The Doctor’s Companion Ep. 181 – Bridging the Gap

doctorscompanionrssThe 50th Anniversary is here and Scott and Matt are celebrating with the Matt Smith Anniversary Special “The Day of the Doctor”. The Eleventh Doctor is shown a painting of Gallifrey’s fall in the last day of the Time War that can’t exist, while The Tenth Doctor tries to stop a Zygon invasion that involves Queen Elizabeth I, while The War Doctor contemplates the simultaneous destruction of the Daleks and Gallifrey. Can these three Doctors join forces to save Gallifrey? Or will the work together to destroy their home planet once and for all? All of this and so much more in the latest episode of The Doctor’s Companion! And remember, BEWARE OF SPOILERS!!

Plus! The Big Finish Audio 50th Anniversary Special “The Light at the End”!!

Also! The Peter Davision written and directed short film “The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot”!!

Next: Matt Smith and “The Time of the Doctor”!!

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19 thoughts on “The Doctor’s Companion Ep. 181 – Bridging the Gap

  1. I’m glad you guys enjoyed this episode. For me it was pretty much the last straw. I just don’t find the retcon as funny as you do. I’m tired of all flash and no substance. I’m tired of huge traumatic events and waved off consequences. I’m tired of he casual misogyny Moffat just can’t seem to help. This was the one thing Moffat should have not been allowed to change because by doing it that’s it. No more stakes. What matters? Really? What does “everybody lives!” matter when no one can ever fucking die? How can the Doctor find a way around a genocide but can’t go get Amy and Rory…because??? Ugggh. At this point I’m just venting so I’ll also throw out what was the point of John Hurt? Why not through 8 fans a bone and give that plot to him? Siiiigh. Moffat’s vision just isn’t what I signed up for. I can’t bring myself to care anymore because why? If things get too deep he’ll just undo it. I used to love this show so much. Maybe I’d be less sad if I’d seen any of Classic Who but I haven’t and now I’m just burnt out.

    • See, I get your frustration. Unfortunately, I can’t agree that it was all flash and no substance. Yes, it’s flashy (as Moffat stories all are), but it really is the story about self-examination and reflection of past choices and how those choices shape us and will shape us. Hurt is reflection on his future while Smith is reflecting on his past.

      And the retcon works for me because it doesn’t actively retcon any story we’ve seen. Yes the Time Lords ALWAYS survived the Time War, but the emotional impact of seemingly murdering them has a lasting resonance on the 9th and 10th Doctors because he lives under the presumptions that he did the deed. As for the 11th, it holds with him until this story, and once he has this he can move on and live on with his past.

      I don’t disagree that it is a bit of a cop out. A Doctor who is post-red-button-genocide decision is vastly more interesting to me than one who hasn’t gone through that. And retconning that out is an easy way of moving on from a decision that Moffat long ago decided The Doctor should move on from. But it is what it is.

      And everybody lives is definitely too far. It makes me want Moffat to get a bit of a spine. When was the last time he killed characters? “Time of Angels?” I’d hardly count The Snowmen because that was merely a projection of Clara rather than actual Clara. There is a distinct lack of stakes without meaningful loss (they’ve killed Strax how many times now?), but I didn’t feel that with this because this isn’t that story.

      I can’t say I saw the misogyny in this one though….

      • The scientist girl weeping over and over for the Doctor to save her? Taking a badass historical figure like queen Elizabeth and reducing her to just a jilted bride? A woman who famously chose never to marry. Plus there were the constant attacks on her appearence that yeah they were meant to be funny but they weren’t exactly necessary. I probably should have typed sexist instead of misogynist but I’m just so fucking tired that intentional or not Moffat can’t go through one episode without including shit like this. You and Scott are both men so I know you can only be so sensitive.

        • And this just isn’t going to be as personal to you but it’s not enough that Moffat can’t write women well. Hevas no desire to get better at it and I’ve got no dedire to tolerate it anymore.

        • Oh and when I said that thing about all flash and no substance I was speaking more about my impression of the Moffat era as a whole. I agree that this episode was pretty substantial as far as his plots tend to go.

        • I felt uncomfortable with Queen Elizabeth’s portrayal, as well. To me, it was the weakest part of the episode. She was portrayed as such a fawning twit, I was embarrassed, frankly. When she made the comment about being a weak woman, I literally shivered with disgust.

          Phenomenologically, I remember exactly what I was thinking as the initial scene unfolded. I remember being deeply unsettled at how Queen Elizabeth was being represented, and thinking it was sexist. Then there was the scene where the Doctor starts berating her saying “The real Queen Elizabeth would never act this way,” etc., and then I thought, “Wow, I’d been fooled! I was tricked by Moffat into thinking the representation of Elizabeth was sexist (perhaps as an in-joke, because maybe Moffat is aware of feminist critiques of his works), whereas in fact it was really a Zygon! Brilliant! I love this show!! But then there is the gag where it was the horse instead, and then I was immediately disappointed once again that, yes, in fact, the representation had been sexist.

          That said, I still really really liked the episode. I thought it’s message (“It is better to fail at doing what is right, than succeeding at doing something that is wrong”) really encapsulates what is unique about the Doctor as a character. It is a utopian and anti-realpolitik sentiment, but we need utopian and idealist, frankly, more than f***in’ ever.

          • IIRC the “body of a weak and feeble woman” line is a direct quote from Elizabeth I’s actual writings, and is meant to be seen ironically since she’s an ass-kicking queen despite the common belief of her time. It’s not something Moffatt inserted because that’s what he thinks of women.

            Also, as the boys pointed out in the podcast, Davies set up the entire “Ten married and/or deflowered Elizabeth I and really pissed her off” thing; Moffatt was just paying it off finally. Of course, the precise portrayal of Elizabeth in the special is on him. It’s true that, like many historical characters who pop up in Who, she’s sort of shallow, what with always talking about making war and beheading folks. On the other hand, she fools the Zygons and the heroes and is instrumental in uncovering the Zygon plan.

  2. I’m new to the Big Finish audios (starting with the 8th Doctor and loving them). How long do you think it will be before they do War Doctor audio dramas, because I need those badly. From Night of the Doctor we know that he regenerated at a young(er) age, maybe between 25-35, so there’s a lot of years of adventures to be told.

    • My concern about War Doctor audios is that all of his adventures take place during The Time War, and that’s something that Big Finish have more or less said they don’t want to do because whatever they do will inevitably end up being disappointing as the Time War is always better in their head.

      Given that Night of The Doctor establishes that the 8th Doctor regenerates that he might get involved with the war that makes it problematic for telling stories with him. Much as I’m not opposed to seeing more of him (because he was quite a good Doctor) I am a bit wary of it.

      As to answer you question properly: I’ve no idea. The BBC have yet to give Big Finish the rights to tell stories with any of the New Doctors. So not until they get at least the rights to Eccleston and Tennant I think, and who knows when that’ll be?

  3. 50th spoilers below. Beware.

    I’m curious what ya’ll make of this particular point: I’ve heard and read a number of folks out there on the interwebs state that the 50th anniversary story retconned the narrative such that the Doctor NEVER committed genocide. Meaning, it never happened in the first place, and we therefore need to go back to those earlier stories under the assumption that the Doctor was always mistaken about committing genocide. However, wouldn’t it be more correct to state that the Doctor DID commit genocide, regretted that decision, and then went back and stopped himself from doing it?

    To restate the question: Did he do it, then undo it?0 Or, did he never do it in the first place?

    If it is the former, then certainly many things would have changed in history, and the implications would be massive. If it were the latter, then nothing would be changed. Except I don’t see how the latter makes sense, because if he never did it in the first place then how could he ever have felt guilt about it?

    So, in your head canon, did he do it or never do it?

    • I think the statement the episode makes is that The Doctor never committed genocide.

      Whenever Moffat writes time travel, he always writes what I call “closed loop” time travel, or at least, the kind that aruges that time is immutable. In layman’s terms, this is Prisoner of Azkaban time travel. Harry is able to save himself from the Dementors because he was always there to conjure the Patronus and survive. This version of time travel completely falls apart when you realize that the cause (Harry surviving the Dementor attack) is entirely dependent on the effect (Harry casting the Patronus). How could Harry have been around to cast the Patronus if there was one timeline in which he wasn’t around to do it because he hadn’t done it yet?

      To use a Moffat Doctor Who example: Blink. In which The Doctor is able to save Sally Sparrow and defeat the Weeping Angels because Sally Sparrow gave him the binder document telling him all the intimate details of how he did it. But how could he have know the first time if he didn’t have the binder or known what to do in the first place?

      For open ended time travel, see Back To the Future. In which time is changeable and affectable. Marty can go back in time, change his parents, and turn them into better people and create a better life for himself in the future by changing the past. This is the time travel that causes alternate timelines and shifts to actual events.

      Moffat rarely plays with this version of time travel. The only time he REALLY has is Christmas Carol and Wedding of River Song. One is a great use of open-ended, transmutable time, the other is a nightmare and involves a bullshit marriage.

      So knowing that Mofffat only plays in causal loops, it makes sense that he’s writing something that is a causal loop. What happened here is a thing that has always happened. So The 10th and 11th Doctors ALWAYS were there when John Hurt was going to press the red button. But as The 10th Doctor says at the end of the episode, he won’t remember any of these events and will continue on as he always has because he’s crossing his own time stream, their timelines are out of sync, and new memories are unable to form.

      Which explains why The Doctor always thought up until Day of the Doctor that he had committed genocide against the Time Lords. Because if you look at John Hurt’s timeline, he sets The Moment down in that hut, he has a conversation with it, and the next thing he knows he’s standing in his TARDIS and regenerating with the idea that he’s done it.

      This means that the 9th and 10th Doctors go through their lives believing that they were responsible for the deaths that day.

      So that means the guilt he feels is real and palpable, because as far as the 9th, 10th, and 11th Doctors know they DID kill The Time Lords and the Daleks and that weighs on his conscience. Now the 11th Doctor gets to move on with his life, secure in the knowledge that it never happened and things are okay.

      This works for me because ti makes the emotion real, even the bit about how the 11th Doctor is “The one who forgets”. Because he’s done this adventure before as the 10th Doctor and experienced it all firsthand. Some of that out of sync doesn’t lay and my guess is the memory slips into his subconscious and it helps him deal with the loss in a way that’s more subconsciously healthy.

      • I see what you are saying about the closed loop vs open loop versions of time travel. Sometimes when I want to discuss the two, I use the examples of Terminator [closed loop] and Terminator 2 [open loop].

        Side note: Perhaps the best/most horrifying closed loop time travel film I’ve ever seen is Nacho Vigalondo’s Los Cronocrímenes (aka Timecrimes). Other good ones are Shane Carruth’s Primer and Christopher Smith’s Triangle.

        There is something disturbingly mousetrap-y about closed loop versions of time travel. In these narratives, we are trapped in a Rube Goldberg spacetime machine, with no free will, no ability to alter anything.

        If one thinks of time as a closed loop, then we have to say that humanity truly never develops the ability to travel in time, because otherwise there would be people from the future here right now. And since there aren’t, we know that we never develop that capability.

        I thought what was kinda interesting about the Doctor Who universe was that it was composed of both open loops and closed loops, parts that are open and mutable, and parts that are closed and fixed.

        As for the Doctor’s relationship with the Time War and the genocide, and whether 1) he did it, then undid it, or 2) he never did it in the first place, I think perhaps it isn’t entirely clear. I suppose it depends on whether the Time War was time-locked or not. I thought at one point he’d said it was, but I don’t recall. It makes more sense in my brain to say he did it and then undid it, but I can certainly see the argument saying he never did it in the first place. Bu then again, For instance, how can he have counted the dead children if there were never any dead children to count? But never having done it in the first place is certainly more Doctor-ly.

        I suppose this will be something that Whomos can continue to debate and discuss late into the night until the end of time, kinda like how the Clara-in-the-Doctor’s-time-stream thing works. I’m dying for even one example (for instance, a Past Doctor Adventure novel) where Clara helps the Doctor without him noticing her, and without her knowing who he is. We have the examples of how versions of her helped Matt Smith’s Doctor, but, of course, he did notice her. It is harder to imagine how she helped the Doctor’s before that without them noticing. It is even harder to imagine her fighting the Great Intelligence without knowing who the Great Intelligence is, or the Great Intelligence fighting the Doctor without knowing who the Doctor is, or protecting the Doctor (who she doesn’t know) against the Great Intelligence (who she doesn’t know).

        By the way, out of curiosity, have you guys ever decided to change your minds about never reading any of the Doctor Who Virgin New Adventure novels? Or the BBC’s Eighth Doctor Adventure novels? Or the Past Doctor novels? There is some great stuff out there. I’d be particularly interested in what you guys think of the Faction Paradox time war stuff. I think Davies at one point semi-canonized the Faction Paradox time war by stating in an interview that, or him, the Faction Paradox time war is kinda like Gallifrey’s WWI, whereas his time war is kinda like WWII. I always thought the Faction Paradox time war was more creative and interesting, and less linear and binary than Davies’s time war.

      • Closed-loop time travel is actually more consistent than the other kind. You just have to remember that with time travel, there is no need for effect to follow cause in sequence. There *was no* “first time” in which Harry wasn’t there to cast the Patronus or the Doctor didn’t have Sally’s binder. The person or information *traveled into the past*. If you can travel in time, you don’t have to wait for things to happen “the first time” in order to affect them.

        It’s actually the other kind of time travel that gives rise to paradoxes. To use Alan’s examples, in Terminator the loop works out perfectly. In Terminator II they break the loop, yet the first half still happens somehow. It’s even weirder to have John Connor saved by a T-800 in his childhood if he and that T-800 then go on to make sure there are never any Terminators. (Of course, they went back on that in later movies, but the point is that closed-loop is consistent, open-loop is not.)

  4. Spoilers for the Five(ish) Doctors

    On a lighter note, how wonderful was the Peter Davison et. al. ‘documentary’ on the 50th special? I laughed all the way through. It took me a few seconds at the beginning, but once I recognised Sean Pertwee there was no looking back.

    How amazing was the cast list? I can’t believe they got Peter Jackson and Ian McKellan (as Gandalf!), in it. They must be huge fans. And quite frankly McKellan was right about the scene being better without McCoy!

    Glad to see Moffat can take a joke too.

    I think my favourite scene was Colin Baker locking his family in the house to watch the special edition, was it Vengeance on Varos? I think I would be climbing out the window too.

    Any word if this is being released? Would make a great extra for the Day of the Doctor blu-ray.

  5. Wikipedia is calling the Christmas special The Time of the Doctor.
    Given the Silence and it is Christmas, why not Silent Night?

  6. I enjoyed the episode. But I do understand tiffani annoyance with the sexism. I really wish moffett would reach out to the torchwood cast. Thats the one thing I loved of davies who there was a chance for crossover between shows and cast. The doctor could be on torchwood or captain jack on doctor who or episodes of who being before or after torchwood episodes from a canon/timeline standpoint.

    I know matt really hates river song but I still want to see her and jack back on the show. Even its for one episode with the 12th doctor saying that this is her doctor.

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