zeborah: Fezzes are cool.  Amy and River blow it up. (cool)
[personal profile] zeborah
Not really. That doesn't happen in real life. (In real life it's a glorious Saturday morning, you've done all your chores and it's only 8:30am, the whole weekend ahead of you, and then you wake up and it's Tuesday and it's raining.) But wouldn't it be cool if it did?

Spoilers for season 8 ep 11, the '3W' episode

To recap, for posterity or for those reading this who haven't watched and don't care about spoilers: Clara's boyfriend dies. She decides to force the Doctor to rewrite history to save his life, and the way she does this is by stealing all the TARDIS keys, getting him to take her to a volcano, and throwing them in one by one until he stops saying "No." He doesn't stop. The last key gets thrown in. She realises what she's done, breaks down, and then he reveals a) she's been in a dream-state since attempting to drug him, and b) he still cares about her even though she's betrayed him so let's go to Hell and do the Orpheus thing.

So. My first reaction to this was that it was an unsatisfactory narrative cheat. I've always felt "it was all just a dream" was an unsatisfactory narrative cheat, even when I won a $10 book voucher for a story with the arguably worse trope: "it was all just a dream... or was it?"

It's a cheat because the author doesn't have to deal with the consequences of what just happened. It's unsatisfactory because I was getting really interested in what was happening and it turns out not to be real.

Second reaction (the dominant one at the time I was writing elsewhere about Missy's sexual assault on the Doctor being played for laughs): how incredibly patronising of him. When he realises something's up he doesn't say "Clara, why are you trying to drug me?" like a grown-up to a grown-up. Instead he lets it play out, like a teacher playing Socrates to a student. "Okay, so what would you do if you drugged me? Okay, so if I said no, what then? So if I kept saying no? What about when you'd destroyed all the keys? Ah, so eventually you'd break down in tears and wish you hadn't done that, I guess now you've learned your lesson."

And following on from this my third reaction: wait a minute, this is actually manipulative and emotionally abusive. Sure, she was stealing his keys and trying to drug him and this is not okay even when grief-stricken. So what you do is you say "Clara, not okay" and you either throw her out of the TARDIS or have an adult conversation about what's going on.

What the Doctor does, though, is turn the drug on her to alter her perception of reality. He retains control and understanding that this is only a dream. Which means that his claim that he wanted to see how it would play out? This isn't a good experiment. If it'd played out in reality, he wouldn't have known it was a dream. He might have made different decisions, which would have changed Clara's.

In fact we know he would have made a different decision. Because almost as soon as we're in reality again, he says "Can't change the past but can go to Hell, let's try that." What if he'd said that in the dreamstate, huh? How would it have played out then?

She only saw the "betrayal" through (I feel that's a strong word for it considering the circumstances, but okay) because he effectively lied to her.

When does he finally tell her the truth? Only after he's satisfied that she's learned her lesson and is feeling sufficiently guilty. And when she calls what she did a betrayal he concurs; "but", he says, he still cares about her. He doesn't actually say "You don't deserve how good I am to you," but he certainly feeds and encourages the idea.

This is indistinguishable from Emotional Abuse 101. And yes, it is perfectly arguable that this wasn't his intent. (So maybe the bonus plausible deniability should make this Emotional Abuse 201.) But the effect on Clara, who's already in an emotionally fragile state, is abusive. And the effect on the viewer, by making her seem selfish and treacherous while lionising the Doctor, is to make us complicit in that emotional abuse. (Yes, I know it's just a story. But stories are how we learn how to make sense of the real world.)


It's just these little things that Moffat throws out there that make it really hard to pay proper attention to the actual story he's trying to tell.

Date: 2014-11-07 12:14 am (UTC)
heliopausa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heliopausa
I haven't seen any Who since the first with Capaldi, and before that none since 'The Girl Who Waited' episode. Moffat has killed the show for me, though not he alone, to be fair. I'm really sorry that Capaldi hasn't been matched by better vision and better writing.
And a thousand times yes to "stories are how we learn how to make sense of the real world".

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