“Question is: What do you make of me?” ~ The Doctor
I love Christmas Eve, so when the DVD of the BBC’s Doctor Who Christmas Special “The Next Doctor” (s04e14) arrived in the mail I was eager to dive right in. I was not disappointed. Since there are scads of reviews of Doctor Who episodes all over the Internet, what I wanted to do instead was give you an impression of one small slice of this episode.
After our Doctor (David Tennant) arrives via TARDIS on Christmas Eve, 1851, the history geek in me was thoroughly content to sit back and enjoy.
As Act One unfolds we’re given one of those treats time travel fiction does so well: Evoking that sense of wonder that much of science fiction has lost since those heady days of Astounding and Amazing Stories. In the opening scenes of “The Next Doctor” our Doctor meets a future incarnation of himself, a version of himself suffering from amnesia.
And that notion is one of the most compelling aspects of time travel: Meeting a past or future version of yourself (without the amnesia part; that’d sorta suck). In that first act, “Amnesia Doctor” is investigating the house where the character Jackson Lake was murdered by the show’s infamous villains and “Amnesia Doctor” gets into a rather lengthy conversation about the crime with our Doctor. After revealing more about the situation than he probably should, “Amnesia Doctor” pauses with confusion, and then says he trusts our Doctor completely and implicitly, telling him things he wouldn’t tell any ordinary stranger.
I actually paused the DVD at this point, finding that whole concept fascinating. I began to wonder whether I would trust myself with vital, personal secrets. If I went back in time — to 1983 or 1993 or 2003 — could I trust the man I was then with the knowledge that I have now? Or if I were to travel into the future with the help of an old English police box could I face my older, wiser self and explain why I’m doing “this” but not “that,” why I bought instead of saved, why I chose “Thing 1” over “Thing 2”?
This is what makes science fiction and fantasy — those twins of speculation separated at birth — such a compelling genre of literature. Allegories abound, sometimes banal, sometimes sublime, but always thought-provoking.
And we need to think and reflect and ponder and wonder, or at least I do. Time can be a merciless monster as well as a beneficent angel. But my genre — when it’s at its best — focuses on the latter. It chooses optimism over bitterness, hope instead of despair, and a reminder that tomorrow can be a better day if we’ll just make the choice to let it.
So, in conclusion, I’ll offer another brief quote from the show, and then go off searching for my own time machine. Where is the damn thing? I swear that beast has legs.
Jackson Lake — “That offer of Christmas dinner is no longer a request. It’s a demand.”
The Doctor — “In honor if those we’ve lost.”
Peace, from Keith
Commentary copyright (c) 2013, Alan Keith Parker. Quotes and images are copyright (c) 2012, BBC, and used here under fair use laws.