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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

‘Doctor Who’ blogging: “The Doctor Dances”

(tons of spoilers! don’t read till you’ve seen the episode! and no comments from party poopers — this is a love fest only / previous: Episode 9: “The Empty Child”)

I’m rewatching the first series of the new Doctor Who with an eye toward looking where the show has gone since.
Could lead to dancing…

The primary factor that sticks out for me now, rewatching this episode for the dozenth time, even more prominently than it did way back when — it was obvious even on a first viewing — is how “The Doctor Dances” sets up the weird little triangle of the Doctor, Rose, and now Jack, and also, in the larger sense, of how it sets up the motif as the Doctor as a man. He is deeply stung by Rose’s utter blindness to seeing him as a man, which is certainly nothing like anything we were ever offered before on the old incarnation of Doctor Who, when he was always presented as very much asexual and aloof:

“Why is it always the great-looking ones who do that?” –Rose (when Jack teleports away)

“I’m making an effort not to be insulted.” –the Doctor

“I mean… men.” –Rose (who appears more confused than appreciative of the fact that she’s just insulted him)

“Okay, that really helped.” –the Doctor (chagrinned)

His attitude and the look on his face suggests that this is not something he’s used to, being dismissed like this. And frankly I can’t understand Rose’s blindness — is it really just that she’s so young? She’s met lots of other really alien aliens by this point: how can she not see that the Doctor is hardly alien at all compared to some? Or is it just that he’s older than her… and I don’t mean 900 years older than her, either. Would she react the same way to a human man of the same apparent age as the Doctor and just assume that he’s too old to be interested in, you know, that? Are fortysomething guys just too old for her teenage brain to process, never mind alien guys?

“I trust [Jack] cuz he’s like you, except with datin’ and dancin’.” –Rose

“You just assume I don’t… dance. Nine hundred years old, me, I’ve been around a bit. I think you can assume that at some point I’ve danced.” –the Doctor

I’m guessing it’s the alien thing, though, because Jack is not all that much younger — apparently — than the Doctor is.

I think it’s just that she’s a bit of prude, actually. The look on the Doctor’s face when Jack insists that he, not Rose, is the one to distract Algie:

He’s delighted at Rose’s discomfort, and even more so when he tries to ease that discomfort and only makes it worse: “Relax, he’s a 51st-century guy. He’s just a bit more flexible when it comes to dancing.” And then he just gives up and teases her: “So many species, so little time.” She’s almost repulsed by this: maybe she’s realizing that although Jack may be human, culturally he’s fairly alien to her, too.

Still, there’s something she finds hypnotic about the Doctor — and he about her — because they don’t even notice when Jack beams them to his ship! “Most people notice when they’ve been teleported,” he says with a laugh. “You guys are so sweet.”

Not that Jack isn’t going to try to worm his way between them… though he’d think of it as just plain fun, probably, and nothing malicious. By the time we get to the next episode, it’s pretty clear to me that lots has happened between the end of this and the beginning of that, and stuff that probably justified the Doctor’s dark warning as this episode closes:

“Welcome to the TARDIS.” –the Doctor to Jack

“Much bigger in the inside…” –Jack

“It better be.” –the Doctor

Ah, and also: the fact that the resolution of the mystery turns on the Doctor realizing that it concerns the secret of a “teenage single mother in 1941”… I cannot imagine the classic series ever implying that the Doctor thinks about sex, even in such a fairly detached way. But I’ll be on the lookout for any instances I might have missed when I blog about the old show.

Another thing I’ll be looking out for: another story like this one, in which there turns out not to be an actual villain and no nefarious plan to take over the world, just something good gone wrong. And in the end, it’s really nothing the Doctor does that fixes things — the nanogenes figure out their mistakes themselves and make it right themselves. This is radically different from anything we’ve seen before, that I remember offhand. And perhaps the Doctor doesn’t remember too many examples of such a happy ending, either: “Oh come on, gimme a day like this, gimme this one,” he begs the universe, and then he gets that day. “Everybody lives, Rose! Just this once, everybody lives!”

Random thoughts on “The Doctor Dances”:

• Hey, how come the Doctor hasn’t run into Time Agents before? Especially someone like Jack, who runs roughshod over the timelines? Aren’t the Time Agents kinda like Time Lords, policing the timelines? Surely out of professionally courtesy, there would have been some contact between the Agency and Gallifrey, no? Or was the Agency beneath Gallifrey’s notice?

• The Time Agency stole two years of Jack’s memories, and he wants ’em back — we never did find out what that was about. Torchwood has almost made me forget that Jack has this whole big mysterious history before he ever encountered the Doctor!

• Squareness gun:

Cool.

Somehow this very same gun, apparently, later ends up in the possession of Dr. River Song. I’d love to know how.

• Speaking of guns: this idea that the Doctor has a special aversion to guns gets a real boost in this episode — he blew up the weapons factories from where Jack got his squareness gun, we learn. But as future episodes will demonstrate, he’s pretty hypocritical about this… and as the classic show often demonstrates, he’s had no hesitation about picking up guns in the past. (I’ll point out those instances in my blogging on the old series.)

• Jack’s gone all Dr. Strangelove:

• Emergency Protocol 417:

I heartily approve of any emergency protocol that calls for alcohol.

• Great quotes — there’s tons of them in this episode:

“I’ve traveled with a lot of people, but you’re settin’ new records for jeopardy-friendly.” –the Doctor to Rose

“I like bananas. Bananas are good.” –the Doctor

“It’s the special features: they really drain the battery.” –Jack, about the squareness gun

“Funny little human brains. How do you get around in those things?” –the Doctor

“When he’s stressed he likes to insult species. Cuts himself shaving, does half an hour on lifeforms he’s cleverer than.” –Rose to Jack

“Who looks at a screwdriver and thinks, This could be a little more sonic?” –Jack

Life is “nature’s way of keepin’ meat fresh.” –the Doctor

“Look at you beaming away like you were Father Christmas.” –Rose to the Doctor
“Who says I’m not: red bicycle when you were 12.” –the Doctor (what?!)

“Funny thing: last time I was sentenced to death, I ordered four hypervodkas for my breakfast. All a bit of a blur after that. Woke up in bed with both my executioners. Lovely couple — they stayed in touch. Can’t say that about most executioners.” –Jack (four hypervodkas? sounds like something Zaphod Beeblebrox would order)

(next: Episode 11: “Boom Town”)


MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
  • MaryAnn, how come we haven’t heard a peep out of you about Torchwood: Children of Earth?

  • Keith

    Somehow this very same gun, apparently, later ends up in the possession of Dr. River Song. I’d love to know how.

    We don’t know how many guns the factory produced before the Doctor turned it into a banana grove. Prof. River Song’s gun obviously came from the same factory (both are from the same time period), but I doubt they are the same gun. Since Jack doesn’t have the gun in subsequent episodes, I’m guessing his was lost when he Jack’s ship blew up.

  • allochthon

    “Who looks at a screwdriver and thinks, This could be a little more sonic?” –Jack

    This is one of my favourite lines from the new series. That, and “I’m soniced up!”

    I too am looking forward to, and dreading, your writeup of “Children of Earth.” Gawd. It reminded me of Battlestar just after the last mid-term break. Brutal.

  • Gee

    “Everybody lives”!

    I thought the Doctor did have hand in the resolution? He had to show the nanogenes what the correct human template should be, otherwise they would’ve carried on with the gas masked versions.

    Love the Zaphod observation! I can hear the big Zee saying all of that speech.

  • MaryAnn

    MaryAnn, how come we haven’t heard a peep out of you about Torchwood: Children of Earth?

    Obviously you’re not following me on Twitter or Facebook.

    I just watched the whole five-hour block last night, and I will start blogging about it episode by episode probably tomorrow.

  • MaryAnn

    Prof. River Song’s gun obviously came from the same factory (both are from the same time period), but I doubt they are the same gun.

    Apparently Stephen Moffat has said it’s the same gun, not just another of its type.

    I thought the Doctor did have hand in the resolution? He had to show the nanogenes what the correct human template should be, otherwise they would’ve carried on with the gas masked versions.

    No, the Doctor “emails the upgrade” to the other affected people, but the nanogenes swarm around Nancy and Jamie on their own. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to the Doctor that they might do such a thing until they actually are doing it.

  • Gee

    Ah, I clearly need to watch it again, and that’s no bad thing!

  • Keith

    The nanogenes figured out how to finish repairing the little boy on their own by sampling the mother’s DNA (though the Doctor could have had some subtle hand in the processes that wasn’t obvious). The Doctor then performed a “software patch” on the nanogenes and “emailed the upgrade” through the swarm so they could revert all the people who had been transformed back into their original selves.

  • JSW

    I don’t remember anything indicating that Jack was older than he looked before escaping from Platform 5.

  • Keith

    Oh, I hadn’t heard that Moffat stated it was the same gun. When did he say that? You’re right, it would be an interesting story to know. My guess is something like this: the Doctor told Jack to leave the gun in the TARDIS, where it stays until sometime in the Doctor’s future, the Doctor gives the gun to River Song knowing she’ll need it in the library.

  • MaryAnn (Mon Jul 13 09, 2:31PM):

    Obviously you’re not following me on Twitter or Facebook.

    Well, no… but don’t take it personally. I don’t ever visit Twitter or Facebook.

  • “…Cuts himself shaving, does half an hour on lifeforms he’s cleverer than.”

    and when did the old series ever refer to the Doctor “shaving”? just another thing that makes him more of a masculine creature…

    when *i* was 19, i certainly did notice men in their 40s! some of them were yummy…

  • Hey, how come the Doctor hasn’t run into Time Agents before? Especially someone like Jack, who runs roughshod over the timelines? Aren’t the Time Agents kinda like Time Lords, policing the timelines? Surely out of professionally courtesy, there would have been some contact between the Agency and Gallifrey, no? Or was the Agency beneath Gallifrey’s notice?

    One of the things about that Time War: it re-wrote time, warped history as they knew it in the Whoverse. Without the Time Lords policing the time streams, who’s to say by the 51st century humanity hasn’t figured out time travel and created their own agency? Point of fact: during the Trial of a Time Lord maxi-series, it was revealed that Earthlings *were* starting to mess with time travel to such an extent that an increasingly corrupt Time Lord Council destroyed the Earth, moved the ashen planet, and tried to hide the event by putting the Doctor on trial to prevent him from solving that puzzle.

    So, with Gallifrey gone and the Time Lords unable to interfere, the revised timeline may well have humanity becoming time travelers (and time guardians) themselves…

  • Gee

    Time agents were mentioned in the old series (The Talons of Weng-Chiang) but I don’t think we ever met any of them.

  • gb

    In Doctor Who Confidential for either Silence in the Library or Forest of the Dead that in his mind, River Song’s squareness gun was the same one that Capt. Jack had. He thought that River Song had taken it from the Tardis where Jack left it after he didn’t return in Parting of the Ways

  • Captain Jack has changed a lot since his first Who episode, hasn’t he? After Children of Earth, I’m starting to think they’re trying to turn him into another Doctor.

  • Lisa

    I agree with Paul W – it’s like those flying things in Father’s Day

    The Time Lords aren’t around to fix that stuff any more

    mind you I wouldn’t let this Jack have a time watch thingie maybe the COE one tho

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