Thursday, 13 January 2011

The Doctor: still out of control?

For a bit of light relief I thought I'd reflect on ten million people's apex of Christmas Day: the Doctor Who Christmas Special, 'A Christmas Carol'. For the most part this was a fun and jolly jaunt across Christmas myths, making great use of fun direction (The Doctor projected on a white wall, walking through a door in the middle) and sheer, shameless sentimentality (The Doctor takes Kazran Sardick and his young love on a fantastic voyage every Christmas Eve). Great stuff - especially when you've had some wine with your turkey.

But lurking in there was something that many aficionados have spotted: there was a distinct change of tone here, with the time travel element of the story providing much more of the narrative drive. The Doctor kept moving back and forth to correct his mistakes, or provide himself with crucial clues.

But why hasn't he always done this? And note: towards the end, this new tick nearly brings the house down in a disastrous plot twist. Until The Doctor plays another trick with time...

The suspicion grows that he still out of control, still spinning away from his more settled and ordered self - a plotline many thought done and dusted after David Tennant's implosion at the end of The Waters of Mars.

I'm hoping, rather guiltily, to write about all this, since my next book-but-one (in 2016? It seems such a long way off) will be called something like Uncertain Tomorrow: Visions of the Future in Post-War Britain. One of the chapters will be entitled 'The many dystopias of British science fiction', and will talk about The Day of the Triffids, The Quatermass Experiment, J.G. Ballard and yes, good old Doctor Who.

You'd be surprised how much you can say about post-war Britain using that lot...

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