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28 March 2018 @ 04:57 pm
Twice Upon a Time  
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 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.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/492627.html.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on March 28th, 2018 09:13 pm (UTC)
You make some valid points, especially about call out culture (which I also feel uncomfortable with in some ways) but I still feel uncomfortable with this, albeit that I haven't watched it since transmission, mainly because I'm not sure that it was really questioning the twelfth Doctor in the same way as the first. Tbh, the modern Doctors do all annoy me sometimes when they go all portentous and Time Lord victorious. Though it is true that I probably don't watch classic Who the same way most of the audience do (whether they are old enough to remember it or not).

I thought the truce was mawkish, but I'm resistant to Christmas spirit, never having celebrated it.

Was Bill fine? I got confused. When the Doctor asked her where Heather was, part of me wondered if it was being suggested that the end of The Doctor Falls was being retconned as a death-bed hallucination (like the end of Brazil). But I couldn't quite see Moffat suggesting that and wondered if it was just distinguishing Testimony-Bill from our Bill. So, confused.

EDIT: oh, and thanks for the shout out!

Edited at 2018-03-28 09:14 pm (UTC)
louisedennis: Who:Billlouisedennis on March 29th, 2018 08:54 am (UTC)
I think the show is often a bit mealy-mouthed about offering genuine criticism of the incumbent Doctor (which, in general I approve of, I don't want this to be a show about an anti-hero) so I agree, the First Doctor's concerns about the Twelfth are not really foregrounded and the conclusion basically is that he comes to see the Twelfth as a force for good (so largely that he concludes his concerns to be ill-founded) but I do think Moffat was aiming for the idea that both Doctors have concerns about the other.

I think Bill is fine. I think Moffat doesn't want the Doctor to think so (for whatever reason) or possibly that he just doesn't know what to write for water-person Bill. I think we're not given any good reason for why Testimony Bill can't remember anything, but I think Bill is fine in part because Moffat hates actually killing off characters and in part because I'm pretty sure he wanted to avoid the dead Lesbian trope
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on April 1st, 2018 08:32 pm (UTC)
You may be right. I suspect that part of my feeling was what londonkds said on your mirror site about the first Doctor lacking the humour and whimsicality of Hartnell and expressing that badly, although I do still feel that the first Doctor isn't portrayed particularly well. I think the first is probably the most misunderstood Doctor, even more than the sixth, probably because lots of people avoid the Hartnell era except for the first episode and the first two Dalek stories.
louisedennis: Who:Onelouisedennis on April 2nd, 2018 07:09 pm (UTC)
I agree it is a shame that the humour got lost.