifrey, and I’m hoping this small hint in this episode is the start of that arc.

      I’ve also gotten the feeling that the show is moving more and more into the realm of fantasy rather than science fiction. Maybe that’s inevitable as you get deeper and deeper into the problems created by time travel, but the overuse of the sonic screw driver, the Tardis seeming to be almost in love with the Doctor, the telepathy are making me feel less grounded in that world.

      I’m also getting whiplash from the Doctor’s behavior. He was very pointed in the first episode after his regeneration that he’s not her boyfriend, but then in the very weak Robin Hood episode he’s acting like a jealous kid trying to compete with the new boy who’s caught his sweetie’s eye. I like Carpaldi’s power, but I still don’t have a sense that he’s in command. For my money Tennant had the best mix of scary and zany. I actually believed he was an old and terrifying alien.

      • Donna gets a lot of crap, but she is hands down my favorite companion from the reboot. She is grounded, she has strength of personality. You know who she is and what she’s about. None of this mysterious unreality… she’s a 21st century woman in a very strange land, not a pseudo-pixie in a miniskirt.

        When she and Tennant’s Doctor clicked, the performance chemistry was beyond any we’ve seen since Tom Baker and Sarah Jane Smith.

        Meanwhile, the reboot’s strained companion romance motif has just got to go. Even the thing with River just felt yucky to me. The Doctor’s Wife was the best love affair we ever saw the Doctor in, because Gaiman showed us how we’ve really been seeing it since day one.

      • Idalee says:

        One would think that the Jersey folks do not like to be treated as shills just as the rest of us. This person ocipcyung 1600 PA Ave in DC has blatantly played us all for stooges to be toyed with as he plays his change America games. We need someone somewhere to stand up to this dangerous con man and boot him to the curb.

  • Thomas Painter says:

    I’ve appreciated the move towards treating Clara as more than ‘The Impossible Girl’. I had few qualms with that period of storytelling but I believe that had more to do with the performance from Jenna Louise Coleman and the depth and warmth she brough to the character than anything to do with the writing.

    Capaldi’s Doctor is a fascinating take on the character, especially after the youthful exuberance tempered by pain of Tennant and Smith’s tenures. Bearing the weight of his years and experiences for all to see. No longer running, but as the Doctor intimates in ‘Deep Breath’ turning to face the consequences of his actions, to atone for his sins. All his various indescretions paled into insignificance compared to his act of double genocide, he couldn’t even feel the guilt for them with such a monumental atrocity in his past overshadowing all. He undid that, he did the impossible, with that shroud taken off him he can muse on those other failings and how to make ammends.

    I don’t feel that the companion related aspects of this series are any more egregious than the family life of Rose, Martha, Donna or Amy. Delving into the lives of the Doctor’s companions is par for the course after all. When said companions are only periodically travelling with the Doctor then he will more than likely be absent from those moments.

    As for the reveal that Clara was the instigator of this particular idea/fear of the Doctor’s I can see people’s point of view regarding her becoming ‘too important’ in the formation of his character although I don’t agree. In those moments she repeats the words of comfort that the Doctor gives to Rupert while the unknown entity sits on his bed. In essence the Doctor creates ‘himself’. I loved that the location was tied back to his actions that ended the Time War, that he chose the place in which he was ‘born’ would be the place that The Doctor would ‘die’. The whole scene even harkenned back to Moffat’s work during Ecclestone’s run when the Doctor explains to the orphans of the Blitz that he know what it feels like to be ‘left out in the cold’.

    I have my suspicions that this season will be intimately focused on the Doctor as a person, almost in response to the last half of the last season’s focus on the mystery of Clara Oswald.

    The first episode focussed on both the nature of regeneration (complete with dressing down of the aspect of the fanbase unwilling to see an older man in the role) and that each incarnation truly is the same man, with the same fundamental core.

    The second delved into the conflict at the heart of such a moniker, the dissonance between a warrior/soldier that chose the title ‘Doctor’, through the lense of his own hatreds and prejudices.

    The third episode mused on the nature of legends, that the reality of a person means little in comparison to the echoes of their existence. That even flawed people can inspire others to greater things. That the Doctor may not be a hero but that’s okay if he can, does and will inspire heroism from others. That perhaps that is enough.

    The most recent episode addressed the core drive behind the man, the very origin of the personality that would forge the title ‘Doctor’. That it is such a fundamental aspect of his being that its inception was indirectly his own doing. That his bravery comes from fear as does his need for companionship as he stares down the endless dark.

    I may be entirely off-base, it may be something that only exists as subtext within this season, but I believe there is a point to these analyses. The season’s thematic throughline as voiced by the Doctor in ‘Into The Dalek’ is “Am I a good man?” and the running subplot appears to be Missy, The Promised Land/Heaven and the people that she is ‘saving’. I believe the two are linked. The Doctor is seeking redemption from his failings throughout the millenia. He wants to be judged. There are 13 episodes in a season and 12 members of a jury. I have a suspicion that this Missy character is creating some form of jury to preside over a ‘trial’ to judge whether The Doctor is a good man or not. Formed of people that he has interacted with throughout the season.

    That is my hope anyway. It would put the focus squarely back on the Time Lord himself.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I hope your right, and Moffat has put as much thought into this as you clearly have. I’m just suspicious because it’s felt like so many episodes in the past few seasons have relied on wild hand waving and don’t actually stand up to any sort of analysis. I have the same problem with Sherlock. Lots of glitz — not a lot of substance. Two great actors, but the scripts again fall back on hand waving. I’m also frustrated with the women. River had possibilities. She seemed like the Doctor’s near equal, but then that just sort of went away and she became pathetic toward the end. Coleman has a great deal of charm and warmth, and has had chemistry with both Smith and Carpaldi. Unlike the unfortunate Martha. I’ve never seen two actors with less chemistry than Tennant and Freema Agyeman. I loved the idea of Martha — an actual physician to travel with this psychic doctor, but they just never really clicked.

      • Mark Breuer says:

        One thing you have to remember about River, her timeline is backwards. So she had to be at her best, her most mature, he most rounded, when she first appeared. If you watch her stories backwards, you see a lot of character development. Quite a feat considering how long it took to unfold and had to be written backwards. So she is supposed to be less developed in the later episodes. Not your normal story telling, but it is a work of genius.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I think I’m also just tired of women as the gentle comforter. I had the same problem with Troy when I worked on Next Gen. She seemed to be there to state the obvious and to tell the guys they were all just great.

    • Mark Breuer says:

      I agree with your analysis. I’ve been seeing the same exploration of the Doctor as you have. I’m not sure what sort of theme may play out, but the only piece I’ve heard about is something about the scars you get traveling with the Doctor and rumors of Clara’s departure. From the story synopses, I think Clara leaves briefly before the end of the season and will likely stay on into Series 9, but we will have to see.

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