Doctor Who 6.5: "Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out."

Aug 31, 2011

|image0|****Assorted 'Let’s Kill Hitler' thoughts:****

  • The one thing you can say about Moffat stories is that they are bursting with ideas, sometimes they don’t mesh well (a problem I have with the Library two-parter) but when it works the show is just alive with creative energy. This week we had: many, many details of River Song’s increasingly temporally confused backstory - the crew of the Enterprise manning the T-1000 with polite and deadly robot jellyfish, travelling through time, setting right what once went wrong with horrible horrible torture -  a mysterious religious order devoted to answering the final question and ending the universe -  extractor fans! This had it all.
  • Everyone kills Hitler on their first trip.
  • Clearly the crew of the Justice Vehicle are pretty awful people. Most stories about time travellers who try to kill Hitler give them a motive of trying to prevent the wrongs of the past (and then learn important lessons about knock-on effects), the ‘travel to the very last moment of their life and torture them’ approach is more respectful of the timeline but also more morally reprehensible. It has no deterrent effect, in fact it’s vital no one knows about them because telling people about it would effect the timeline - what it comes down to is people in the far future judging your life according to criteria you’re not aware of and punishing you in a way that’s really only to the benefit of their bloodlust. Hitler I imagine we can all agree belongs on the shit list, but if Churchill (not universally a wonderful person) had a visitor to his deathbed people might be more split.
  • Time travellers creating an afterlife because God let us down by not existing is also dipped into briefly in the Baxter and Clarke novel ‘The Light of Other Days’, where towards the end the perfection of time-traversing wormholes allows the far future to download and recreate the brain at the moment of death. Sufficiently advanced technology indeed.
  • Questions that cause the universe to end have a good pedigree. While the obvious association of an ultimate question given Adams’ Who connection is to Hitchhikers, what this made me think more of more are two classic short stories, Clarke’s ‘The Nine Billion Names of God’ and Asimov’s ‘The Last Question’. In ‘The Nine Billion’ a computer is built to systematically list all the possible names of God in the belief that when this happens the purpose of the universe will be fulfilled and it will promptly shut up shop - the final question is answered and silence will fall (coincidentally, the stars going out now qualifies as a recurring thing in New Who). In ‘The Last Question’ successive generations from the near-present to the heat-death ask a question of the increasingly sophisticated machines they’ve created, a question that’s at first an intellectual curiosity and then gradually the last and only relevant question: “Can entropy be reversed?”. While interesting I don’t think this is any use for plot guessing purposes, I’m just hoping for something better than “Doctor Who?” (Although there would be something very Adamish in an inter-temporal war and attempted universe-cide resulting from a very badly misunderstood knock knock joke.)
  • As Mels grows up alongside with her parents, Moffat seems to be pushing the idea that effectively they did raise her anyway and so this solves the problem of how the show can tonally have Amy and Rory having adventures not related to getting their stolen child back. I’m willing to accept this-ish,but clearly Rory and Amy would be better parents to a child now then they would have been when they themselves were children. Given Mels seems to have a slightly rocky life and most of what they know about River’s later life is that she’s imprisoned in the Stormcage (which really in terms of actually keeping people in is almost as bad as Arkham), it’d be easy for them to imagine that Melody would have had a much better life if they’d properly had the chance to raise her. It's a bit of a serious downer and I’m curious to see if the show has any further interest in addressing it.
  • Is the Doctor just dressing to go out in style, or does the outfit change signify like in ‘Flesh and Stone’ that there’s a bit of story missing that might appear later on? As ever, there is insufficient data for a meaningful answer.

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