Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Doctor as Helper/The Companion as Conscience

Sorry for the delay--it's been an awfully hectic month for yours truly--but I thought I'd write a quick review of the last two episodes of Doctor Who before we head out to Marcon in Columbus, Ohio, this weekend to chat with fellow Whovians in person.

This season is off to a solid start, much better than Peter Capaldi's previous seasons, in my opinion. We finally see the "classic Who" Doctor emerging, the one that most of us fell in love in (in his various incarnations), the one that we saw in the performances of Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and even Matt Smith in the newer series. In both Thin Ice and Knock Knock we see the Doctor as helper. The Doctor isn't just casually breezing by the scene and becoming involved in spite of his reluctance; he's actually there to help human beings solve a mystery and make the world a bit safer. His intent is humanitarian, not selfish, which is the heroic trait many Whovians admire the most.

On the companion side, we have Bill. She's coming across as the Doctor's conscience in these stories--the human sidekick who tells him when he's crossed the line into selfishness or cruelty. In many respects, Bill reminds me of the Nu Who companion Donna Noble. Donna was never afraid to tell the Doctor when he had stepped over the line. She begged and pleaded with the Doctor when he seemed heartless, such as in the Fires of Pompei when she begged him to save the Roman family headed up by... well, by Peter Capaldi of all people!

I also see a bit of Leela from the Tom Baker era in the character of Bill. Leela was also brave and not afraid to tell the Doctor when he's crossing a line that shouldn't be crossed. In Thin Ice, Bill points out the "coldness" of the Doctor allowing some to die in front of her eyes without apparently trying to save them. In Knock Knock she begs him to save her friends and housemates from death by alien termite. The companion's prime role is to keep the Doctor on the straight and narrow morally, not to be just another pretty face beside him, which has happened frequently in the recent series to the detriment of the Doctor's character. 

A brief aside on the settings, SFX and costuming: I do like Bill's hairstyle with bangs, as it's much more flattering than her previous hairstyle without the face framing. And can Peter Capaldi's Doctor ever rock a top hat! He should wear one more often. The Regency era setting and costuming of Thin Ice were excellent, and I can't recall this historical era being done before on the show, so kudos for giving us another cool look into the past. Knock Knock's "haunted house" and super creepy insect special effects were very effective at striking a subtly horrific chord. Actor David Suchet will never be stereotyped as the clever and polite Hercule Poirot for me ever again!

The Doctor needs his human companion(s) to act as conscience since he isn't human (he's Gallifreyan), and he often forgets what his actions (or lack of actions) can mean to humans. The very first Doctor's companions of Barbara, Ian and Susan were perfect examples of how the Doctor's conscience is necessary. If you don't know what I mean, watch the very first episode An Unearthly Child and the three after it. Where would the Doctor be if his companions didn't help him then become the hero we know and love today?

I'm looking forward to the next episode and possibly seeing you at Marcon. Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about Peter Capaldi's last season so far. Isn't he (to quote Doctor Nine)  fantastic?

P.S. I've been working hard on edits for the re-releases of my Loving Who series of novels. I'd forgotten some of the wild and wacky things my "companions" got up to in the series... "Time travel" makes us all a little forgetful occasionally!

P.P.S. I love the new cover for the third book in the series, Losing Who, don't you?

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