Mar. 28th, 2018

purplecat: Twelfth Doctor and the number 12 (Who:Twelve)
I can't believe Twice Upon a Time has only just risen to the top of my "episodes to be blogged about" list. That's partly a reflection of just how horrifically busy I was in November and December but I feel vaguely that almost anything one might want to say about the story has been said and said recently. However, one might as well give it a go.

I am interested by [livejournal.com profile] daniel_saunders' and my very different interpretations of the presentation of the first Doctor here. I think we largely agree on the facts. The first Doctor was never as profoundly and straightforwardly prejudiced as portrayed here (and the line about the "spanked bottom" even though it would never be said in the show today, was not originally said in a context that was quite as outrageous as in Twice Upon a Time made it appear), however the show was a product of its time and baked in a lot of implicit assumptions from the time even when those assumptions are rarely made overt. Barbara Wright, for instance, is arguably one of the strongest female companions the show has ever portrayed. In the show, neither the Doctor nor Ian ever suggest she should clean the Tardis however, assuming the Tardis isn't magically self-cleaning (which is a distinct possibility) and given she is clearly a well-integrated 1960s woman, anyone who thinks she wasn't going around cleaning after them all is probably kidding themselves - part of the insidiousness of this kind of inequality is that no one will have needed ever to mention that she should do the cleaning because she would have already taken it upon herself to do it without being asked. Moreover the first Doctor (often together with the male companion) was often distinctly paternalistic and protective - there is quite a bit of not telling the women things that may alarm them in the 1960s show. So while the first Doctor's tenure is not outrageously prejudiced, and is even forward thinking in many ways, it is still a slice of 1960s television and it isn't unreasonable to point out that that includes a number of assumptions now considered prejudiced.

I think it is fair to say that you can chose to read the First Doctor either as someone who largely agrees with the prejudices of 1960s Britain or who is oblivious to/chooses to ignore most of them and thus enables them without necessarily supporting them.

The baked in assumptions of the era seem, I suspect, more obvious to modern eyes and make it easy for the casual viewer to confuse implicit prejudice with more explicit expression of it - and I think it does behoove fans to remember that while this kind of nostalgia fest is made with us in mind, the production team's focus will be on the wider folk memory of 1960s Doctor Who rather than an accurate depiction of the era. In Twice Upon a Time Moffat chose to make the implicit very explicit. I think where Daniel and I diverge is that Daniel reads this depicition of explicit prejudice as a damming (and thus deeply unfair) indictment of the character of First Doctor and everyone involved in the production of Doctor Who at the time. In contrast, I read it as an attempt to depict how someone (particularly someone steeped in the mores of fifty years ago) can still be a fundamentally good person while epousing these sorts of views. Now I'm sure that reading is in part influenced by Tame Layperson's reaction - he identified this depiction of the First Doctor very strongly with his father and I think identified the Twelfth Doctor's reactions very much with his own. So it seems to me to be a useful examination and re-framing of call-out culture, the modern tendency to damn someone for a single ill-considered opinion, and I thought it trod the line well between condemning the opinion, making it clear that such opinions should not be ignored but at the same time acknowledging that the person expressing the opinion is not only not evil, but may in fact be a hero. In fact the First Doctor's obvious doubts about the path he might be upon and about the extent to which he could make a difference, which in many ways were far more substantive than some unfortunate assumptions about whose job it was to do the dusting helped, I thought, to balance out the critique - we may condemn the opinions of previous decades but they may in turn condemn the road we are treading and do so in a way that looks at a bigger picture than a single line of dialogue. Mileage may vary. There was a lot of weeping in our household and not all of it was directly related to events on screen.

Apart from all that though...

I was disappointed it wasn't really Bill, despite the character's arguments to the contrary. I can see why in a story that was so much about nostalgia, memory and our relationship to the past it made sense to have the memory of Bill but I still wanted it to really be her and to reassure the Doctor that she was fine and off having awesome adventures somewhere.

I'd have liked to see more Ben and Polly and maybe a bit less Dalek city, and probably a lot less of the Doctor's final monologue (which is a shame, Capaldi is generally excellent when given speeches but this one felt like it went on a bit too long). DWM did a whole thing beforehand about the new Ben and Polly which meant I expected to see a lot more than about 5 seconds of them. Mind you, if I'd seen more of them I'd have been annoyed that Ben's hairstyle was wrong, despite the much hyped veracity of the costumes.

I am frankly amazed they managed to present the Christmas Truce of 1914 in a way that was neither insulting to those involved nor overly mawkish. Again I suspect mileage may vary strongly here (especially over how mawkish it was or wasn't).

I thought Jodie Whittaker was brilliant, or at least as brilliant as one can be when one only has one line of dialogue to be brilliant in.

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