24 March 2013

The Doctor Diaries II.12-13a

"Army of Ghosts" and "Doomsday"

Sigh. Amazing. Perfect.  

That's one heck of a narrative frame! It's not every day you get a work narrated by someone dead. I can think of The Lovely Bones, The Sixth Sense, Pincher Martin, and ... that's all that comes to mind. What other stories have you encountered that are narrated by a dead person?

But, oh, my heart! This separation story is, of course, horribly heartbreaking, beautiful, tragic, and perfect. I hate a story like that. Stories of lovers divided, or mothers and children divided, are the most painful to read or to watch, I think. I'll never recover from the horror of the scene in The Duchess when her baby is taken away, for instance, or from the end of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. Which leads me to the literary discussion I want to have today about Season Two overall:

Which came first, Doctor Who or all the other fantasy stories it resembles? 

In other words, who's ripping off whom?

You see, there are several plot elements throughout this series that I have encountered before, in the same or nearly the same form. So I got to thinking: were the writers of Doctor Who inspired by C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman -- or vice-versa -- or were all of them inspired by Classical antecedents -- or are there certain archetypes within fantasy that are inevitably explored over and over again -- or are these just the fundamental questions and images of the human mind, so they are going to come up over and over whenever imaginative writers are given rein? 

Here are the two particular plot elements I want to talk about: 
1. It's bigger on the inside than on the outside. 
2. Lovers divided by a wall between parallel universes. 

I'll talk about #1 in this post and #2 tomorrow. 

1. It's bigger on the inside than on the outside. 

This concept, of course, occurs throughout Doctor Who, since the TARDIS is most notably bigger on the inside than she is on the outside. In C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, of course, there is a small compartment (a wardrobe) that is bigger on the inside than on the outside. Indeed, this idea becomes a theme throughout Lewis's Narnia stories, culminating in the last book, in which Queen Lucy points out that “In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.” This is a beautifully Whovian idea: a little material object contains something bigger than itself, bigger than its entire universe! Gorgeous. What's even more gorgeous is that this is not only fantasy, it's DOCTRINE! Whew.

So, then, who inspired whom? Well, I am determined that this little diary project of mine won't turn into "research" (goodness knows I have enough *real* scholarly research projects going on). Therefore, everything here is readily googleable and wikipediafied. Feel free to modify, correct, supplement, etc.

C.S. Lewis began thinking about the Narnia stories in 1939, completed the MS of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe in 1949, and published on 16 October 1950. The Last Battle was published in 1956. 

Doctor Who first aired on 23 November 1963. Do I think the writers probably read Narnia? Yeah, I do. Do I have any proof? Nope. However... there are classical antecedents to this concept, which probably inspired both of these series. Here are a few: 
- the Slavic witch Baba Yaga has a tiny hut that is a great hall inside.
- there is a tent in A Thousand and one Nights that's bigger on the inside.
- In Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, an immense appears behind the door of an ordinary Soviet apartment--but I doubt that either of our writers had this in mind, given this books' complicated publication history.

Does anyone know if there are other, more Classic[al] instances? I'm trying to recall any in Milton, or Dante, or the Greeks? Are there any such? 

(Side note: There's a Doctor Who episode entitled "The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe", but I haven't seen it yet).

Tune in tomorrow for how the ending of Season Two parallels the ending of The Amber Spyglass.

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