Jul. 11th, 2017

cjlasky7: (Default)
This is a long-winded response to a number of shadowkat67's recent posts that sort of revolve around the same topic. But I guess it starts off with Doctor Who, and a central question that has never received a formal answer: why does he travel all over the multiverse? What is he running from, anyway?

If you listen to the Doctor talk about his home world of Gallifrey, you wonder why anyone would ever leave. "The most civilized civilization in the universe," he called it, with traditions dating back over a billion years.

But the Doctor's relationship with Gallifrey and his fellow Time Lords has always been ambiguous, if not downright contentious. In fact, the very first action taken by the Time Lords in the series was to "execute" the Second Doctor for interfering with lesser races and exile the Third Doctor on Earth. From that alone, you can see why the Doctor is rarely homesick--but the discontent goes deeper. When the Fourth Doctor was summoned home in "The Deadly Assassin" (are there non-deadly assassins?), we finally saw Time Lord society up close: majestic, awe-inspiring--and deeply corrupt, stagnant, and a death trap for a free spirit like the Doctor (even when everybody on the planet wasn't trying to kill him).

It seems that the Doctor and his brethren have a fundamental difference in philosophy: the Time Lords are detached, remote, coolly observing the universe from their Panopticon, beyond caring about the minor squabbles of lesser species; meanwhile, the Doctor defends and protects life anywhere in the universe, believing that in an uncaring universe, acts of kindness are absolutely essential.

But it's not quite that simple. The Doctor may see himself as a rebel, but he still calls himself a Time Lord, and he draws power from his world's traditions and technology. He still has a touch of the arrogance and the superiority complex of his society, and many times during the series, the consequences of that arrogance have been catastrophic.

He may be a freethinking citizen of the universe, but there's still a whiff of Imperial Rome about the Doctor, a touch of the Great British Empire that he can't shake off. He's still the godlike being who descends from the Spheres to save the little people, a chosen role that (he knows) is both a mission statement and an ethical trap.


There is always something reassuring about a mythical quest. The idea of being anointed by a higher power (whatever power you believe in) to set things right, with no doubts in your mind about the morality of your mission. But in the Modern Age, it's getting harder and harder to believe in the purity of the mythical quest; there are too many doubts about the source of the inspiration, too many questions about the consequences of the knight-errand's actions.

That's the problem a lot of people had with ANGEL. On the one hand, ANGEL was supposed to be a dark and gritty noir detective series set in a supernaturally-haunted L.A., where there was a thin line between the living and the dead, human and demon, good and evil. But on the other hand, Angel himself was supposedly the chosen paladin of the nebulous Powers That Be, a heaven-sent champion who had a big, fat reward coming if he did good.

The two aspects of the series actively contradicted each other for the first few seasons (to the point where "champion" became a curse word in certain fan circles); and even after David Greenwalt left, I don't think Joss Whedon and his crew completely got out from under the conceptual damage the PTB did to the series.


It would be easy to say that the Doctor has a Messiah Complex, but that's too simplistic. He never sticks around for the hero worship and the applause, and he's acutely aware of what happens when he lets power go to his head, however righteous the cause.

But not sticking around has a downside too. He never really becomes part of the lives of the people he saves and befriends, and that leads to the dangers of emotional detachment. It seems to be an endlessly repeating cycle, and it won't be broken until the Doctor either runs out of regenerations or finally decides to come home....


cjlasky7: (Default)

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