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[personal profile] riot_nrrrd
Why am I awake at this ungodly hour, you ask? Well, there are two reasons. The first is that last night's New Year's festivities kept me up past 4 a.m., and like an idiot, I spent a good 2-3 hours this afternoon napping, instead of dealing with my fatigue and then getting to bed at a decent hour. The second reason is that now is the time my brain picked to finally process today's (well, technically yesterday's, now) airing of The End of Time Part 2, which marks the end of David Tennant's run as The Doctor (*sob*).

Mostly, predictably, I'm hung up on those 20 or so seconds near the end of the episode, wherein the Doctor spent his last moments before regeneration, uh, helping Jack get laid. [personal profile] rm wrote an interesting post about why she likes the scene. On the surface, I agree with her-- the scene is open-ended enough to encompass a variety of interpretations, and some of these interpretations have interesting implications for Jack's character, or for the relationship between the Jack and the Doctor. But unlike her, I don't find the open-endedness of that scene promising, or moving. I just find it irritating. Really, I find it emblematic of a lot of the problems that have plagued DW and particularly Torchwood since Russell T. Davies took over the franchise.

I'm drawing a lot, here, on some conversations I've had lately with [personal profile] shane_mayhem. Talking with Shane about these shows is delightful, not just it's fantastic to engage in fannish talk with someone who, like me, brings their radical queer identity and politics to their viewing practices. The other thing that is so fascinating about our conversations is that we have very similar interpretations of the show-- and yet we come to very different conclusions based on those interpretations. I'm a Jack/Ianto shipper; Shane is not. (He prefers Jack/Real!Jack.) For both of us, the way the Jack/Ianto relationship unfolds in canon is riddled with problems, inconsistencies, and relies more on occasional titillation than on any sort of sustained relationship development. But whereas for me, that becomes a reason to engage in a particular fandom-- precisely because I want to sort out the contradictions and the fits and starts-- it's those problems that make the relationship untenable and less interesting for Shane.

But let's talk about the things we have in common: the problems. Canonically, Jack's relationship with Ianto is kind of a big problem from the start. For starters, it begins kind of suddenly, with Ianto propositioning Jack out of nowhere. Which is a bit alarming, given that his girlfriend died four episodes previously. Granted, Ianto's kind of a reserved character, but we don't get enough access to his inner life to determine how he goes from mourning his dead girlfriend, and threatening to kill the man who forced him to accept her death, to fucking said man.

As the relationship progresses, there are some promising emotional moments between the two men, but I find those moments equally frustrating, in a lot of ways, because they don't seem to follow from anything that happened before. Jack's nervousness over asking Ianto on a date in KKBB is adorable, but what isn't clear-- what never becomes clear-- is how being tortured on a constant basis for a year that most of the human race doesn't remember might, uh, create intimacy issues for him as he pursues a relationship with Ianto. We see Ianto acting clearly, understandably nervous that Jack will leave him for the Doctor again, but we never get any sense of what Jack's experiences might mean for their relationship. Which seems to be the problem that constantly dogs the story of Jack's intimate life as it moves between TV shows: we never get any real sense of how the events of one show unfold in the next.

Not that this is merely a crossover problem. Even though we get more clues as to the inner life of Jack and Ianto in Children of Earth, as well as in some of the radio plays, those glimpses are still ultimately frustrating because they don't seem to build on what came before. In CoE and the radio shows, RTD et. al. seem stuck on the "Oh noes, Jack is immortal and Ianto's gonna die" angle. Which is something I find frustrating, because it seems to show that the producers and writers of both DW and TW can only think about their characters' motivations in a really narrow, stagnant way. Sure, Jack's immortality may be an ongoing issue in all of his relationships, but why didn't CoE or the radio plays deal at all with the kinds of trauma Jack might be experiencing as a result of being buried alive for nearly 2,000 years? How could that possibly have no impact on how he relates to the people in his life? Why do RTD and co. focus so obsessively on Jack's immortality, but devote relatively little time to the emotional and interpersonal impact of inhabiting such a repeatedly, endlessly traumatized body? Why focus so obsessively on certain themes, while writing a series of shows that lack any sort of continuity? Why does Jack seem so untouched from one appearance to the next?

Again, this seems to be an issue that dogs RTD's interpretation of Jack-- and it's in this context that I read the scene with Jack, Alonzo, and The Doctor. [personal profile] rm may indeed be right about the fact that we don't know the larger context in which this scene takes place, but what annoys me is that we'll never get the context, that the processes of grieving that may or may not inform this scene will never get any attention. It just reads to me as yet another example of RTD torturing Jack for the DRAMA!! of it all, and then Jack emerging relatively unscathed, just so he can be tortured again. It's yet another example of what has frustrated me as Tennant's run on DW has come to a close-- RTD's emphasis on overlarge, sweeping, epic drama, at the frequent expense of the emotional details.

Really, it's not the fact that Jack is hitting on someone else that bothers me. It's the fact that, once again, we have no sense of how he gets from there to here. And, also, it's the fact that, like a lot of fans, I felt kinda betrayed by the end of Children of Earth-- by the way my fun, campy sci-fi show suddenly lost all of its camp flavor and became horribly nihilistic-- and then the next time we see a character impacted by the events of CoE, his process of recovery is completely glossed over. As fans, I think we need to see Jack's grieving process, because we need to see our own grieving process mirrored in the characters we've been led to care about. When Jack's grieving process is ignored and glossed over, I feel, in a way, like my own process is being ignored and glossed over by RTD and company.

* * *

That said, I think I'm more pissed off by the fact that Martha and Mickey are now married. Where the hell did Tom go? And what is this whole "free agent" business? Again, how did the characters get from there to here? And on what planet is Martha/Mickey a plausible couple? Give me a fucking break. Freema Agyeman looks even hotter with braids, though.

Other notes: I'm pretty not happy with the resolution (or lack thereof) of the Donna story. The "brain defense" explanation was illogical, even for a show in which I expect a whole lot of fakey science. Plus, I've said it before and I'll say it again: DONNA FUCKING DESERVES BETTER.

I did, however, love the explanation for/redemption of the Master. It almost made up for nearly two hours of gratuitous flashing skull computer animation. Key word: almost. The Time Lord twist is also infinitely more awesome now that I know the lady in white is Susan. I'm not a big First Doctor fan (read: not at all), and Susan really got kinda shafted in the original series, but I'm glad that watching all those awkwardly-paced, overtly racist First Doctor episodes kinda paid off a bit.

I also surprised myself by loving Rose's appearance. I was prepared to be annoyed by the reappearance of Rose yet again, but in the end I found it moving. Even though Billie Piper is now noticeably older and cannot pass for pre-Ninth Doctor Rose. At least Piper got the accent right this time around. *snerk*

I'm still kind of ambivalent about the manner of the Doctor's ending. The detail-oriented fangirl in me says, "Hey wait, didn't he absorb a lot of radiation that would otherwise have destroyed the planet in the episode when Martha first appears? And instead of regenerating, didn't he just do his physical comedy Time Lord Hokey-Pokey thing and shake the radiation into his shoe and get on with his life? Why the hell could he not manage that this time around? Why the inconsistency?" Another part of me was completely absorbed, and my heart sunk when Wilf knocked on the door. And then, of course, that was followed up by the LONGEST DEATH SEQUENCE EVER. Which sort of leads back to several of the above complaints. Really, regeneration couldn't have been that urgent if he had time to fly the length of time and space to say "peace out" to everyone.

In conclusion: it was basically a shite end, but David Tennant acted it beautifully as always, and I will miss him like a thing I miss very much. I have had it with RTD (finally), and though in in my mind I still think of Steven Moffat somewhat derisively as "that guy who wrote Coupling," I think I am finally ready to welcome my new, potentially more heteronormative overlords. Except the last few minutes of the episode gave me no reason to feel any more positively about that Matt Smith guy. I still say he's too young to play the role.

And speaking of dread for the future: River Song. Do we hafta?
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Revolution nrrrd style now!

May 2010

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