Russell Davies, you magnificent bastard. I told myself I wasn’t gonna cry. I’ve seen these episodes a bunch of times now, I should be over the crying. But I cry every time. Every damn time I cry.
Maybe it’s only those of us who don’t consider Rose our stand-in who think it’s overly dramatic for her to tell us she “died.” She’s still alive, right? Cut off from the Doctor — forever — but she’s still walking around. But: death? Sure, that’s why I’m always a mess by the time the Doctor burns up a sun to say good-bye to Rose. Partly because, you know, no one’s ever burned up a sun for me. But mostly because it’s easy to imagine how empty life would feel after the Doctor. What could ever possibily measure up to being with him? Wouldn’t you feel like an empty husk walking around on autopilot? I mean, I was depressed after coming back from a trip to Paris, for pete’s sake. Coming down from life with the Doctor’s gotta be worse by, you know, astronomical orders of magnitude.
Except… “How long you gonna stay with me?” the Doctor asked Rose. “Forever,” she replies. Except we know — we know — he would have dumped her eventually like he dumped Sarah Jane. Oh, he would have made some excuse, lied to himself, even, to justify the dumping, to make it into something other than him dumping her (like he did with Sarah Jane). But he would have done it. Because he’s selfish, in some ways. He’ll give his all to save a whole planet, but he’s afraid to deal with one person for too long. He can’t even tell Rose he loves her when it’s the last thing he’ll ever say to her. After all the extremes he goes to in order to say good-bye to her — burning up a sun and all — he can’t say it. Even when he thinks she’s saying she’s pregnant — and it’s clear that she mentions “the baby” the way that she does in order to make him believe that she’s the one who’s pregnant, and she’d only say it that way, and he’d only respond in the way he does, if, you know, they were getting up to things that could result in a baby — and he’s apparently not at all freaked out by the idea… he can’t say it.
He’s kind of a self-centered bastard, is what I’m saying, I guess. Not that I can love him any less for it.
I mean, look: Even Jackie can’t help but fall under his spell. (The Doctor disgustedly wiping Jackie’s kisses away has got to be one of the funniest moments of the show, ever.) She’s terrified of him taking her daughter away forever, pushing her into transforming into something her own mother wouldn’t recognize, but she cannot help but find herself intrigued not only by the big weird sphere but by the Doctor’s inability to stop himself from figuring out just what the hell it is. He’s just impossibly magnetic, and you can’t help but get dragged into whatever mess he’s currently in.
I’d like to think, maybe, that by the end of these two episodes, Jackie has reconsidered what she says to Rose: “In forty years time, fifty, there’ll be this woman, this strange woman walking through the marketplace on some planet a billion miles from Earth, but she’s not Rose Tyler, not anymore. She’s not even human.” And not just because Rose has been “saved” from that terrible fate. Everyone changes. Rose will be a different person in fifty years anyway, even if she never sees the Doctor again, even if she never leaves Earth again. She would have been a different person even if she’d never met the Doctor.
Or maybe Jackie will never understand that. She’s got another bit of dialog in these episodes that is, I think, kind of a dividing line between, in the small scale, people like us who get the Doctor, and in the much larger scale, people who get science fiction. The Doctor’s trying to explain to Jackie that the ghosts aren’t “ghosts,” and she’s upset to hear this. “You’re always doing this, reducing it to science,” she says, exasperated, to him. “Why can’t it be real?” As if explaining something scientifically makes it less “real.”
Maybe that’s why I cry at the end of this story. Because the Doctor — and science fiction on the whole — makes it all more real.
Random thoughts on “Army of Ghosts”/“Doomsday”:
• Hey, it’s the Torchwood theme music! Bloody Torchwood…
• The Doctor singing the Ghostbusters theme? Oh man, he is such a geek.
• I love the ghostwatch TV show — the TV montage as the Doctor flips around is hilarious. (The Eastenders clip cracks me up every time; I used to be a huge fan of that show.) But that’s exactly what we’d do with something like a (seemingly) benign alien invasion, isn’t it? We’d turn it into pop culture. Maybe that’s why the Doctor is so keen to stay hidden: he’d end up unable to escape doing endless rounds of talk shows and game shows and ceremonial ribbon cuttings and the like. That’s probably what we’d do with an alien today — or, at least, an alien who looked human and was that cute and all: we’d turn him into a celebrity.
• How come the Daleks have USB ports under their eyestalks?
• Oh, the look on the Doctor’s face when Yvonne tells him he’s a prisoner, but that Torchwood will make him comfortable, and he can work for them, right? Daggers…
• I love how the Daleks and the Cybermen snark at each other: “Daleks have no concept of elegance,” says a Dalek. “This is obvious,” replies a Cyberman. And “This is not war, this is pest control,” says a Dalek to a Cyberman. They’re unemotional robots, and they’re hurling insults at each other. Hilarious.
• “Emergency temporal shift”? I want one of those.
• Rose’s address is: Flat 48, Bucknall House, Powell Estate, London, SE15 7GO.
• I bet the Ark of the Covenant in that Torchwood warehouse. And is that Sutekh’s sarcophagus there next to the TARDIS, or some Goa’uld tech? (If I ever get back to my Doctor Who fan fiction, I’ve got some ideas about how the Stargate program fits in with Torchwood and UNIT…)
• The Doctor here says: “I should say allons-y more often… It would be really brilliant if I met someone named Alonzo, cuz then I could say, ‘Allons-y, Alonzo!’ every time.” It’s not too much a spoiler to reveal that in “Voyage of the Damned,” the Titanic episode that aired in England on Christmas Day and debuts here in the U.S. next Friday night, the Doctor gets his wish. (For the totally a-francophilic, allons-y is French for “let’s go.”)
• Rose is bringing her laundry home? There’s no laundry on the TARDIS?
• The void, the space between universes? It’s like Buckaroo Banzai’s eighth dimension, only worse. (Oh, there’s some more fanfic I must write: the Doctor meets Buckaroo Banzai…)
• The Doctor’s psychic paper fools electronics? Are cardkey locks sentient? Don’t you have to be sentient to be able to be influenced by psychic suggestion?
• Yet more fanfic demanding to be written: “I was there at the fall of Arcadia,” the Doctor says. “Someday I might even come to terms with that.” Oh, honey, come here and let me comfort you…
(next: Season 3, Episode 0: “The Runaway Bride”)