Deum ex stupri telephonium, or
In the world according to Steven Moffat
A Woman is nothing
Without a man to tell her what to do
|A fitting landing place for a sorry return to the 19th century. Screenshot from 'Deep Breath'. Doctor Who Copyright © 2014 BBC.|
I'm disappointed but not surprised. Same show-runner, same writer; why expect change?
We do get change in the wrinkled form of Peter Capaldi's new Doctor (Capaldi? Fine, arguably better than the part as scripted) and a story with an actual beginning, middle and end. But beyond that, too little new, too much the same.
"Deep Breath" gives us yet more Victorian London, more Madam Vastra & Co., more old and improbable Steven Moffat monsters and more Moffat misogyny.
The plot concerns a kidnapping ring run by aliens (of a sort) in need of human body parts. They run an elaborate restaurant as a front, and hide out in a broken spaceship buried beneath it. To cover their tracks, the burn the victims completely, resulting in newspaper headlines about "spontaneous human combustion". Needless to say, the Doctor puts an end to that, but only after plodding action scenes and an almost Tintin-like reliance on coincidentally good timing to save the day.
The important story, the theme, is Clara's. And it is with Clara's story that things fall apart.
Clara, you may remember, is the Impossible Girl. The girl who travelled through time and space and saved every single incarnation of the Doctor at least through number 11. Yet, though she watched 11 morph into Capaldi's 12, she can't accept the change. "I don't think I know who the Doctor is anymore," she mewls.
Jenna (no longer Louise) Coleman does a good a job in the part, but it's a thankless role, the tip of a nonsensical iceberg: that the "person who knows him best in all the universe", can't accept the regeneration on her own. To Coleman 's credit she manages to make Clara's ambivalence plausible; after all, people don't always make sense, we don't always make the logical choice.
Despite my better instincts, Coleman made me care about Clara's conundrum. More fool, I.
(Major spoiler below. You've been warned.)
Clara doesn't come to accept the Doctor's change because of Madame Vastra wisdom or Jenny's quietly piercing questions. She doesn't think through the problem and come to her own conclusions. She doesn't even come to accept the "new" Doctor through the fact of having gone through an adventure with him.
Nope. Having told the Doctor to his face that, "I'm so, so sorry, but I don't think I know who you are anymore," — well, Deus ex fucking telephonium!
|Matt Smith returns to resolve Clara's dilemma. Screenshot from 'Deep Breath'. Doctor Who Copyright © 2014 BBC.|
Buzz! Buzz!, says Clara's mobile. Gosh! Whoever could that be?
Clara wanders off to answer her phone. Who's on the other line? Why, it's "her" Doctor of course! Matt Smith back for a quick cameo, and to tell Clara it's okay to go with the new guy, even if he does have some grey hairs.
Maybe I should be bitching about Moffat's sophomoric mereological essentialism, or complaining again about his preference for cheap laughs at the expensive of morality or characterization (no, it's not funny that Madame Vastra, like some reptilian Dexter, eats the bad guys after she's interrogated them. And it's implausible that Clara's entire reaction to that bit of news would be a raised eyebrow and quizzical frown).
But what's most enraging to me just now is that Steven Moffat can't seem to give a girl any agency at all.
Clara can't make up her own mind, but needs an authority figure, in the shape of
cheap fan service the Doctor's previous incarnation, making a phone call at (somehow) exactly the right moment, to tell that the new Doctor is the "real" Doctor.
In terms of internal logic (I repeat: Clara spent subjective years, maybe decades, travelling through time and space to save each and every one of the Doctor's previous incarnations) it rings false, and as a plot device it is all too pat. Even if we accept Clara's difficulty, it is a dramatic cheat to solve the problem via magic phone call from the past.
And anyway, if we are meant to care about Clara — and we are — wouldn't it make for better drama if she had concluded the new guy was okay on her own?
But no. In the world according to Steven Moffat, a woman always needs a man to make up her mind.
Did he jump or was he pushed? I bet even Steven Moffat doesn't know for sure. And ... exeunt!