If you need me, me an’ Clara’ll be hanging out with the Time Lord.
(If I earwormed you, you’re welcome. If you have no idea, just move along.)
Doctor Who has returned, and it’s nothing like what we expected. And, yes, this post was meant to have been up last week but then some generous people thought I might enjoy their summer cold. They were wrong. I did not enjoy their summer cold. I move that the assembly strike “generous” from the previous description and substitute “inconsiderate” instead. Everyone in favor? Since my vote’s the only one that matters, motion carried.
NOW THEN: the Doctor has regenerated and helpfully brings a T-Rex to Victorian London in his regenerative confusion, where a beleaguered Clara is immediately supported by everyone’s favorite Paternoster Gang. They manage to produce a widget that corrals the Queen of Dinosaurs into a limited part of London, mainly right next to Big Ben so we always have a handy size reference. Then they whisk the Doctor away and someone manages to get him into a nightgown, and wondering who managed that – as the Doctor ranted and railed in frightened disorientation – added some levity to an otherwise heartbreaking scene. Eleven was still very much inside Twelve, fouling up all his wires, leaving HIM operating with a fault… a phrase he waved at his companions, which he got from his last interactions with Handles, the disembodied Cyberman head. A Time Traveler’s Winston. It’s no surprise that Eleven would be with us essentially all the way through this first episode with Peter Capaldi – the Doctor lived as Eleven for centuries, and in a warzone as well. That’ll give anyone a nasty case of PTLD. (Work it out.)
The rest of the episode was a fractured pattern of leitmotifs – an old and lonely beast in a confusing time and place, beings who keep on long after they’ve lost the thread of what they’re meant for (along with all their original parts), the difficulty of communicating with one’s past selves, and the terrifying distortion of mirrors. To salve the rawness a bit, we also got Strax’s usual and charming mercenary manner, domestic scenes between Madame Vastra and Jenny, and Clara testing the strength of her convictions and finding their steel rings true.
Clara was called bossy and ego-maniacal by two male characters in this episode, and that was a dismaying trend considering those same behaviors would be described as “confident” and “assertive” in men. This isn’t surprising given Steven Moffat’s track record, but I’d also like to reflect on how the other women in the episode responded to Clara. Vastra gave her a hard time until she acclimated to the Doctor’s changed state, but both Vastra and Jenny treated Clara with respect and admiration when she spoke her mind. SM’s writing is often problematic, but sometimes he gets things right enough that they carry him farther than he perhaps meant to go.
Clara’s standing up for herself and having faith were AMAZING moments – as was the fact that she drew on her own life experience and deductive reasoning skills to get her through a breathlessly difficult situation (har). She didn’t stand around wondering what the Doctor would do. She assumed she knew, and acted accordingly. She set out saving herself, and put her trust in the Doctor when all other options were exhausted.
Other things that SM managed to get right in this episode: interspecies lesbian on-screen kiss for life-extending breathing purposes, people! Romantic AND pragmatic! A look into the domestic life between Madame Vastra and Jenny, especially with Jenny less made-up than usual. An acknowledgement of attraction existing outside of established relationships, and not as a jealousy button-pushing affair. Although, I would also add that Clara’s accusation of Vastra being irritable with her because she is attracted to Clara was only saved from being arrogant and defensive heterohysteria by Jenna Coleman’s performance.
That end, though. I’m not talking about the phone call from Eleven – although I did like that scene, and didn’t see it as grossly manipulative of the audience’s emotions. Eleven’s regeneration was shockingly fast, and Clara was hardly prepared (read: NOT AT ALL) for what followed. I’m also not talking about those moments when we finally saw the kind of man Twelve is going to be – neither “I have a horrible feeling I’m going to have to kill you. Thought you might appreciate a drink first,” nor his uncertain moments on the street of Glasgow, begging Clara to just see him. (I’m just a Time Lord. Standing in front of a Companion. Asking her to see him.)
I’m talking about Missy. We all know she’s super-creepy and claiming to be welcoming people to Paradise. Most of you have probably heard her referred to as the “Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere.” Many of you are talking like she’s either the Master (do you really REALLY think the Master would go by Missy and not Mistress? Come now, people, (s)he’s got style!) or a River Song regeneration (which I can’t even, do you not remember she was burned out and then uploaded to the biggest library database in the world? WELL AFTER she gave all her remaining regeneration energy to Eleven anyway?). *deep breath* (Har.)
My dear, sweet Time children – I invite you to go to YouTube and type in “the Rani.” And if that’s the Rani running around in a TARDIS of her own? Oh dear, oh dearie me.
Credits for the images as follows: Twelfth Doctor GIF by lionheartace, Strax GIFs by rubyredwisp, and Vastra/Jenny GIFs by thumbsinthefridge, all on Tumblr. I found the Missy as Psychotic Mary Poppins image on i-like-bakerst-now-bakerst-is-cool‘s Tumblr.