Friday, September 19, 2014

Timeless: A Doctor Who Short Story

At the beginning of the summer I ran across an intriguing article online: a call for submissions for a Doctor Who short story collection called The Temporal Logbook. Out of the submissions, one story would be chosen for each Doctor (that is, Doctors 1 through 11) and published in a collection whose funds would go to charity. 

Well, as you can imagine, I jumped at the chance, because a) Doctor Who, b) writing stories, and c) it was for a good cause! How could I resist? So, I sent in my entry in late May/early June and waited for the results.

Well, I just received an email from the Logbook staff last night: "While we thoroughly enjoyed your story and were impressed with how well it was written...unfortunately [it] wasn't chosen as the representative of this era and we won't be proceeding further with it at this time."

Obviously I'm a bit disappointed. Still, I did make it into the top five finalists in the Tenth Doctor category (my story was about the Tenth Doctor and Rose, my favorite Doctor and companion) and I still think it was a pretty good story. If I was ever to write an episode for Doctor Who (which, frankly, would be a dream come true), this is what it would look like. 

So, without further ado, here is my story, "Timeless":

The Doctor lay on his back under the TARDIS console, white Converse sticking out from underneath the machine, the sonic screwdriver buzzing as he tinkered. Every now and then he glanced over at Rose, who sat a few feet away on the step, concentrating intensely on the book in her hands. He smiled to himself and then returned to his work, muttering interjections under his breath as he struggled with his repairs. After a while, though, he realized that not all the frustrated muttering was coming from him.
            He looked over at Rose just in time to see her toss the book to the floor with an aggravated sigh. Intrigued, he slid out from underneath the console and sat down next to her. Flipping the edges of the book that lay between them, he grinned suddenly. “Reading some of the books I recommended?”
            Rose shook her head in defeat. “Trying to. You know I told you I was never great at reading. I think school just sucked all the fun out of it.”
            “Yeah, but they made you read all the boring books!” the Doctor exclaimed, snatching up the volume from the floor as he sprang to the other side of the console, where a huge wooden chest carved with Gallifreyan symbols lay open, filled to the brim with books, some Earth-origin, most not. “These are the books with real adventure!” He started digging through the chest, holding books aloft as he named them. “The Lord of the Rings!” he crowed, holding up a worn copy of The Two Towers.
            “I tried it. You didn’t tell me those books are nearly four hundred pages long,” Rose said, getting to her feet and crossing her arms. “Who in their right mind writes something four hundred pages long? Let alone reads it!” 
            “The Chronicles of Narnia!” the Doctor cried.
            “I’ve read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” Rose said. “You know those books are for children?”
            “Never underestimate the power of a good children’s book!” the Doctor said, “They’re better than adults at most things, but especially at appreciating good stories.”
            He flicked the book Rose had been reading around in his hand so he could see the cover, and looked up at her with a wide grin. “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum. You know, I would love to meet that man.”
            “I’ve already seen the film, though,” Rose said. “Why do I need to read the book?”
            “Oh, Rose,” said the Doctor, with a twinkle in his eye, “the book is a hundred times madder. And when something that mad and ridiculous stands the test of time, you know it’s something wonderful.”
            “Mad and ridiculous and wonderful,” Rose mused, letting her gaze wander around the TARDIS. It lingered on its walls and beams and heights before returning to rest on the Doctor. “Just like you and the TARDIS.”
            The Doctor eyed her with a cheeky grin, slipping his thumbs into his jacket lapels. “I am pretty wonderful.”
            Rose smacked him playfully on the arm, and then craned her neck around to look at the base of the console. “What are you working on, then?”
            The Doctor’s eyes lit up. “Well, you know how we can never, ever cross into parallel worlds?”
            He held the sonic screwdriver aloft in triumph. “Now we can! Well, we could. We should be able to. Probably.” A sinister crash came from inside the console. The Doctor paused, then dashed underneath the machine, the sonic buzzing as he tried to locate the source of the crash. “No, no, no, no! Come on!” His left hand reached down and scrabbled for the small hammer that lay at least a foot out of his reach. Rose pushed the hammer into his grip, and twisted her neck to see up into the console as the Doctor began performing some percussive maintenance.
            Raising her voice above the din, she asked, “Wait, how? When we were in my dad’s universe, didn’t you say that traveling through dimensions, it was like making a rip in time?”
            “I did,” the Doctor said, slipping back out from under the console. “But now we should be able to seal the rip, as it were. Of course, it may make getting back a bit more difficult, but that’s all part of the fun, isn’t it?”
            Rose could feel her heart swell in her chest. “You mean…you mean we can go see my dad again?” she said. She couldn’t help it; she broke into a huge smile. The Doctor smiled back, obviously incredibly pleased with himself.
            She threw her arms around him, hugging him as hard as she could, and he hugged her back. When they separated, she ducked her head to wipe away the tear that slipped down her cheek; the Doctor pretended not to notice.
            “So, when can we go?” she asked.
            “Oh, soon, very soon. I just need to work out some of the blips in the system and then we’ll be off,” he said.
            Suddenly, what sounded like a clap of thunder boomed from within the console, shaking the TARDIS and throwing the Doctor and Rose to the ground. The shaking rattled everything inside the box, smacking Rose’s head against the floor.
            When it finally stopped, she gingerly sat up, holding her head. “What was that?”
            The Doctor hauled himself to his feet, stretching his hand out to Rose as he stared at the console. “Probably one of the blips.”
            No sooner had he pulled Rose up than the TARDIS lurched again, sending them toppling over as the room started wheeling like a top.
            Rose clutched tightly to the floor grating; out of the corner of her eye she could see the blue glow of the sonic as the Doctor pointed it at the console while clinging to one of the support beams. The sonic seemed to have no effect, though; the console crackled to life, spitting white sparks, and the TARDIS doors burst open and flapped wildly as the police box spun out of control. Through the whirling, Rose could see the time vortex outside the doors, purple and pulsing and spinning as well, leaving her head muddled and her stomach heaving. She closed her eyes and held on tight, feeling as though they were being drained down a deep black hole. She held on until, with a shudder, the TARDIS came to a stop, its engines still fizzing and sparking as it settled.
            Rose stood slowly, trying to convince herself the room had stopped spinning even as her head continued to do so. She shook herself and looked around. “Doctor?” Books from the chest lay scattered about the floor. Rose kicked a copy of And Then There Were None out of the way as she ran towards the Doctor, who was lying on the other side of the console.
            He dusted himself off and coughed almost sheepishly. “I’m fine.”
            “What was that?” Rose asked as she hauled him to his feet.
            “I don’t know,” he said, studying the screens around the console. “And the TARDIS doesn’t seem to know, either.” He turned one of the screens so she could see. “Look at that. No readings! Not even a date. We could be anywhere.” He froze for a second. Slowly he turned to her, a sly smile spreading across his face. “We could be anywhere.” A mischievous glint came to his eye. “Shall we go have a look?”
            A wide smile spread across her face as well, and they both dashed for the door, which stood slightly ajar. A single golden ray of sunlight shone through.
            Placing her hand on the door panel, Rose met the Doctor’s gaze. He nodded, eyes twinkling. With the same impish smile, Rose threw open the door, and stopped to stare at the bewildering sight before her eyes.
            The brightness of the colors smacked against her eyes; the sky was so blue it hurt to look at. Glimmering sunlight filled every corner of the space – a rosy-bricked village between the edge of a green field and the winding spiral of a long paved road of yellow brick. What was the most bewildering about the world they found themselves in was not the overpowering brightness of the colors, or the curiously tiny size of the bricked buildings beyond the yellow road, but the crowd of tiny people that stood in a gathering a few feet from the TARDIS doors, staring at them in what could only be awe.
            Before Rose could think of a single word to say, one of the spectators scuttled forward, removing his purple top hat and revealing his shining bald head, which only came up to Rose’s chest. With a twirl of his many moustaches, he announced, “The Wicked Witch of the East is dead!” The rest of the crowd erupted into cheers.
            Rose gaped at them. “What?” She glanced to the side, and saw two feet in ruby-red shoes sticking out from underneath the TARDIS. For a second her mind went blank.
            She turned to the Doctor, who looked as stunned as she felt.
           “What?” The Doctor stared at the ruby-red shoes, and then back at the Munchkins celebrating their good fortune. “What? What?
[Disclaimer: If this were an actual episode, this is where I think the theme music would play]
The head Munchkin darted forward and grabbed Rose’s hand, pulling her out of the TARDIS. “Follow the yellow brick road!”
            “Whoa, hang on a minute!” the Doctor said, breaking his hold on her hand. “Sorry, um, before we go down that particular road, could I have a minute to talk with my friend?”
            “You must be a wizard!” the Munchkin exclaimed. “The Wonderful Wizard came down from the clouds, too!”
            “Well,” said the Doctor, “I did say I was wonderful.”
            “And you must be a good witch!” the Munchkin said, beaming at Rose. “Only bad witches are ugly!”
            Rose couldn’t help flushing a little. “Well…thanks.”
            “Right. The witch – the good, pretty witch,” the Doctor amended at a look from Rose, “and I have some things to discuss.”
            “About magic,” Rose added.
            “Yes, about magic,” the Doctor continued.
            “And time travel.”
            The Doctor turned to give her a look. “Yes, and time travel…”
            “And faulty navigation systems that can’t be fixed by banging on them with a hammer,” she finished with a cheeky grin.
            “Who says I didn’t fix it?” the Doctor retorted.
            The Munchkin continued looking at them, an expectant smile frozen on his face.
            “Sorry,” Rose said. She stepped back in just in time as the Doctor swung the door shut.
            “Were we seriously just in Oz?” Rose demanded as the Doctor dashed over to the console and flipped down a lever. The engines started, wheezing and groaning, although the TARDIS still shook ever so slightly. “Can we do that? Go into fictional worlds?” She suddenly grinned, and clapped her hands together once. “Oh, I know exactly where I want to go!”
            “It’s not possible,” the Doctor muttered, bent over the console, studying it intently. “Even if it is, it shouldn’t be.”
            “Why, what’s wrong with it?” Rose asked, coming up to him.
            He looked up at her, his eyes dark and intense. “Imagine if every book you ever read came to life.”
            “You fixed it so the TARDIS could go into parallel universes!” Rose said, “Is it really that much worse if the universes are fictional instead of real?”
            “Fiction has its own rules!” the Doctor said, “It’s constantly recreating itself; it’s not stable enough to exist in reality. If it is becoming real, then…”
            “Well, then we have a real problem!”
            “But you can rewrite time!” she said, “That still applies to fictional universes, doesn’t it?”
            “I’m a Time Lord, not a Book…Warden!” the Doctor exclaimed as the TARDIS began rattling harder. “Books are outside of time; each of them contains their own time, their own universe. If they’re starting to break through into reality, there’s nothing I can do to stop that!” The TARDIS began wheeling like a top again; the Doctor hung onto the console while Rose wrapped her arms around one of the support beams and squeezed her eyes shut.
            “Can’t you just undo what you did to the TARDIS?” she yelled.
            “No,” he called back, desperately trying his best not to be flung across the room as the spinning intensified.
            “Why not?”
            “Because I don’t know what I did!”
            Rose braced herself as the TARDIS crashed into the ground. She opened her eyes just in time to see more white sparks fly up from the console base. The Doctor was desperately fiddling with knobs and levers, but the screens remained blank.
            “The TARDIS is lost; she can’t get a lock on where we are,” he said, running a hand through his hair. “All of time and space inside her, and she doesn’t know where we are.” They both jumped as the doors flew open with a bang.
            Rose and the Doctor exchanged glances. Rose slowly stepped over to the entrance. Outside the TARDIS doors was a strange sight – not so much because of what they saw, but where they were seeing it from. They sat at the end of a small, square, wooden tunnel that opened its doors on pale daylight a few feet away. Between them and the daylight were racks of long brown and black fur coats, all hung up on wooden hangers and smelling strongly of mothballs. Holding the sleeve of one of the fur coats as if she’d forgotten she grasped it was a little girl in a blue dress, staring at Rose in wonder.
            “Where is the back of the wardrobe?” the girl whispered.
            It took Rose a moment to realize. “Oh, my god.”
            “Wrong wardrobe!” the Doctor cried, coming up behind Rose. He frowned apologetically at the wide-eyed girl. “Sorry, Lucy.” He slammed the door shut, and the TARDIS took off on its own, rocking erratically from side to side.
            “We were just in Narnia?” Rose cried, “We have to go back!”
            “Oh, not such a bad book now, is it?” the Doctor said, weaving his way back over to the controls as the TARDIS continued to whirl incessantly. “No, we can’t go back. We’re damaging her whole timeline. Look.” He snatched up one of the scattered books from the floor, flipped the pages, and then held it out to Rose, catching himself as the TARDIS pitched forward and back. Rose took the book, looking at the illustrations; where Lucy had once gazed upon the glowing lamppost and the snowy woods of Narnia at the back of the wardrobe, now in their place was a blue police box with its glowing light at the top.
            “Did this happen with the Oz book, too?” Rose asked.
            In answer the Doctor nudged The Wonderful Wizard of Oz across the floor with his foot before sliding underneath the console. “Whatever I did, I’m sorry,” he confided to the TARDIS.
            Rose picked up the book. Sure enough, on the cover, the TARDIS had replaced Dorothy’s house in squashing the Wicked Witch. Rose opened the book and turned to the page where Dorothy had first entered Oz:
            “Well, I did say I was wonderful,” said the Doctor.
            “And you must be a good witch!” he said to Rose, who blushed at his words. “Only bad witches are ugly!”
            “Well, thanks,” said Rose.
            Rose clapped the book shut. A cloud of white and red sparks spewed out of the bottom of the console, and the Doctor emerged, coughing, his hair slightly singed.
            “I don’t understand,” he said, dusting off his suit. “It’s like I can’t reach her. We’re flying blind.”
            Suddenly the TARDIS smashed into the ground again, the impact shuddering through every board.
            “Don’t open that door!” the Doctor cried, but it was too late; the doors flew open of their own accord.
            From across a barren plain, a huge, yellowed eye, wreathed in flame, stared down at them from a dark mountain. It fixed its gaze on Rose, and for a moment she felt as if it could see straight through to the very depths of her soul.
            With a fierce cry the Doctor slammed the door on the eye’s penetrating gaze, and he steadied Rose as the TARDIS took off again, shaking and shuddering. “Are you all right?”
            Rose leaned heavily against the wall. “Yeah, I just…When I read about it, I never realized the Eye, when it looked at you, would feel like that.
            The Doctor started beaming. “I thought you said you didn’t read that far!”
            “I skipped ahead,” Rose admitted, looking up at him sheepishly. “So, now we’re in that book, too?”
            The Doctor gazed around at all the books scattered across the floor, shifting and sliding as the TARDIS shook. “If I could find my copy of Fellowship, somewhere within all those hundreds of pages, yes, you would find us.”
            Rose held her gaze steady even as the room pitched and rolled around them. “So every time we land, we’re rewriting a book?”
            The Doctor nodded, a grim expression on his face. “I keep trying to stop her from landing, but she has a mind of her own. Well, no, she’s always had that – it’s like she’s lost her mind!” The Doctor suddenly cocked his head, as if deep in thought. “Wait – why is she taking us to these particular places? There has to be some kind of connection– They’re all books that I gave you to read!” the Doctor said in triumph, gazing at Rose, eyes agleam. “We’re connected through you!”
            “What?” Rose braced herself against the floor as the TARDIS pitched violently. “How do we know it’s not through you? You’ve read all of them, too!”
“Yes, but remember when you said you had seen both the films and the books?” the Doctor said, “I’ve seen and read all of them so many times I can keep them separate in my head; you’re mixing them up. Like in Oz – in the film the witch’s shoes are red, but in the book they’re silver!”
            “Is it my fault I liked the film better?” Rose said wryly as the TARDIS spun and rolled.
            The Doctor laughed. “If it was through my mind, we wouldn’t just be landing in old Earth classics – no, we’d see books from the far future, from different planets, from all across the time-space continuum. Not that I’m criticizing your choice of destination.”
            “Well, it’s not really my choice, is it?” Rose called out above the noise as the engines began scraping and screeching for an incredibly bumpy landing.
            “Try to hold the doors shut!” the Doctor cried, stumbling as he wended his way over unsteady ground. “I’ll see if I can get her to take off again before we cause any more damage!”
            Rose wrapped her hands around the door handle, pulling back with all her might, but the TARDIS had other ideas. With an ear-splitting screech the doors threw themselves open, flinging Rose out with them.
She hit the ground with a surprisingly soft thud, and was relieved to find she had landed on carpet. She struggled to her feet, and froze when she realized two men were staring at her. They were seated in armchairs in a comfortable sitting room lit by the moving light and shadows of a roaring fire. One was stout and mustachioed, holding a journal in one hand that contained copious scribbles; the other man was thin, though well-built, holding a pipe in his mouth, with a deerstalker tossed casually on the arm of his chair. He stared intently at Rose, who could do nothing but stare back. His eyes moved from her to the TARDIS. The portly man followed his gaze, obviously having trouble taking everything in, as the thin man commenced to calmly relight his pipe. At last, the stout man cleared his throat, and asked, “Holmes, what is it?”
From within the TARDIS Rose could hear the Doctor’s shouts: “Rose, we have to leave before it–” The Doctor stepped out of the TARDIS, and his jaw dropped. “Oh.”
“It is a police public call box, Watson,” Sherlock Holmes said serenely.
“But how do you know?” Watson said in astonishment.
Holmes pointed with the end of his pipe. “It says so there, above the doors.”
The Doctor’s face lit up. “Sherlock Holmes. I’ve always wanted to meet you. I’m the Doctor.” He stepped forward and shook the detective’s hand rigorously. Holmes returned the handshake, along with a polite smile.
The Doctor chuckled at Watson’s taken-aback expression. “Dr. John Watson. Writing away, as always. I’m a big fan; never stop!” He shook the doctor’s hand, too, who accepted the handshake with a warm, albeit bewildered smile. Beaming with delight, the Doctor turned back to Holmes. “Oh, the adventures you have. I’ve read them all. The Red-Headed League – marvelous! A Scandal in Bohemia – brilliant! Got to love the Woman, Mr. Holmes – oh!” The Doctor spun to face Rose. “Speaking of which, allow me to introduce my lovely companion, Miss Rose Tyler.”
Feeling a bit sheepish, Rose came forward and held out her hand. Instead of shaking it, as she assumed he would, Holmes turned her hand in his and brought it to his lips. The gesture made her cheeks burn, and she saw his small smile as he released her hand.
“I assume, where you are from, that is no longer the custom when greeting a lady,” Holmes said, meeting her eyes with a gaze that was both intent and distant.
“It should be,” Rose blurted out.
“But where are they from, Holmes?” Watson asked. “Who are they?”
“Elementary, my dear Watson,” Holmes said, his eyes settling on the Doctor. “Judging by their clothes, their manner of speaking, and most obviously their mode of transport, they are time travelers from the future, come to tell me of cases I have yet to solve.” He said this quietly and calmly, drawing on his pipe and puffing out the smoke.
Now the Doctor seemed almost as taken aback as Watson. “You mean you haven’t – oh,” the Doctor said, finally snapping back to reality. “Rose, we have to go. Before we change anything else.” He paused, and addressed the heavens in frustration. “Why did it have to change Conan Doyle?
“I’m sorry, who?” Watson said, rising from his chair.
“He’s right; we have to leave,” Rose said. She watched as Holmes rose to his feet and bowed slightly, meeting her eyes again with his deep gaze.
“I’ll try to read more of your books,” she said. Flustered, she turned to Watson. “I mean, your books.”
“My books?” Watson gasped, “You mean they still exist in the future?”
Rose quickly boarded the TARDIS before explanations could get any more complicated, and the Doctor followed, still talking at Holmes even as he stood inside the doorframe. “Silver Blaze – you’re going to love that one! Oh, and The Adventure of the Empty House – what a twist! You sly–”
It was Rose’s turn to slam the door, and the TARDIS took off again, although this time the shaking seemed muted; Rose dared to hope that this was a good sign.
“Ah! There, see?” the Doctor exclaimed, “Even then, you’re mixing up books with film and television. The Holmes in the books never actually said ‘Elementary, my dear Watson.’”
“Doctor!” Rose cried.
The walls of the TARDIS seemed to be fading. Rose could see the outline of the time vortex around them, pulsing and tumbling in blue and purple, flashing with silver lightning.
“The TARDIS is disappearing without us!” she yelled, “How do we stop it?”
The Doctor scrambled to take the controls, but his hand went through the console as if it were smoke. The TARDIS walls faded in and out, leaving them nearly exposed to the time vortex; Rose was terrified that any minute they would be pulled into its swirling depths.
“Fiction and reality can’t coexist – they’re two separate entities,” the Doctor muttered, “As fiction becomes real, reality fades. In essence, we’re going to be erased! Unless–”
“Unless what?” Rose cried, edging away from the vortex that seemed to spin closer and closer.
Rose snapped her head around and gazed in horror at the Doctor. He stood staring at his right hand, which glowed white and then started to shift in and out of focus. The Doctor’s eyes met Rose’s, and for a second she was struck by the pain she found there, the ache that leapt from his eyes to her heart.
Rose tore across the TARDIS, seizing his other hand, desperate to keep him there. He grabbed her hand tight, though his eyes couldn’t help watching as the rest of his right arm began to glow as well.
“You said reality is fading; how do we make it real again?” Rose gasped, breathless with fear. “How do we keep ourselves from vanishing from time?”
The Doctor looked straight at her, as if struck by a momentous thought. “The way all great times and places and things are immortalized!” He darted forward, tugging her with him, snatching up one of the books that lay on the floor, which, strangely enough, stayed present even as the edges of the floor started to fade in and out. He grabbed something from the overturned book chest and pushed it into Rose’s other hand: a pen. She looked up at him, heart pounding so hard she thought it would fly out of her chest, as she watched the white glow spread slowly to the rest of his body.
“You want me to write us into time?”
“You need to re-write us into reality, Rose,” the Doctor said in earnest, “We’ve stretched the boundaries of time and space; whatever is written down becomes real. This is all connected through you; you need to write down our story so things can go back to the way they were.”
“Right,” Rose said, “Okay.” Hands shaking slightly, she released her grip on the Doctor’s hand to take the book. Turning to a blank page, she took a deep breath, and uncapped the pen. No sooner had she touched the pen to the page, though, than the Doctor started flickering in and out of focus. “Doctor!” she cried, grabbing for his hand. It was there, but his grip felt lighter, as if he were slipping away.
“Rose!” Even his voice sounded hollow, distant. “I’m right here.” He looked her in the eye and squeezed her hand tight. Even then, she had to hold back a sob; she could barely feel it. “You’re not going to lose me,” he said, reading her mind, “and I’m not going to lose you. Now, you remember how we first met?”
Rose smiled even as her heart pounded – she could disappear, too. “Attacking shop-window dummies in the basement at my job,” she said. “The first thing you said to me: run!”
The Doctor laughed. “That’s right.” He smiled warmly at her as she returned to the page. “Write down our story, Rose,” he said softly, “It’s worth writing down. Oh, one for the ages!”
She smiled at him one last time, taking him in, memorizing every detail of his face, before turning her attention to the task at hand. As she wrote about their misadventures with the Nestene Consciousness, the dangers at the end of the world, the ghostly gaslight creatures in Victorian London, she held the Doctor’s hand tight in hers, trying not to notice his grip gradually fading away. She wrote through every blank page, in the margins, in the headings, about the Dalek imprisoned underground, the gas mask child, the Doctor at the Game Station and a hazy cloud of memories gilded in gold, a half-remembered dream, where she felt the universe pour through her, empowering her and killing her, until she felt a gentle kiss draw all that poisonous power from her to him. A tear landed on the page as she remembered him changing, leaving her with this stranger who called himself the Doctor, but looked and acted nothing like him. It took time, but she found herself falling in love with him all over again; together they faced the Sycorax, the Cybermen, the Ood, even – she still shook her head at the absurdity – the devil himself. On and on she wrote, between the lines of type, until she couldn’t feel her hand anymore. She rested her head on her outstretched arm as she kept writing and writing, wanting to capture every single detail, every shining moment from the time the Doctor had taken her hand and shouted “Run!” to this very second, with the Doctor by her side, even as they both disappeared from view. The pen dropped from her hand as she felt herself fade, but the last words she wrote pulsed through her mind even as her eyes fell shut:
The Doctor found me, and I found him. If I had an eternity to spend, I would spend it with him. Since I may only have a few seconds, I’m glad they’re with him, too. It’s not often you find someone you think you could spend forever with. But he and I could go on and on, to the end of time and back…

Rose’s eyes fluttered open. The first thing she saw was a pair of white Converse next to her head, and, as her eyes traveled upward, she took in the figure of the Doctor crouched beside her. When he saw that she was all right, a grin spread across his face from ear to ear. “Rose! You’ve done it!”
“I…I did,” she said, sitting up quickly, her head spinning, her arm aching. She looked up at him, breathed a sigh of relief, and laughed. “Thank God.”
He helped her to her feet, and they hugged as he squeezed her tight and kissed her on the forehead. “Rose Tyler, you are absolutely brilliant! Everything back the way it was, never better!” He gestured around to the whole of the TARDIS, and then to himself, eyes twinkling. “You remembered me perfectly!”
“I don’t know; I may have changed a few things,” she said with a sly smile.
For a second the Doctor looked uncertain. “What? Really?” He looked down at himself, as if afraid of what he might find.
“No, you idiot. I didn’t change anything,” Rose said with a laugh. Her smile softened as she looked at him. “Honestly, I couldn’t have imagined you any better.”
The Doctor grinned. “Quite right, too. Now,” he said, bounding over to the TARDIS doors, “where are we? Shall we have a look?”
Heart beating fast, Rose stepped over to the other door, and together they pushed them open. What greeted them was the lot behind Rose’s mum’s flat, a blue sky overhead with a few gray clouds.
“London, 2007!” the Doctor cried, “No fiction or fantasy about it.”
Seeing her mum’s flat in all its solidity made Rose breathe an even bigger sigh of relief; it also made her think of her dad. Suddenly numb, she turned back inside and walked over to the TARDIS console. All of its screens and readings were up again, as if nothing had happened.
Rose could feel the Doctor next to her.
“Rose?” he said.
“So we can’t cross into parallel universes anymore,” she sighed.
“Well…” the Doctor started, sliding underneath the console, the sonic screwdriver glowing blue in his hand. She heard some banging and crashing, and one muttered interjection from the Doctor, but when he emerged again his face was set in a frown. “The chance of the fictional universes leaking through again is too great; I have to shut everything down that I was trying to fix. The seal between the worlds will have to stay sealed; ripping it open will only cause everything to start pushing through all over again.” He seemed to struggle for words as he stood there, slipping the screwdriver inside his coat. Finally he said, with regret in his voice as he touched her arm, “I’m sorry. About your dad. I know you wanted to see him again.”
“It’s all right,” she said, taking a small step away. “I got to see him once; I should be grateful I even had that.”
She bent down, picking up the book she had written in. The words inked in blue pen flowed across the pages, taking up every spare inch of blank paper. She flipped it over to look at the cover: A Tale of Two Cities.
“Sorry about that,” she said, turning back and showing the Doctor the book. He chuckled.
“Charles Dickens saved our lives twice now. Don’t worry; we’ll just pop back to 1860 and I can get a new copy.”
“I never did read this book,” Rose said, turning it over in her hand again. She went to open it, but then stopped as if wary of the consequences.
The Doctor watched her in earnest, taking a step towards her. “It won’t become real, Rose. That’s all behind us.”
“I know,” Rose said haltingly, but she couldn’t help staring at it, as if it would come alive in her hand.
“Well, it will be real,” the Doctor amended, in a quiet voice, “inside your mind, where the story never ends, even after the last page has been turned. The best stories stay with us, and, if they are true enough, good enough, loved enough by anyone who reads them, they become real to us, as real as you or me. Stories possess their own time and space; when they have changed how you see the world, how you see other people, they have changed a part of you. They become a part of you, a part of every person whose life they have touched. They become a very part of the universe; they become timeless.”
Rose looked up at him, her eyes alight. “Just like you.”
The Doctor took her hand, smiling softly. “Just like us.”

Monday, September 8, 2014

Doctor Who: Season 8 So Far - Episodes 1, 2, and 3

Thoughts on Deep Breath, Into the Dalek, and Robot of Sherwood

Herein lie my own personal opinions of Season 8 so far. They may or may not match your own; while I try to be objective, it's inevitable that something as near and dear to my heart as Doctor Who is going to evoke a strong emotional response that I may not be able to reign in. And yes, I am going to proceed to over-analyze a children's TV show and read way too much into it and pick apart every detail; this is just what I do, as well as the fact that something as wonderful as Doctor Who deserves to be recognized for the amount of detail and care that the writers and producers and everyone who works on it puts into it. So, without further ado, here we go. Allons-y!

Episode 1: Deep Breath

First of all, I have to say, WHAT AN ENTRANCE. The episode opens with a dinosaur stomping through London, and what should fly out of its mouth but THE TARDIS. Out of all the ways a season has opened, at least for New Who, I don't think there's been one that's had such a fantastically absurd entrance only a minute or so in. There is no time wasted at all in getting into the weird, wonderful wackiness that is Doctor Who, and, while its silliness knows no bounds, it really is just a dramatic, comedic, fun, incredible way to start the season.

The Doctor himself: I think every Doctor has a moment where you realize that you really love them, whether it's a line that they say, something they do, or just a facial expression that touches your heart. For me, I fell in love with Nine at the beginning of "The Unquiet Dead," when Rose comes out of the TARDIS wardrobe in full Victorian costume, and this formerly closed-off, fairly unemotional man transforms before our eyes as he looks at her, his face the epitome of wonder as he says, almost breathlessly, "You look beautiful!" Of course he recovers himself a moment later, but in that instant we see the man beneath the mask, and the heart that he tries so hard to hide. For Ten, I knew I loved him when he started quoting The Lion King in "The Christmas Invasion"; for Eleven, it was in "The Eleventh Hour" when he first declares to the Atraxi, "Hello; I'm the Doctor." For Twelve, in "Deep Breath," it was his very first line: "Shush!" Instantly I was sold. 

I don't know what it is about Peter Capaldi's Doctor that makes me like him so much; maybe it's the sass, an echo of Nine that I have greatly missed; maybe it's his serious nature, which I felt had been sorely missing from the Doctor for awhile; it's definitely got to do with how obviously skilled Capaldi is as an actor. Tennant and Smith both had the motor mouths, the incredible speeches they could rattle off and enthrall us all with their passion. Capaldi doesn't need all those words; he can deliver it all with just a look. I'm also a fan of how Capaldi himself is such a big Doctor Who fan; I can only imagine how great his job must be, waking up every day getting to say that YOU are the Doctor, YOU are this hero you've admired since childhood, and then you get to go to work and hang out in the TARDIS and watch Daleks explode, etc. This may just be my wishful thinking, but I think his passion for the show and the character really comes out in his performance, and it is marvelous.

Clara: Oh, my goodness, CLARA. Before Season 8, if you had asked what I thought of her, I probably would have gone off about how she had no personality, met the bare requirements for a companion - "I'm cute and sassy!" Great, so is every other long-time companion who travels with the Doctor! - and was really a testament to how badly Steven Moffat can write female companions. I mean, there was nothing there - she was a cardboard cutout of a person, never questioning the Doctor, never displaying any sort of relatable emotion, and stuck inside that stupid "Impossible Girl" arc with seemingly no escape. 

Thank, GOD, for Season 8.

I mean, my god! Look at Clara! She's actually DOING things! The Doctor leaves her to fend for herself, and, while that was kind of a cruel trick to pull, she was forced to think for herself, and lo and behold, she's actually kind of awesome! Like the Doctor says, "You're great on adrenaline!" THIS is the potential missing all throughout Season 7; without Eleven there to hold her hand and protect her (for his own selfish reasons, I might add), she is forced to make decisions, to ACT, and actually show aspects of her personality that make her seem like an actual person. MIND-BLOWING. I believe this is what we call CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT, Mr Moffat. Amazing what it can do, isn't it?!

That's enough of my sass, but you see my point! While I still don't put her above Rose, Donna, or Martha for great companions, it's such a shame that Clara only has the one season to really develop as a character (with the rumors that she is leaving at Christmas). 

The Doctor and Clara: A new adjustment for Clara this season has been to accept the new Doctor in place of Eleven, who, for all intents and purposes, was her love interest. While I'm not against the Doctor having romantic relationships with his companions, I hated how Eleven treated Clara, and so I jumped up and punched the air in triumph after this exchange between Twelve and Clara:

Twelve: Clara, I'm not your boyfriend.
Clara: I never said you were.
Twelve: I didn't say it was your mistake.

Finally, FINALLY, Eleven's manipulative, selfish treatment of Clara was being addressed, and I for one am so glad they did that. Instead of Clara being Eleven's Impossible Girl, now she can just be Clara, opening up a whole world of possibilities for showing how she, as an ordinary person, can be extraordinary, which I think is what the show should really be about; it's what made me love it in the first place. 

The whole age conundrum for the Doctor is actually kind of funny if you think about it. Of course, with Peter Capaldi being so much older than Jenna Coleman, they (understandably) wouldn't think of having a romantic relationship between them. However, within the show, the Doctor has always been MUCH older than his companions - for example, Nine was about 900 years old when he met Rose, who was nineteen. It's purely the Doctor's face that gives his companions an illusion about his age; if he really looked his age, I doubt any of us would want any more sexual tension in the TARDIS.

That being said, now that Clara and the Doctor won't be love interests, Moffat has decided to trade us one romantic relationship for another, namely Madame Vastra and Jenny. The secondary narrative of "Deep Breath" is really Vastra and Jenny's relationship; the episode begins with both of them investigating the dinosaur, and then continues with Vastra painting Jenny as she poses (or, Vastra having Jenny pose simply for her own enjoyment), and ends with the now-infamous kiss. To be fair, it's a pretty fascinating love story, with a couple who do seem to genuinely love each other, however odd they may look to outsiders. I also am at a loss as to why the lesbian kiss was such a big deal; does no one remember when Captain Jack Harkness kissed Nine in the Season 1 finale??

Missy: Who is Missy? What is the Promised Land?? It's definitely not heaven, I can tell you that. This particular story arc seems to be one that will continue throughout the season; I have a sneaking suspicion it may be leading up to explaining why the Doctor has seen his face before (in Pompeii and Torchwood, to name a few). As to what Missy' identity is, I rather like the idea of her being a dark version of Clara. Since we have a much darker Doctor this season (who may even be the Valeyard - we can't be sure yet), a great way to balance that would be to have a dark version of the companion. Missy's sort of dressed the way Clara was in "The Snowmen," and she calls the Doctor her boyfriend, which is how Clara has referred to Eleven. What if when Clara jumped into the time vortex in "The Name of the Doctor," when she was splintered across all of the Doctor's timelines, in some parallel universe the splinters came back together wrong? Hence we get Missy, a crazy, dark version of Miss Clara. I, for one, would be very excited if that ended up being the case.

Other notable moments:

-The new theme music
I'm not a big fan of the new music, although the new visuals are very cool. The score is just a little too electronic; the trills especially are just grating on the ears. It's unexpected, I'll give them that, but I wish they hadn't gone SO overboard with the change.

-When Strax threw the newspaper and it hit Clara in the face.
I'm sorry, I don't usually enjoy slapstick, but that moment never fails to make me laugh. While I wish they would give Strax more of a role than just comic relief, that scene was just genius.

-The Doctor drawing calculations on the floor.
What are the calculations? Can his mind simply not contain all his thoughts racing from regeneration, so he decides to write them all down? Or is it something more significant that will play out later on in the season?

In sum, I felt like the only place where "Deep Breath" was lacking was the story. It was just so random; we started off with a dinosaur and ended with a bunch of humanoid robots harvesting human organs. Granted, most introductory episodes aren't too heavy on story, since they're more concerned with getting the audience to accept the new Doctor, but when being compared to, say, "The Eleventh Hour," which didn't have the definitive plot either, "Deep Breath" isn't the best for a comprehensive story line. Hopefully the stories will improve as the season continues.

Episode 2: Into the Dalek

Obviously since I've said so much about "Deep Breath" I'll have less to say here, but I'll just come right out and say that this has been my favorite Season 8 episode so far. No, it's not a fantastic episode - it's a bit lacking on plot, for starters, and tension as well - but the concept itself is fascinating. A good Dalek? And one that doesn't know who the Doctor is, since Oswin erased the Daleks' memory banks in "Asylum of the Daleks." What would happen if the Doctor was shrunk down and let inside a Dalek, even let inside its mind? What would he find? 

It's less of an action-packed episode and more of a psychological study of the Doctor himself. His relationship with the Daleks has always been tenuous at best; his capacity for hating them has always provided a link with their hatred for everything that isn't a Dalek. Similar to Nine's episode "Dalek," we see that internal struggle as the Doctor tries to fight for the good that they find within the Dalek while he tries to find good within himself. 

Double Jeopardy question: Is the Doctor a good man? 

For most of New Who, I would have said yes. Nine, for all his brooding, was a genuinely good soul; Ten, despite his "no second chances" rule and the Time Lord Victorious, seemed sincerely bent on doing what was right. Eleven, however, for all his childish behavior, was the one who became darker, especially throughout Season 7, and we see that darkness magnified in Twelve, particularly in "Deep Breath," when he presumably murders the half-faced man. Only time will tell what sort of man the Doctor is; but for now, as Clara says, at least he tries, and that's the point.

Other notable moments:

-Clara being a badass
Once again, the Doctor calls upon Clara to figure out how to make the Dalek good again. I love that he trusts her so completely; such a contrast to Eleven, who almost never let her do anything on her own. Clara figures it out and delivers; if they keep going in this direction with her character, I think I will genuinely be sad when she leaves, which up to this season I never thought I would say!

-The Doctor and Clara as friends
Twelve and Clara really have such an adorable friendship. I really love Capaldi and Coleman's dynamic, particularly in little moments, like when Clara and the Doctor are looking down at the Dalek's brain:

Clara: Are those cables?
Twelve: Not all of them.

He mimes tentacles, and she bursts out laughing. It seems like such a genuine moment, I have to wonder if that was in the script or if Capaldi was ad-libbing and just trying to make Coleman laugh! Well, it worked, and it was such a sweet little moment. There are so many of those in the exchanges between them. The hug in "Deep Breath," him telling her "I need you" in this episode - not a romantic "I need you," but a sincere, I-can't-do-this-alone-and-you-are-the-only-other-person-I-trust "I need you." Even though the Doctor still has his caustic moments - like when he abandons her in "Deep Breath" - I think he genuinely loves Clara, and she him. It's a bit like Ten and Donna in the TARDIS - just two best friends, off to see the universe! Sometimes, that's just what the show needs.

-Danny Pink
While I really like Samuel Anderson's performance, I feel like the writers are trying too hard to get us to like him. A soldier with a troubled past, yet with an awkward yet adorable side? I guess we have to like him now, although I really wish they would have waited until he could have had a longer introduction as a companion. If we had cut out the ten minutes or so at the beginning of the episode where we're introduced to him, we might have had time for a proper plot. There's obviously going to be tension in the TARDIS later on, with Danny being a soldier and the Doctor obviously against having soldiers in the TARDIS; I just hope the writers don't overdo it.

Overall, the episode could have done with more tension; Daleks are no longer that scary because of their overuse. The only other real "monsters" were the antibodies; those could have been made a whole lot scarier. 

Otherwise, it was a well done episode, particularly with the cinematography, and the glimpse inside the Doctor's psyche was definitely intriguing. 

Episode 3: Robot of Sherwood

Oh, dear. I really don't have much to say about this episode. I just don't know if I have the words. 

This episode was written by Mark Gatiss, who is also the writer of episodes such as:

The Unquiet Dead (Season 1)
The Idiot's Lantern (Season 2)
Victory of the Daleks (Season 5)
Night Terrors (Season 6)
Cold War (Season 7)
The Crimson Horror (Season 7)

Out of all of these, the only ones I would say are decent are "Night Terrors" and possibly "The Crimson Horror" (I personally didn't like it that much, but I know many people did). 

Gatiss likes to have fun with his episodes; unfortunately, I'm not sure his skills as a writer match his enthusiasm. To his credit, he is a big fan of Doctor Who, as can be seen as the end of "Robot of Sherwood," with the exchange between Robin and the Doctor about men becoming legends. He understands the heart of the show; I just wish I could say I enjoyed his writing more. 

Yes, okay, it's a fun episode; it's entertaining, I'll give it that. But it's just so silly - I mean, "I am the Doctor and this is my spoon"? Really? I just...I don't know. If you enjoyed it, that's great; I just couldn't get past the Doctor dueling Robin Hood with a spoon.

To be fair, it is fairly adorable to see Clara fangirling over Robin Hood. And it is nice that the Doctor still gives his companions the choice of where they go in time and space. 

I just felt like the jokes and the story were a bit predictable. You could see the punchlines coming from a mile away. And some of the physical humor, too, like when the Doctor and Robin are struggling to get the key to unlock their shackles and they knock it out of their reach - surely there must have been something else that could have happened instead of a scene that's been done over and over in a thousand bad comedies. 

Other notable moments:

-The Doctor's calculations
What is the Doctor writing on the blackboard? Are those the same calculations from "Deep Breath"? Is this going to end up being something important in the season story arc?

So, not a big fan of this episode, but I suppose if you're looking for a Who episode that's mindlessly entertaining, this would be one to watch. I guess I can't forget that this is still a children's show, thus it can't be serious all the time.

However, I think from the look of it, I will definitely enjoy next week's episode, "Listen"! It looks so creepy - and maybe we'll finally get a proper plot line!

Season 8 Ranking So Far:

1. Into the Dalek (Ep. 2)
2. Deep Breath (Ep. 1)
3. Robot of Sherwood (Ep. 3)