Doctor Who and the cheapening of sacrifice

Trying to nail this down quickly after watching last episode of the first Matt Smith season of Doctor Who. Much as I loved the episode and season in many ways, there’s a huge painful flaw running through the show since Russell T Davies brought it back, and sadly it seems Stephen Moffatt has inherited it.

In this universe, personal sacrifice doesn’t mean shit.

Multiple times now, we’ve had major characters either trapped on the other side of an unassailable void or full-blown dead after sacrificing themselves for the greater good… and after a few minutes, just long enough for the audience to get a bit weepy, they magically come back.

And they just fucking did it again.

Jack Harkness. Rose Tyler. River Song. Rory. The Doctor himself. Indestructable ‘cos the plot requires it, or ‘cos they’re Special. Only ever Mostly Dead (and this episode even had that phrase, so it’s not like they haven’t seen Princess Bride…).

For me, this makes any sacrifice they make utterly meaningless.

Other than that, it was pretty good…


1. Of course there will be those who say about my Who concerns “it’s only a kid’s show”. True – but as wife-the-shaman points out, what message then is the show teaching our childrens? Trust mad strangers? Tears bring back the dead?

2. The real contrast in attitude to death/sacrifice in this incarnation (heh) of Doctor Who is summed up for me by the Fifth Doctor’s attitude to the death of Adric – his angry refusal to even consider changing history to allow him to not die sits uneasily with the current tendency for waving the “make it all better” wand.

EDIT 2 – After rewatching with my teenage son.

I thought that the real sacrifice had been Auton Rory, the nobel warrior/troubador who sat by his beloved lady’s side for 2000 years – just sitting, thinking and fighting. After that amount of time, you’re either a warrior supreme or raving mad, possibly both. But even that loss is retconned – Meat Rory has Auton Rory’s memories, it seems.

But once I got over the previous hole, just let it get all Mythic on me, and loved it much more. Well enough to take a few cool ideas to muck around with, on how The Doctor sort of turned himself into a story and when he was retold by Amy (+DNA from tear) he reboots from backup.

It’ll be interesting to hear whet the synchromystic folk think. (Top thoughts – at this point both Amy & Rory are demigods and… as for The Lonely God –  what kind of god is Doctor Who?

He’s a trickster-god, of course! (Wife-the-artist, often cleverer than I, looked down at me and said “well durr...”)

And the Doctor has a married couple on his hands, to show him how that works… perhaps making his next meeting with River even more significant?

2 thoughts on “Doctor Who and the cheapening of sacrifice”

  1. He’s the Oncoming Storm. Not sure what archetype that is, though.

    I thought the thing of bringing him back with Amy’s tears was a bit hazy and illogical, but at least they prepared the ground by having him still hanging around in Universe 2.0 before the cracks closed.

    The end of the last series got a bit needlessly messianic, though, didn’t it.

  2. A few quick thoughts. I’ve just got back from work, so they might be a bit random.

    Have you ever read the Coldfire trilogy by CS Friedman? Interesting take on magic, sacrifice, power, and humanity. All told through SF, because where else could you get away with it?

    The good doctor has/had become almost an Odin-figure. Sacrificing himself but with a backup plan to return. Actually, you sort of hit the more relevant point – He made himself a story. Not Odin, but a sort of fuzzy protogod.
    Of course, the direction they’ve taken the show, he’s becoming similar to Vash the Stampede. He can’t die because he won’t let himself. There are things that need doing, and he’s the only one who can do it. (put like that, I can identify with it). But I guess that only strengthens your point… if he can’t let himself die, he shouldn’t be off sacrificing himself left right and centre. After all, you know what can happen with token sacrifices.

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