Saturday, July 3, 2010

On Doctor Who, and Coupling

Like many people wowed by David Tennant as the Doctor, I had trouble imagining Matt Smith living up the role; like many people impressed by what Russell Davies did with Doctor Who, I trembled when Stephen Moffat took over the show. But (spoiler alert!) now that the 5th season is over, I want to proclaim it extremely good.

First, I think they took a daring chance by letting certain things make no sense throughout the season, until the last episode pulls it together. It was a little confusing, and I saw people online complaining that the editing was bad or that they'd slapped this or that episode together. Personally I reserved judgment, because unlike shows like Lost or Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who has always come through in the end, but the unexplained logic-skips did bother me, I will admit.

In my opinion the risk paid off, because the final episode explains not only how the doctor can be in two places at once, but also why Amy is always bugging out her eyes when she's alone and acting like she hears things never addressed within the individual episode. They also waited until the last episode to address that fact that Amy, as we first encounter her, comes off as a gothic fiction: a little girl living alone in a giant house with no one -- the relatives she does have don't live with her. Weird.

But then there's the whole marriage thing. Donna was introduced to the series as the "Runaway Bride," and at the start of this season, marriage was thrust in the narrative's course as a sort of joy-killing doomstacle: the white wedding dress hanging in Amy's closet; the rude, knowing, domineering River Song, who seems to be the Doctor's wife -- tho he doesn't know her. And I will admit I share this attitude towards marriage: I got married once, when I was young, and I didn't like it. I've always felt like marriage is a little doomy: even in literature, marriage ends happy stories with the finality of a funeral.

But I've noticed in recent years that younger people have a pretty different attitude towards marriage. I've had a lot of married students, and they're young and they're not having kids. They do exciting things, like start businesses together, or travel around the world. They even take classes together: I've had married couples as students. It always strikes me as little odd when young, free, happy people get married. It seems to me that they're ruining everything for themselves. But frankly, I think I'm wrong.

Marriage is, like all things, defined by how you see it. And if we see it as a working partnership instead of a burdensome bond, why can't it be the beginning, and not the end? We have no body of literature where happy stories begin with a wedding, but perhaps someday we will. And so Doctor Who, which was always, under Davies, very ahead-of-the-pack in its portrayal of race and sexuality, is now, under the guidance of the author of "Coupling" (of course), rewriting the portrayal of marriage.

Amy and Rory get married, and that marriage is the rebirth of the Doctor... it comes at the end of the story, and season, but it's also the start of something else. When it's "time to say goodbye," it's not time to say goodbye to adventure and danger, but time to say goodbye to the wedding guests so the happy couple can all head off back into the maw of frolic, which is what this TV show is about. Amy, who has, since her introduction as a kiss-o-gram, been portrayed as having a fully turned-on and heartily healthy sex drive, propositions the Doctor on the way in the door -- implying that very little (if anything) has changed.

It would be nice if we lived in a world where marriages are assumed to be freeing, instead of restricting, but we don't: and I for one followed the "argument" of this season like an ideal audience who needs (wants?) to be persuaded that marriage, tho it has meant doom and death in the past, no longer does -- not, at least, in this forward-marching futuristic kid's (future-adult's) world. I'm convinced. And now I'm eager to see what craziness the marrieds get into for season 6. And how the Doctor ends up with River Song, if that's where it's going. Doctor Who meets Coupling. Who expected less? Now if they can just stop having him say, "Geronimo."

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