28 February 2013

The Doctor Diaries II.1: "The New Earth"

Fear and Love

This episode is mostly just wildly fun. I mean, who doesn't want to watch David Tennant's body get possessed by a sexy female's psyche? I only wish that scene were 20 minutes long. Do you remember the original Star Trek episode "Turnabout Intruder" in which something much the same happens to Kirk? Anyway, the real fun of those episodes is watching an extremely talented male actor play the part of a woman. Kirk did it mostly by crossing his legs and filing his nails, as I recall, which was pretty amusing. Tennant's brief stint as Cassandra consists primarily of self-observation, with predictably hilarious results.

But anyway, is there anything serious to be said about this episode? I think so. There are two serious themes I want to point out.

The first is one I mentioned in the previous post: bringing our fears to life. This one is packed with things that just get deep into primal fears: disfiguring disease, slow death locked in a tiny cell alone, the zombie-like pursuit of half-humans. Each of these is melodramatic in the show, but is based on a real fear. Disease is a hideous, real enemy. There are diseases that destroy the body; worse are those that destroy the mind. These diseases can reduce their victims to something as terrifying, and terrified, as the "flesh" in this episode. Claustrophobia is a real fear, too, as is the terror of dying alone. Although each of these fears is quickly passed over in favor of action and humor, there are serious moments. Most notable is Cassandra's brief attack of conscience: after she visits the mind of one of the clones, she is stunned by the loneliness and emptiness she felt there: "They have never been touched."

This leads to the other serious theme: the particular twist on The-Battle-of-Good-vs-Evil that The Doctor personifies. His kind of goodness is embodied in his two hearts: he is, in fact, a man of double kindness, double love. Time and time again he is willing to exchange himself to save others. He finds the giving of love and kindness to be exhilarating adventures, thrilling, joyful opportunities. I don't think I will forget the expression of delight on Tennant's face as The Doctor pours medicines into a solution, then invites all the zombies to come bathe in it and be cured. His eyes and smile at that moment are more the rain of love than that magical shower-bath. As the zombies wash their illnesses away, then touch each other with the hiss of healing steam, he just stands rapt by the goodness spreading from himself outward, through the suffering crowd. As they are cured, he goes about hugging and touching them in a beautiful representation of Christ's healing love.

So, in the midst of silly aliens and sci-fi goofiness, I found inspiration and a challenge. Good stuff. 

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