I am loving the stroppy TARDIS arc! This is my favourite aspect of the Clara plot so far, not least because it’s different. I think it’s great that only a season after the universe-altering revelations about the TARDIS and her motivations back in The Doctor’s Wife, we’re learning even more about the TARDIS.
Back then, we learned that she was fiercely devoted to her ‘thief’ and that the companions were basically blips she barely bothered to notice – Amy and Rory were therefore ‘the red one’ and ‘the pretty one.’
But Clara has made a dent. Why? That’s a far more interesting mystery to me than the whole ‘why are there many Claras’ thing – which when you ACTUALLY think about, the Doctor shouldn’t blink at because, you know, this sort of thing used to happen to him a lot back in the old days. Abbot of Amboise, Salamander, Princess Strella, Ann Talbot, anyone?
So yes, the TARDIS-Clara interplay is not only the best thing about this episode, but also this season. Is the anniversary episode going to happen because the TARDIS decided Ten and Rose were her favourites after all??
(Love the comment in the podcast about how the TARDIS doesn’t give Clara air or gravity when the Doctor’s not there – I also really enjoyed her having the doors slam in her face, and the Doctor’s worry that the TARDIS had been saying mean things to her when he was out)
I personally hate the female jealousy trope, and I especially hate it in Doctor Who – BUT I have to say, having just taken my girls to see Peter Pan at the theatre, don’t you think that the whole Clara-TARDIS thing is basically the TinkerBell-Wendy relationship? I hope that the TARDIS’ dislike is more of a reasonable warning of a danger she feels Clara poses to the Doctor, rather than actual jealousy, but seriously, their interactions feel SO Wendy and Tink.
But back to the episode itself. This was an odd one for me. I had flagged it as A Scary One and didn’t want the same situation that happened back with Cold War so I packed the kids off to bed and watched it when they were sleep. But because my honey is away right now, that meant watching a new Doctor Who episode ALONE for the first time in… um. Years, maybe?
So maybe this episode wouldn’t be proper scary under other circumstances, but my anxiety and stress levels were already at peak capacity with the horrid week we’ve had, and so… yes. It totally worked for me. I was practically climbing the walls with tension & fear. DAMN YOU HORROR TROPES.
I thought I wouldn’t enjoy this one. The Doctor and Clara felt very by-the-numbers at first and my jaded, cynical self decided that actually all the internet haters were right, and Clara was in fact far too generic a companion.
But slowly, over the episode, largely because of the TARDIS spats etc., Clara won me over. And the next day, I patiently explained all the plot twists to my 8 year old daughter ahead of time, assuring her it was an episode pretending to be scary, but with a happy ending, and she decided she really, really wanted to see it.
We watched it together in daylight, cuddled up, and she adored it. When she looked like she was getting a bit freaked out about all the weather and the lights and the ghost faces (the ghost faces were a bit much for her) I patiently explained horror tropes to her, and the ways in which the episode was trying to scare her. She came away exhilarated, and delighted. She loved it to bits. It’s her favourite episode of the season so far.
Raeli also now has a taste for stories that are scary but turn out not to be at the end so, guess what I have to make up every bedtime now?
On that second viewing, not just because of Raeli’s enthusiasm, I really came to love it too. And Clara in particular. I actually felt inspired by her bravery in the face of quite reasonable fear. (And over the week that followed I really needed some inspiration towards bravery)
The scene which really clicked for me in conveying Amy and Rory’s characters was in Vampires in Venice, where she ran towards the source of a sudden scream, and his instinct was to run away. I like that dynamic from a gender point of view because it is not what people expect – and the male nurturer/female warrior team dynamic is also what I love most about the audio pairing of Ace and Hex. Recently in Season 4 of Fringe I found that again when Olivia was paired with NerdLincoln (as opposed to HairGelLincoln – it’s a parallel world thing). As new FBI partners when they came across someone who had been shot, he stayed to help the victim while she ran for the gun. Lovely!
That running towards the scream characteristic has actually summed up most of the Doctor Who companions of New Who – along with the not staying put when the Doctor tells you to characteristic.
So I really like that Clara has to work up to being brave – she’s not cowardly or scream or in any way passive or weak. But she is reasonably cautious in the face of the unknown, the terrifying, and the bizarre. I love that she felt confident enough to challenge him on the idea that chasing a ghost through the haunted house might not automatically be the best thing to do that very second – and later, that she told him she wasn’t happy. In both instances, she was risking the Doctor’s respect for her.
I don’t see Rose admitting to the Doctor that she’s not feeling okay about them doing the brave stupid thing to defeat evil.
I loved Amy dearly – I’ve loved all the New Who companions. But short of getting another 30+ companion, having one who actually weighs the odds before leaping in feels pretty appealing to me.
A few short responses to other parts of the podcast discussion:
- I like the “monster is not a monster” twist, not only because I think it’s a good strong Doctor Who Story message, but because it feels like a less sad version of the monster storyline from Vincent and the Doctor. It’s also the aspect of the story that made it a really positive, enlightening story for children. I will defend that story choice to the death! Every time we have a monster story or an evil story where the Doctor really does destroy something evil or monstrous (cough, Solomon) he feels a little bit less like the Doctor to me – and I feel that for each one of those we ALSO need a story that tells us that just because someone is a monster doesn’t mean they don’t get rescued too. Or as Liz noted in one of the recent podcasts when correcting me loudly – sometimes the monsters are also PEOPLE and that’s an important thing for the Doctor to remember when no one else does.
- As I tweeted earlier in the week, my daughter was reading ‘When is the Doctor’ (the closest thing we have to Doctor Who picture books) and as she came to the Metebelis 3 page, she pronounced it “MeatBells”. Just saying.
- I agree with Deb it’s unfortunate that the only conversation that Clara and Emma have privately is about boys but I see why it was necessary – I felt at the time that it moved the story forward in a way that almost anything else Clara could have said would not have done. Having said that, Deb is on the money in her Bechdel Test post. THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN ANOTHER WAY.
- Numeral-based Eleven conspiracy theory: Clara is the Valeyard.
- I think if Clara turns out to seriously be a threat to the Doctor, merely by existing, we will get all the payoff we need for this season. Especially if that threat is resolved, and she gets to move forward as the companion without that baggage next year.
- OMG CLARA BLEW UP THE TARDIS IN SEASON FIVE! EVERYTHING IS EXPLAINED.
- Is anyone else kind of hoping that the Doctor’s name turns out to be Susan? Just me? It could also mean that the horse from A Town Called Mercy is one of his future incarnations…
Also no one mentioned the gorgeous 1970’s historical design. Having had an 80’s and a modern day story I am now really hoping we get in a Swinging Sixties episode before the end of the run. Possibly filmed in black and white. Clara would rock a mini-dress, Dodo or Polly style. Why are no Doctor Who stories set in Carnaby Street?