I read an interview with Neil Gaiman recently in Doctor Who magazine. Now everyone knows Neil, author of Neverwhere and Coraline and a vast array of material which has made him one of the most respected guys around and, like me, he’s a huge Doctor Who fan. Unlike me, he has written an episode, the Doctor’s Wife. Any of you unfamiliar with the episode should really take a look.
In it the eleventh Doctor comes face to face with the Tardis in human form when it is captured by a mysterious entity that exists outside space and time, House. It feeds on Tardis artron energy and as the last living Tardis, The Doctor really is in rouble this time. The Tardis soul is transferred into a woman called Idris. It’s a cracking episode allowing for some wonderful dialogue. In it Idris says she stole the Doctor rather than he stole the Tardis. She took them deliberately where to where he needed to be which explains how the Doctor always lands where the adventure is. Although she also says he has been opening the Tardis doors wrong since it says ‘Pull to Open’ and as we all know the Tardis doors always push open. This is a mistake since the ‘Pull’ on the exterior refers to the little compartment containing the phone originally used when the police boxes were in use in the sixties to phone the emergency services. And better still it is clearly seen as so in the episode The Empty Child when the ninth Doctor answers the phone, a phone that doesn’t work. He opens that little panel as it says; ‘Pull to open.’ This episode was written by Steven Moffat who now runs the show and should have known better. Shame on you Neil and Steven for letting this mistake slip through. Don’t you guys know your Who?
BUT that’s not what this letter is about. In the interview Neil says he thought the tenth Doctor swansong the End of Time did not need the last twenty minutes where he visited all his previous companions. He regards it as sentimental and over indulgent.
You are so missing the point. The End of Time is a celebration of the tenth Doctor’s time and in this era the rules of regeneration had been rewritten. Did you forget the cliffhanger to The Stolen Earth where a fatally injured Doctor must regenerate to save his life from a Dalek attack? He stops it by channelling the energy into his severed hand from the Christmas Invasion, using just enough to heal himself rather than change into a new body. Similarly in Turn Left, he is killed outright before the regeneration cycle can kick in. Nothing we knew before applies. We don’t even know if the Doctor really has thirteen bodies. In the Sarah Jane Adventures the Death of the Doctor, Clyde asks him how many times he can regenerate and the Doctor answers 507 so nothing is set in stone anymore.
But I digress. AS I said the End of Time was a celebration for the tenth Doctor’s time on the show which lets face it cemented it in our culture once more. But for me it isn’t an indulgence to hold the regeneration off so he can travel to visit his former companions. In fact for me, it is akin to a terminally person who knows their time is finite and are going to do exactly what they want to do before they die. What the Doctor wants to do is see if he has been right to involve others in his life and if their time with him has made a positive contribution to their lives. He knows time is running out and we discover in Death of the Doctor that he in fact visited all of his surviving companions, not just the ones that travelled with the tenth incarnation. He knows he is dying and with everything that has happened to him especially his guilt over Donna Nobel’s fate where he had to take away all the positive change her travels gave her by wiping her mind. This also applies to his rant at the end of Waters of Mars when he thought he was Time Lord victorious and Adelaide committed suicide to keep the time lines in order. He was filled with doubt and remorse so it was only logical he find some sort of peace before he passed. Given he rarely dips into companion’s lives after they leave this also shows a maturity that comes with age despite his youthful appearance.
So for me the extra twenty minutes were by no means self indulgent tosh just to celebrate the tenth Doctor but a vital part of the Doctor’s continued development as a flesh and blood character. This is borne out by his returning the Pond’s to their normal lives at the end of the God Complex. Better that rather that than standing over their dead bodies he tells Amy and with the loss of their baby Melody, he has had a devastating enough effect on their lives. And that is a direct knock on effect from the End of Time as he is proud of everything his old friends have achieved after they have left him. It was fitting this should happen in Death of the Doctor, a former companion’s spin off show. He gets to tell Jo Grant to her face of all the wonderful things she’s done in defending the Earth and Sarah Jane rhymes off a list of former companions that are all defending the Earth in one way or another because of him. Ace raises billions through her charity A Charitable Earth, Ian and Barbara are still on the go, Tegan fights for aboriginal rites in Australia, Ben and Polly run an orphanage in India while Harry Sullivan has cured many diseases. All this because they dipped into a Time Lord’s life. So that proves conclusively that the End of Time was right to bend the rules and delay the regeneration which acted in that instance as a degenerative disease allowing the Doctor to find peace of mind before the end. And that for me is what drama, whether it be science fiction or not, is all about.