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This is probably the closest I'll be getting to actual meta on S11.

It's essentially me trying to understand Thirteen and how she fits with what came before. She is of course perfectly Doctor-y, but she feels a little bit like she fell out of E-Space. I don't really see the age, that core of darkness we know she carries inside. There are tiny glimpses, but it's nothing more than that, and continuity-wise the Time War might as well never have happened. (I presume this will get fixed in the future, and that they're just giving us a nice fluffy season of a breather to start off with.)

But to illustrate what I mean I shall use Four, whose era I am currently working my way through (just finished Season 13!). Four is of course utterly brilliant and effortlessly ageless and alien. But he feels young. (He's full of energy and action and curiosity and vitality, a happy man enjoying life.) I have been imagining this little exchange in my head, adapting River's first meeting with Ten:

RIVER: But look at you. You're young.
FOUR (wide grin, you know the one): See, this is exactly what I was saying to the Sisterhood of Karn the other day. Life doesn't begin until seven hundred and fifty!

In the same way Thirteen is perfectly 'ageless', easily striding across the universe and endlessly capable - a perfectly Doctor-y Doctor, with odd clothes and strange habits and full of obscure knowledge; but she doesn't seem to have that age to her that Nine onwards do, that burden of her blood-stained past, and sits much more comfortably alongside the Classic Doctors than the New ones. I presume this is a conscious decision, but I need that link, the acknowledgement of her history and her past to fix her properly in my head.

Or as Promethia said back when S11 was airing:

Back during Season Five I remember an old-timer saying that watch enough Who and inevitably your favorite character become the Doctor and your favorite Doctor becomes the Doctor. Which made enough intellectual sense to me to take note of, but man, I am feeling it this season. I get it now. Like, yes, your new friends seem lovely, but slightly in the middle of a 55-year old character arc here. Bit keen to get back.

The Doctor's internal conflicts have been the driving force of the show for... all of New Who, basically, so suddenly having a [perfectly nice, don't get me wrong] blank to work with is disorienting.

Now pointing out the issues obviously doesn't really help in trying to work out how to reconcile what's on screen with the disparity in my head. Thankfully, I found an explanation that works for me.


Back in November (just over halfway through New S11) I wrote a post: Sort of meta: I'm Just A Traveller (Thoughts on the 13th Doctor).

The point I made was not particularly original (many others have written something similar) — the Doctor is tired of warfare and fighting, which accounts for why she pulls away from conflict and doesn’t talk about her past.

And I was struck by how ‘nice’ she was:

DOCTOR: We shouldn't have come. I'm too nice. This is what happens when you try to be nice.

But nice is not the same as kind, as Twelve reminded his future self:

DOCTOR: Always try to be nice, but never fail to be kind.

Now as it happens I came across this video on facebook. The video itself is about outing men who sexually harass women online, so not really relevant, but this part about ‘nice vs kind’ struck me as so well formulated that I transcribed it.

[Being kind doesn't mean being weak, but kind it’s is very different from nice.] See nice is about being agreeable, behaving in a way that makes sure everybody else is comfortable, except for ourselves. And we have been conditioned to do this, haven't we ladies? Make everybody comfortable. Don't make too much noise, or you might sound like a drama queen. Being kind, on the other hand, that comes from a deeper place of wanting to do the right thing. To add good to the world. And exposing evil, instead of hiding it, that's being kind.

Now, it might just be that Chibnall doesn’t understand the difference, or that the writing is just a bit rubbish, but that doesn’t help someone (me) looking at Thirteen and going ‘What the hell happened? You know better!’

But then I re-watched the S9 finale (Face the Raven/Heaven Sent/Hell Bent) and suddenly I had a minor epiphany. The main quotes:

DOCTOR: I can do whatever the hell I like. You've read the stories. You know who I am. And in all of that time, did you ever hear anything about anyone who stopped me?
ASHILDR: I know the Doctor. The Doctor would never
DOCTOR: The Doctor is no longer here! You are stuck with me. And I will end you, and everything you love.
[…]
CLARA: Don't let this change you. No, listen. Whatever happens next, wherever she is sending you, I know what you're capable of. You don't be a Warrior. Promise me. Be a Doctor.

Face the Raven

GLASS WOMAN: The Doctor has walked in blood through all of time and space. The Doctor has many names.
DAVROS [OC]: The Destroyer of Worlds.
GLASS WOMAN: The Imp of the Pandorica. The Shadow of the Valeyard. The Beast of Trenzalore. The Butcher of Skull Moon. The Last Tree of Garsennon. The Destroyer of Skaro. He is the Doctor of War.
(The images disappear.)
FIRST DOCTOR: What, what was that?

Twice Upon A Time

So, I don’t think Thirteen is ‘trying to be nice’. I think she is doing her damnedest to NOT be a Warrior.

And this is a far better motivation than just ‘niceness’, which isn’t really a thing at all, and doesn’t really fit all that well with her actions. But running scared of herself and what she is capable of? Oh that is a motivation.

See letting not!Trump walk away unchallenged; or smiling and shaking the hands of the Kerblam! managers; or checking with her friends if she’s OK to kill the Dalek. This is not ‘normal’ Doctor behaviour. Killing Daleks is the Time Lord version of golf, and the Doctor has brought down corrupt regimes in a night, barely raising a sweat. The Doctor fights for the oppressed, and the Doctor doesn’t let damaging structures stand. Except — except if she is scared what it’ll do to her?

Basically I think she is terrified that she might not know where the line goes; that she can't tell which paths might lead to that darkness, so she shuts all of them off. And if she doesn't know what causes it, or how to separate out that part of her, no wonder she comes up with blunt solutions (NO guns!)

I was angry that she shut down Graham so completely when he wanted to avenge Grace; reaching out and explaining that she knew how he felt (and how vengeance wouldn’t help all that much) seemed a million times better than what she did, which was just tell him that if he didn’t follow her very strict moral code he couldn’t travel with her anymore. But if she is terrified of what she’s done (and trying to make a new start and cutting off her past completely), then admitting to it is probably not something she is capable of. If the scariest thing in the universe is her, then it is understandable that she balks at possibly unleashing her wrath.

Don’t forget, Twelve died on a battlefield (twice) — and he wasn’t planning on coming back. Twelve did a lot of soul-searching, and also learned that The Time Lord Victorious was at his fingertips, if he wasn’t careful:

RIVER: When you began, all those years ago, sailing off to see the universe, did you ever think you'd become this? The man who can turn an army around at the mention of his name.
A Good Man Goes To War

DOCTOR: I can do anything. There's nothing I can't do. Nothing. But I'm not supposed to. Ripples, tidal waves, rules. I'm not supposed to.
The Girl Who Dies

OHILA: You have gone too far. You have broken every code you ever lived by.

DOCTOR: Look how far I went, for fear of losing you. This has to stop.

Hell Bent

So Thirteen is running scared of her own shadow. Literally.

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