It may simply be coincidence, but I find the current airing schedule of a Doctor Who season to be quite fitting. There’s so much buildup beforehand, lots of ups and downs throughout, an often spectacular conclusion, and then we’re left in the aftermath. It’s much like Christmas, where it all culminates. The calm after the storm of the holiday season to me feels very similar to the void that remains after traversing time and space through the Tardis for 13 episodes. Thankfully, we were left with a very satisfying final taste from this year’s Christmas special.
The previous two Christmas specials were bloated and self indulgent, so it was a pleasant surprise to have an episode that, while not perfect, was quite the opposite. After so many years with Clara, a return to River Song proves she is a counterpart that feels far more earned and authentic for the Doctor than Clara. It’s also now so much easier to see the contrast of these two characters that can seem so similar.
Clara and River are both self-focused on the surface; both claim to be adventure junkies, yet care for the Doctor in their own way. But Clara’s concern for the Doctor (post diving into his time stream) only ever felt feigned. She was more truly out for herself than River, who we know ends up sacrificing herself to save the Doctor. Clara sacrificed herself in “Face The Raven” just because she felt it was brave.
The show often observes other characters acting like the Doctor. The second half of Clara’s arc was entirely about this idea. River Song plays Doctor as well, arguably more effectively. But we’ve never seen the Doctor playing companion. It’s a fascinating and fun observation, and provides a balanced counter point to the ninth season. Plus, was there a more gratifying Doctor moment this season than his turn at the “bigger on the inside” moment?
This great scene is also indicative of a larger observation. The Doctor being the only one who knows the truth of his and River’s relationship allows him to see what she (and other people) really think about him. He gets a dose of his true nature from the eyes of others, and the audience experiences this with him. It culminates in River’s impassioned speech, and gives them both a chance to prove their love for each other, despite the revelation of each other’s true nature.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. – 1 Corinthians 13:6
I feel like this is an often overlooked part of this famous passage from Corinthians. Love rejoices with the truth. It’s a testament to the power of love that it is gracious directly in the face of whatever ugliness the truth may bear. That’s why love binds together a marriage. Because when you grow in knowing a person’s true character, commitment alone is quick to fail. Love is the only thing that can truly bind two individuals together. Notice that River has a lot of husbands, but they are so quickly cast aside because she only truly loves the Doctor.
We all inherently have a desire to be truly known. But then what? Once someone knows you to any extent, they have a choice to accept you or reject you. But love rejoices in truth. It is the only way we can be accepted. It doesn’t always lead to happy endings, but for the Doctor and River it allowed for one more, happy (twenty four year-long) night, and leaves us with a joyful memory as we begin the long wait until the next adventures of the Doctor.
That’s it, Whovians! Thank you for following this season of Who-ology. I hope you enjoyed Season 9 as much as I did. Leave us a comment with your favorite moments, quotes, and episode.
My favorite moment: The Doctor’s War Speech from “The Zygon Inversion”
My favorite quote: “The only way anyone can live in peace is if they’re prepared to forgive.”- The Doctor, “The Zygon Inversion”
My favorite episode: “The Woman Who Lived”
What are your favorites? Least favorites? Let’s keep the conversation going… after all, we’ve got a long wait until next season. See you then, my fellow companions.