Tribble at the Door

Doctor Who Adventures

Stories of the Doctor's Other Adventures in Time and Space

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Discussion: Why does the Doctor have to have a tortured soul?
Tribble at the Door
I'd like to start a discussion about an aspect of the Doctor that confuses me.

For me, starting back in the Classic Series in the 80's (as an American seeing it on PBS) one of the things I loved about the Doctor is that he seemed to be a mature man who had his shit together.

Sure, he couldn't drive his time machine, and he was always bumbling around and getting things wrong. But within himself, in his soul, he seemed to be such a refreshing character, a man who enjoyed his life, who liked himself, and who, (while having tragedies in his past,) did not dwell on them.

I admired that. I aspired to be like that. To be able to live fully in the now. To be someone who had accepted himself, warts and all, and didn't worry about it.

Modern life seems to be consumed with worrying about everything. Every character has to have some big "tragedy" or they aren't considered interesting. I find it boring. And predictable. And done to death.

So, that's my question. Why does the Doctor have to be a tortured soul? Wouldn't he be more original in today's TV landscape as a non-tortured soul?

Wouldn't it be nice to have a hero to look up to who was not perfect, but who had the maturity to accept himself as he was, accept his life as it was, and still enjoy life to the fullest. Not in a shallow jesterish way, not as a way of "covering up" his "pain" but simply as a man who is whole hearted?

What are your thoughts? I know, from a writing perspective, it's considered good to have a character who is not perfect and who has conflicts and dramatic things to deal with, but does that mean he has to be tragic?

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Short answer: The Time War and the idea that he thought that he had destroyed his own people, yet the Daleks survived.

Long answer: when I have more time.

Hmm, this could be the fault of soap operas. Obviously soap operas have a lot of external action but as time went on, more and more characters were given inner turmoil that affected their actions. I'm thinking especially of how this was later used on Dark Shadows and Kolchak: The Night Stalker. I pick these two because they influenced Chris Carter who created The X-Files to be the same way. Mulder and Scully seem halfway normal in the pilot episode but as the series progresses, we find out more previous trauma as well as giving them new trauma. This matters because The X-Files begat Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Lost, etc. and they begat the current version of Doctor Who.

I'm torn between thinking modern audiences want to think there's a reason for everything because it makes them feel better, that they want to think super people are fucked up and that's why they aren't one or that despite being fucked up, they could still be great like that fictional person.

Everything is a pendulum so it'll swing back eventually. Until that mess with Clara, I felt like 12 was a lot more fun but maybe since he can't remember his loss, we'll still have that. Christmas was pretty nice.

He doesn't have to be

I think you ask a really good question (and I agree with your penultimate paragraph, too; it would be nice to have a hero to look up to again — or at least, who was a catalyst for stories, instead of being the story.

I think Davies revival, including the Doctor as a tortured soul, worked pretty well. Where things went wrong was that he never seems to have recovered from the trauma of the Time War, and to me, that smacks of lazy (or at least, of unimaginative) story-telling.

After all, it's pretty of easy (to riff off of ericadawn16's comment above) to write soap-operatic drama. You don't need to imagine new worlds or new characters, you can just keep on re-visiting old ones and poking around in the wounds.

Granted that some people really do suffer eternal PTSD, and that good stories can even be told about their triumphs and tragedies, but that kind of story isn't really what we sign up for when we see the old blue box spinning through the cosmos, is it?

When the show got updated from a learning program for kids to a family drama.

I think it falls into the same reason as "why doesn't television ever depict healthy, happy marriages"? Because they perceive that people just want drama and angst and are turned off by happy, content people. See example A: "Asylum of the Daleks" where Amy and Rory's marriage was upended for the sake of one episode of drama. Did they have legit issues? Absolutely. But instead of crafting an actual story out of it, we just get hit with the angst that's needed for one episode, then it's never addressed again.

I vastly preferred things such as "Pond Life" and "Rain Gods," where it is apparent that when it's not the focal point, both Amy and Rory have a good marriage, and so do the Doctor and River. The latter two especially. You get such rare glimpses into the fact that they actually enjoy being around each other because when River does appear, it's so sparingly that the episodes increasingly focused on the issues in their relationship other than what's right in it. Clara and Danny suffer from this as well as series 8 progresses.

I also hate the tendency to infantilize the Doctor at times. This is especially prevalent in fanworks surrounding the 11th Doctor.

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