Last year, I wrote about the overwhelming optimism that drove the characters of the Eleventh Doctor’s era to overcome dark situations that could have destroyed them, and this year I want to return to that theme having now seen the last two episodes of series 9 and how that optimism had transformed but ultimately still triumphed.
Where the Eleventh Doctor’s era could be described much like a children’s fairy tale with characters who are put into truly horrifying situations that they overcome through the power of love, the Twelfth Doctor’s era brought the darker side of those stories into focus. Love remained one of the most powerful forces in the universe, but this era explored the reality that love doesn’t always last a lifetime, even for the main characters.
Rory and Amy left the show when their story was finished, and they lived long, happy lives, dying of old age off screen. We all know Cinderella will one day die and so will Amy Pond, but the picture book ends long before that day. When Amy Pond stopped being the Girl Who Waited, it was the beginning of the end of her time on the show, but River Song and Clara Oswald remained on the show long after the stories of ‘The Woman who Killed the Doctor” and “The Impossible Girl” had been resolved.
And they lived until their lives were cut short in tragic, yet heroic deaths. With the direction the show had been taking in series 8 and 9, their stories could have been bleak reminders of the reality that many people die before they ever reach old age, and what we think of as happily ever after is rare (if not impossible), but instead, their endings came with an acceptance of the inevitability of death, while at the same time allowing these women to control their fate in a way we can only dream of in the real world.
The show did not lose all of its optimism as it grew out of it’s fairy tale era, and instead of telling us that River and Clara won’t get their happily ever afters, it asked us to examine how we define happily ever after. Clara Oswald will face the raven and River Song will go to the Library, but those endings do not prevent them from having their own happily ever afters. These two characters are given the opportunity to seize the time they do have and live it the best they can so that when they die, they will have lived full lives on their own terms.
Happily ever after does not mean forever.
It’s a message we can all take to heart knowing that we too will not live forever.
Clara flies off to see the universe with her new companion, and River Song spends 24 years with the man she loves (and with a vortex manipulator and a time machine, it could easily be more than 24 years). They will both die, just as we will all die, but their stories are neither tragedies nor fairy tales. Their stories are examples of what fantasy does best - addressing the harsh realities of life while allowing the characters to do the things we wish we could do, taking both time and death into their own hands.
34. Petronella Osgood - The Human and The Zygon (Doctor Who)
TV shows that introduce a fangirl character often have the problem of making a mockery of the same people who keep their show running and fortunately, Osgood does anything but that. She loves the doctor as a fan, she knows all the stories about him, and her wardrobe is inspired by his. She is one of us and she is intelligent, hard working, and fighting to defend the Earth. She’s adorable, a bit awkward, and her fangirl qualities help brighten up her episodes, but she’s so much more than a punchline. Zygon or human, it doesn’t matter. She’s the ultimate Doctor Who fangirl.
Moffat Appreciation Day 2015: The Light that Overpowers the Dark Themes of the Eleventh Doctor’s Era
So much of the Eleventh Doctor’s era is founded in very dark ideas - from a hero who is losing track of whether he’s a good man or a bad man to a woman who was manipulated and abused for years - but throughout it all, the characters rise above to survive and try to do the right thing despite their struggles and mistakes. The darkness that constantly drives their world is not the point of this story, but instead the backdrop that motivates the characters to fight and persevere.
The characters could have been destroyed by what they face, but they survive only when they don’t let themselves believe that anyone, anything, or even time itself is the boss of them. They instead embrace the complicated nature of time and use it to achieve their goals. Sometimes they get it wrong, but they pick themselves up to live, love, and survive against all odds. A young couple believes in love so strongly that it is all they will ever need to survive - it motivates them to do the impossible and the extraordinary.
When life punches these characters in the gut, they focus on how there is always a way out, how impossible is a challenge to be overcome, and how there is always a reason to fight for the people you love. And when a man forgets all of that the day he loses his family, the timey wimey universe reminds him with a new friend who has that spark in her eyes that he had lost.
The world isn’t easy. It’s dark and brutal, but that brutal side is not what living is about. It’s about believing anything is possible even when it shouldn’t be.
It’s how an impossible girl dies and lives again all because she was an ordinary girl who did something extraordinary. It’s about how a woman raised to kill and hate a man takes back her own fate and learns to love him instead.
This is an era that never strives to be the world we live in, but instead elevates itself to an inspirational story that makes you feel like you can be anything and do the impossible. Eleven’s final speech reminds us that while we’re watching a science fiction fairy tale unfold, it is a story about life at its heart. We’re not aliens or time traveling archaeologists or little girls with monsters behind our walls, but we’re all living, loving, and trying to survive our own struggles as we constantly change throughout our lives. So, here’s to the Eleventh Doctor and his extraordinary companions after the story has ended and the show has once again changed. We’ll always remember every one of you.