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Love and Monsters

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | TV Reviews | June 3, 2009 | Comments ()


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"One may tolerate a world of demons for the sake of an angel."-- Reinette Poisson

First, a couple of miscellaneous notes on "Doctor Who," series two. If you happened to watch the episodes on the SciFi channel, you might still want to catch the DVDs because European television can be as incompatible with America as those weird European electrical outlets. The "Doctor Who" episodes broadcast in Britain have a runtime of about 45 minutes, whereas American cable generally has a runtime of about 3 to 4 minutes less than that. Ten percent of the episode is an awful lot to get cut, and at times critical scenes are simply dropped (for example, in the finale, a character is about to be killed and is next seen safely elsewhere, the scene of her escape completely excised for time). Also, "Doctor Who" has made a curious habit over the years of running an extra long episode on Christmas Day several months removed from the surrounding series. So after the first series ended in June of 2005, the show picked up again with "The Christmas Invasion" on Christmas Day 2005, but was not seen again until April of 2006. Not that it makes much of a difference if you're watching the DVDs, but knowing random trivia about British television makes you cool. It's like a whole other country over there.

Three years into the original run of "Doctor Who," William Hartnell, the first actor to portray the Doctor, was in declining health leading to difficulties in the show's production. Given that the Doctor was an alien and the show science fiction, the writers had the brilliant idea of killing the Hartnell version of the Doctor and replacing him with a younger actor. Pretty standard soap opera fare at face value, but their genius was in deciding that the change in appearance would be written into the character of the Doctor, that he could die and be reborn with a different appearance. Same memories, slightly different man. That bright idea is almost single handedly responsible for the decades-long run of the original incarnation, because it lent a continuity to the entire show. The series revolved around one character, even if he wore eight different faces over those years.

That idea also allowed Russell T Davies to snare Christopher Eccleston, who had no desire to work in television indefinitely on a show, for a single season to anchor the re-launch of the show. We begin the second series as the first left off, with Rose face to face with a new incarnation of the Doctor, baffled and confused. She has traveled to the ends of space and time with a man who died in her arms and now lives again with a different face. Of course he promptly passes out and remains unconscious for most of the double length television movie that forms the bridge between series one and series two.

David Tennant excels as the Doctor, bringing a wholly different characterization than Christopher Eccleston. He is manic, a geek bouncing off of walls at times, where Eccleston brooded. Rose's uncertainty with this new and old man mirrors the uncertainty of the audience with the new actor, allowing a connection between audience and story. They deliriously gallivant through several episodes, feeling out bit by bit what their relationship is and how much of what had been built still remains.

Some old school "Doctor Who" fans didn't much care for the second series, insisting that the growth of a relationship between Rose and the Doctor violated the integrity of companions not being involved with the Doctor. Love happens, though, and the second series of "Doctor Who" is at its heart a love story, telling not just the story of how Rose and the Doctor fall in love, but various other love stories that intersect with and illuminate the central relationship. There are excellent stand alone science fiction stories in the second series, of course, but they become greater than the sum of their parts when seen as a collection of meditations on the nature of love between the Doctor and Rose.

In "School Reunion" we are introduced (or reintroduced for those who watched the show back in the 70s) to a former companion Sarah Jane Smith, abandoned without a goodbye by the Doctor decades earlier. This is the future Rose fears with the Doctor. In "The Girl in the Fireplace", the Doctor falls in love with the mistress of the King of France in a Time Traveler's Wife sort of story, watching her die of old age while he stays the same. This is the future the Doctor fears with Rose.

"Love and Monsters" takes a different tack, focusing on a normal man whose life was turned upside down by a visit years before by the Doctor, concluding with his finding love with a girl reduced to nothing but a face protruding from a block of pavement. A man in three dimensions loving a girl in two dimensions, the Doctor a man who lives in four dimensions loving a girl in three dimensions. In "The Satan Pit", the Doctor faces the loss of the TARDIS, faces the horror of living in one place and one time, Rose almost pleading with him that it won't be so bad if she's there. She realizes after that she can never stop traveling if she wants to be with him.

Falling in love isn't just about the passion though, it's about people finding the ways that they fit together, filling places that they never thought were empty. The series introduces an alternate universe, just a bit off from our own, but one in which Rose's father never was hit by a car. But Rose herself was never born, her parents wealthy in this world but so distant from each other, her mother a shallow shell of the force of nature she is in Rose's world, where she found strength by needing to raise her daughter alone. In this world, they named the dog "Rose". The Cybermen kill Alternate-Jackie, widowing Rose's father in an inversion of Rose's world. It leaves the empty space that only Jackie can fill, the space that also fills what has been missing for her for 20 years. Mickey finds his place here as well, never comfortable either with or without the Doctor, but this world where his grandmother still lives and there is good he can do feels like home at last.

Rose is given a choice finally as Jackie, Mickey and the man who was her father all leave through the shrinking gap into another world: her family or her love, the foundation or the sky. She chooses to stay with the Doctor and for a few moments they are thick as thieves again, joyous and in love, perfect parts fitting emptiness they never knew was there. It lasts but a moment though before fate grins and the doors slam shut with Rose on the wrong side. The Doctor forces a tiny hole through realities, just enough to send a message, to say goodbye. He burns apart a star in a supernova just to tell her that. She says "I love you," but the wall closes before he can answer.

The lonely god is alone again.

"I've seen fake gods and bad gods and demi gods and would-be gods; out of all that, out of that whole pantheon, if I believe in one thing... just one thing... I believe in her." -- The Doctor

Steven Lloyd Wilson is the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. He is a hopeless romantic who can be found wandering San Diego's strip malls and suburbs looking for his mislaid soul and waiting for the revolution to come. Burning Violin is still published weekly on Wednesdays at www.burningviolin.com, along with assorted fiction and other ramblings.



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