25 May 2013

The Doctor Diaries: Interim

As a late-blooming Whovian, I made an awkward entry into the series by watching Seasons Five, Two, and One—in that order. I had actually tried Season One, but was so turned off by Christopher Eccleston's big ears and funny face, Billie Piper's unclassy accent, and the absurdity of the plots in the first three episodes that I quit watching. It was such awful B-movie scifi. But then, on the advice of several very savvy friends, I randomly jumped into Season Five. I don't know whatever possessed me to skip The One and Only Doctor, David Tennant. But even sweet, silly Matt Smith got me over the goofy stories and into the profound depths of the Steven Moffat stories.

All that to say: I haven't been blogging the Doctor for a while because I went back and watched Season One. And of course, I fell in love and got my heart broken with the rest of you. Yet not journalling about those episodes is no great loss, I think, because of the cyclical nature of the series. Each deep theme gets revisited at some point in the “future” (funny how the very nature of the Doctor messes with the meanings of words like “future”).

This also gives me a chance to blog about another Big Idea the Doctor has given me. I'm calling it Retrospective Linearity.

That's a big name for a fairly basic idea. The idea is that at the end of the whole Doctor Who experience, you could go back and reconstruct human history, in order, from beginning to end, to show how the Doctor created that history. He does not visit historical events in order—that is, in order from his perspective, according to when he encounters them relative to his personal chronology—but the chains of cause-and-effect he puts into motion end up spanning human history.

Here are the historical events and people he has visited, in his order, since the reboot:
1. Charles Dickens
2. World War II, the London Blitz
3. Queen Victoria
4. Madame de Pompadour
5. the coronation of Elizabeth I
6. the 2012 London Olympics (although this was in the future when the Doctor visited)
7. Shakespeare
8. the construction of the Empire State Building
9. 1913, right before the start of World War I
10. HMS Titanic
11. Pompeii, A.D. 79
12. Agatha Christie
13. Winston Churchill
14. 16th century Venice
15. Vincent van Gogh
16. 17th century pirate ship
17. Christmas Eve, 1938
18. Queen Nefertiti
19. American Wild West in the 19th century
20. London, 1892
21. the Cold War
Now let me re-order those to match earth's history: 

1. Queen Nefertiti
2. Pompeii, A.D. 79
3, 16th century Venice
4. Shakespeare
5. 17th century pirate ship
6. Madame de Pompadour
7. Charles Dickens
8. Queen Victoria
9. American Wild West in the 19th century
10. Vincent van Gogh
11. London, 1892
12. HMS Titanic
13. 1913, right before the start of World War I
14. Agatha Christie
15. the construction of the Empire State Building
16. Christmas Eve, 1938
17. World War II, the London Blitz
18. Winston Churchill
19. the coronation of Elizabeth I
20. the Cold War
21.the 2012 London Olympics
This, of course, doesn't include any time the Doctor visited in his first eight regenerations. Here is my point: The show gradually, non-chronologically reveals that the entirety of human history was written by the Doctor. At every moment, he stepped in to save earth, to save the human race.

At least, that's what I think the show could do, or should do, over time, as it layers more and more historical visits on top of one another. You'll notice that in 7 seasons, well over 70 episodes, he has only visited 21 times in the past—all the rest have been in the future. If they play it right, they could reveal how history was, at every moment, about to be different—disastrous—ending! —but the Doctor stepped in and made it what it now has been. And Steven Moffat & Co. are perfectly capable of constructing this elaborate historical revisionism.

So, I rather hope that's part of their grand scheme. We'll see.


Marcus Goodyear said...

At our house, The Doctor has become something of an obsession, and I appreciate your smart take on it.

For the record, my kids favor the future, especially anything with Daleks.

Iambic Admonit said...

Thanks, Marcus! I'm having tons of fun writing these, and it's nice to know you're reading.