Just to contain any spillover from today’s Whoydensday post, which will remain spoiler-free.
*Begin Spoiler Space*
*Don’t click if you are avoiding spoilers for Season 4 and especially the finale* *Torchwood S2 too*
Bloody hell! On the whole I found it hugely cool, and although RTD definitely whipped out the Deus Ex Machina for us again I rather admire how he leaves a nice clear slate for Moffat with a good answer to the fans demanding more Rose Tyler with that fairy tale ending. Damned annoyed for Donna that she ended up getting Lois Lane’d though – everything she’d been through and learnt about herself taken away! Bugger bugger bugger – I just know my daughter is going to cry when she sees it (I’ve sneakily watched it on YouTube before the family gets their turn).
As for Torchwood – I bawled over Owen and Toshiko. (edited to add – give Naoko Mori her own TV show, quick – how magnificently watchable is she?)
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Categories: arts & entertainment, fun & hobbies
Feministsf reacts to Donna’s fate here, and stemming from that, there’s a broader LJ discussion of misogyny in New Who (and Old Who) here.
Personally, I liked Donna’s ending from a storytelling perspective– it was horrible and tragic, but not completely without hope– in the alternate Doctorless realities that we saw in Forest of the Dead and Turn Left, it was quite clear that Donna was still capable of being brilliant. I don’t in any sense buy the line that she would have been better off dead, and I think the tragedy makes a nice counterpoint to the Rose/Blue!Ten ending.
From a feminist perspective, however– ick! It wouldn’t be so bad if we had other examples of women achieving superhuman power and getting to keep it, but the only other time something like that has happened was with Rose in The Parting of the Ways, and that power was taken away from her too. The only person who gets to keep superhuman power is Jack– and while the Doctor may not be terribly happy about that, there’s not much he can do about it either.
On a purely fannish level, I loved the episode– all my favourite people being awesome, the amazing way that Tate and Tennant bounced off each other (and a naked Doctor!), Sarah Jane confronting Davros (wow), Donna with her Time Lord brain making the Daleks spin, German Daleks (!!!), and most of all the “taking the Earth home” scene, where they’re all piloting the TARDIS– that may well be my favourite Who moment ever.
Thanks for those links – the points raised there are exactly the sort of questions I was asking myself about the finale.
I’m totally with you on the three levels of reactions – the narrative was balanced and compelling in many ways, the feminist aspects of handling women with sudden power suck rockzors, and the fannish wow-zomg moments were just marvellous.
Rose was really underdeveloped in this series though – she had awesome moments, but we saw so little of her emotional life – and that made the happy ending seem rather forced, tacked on.
Some of the Doctor-Donna fanfic to come out of this should be good – I too want to see her buried hybrid mind work out a way that she can retrieve those memories and that awesomeness again.
Also, a quick Torchwood nitpick – when zombie-Owen can’t resuscitate someone because he “has no breath” – how the fuck is he talking then if he has no breath? He may not need to actually respire anymore, but why would that stop him being mechanically able to inflate his lungs with air that can then be expelled? All his muscles appear to still be working after all. Silly writers.
how the fuck is he talking then if he has no breath?
The same way that Suzie managed to talk with a whopping great hole in her tongue in They Keep Killing Suzie! Personally, I think that Dead Man Walking was, in all aspects, the most rubbish Torchwood episode ever, and is best forgotten. 😛
The Buffyverse handled the breath question badly, also.
But I didn’t bawl over the Dead Man Whingeing, no way. The character was a piece of shit scumbag rapist, and the rapes were played for laughs. Shame on me for thinking that a gay/bi-friendly show might have more sexual ethics in the writing than some other shows.
Tosh – yes. Spinoff, new show, anything. She’s marvellous.
Yeah, no love lost for Owen here either– I completely agree with your assessment of his character. I hated that the writers seemed to be implying that Tosh and Owen would have made a great couple if they’d only got around to it– because Tosh deserved SO MUCH BETTER than that scum. And she deserved much better than what the writers gave her in general– I wanted to see more of the brilliant epsionage!Tosh.
Not to mention it’s annoying how the only bi female in the cast got offed, to be replaced by someone who has only been coded as straight so far (I like the idea of Martha joining Torchwood in general, but the queer-woman:queer man ratio is looking pretty shoddy right now).
Am not a Torchwood fan but loved the Tennant/Tate combo in S4. Especially the way that Donna didn’t go all gooey over the Doctor. Having a string of ‘companions’ in awe of him got a bit tiring, so Donna was utterly refreshing. My favourite finale moment between them was when there was the transference between the two of them and the change in their language. But really Jack got all the best lines. Very saucy! I’m sorry to see Donna retired off to Chiswick. I found the ending not entirely satisfying. A little too easy giving Rose her version of the Doctor (to satisfy her unconsumated romantic story. I haven’t read the feminist analysis in the links yet but I feel there was a message that if you take the average woman and over load her brain (education, information, learning) than said brain will explode unless she is ‘dumbed down’. Sad. Glad she wasn’t killed off (knowledge is dangerous) but would have loved to see Doctor Donna in action in the next series.
would have loved to see Doctor Donna in action in the next series.
Who wouldn’t love that? 🙂 From a purely practical standpoint though, it couldn’t happen because Catherine Tate was only signed on for one Season– she has way too many other commitments to do more than that. And because Donna was such a strong character, there really needed to be a HUGE reason as to why she couldn’t return.
I hope that Moffat takes note of all this, though, and gives us a female character who can match the Doctor in every way, without having her power taken away from her. Perhaps River Song will fulfil this role, but I’d also love it if he brought Romana back somehow.
What happened to Donna was so tragic, and yet I agree with Beppie narratively powerful. Sniff. I LOVED Donna and am completely meh about Rose so I sort of rolled my eyes through the whole Bad Wolf snoggery. At the end when Donna is nattering on her phone there her ring is really glittering, too much to not be significant. I hope it means there’s a convenient in to bring her back for a guest turn sometime.
I also enjoyed the fannish reunion aspects with SJ, K-9, and my favourite childhood villain Davros. All it needed was Brig. lethbridge-Stewart but I see he’s back for the Sarah Jane show.
OK, I missed a lot of the first few episodes of Torchwood, and I had no idea about this until I googled “Owen Harper, rapist”. I’m caught up now, and totally see your point.
As somewhat of an antidote, that search term did also lead me to the glories of Under Torch Wood,
Someone has already seen a gaping continuity hole in the Doctor’s failure to help Donna without retconning her. [link]
Yes, how did OriginalDoctor10, CloneDoctor10, and DonnaDoctor10 all fail to think of that?
I don’t think the chamelion arch would have worked because Donna was still completely genetically human– that was, in fact the problem– her human body didn’t have the capacity to withstand the Time!Brain.
I think the real inconsistency those links raise is why is Timelordinhumanbody Donna automatically going to die but not Timelordinhumanbody Doctor #2?
That just doesn’t make sense.
I STILL hate what they did to Donna. She was perfectly clear about her own wishes but the Doctor ignored them. Yes it would have meant she died but she knew that and still didn’t think it was worth it. One of the few times I’ve wanted to kick him all the way to Kircaldy.
Isn’t that why they never could have gotten together? Owen was scum, and knew it. And Tosh did deserve better. My feeling was always that Owen, on some level, knew that.
Jeremy: I think that Blue!Ten was genetically still part Time Lord, because he grew from the Hand– he was only 50% human. While genetically, Donna was 100% human. (That’s my wank, and I’m sticking to it, damn it! :P)
Deus Ex Machina: I find it hard to believe that Donna would be better off dead– I think she’s still got all that potential inside of her. In other discussions, I’ve seen it likened to performing an emergency amputation– no one wants to lose a leg or an arm, but if it’s the only way to save a life… Mind you, I still think it’s problematic in the sense that all the females end up losing their superpowers– but I don’t think the Doctor himself did anything wrong there.
Vicki: On a meta-level, I think that you’re right, but it is strongly implied that if Owen hadn’t become undead, then they probably would have gotten together at some point.
But she didn’t agree to it. She was wide awake, aware of the implications, and she didn’t consent to the mindwipe – he just went ahead and did it anyway, over her protests. Staying might have killed her, or there may have been some other way to save her (the writing was so bad at that part that we don’t know), but that should have been her choice, not his.
The point has been made elsewhere that the Doctor always tries, even when the person concerned is a massive supervillain and the Universe is crumbling around them while he dithers. With Donna, nope: snap decision, teary apology, protests ignored, wipe.
Well my impression is that her death was pretty immanent, so even if there had been some other way, they wouldn’t have had time to implement it. And I think you also have to take into consideration what pre-Runaway Bride Donna would have wanted– would she have been content to die? DoctorDonna was going to “die” in one sense or another anyway– but pre-Runaway Bride Donna was still a rational person with the potential to live a rich and full life regardless of whether she met the Doctor, and I just don’t see why he shouldn’t have tried to save that person, given that I think that that person had no desire to die.
Of course, there is the possiblity that Davies could have written it differnetly– I’ve seen it suggested that he could have made it Donna’s choice– she could have told the Doctor to go ahead with it, knowing what she’d be sacrificing– and I think that could have been very powerful, but at the same time, I think the degree of moral ambiguity in what the Doctor did is also powerful (and don’t get me wrong– while I defend his actions, mostly because I think I would do the same thing in his situation, I do think there is also a significant degree of moral ambiguity), because it does bring up the very complex questions about when it’s right to save a life, etc (and of course this is framed by Mr. Copper’s comment in Voyage of the Damned, that if the Doctor got to choose who lived and who died, he’d be a monster).
I’d have to disagree that it’s bad writing too– I was literally trembling as I watched that scene, and my reaction was even more pronounced on second and third viewings. I think the writing was very compelling– although perhaps he could have made different choices in how it was written.
Would you have done (and defended) the same thing in his situation? There was no evidence in the text (that I saw) that she was incompetent to decide, or that she failed to understand her situation, or that there were going to be severe ramifications for anyone other than herself.
Why should she not have the choice?
It may be fiction, but there is a _really_ fundamental issue here of bodily autonomy that wasn’t respected, and there is no reasonable justification given for that lack of respect. If the narrative is about the Doctor making a bad decision and violating Donna’s right to make her own choice, sure – that’s a narrative decision. But I’m not going to defend the actions as written ethically, because I think they’re indefensible.
Honestly, if one of my best friends was dying, and I had to make a split-second decision when the only way to save them was to do something akin to performing an amputation against their will? I probably would. And perhaps that’s not the most ethically defensible decision in the world, but I think that’s what I would do on an emotional level (and aren’t these sort of conflicts the reason that doctors aren’t allowed to operate on friends and family members?)
I agree that all those questions about bodily autonomy come into play here, but, on a gut level, I really find it hard to say that what he did was indefensible, because he did it in order to save the woman who had never met the Doctor. Donna might have thought that her old self wasn’t worth saving, but the Doctor did– and I see absolutely NO evidence that Doctorless Donna wanted to die at all.
Of course I recognise that this is a situation contrived by a writer who wants us to sympathise with the Doctor, and I need to examine my own thought processes here, particularly since they seem to be at odds with my stance supporting euthanasia, for instance. But even knowing that, I can’t say that what the Doctor did was indefensible– it was ethically ambiguous, to be sure, and I can see why many people feel differently to me– but I can’t bring myself to believe that what he did was completely wrong, either. I think it was one of those situations where there is no absoulte right or wrong answers, and I do think that’s something that Rusty tries to emphasise with the show– I mean, Donna says explicitly in Planet of the Ood, that with the Doctor, it’s hard to tell what’s right and what’s wrong anymore, and that can be applied to so many of the Doctor’s actions.
I’m interested also– how would you compare the Doctor’s actions in Journey’s End to the actions of the eponymous Adam in Torchwood? In Adam’s case, I think it’s easy to say that his invasion of the TW team’s minds was unambiguously wrong. Do you see any sort of ethical distinction between what Adam did and what the Doctor did? Clearly, I do see a distinction, which is based pretty much on the Doctor’s motives, but I’d be interested to hear your viewpoint, because I think I need my assumptions challenged on this one.
I see differences, but that doesn’t mean that they lie either side of the line, just that they lie differing distances on the “wrong” side of the line.
I just can’t see this as being on the line (or on this side of it). If Donna had been unconscious and the situation was urgent, maybe – but that’s a completely different situation. I maintain that it was her decision to make, and that if she wanted to stay and die (or whatever else was going to happen to her), the Doctor might be grief-stricken, but it wouldn’t be right to overrule her. That’s a violation of her autonomy. I think it was a difficult decision, but not an ambiguous one. (Maybe the writer thinks it’s an ambiguous one, but he’s hardly a beacon of respect when it comes to women and the violation thereof.)
If I were going further on comparing things, I’d also say that amputation of a limb and the Donna mindwipe are very different, and that the mindwipe is a much bigger violation. (Again, it doesn’t place these two things on either side of my line, they’re both wrong to do to a competent person against their will.) To me, completely erasing years and experiences from someone’s life is an utterly heinous thing to do, a massive loss, and a much bigger violation than losing a leg; and no amount of “well she’s still got all that potential in her” fanwanking can get around it.
I agree that an amputation is an imperfect analogy, but whether what happened to Donna is better or worse than that is, I think, entirely subjective. I do think it’s overly dismissive, however, to say that recognising mindwiped Donna’s potential is just fanwank. She DOES have a huge amount of potenial inside of her, and I think that not acknowledging that is demeaning to her character. I think one of the points about her was that her experiences as that person– before she ever met the Doctor– made her into a wonderful human being, even if she never recognised that herself. Maybe you think it’s fanwank designed to excuse the Doctor, but to me, it’s acknowledging that her character has value regardless of whether she has the Doctor in her life.
And no, that doesn’t really address the issue of her autonomy, but on a gut-level I really can’t see it as a clear cut issue. Pre-Doctor Donna certainly didn’t want to die– she was willing to do so to save the world (as seen in Turn Left), but she hardly wanted to. I mean, if Donna really doesn’t want to live after the Doctor mindwiped her, surely she has that option open to her still?
I just can’t see the Doctor’s actions as something that were wrong in a clear-cut sense, and maybe that’s because I’ve internalised patriarchal assumptions about women’s autonomy, and in this instance, I just can’t see past it. But on a deep, visceral level, I’m glad he saved her, even though I acknowledge that he was on ethically shaky ground. I’m glad that, in the Whoniverse, Donna Noble is still out there, shouting at the world.
Oh, I totally agree with Donna’s potential – just not that it’s an excuse for the Doctor’s actions. The way the wank is being used (elsewhere) implies that the Doctor has the absolute right to just “erase” himself from her life. And the only way that can work is if the speaker thinks that Donna became his posssession after they met and started travelling together, that he was in charge of her body, her mind, her decisions, and her future.
And that’s some patriarchal bullshit right there.
Firstly, I apologise for my abrasive tone in my previous post. I feel a bit like I have a brick wall in my own head here, and no matter how I throw myself against it, I can’t get past it. I just got home and watched the memory wipe scene again, and I still can’t feel like he did the wrong thing. While I was clicking through the episode, I came across the scene where Davros is taunting the Doctor about all the people who have died because of him, and I could only think, “How could the Doctor be expected to let her die after that?”
And I don’t think that’s a matter of seeing Donna’s experiences as the Doctor’s possessions to do with what he likes– I just see a desperate decision. When I see Donna pleading, I can only think “but she’s going to lose all those memories anyway if she dies, so why shouldn’t he try to save the part of her that he can?” The main thing she’s saying “no” to is something that is going to happen regardless of what the Doctor does. And why shouldn’t he try to save pre-Doctor Donna, given that that woman did want to live?
Intellectually, I think your argument is better than mine, but I really can’t get past this, and it frustrates the hell out of me– I feel like I should be better than this, I feel like I’m one hellava a crappy feminist, but I just can’t feel that he did the wrong thing in an absolute sense. I was keeping your arguments in the forefront of my mind the entire time I was watching it, but I just couldn’t feel any disgust for what he did. Uneasiness, yes, but no sense that what he did was clearly reprehensible.
And I can’t work out if that’s because my emotional reaction to the scene is too bound up in patriarchal discourses, or if it’s because there is a good argument in defense of the Doctor beneath it all, and I’m just having trouble articulating it because I feel a powerful emotional attachment to Donna’s character, because I want her to survive.
(And, er, just in case I wasn’t clear there, any frustration in my tone is aimed at myself, not at you. :))
I get the emotional-intellectual divide thing, it’s cool. I watch the scene differently – I’m screaming out “No no no no LISTEN to her, don’t DO IT!”
I’ll admit that I totally don’t get the “this is what the person she used to be would have wanted”, though. Don’t get it at all. How can it be ok for other people make decisions for you based on what they think the person you were a year or two ago would have wanted? That only works for people who aren’t competent to make decisions. If that had been written into the text (eg if she was in a coma or something, and there wasn’t time to wait for her to wake up), it would be quite a different story.
I should add that I’m not arguing for the sake of arguing, or attacking you or your feminism, or anything along those lines – I think we’re both sticking to the subject at hand well, and I have no bad feeling at all!
Oh, I know you’re not attacking my feminism– I’m questioning how my opinions here correspond to my feminism as a consquence of your arguments, but I don’t feel attacked at all!
I sort of see what you’re saying about the “what pre-Doctor Donna” would have wanted, but at the same time, I do feel that it’s relevant because that was the person she had to become– it wasn’t just her past, it was her only possible future as well. I think that I’m also reacting, in part, to certain responses that I’ve seen to the effect of “she’d be better off dead”– no one here has said that, but I just find that so demeaning, to suggest that she’s worthless without the Doctor, and I’ve formed my own opinions of that scene with that in mind. But that’s not all of it, I have to admit– it’s the intellection-emotional thing again, but I just find it really hard to feel that it would be preferable for the Doctor turn up on Wilf and Sylvia’s doorstep holding a corpse rather than a living body.
I was also thinking (while watching it yet again) how it might relate to The Fires of Pompeii earlier in the Season– when Donna realises that tomorrow is Volcano Day, she tells the Doctor outright that because he’s capable of doing something about it, it’s his fault if all those people die. And of course that situation is flipped on it’s head by the end of the episode, but the overwhelming messages seems to me to be that there is no absolute right and wrong here– any decision the Doctor makes is wrong to a certain extent– and that’s what Davros really brings home to him in Journey’s End.
Of course, it is quite different when you look at it on a meta-level, from a writing perspective, in that Rusty could have chosen to put her into a coma, or he could have chosen to have her agree– but as I said above, I do think that the moral ambiguity is an important facet of what happens here– the whole episode is about the way that the Doctor is as easily a monster as he is an angel, and I think that Donna’s ending emphasises that, even as my personal sympathies tend to align with the Doctor’s actions. What I think would be really great is if TimeLord!Donna managed to come back somehow (as hinted by her glinty ring) and she actually challenged the Doctor on all of this stuff, including whether he had the right to take her memory.
My argument has always been that only one person is qualified to judge relative quality of life and that’s the person whose life it is. No one here is saying Donna would be better off dead – DONNA was saying that. Only she can know how much she values the person she has become, and I don’t think that just having potential is any guarantee of it ever being realised. In my mind that was why she didn’t want to go back.
Am just watching it again on online (God bless BBC iPlayer and all who sail in her) but my feeling hasn’t changed.*
Highlights are still Gwen going all Wild Bunch with the machine gun and the amazing aptness of having a Dalek speak German. 🙂 The making-of strand with footage of the script read-through is a scream.
WHOHEAD ALERT – For those that do have access to iPlayer, the entire fourth series is being repeated this week and next (three or four eps a week) and will be available to watch online instead of having to juggle dodgy youtube transfers. First three are already up, catch-em while you can.
Torchwood … is still pants, sorry. Though I wouldn’t mind further opportunities to see Ianto in tight jeans (Fragments) overall the writing is pretty damn poor (yes I noticed the breath problem with Owen too – almost gave up on it entirely at that point). I just wish they were improving. There’s only two or three decent episodes per series – Ghost Machine, Small Worlds and Combat in series one and From Out of the Rain and Adrift in the series two. Don’t think I’ll miss either Tosh or Owen much. Tosh died well but she’s spent two years being awfully wet.
* Except that as I am now living in Edinburgh, Kirkaldy is too close. I’d like to kick him all the way to Kirkwall!