By the way, you know how to make the emotional wrecking ball of part 2 even more destructive? Be me:
a) desperate enough to find reviews to jump-start your floundering lack of impulsion to begin writing your own, that you
b) become stupid enough to venture outside your bubble and read (insert gasp of horror here) GENERAL PUBLIC reactions, where
c) the world is disappointingly less impressed with episodes (and/or David Tennant/Ten in general) and it makes you want to punch everybody in their fat cynical heads. I'll take my fangirl hyperactivity over snobby adult fans of Classic Who any day.
d) And then in addition to that, stumble across what you think (but are not certain) may be season 4 spoilers:
</div>"And the poor Doctor has to live with that- the woman he truly cares for, going off with his look alike. It's like in Human Nature/Family of Blood..."
*stares* Google. GOOGLE. My brain wants to go to a Rose place with that statement, but surely you did not mean that. Surely the person was referring to Martha or Donna and/or in reference to a fanfic somewhere. There's no post title to clue me in, but that must be it, because SURELY, GOOGLE, YOU WOULD NOT BE SO CRUEL AS TO SPOIL ME ON SEASON FOUR when all I asked you for were some nice, sympathetic, non-hater reviews for FoB and thought I could get that by putting the title and the phrase "poor Doctor" into your search engine. (Don't anybody tell me one way or the other. I just want this noted for the record in case it's important to me later)
Now, on to the actual episode. We shall resume Part 1's method of showing my original running commentary in blue text, and additional post-episode-completion thoughts in brackets between.
Poor Mr. Smith! [I am...not actually sure where I was going with this comment [remember what I told you about shorthand notes and small time windows for deciphering them?], but seeing as I was apparently too gripped by the action to write more than 2 words at a time until like 10 minutes in, I figured I should include it so as to start SOMEWHERE. His expression, maybe? This is kind of a hideous position to witness, two women with guns pointed at their heads because of you, especially when you still can't figure out what the hell's going on.
On second thought, I'm not sure how I failed to note/whoop for joy at Joan stepping quickly back to his side, with him immediately taking her hand. I normally live for little just-rescued-from-mortal-peril moments like that.]
OMG, BRATTY CHILD. I want to beat the everliving stuffing out of Tiny Tim right now for that completely uncalled for snarl of "Don't touch me! You're as bad as them!"
"GOD you're rubbish as a human; come on!" Hehe. He really is.
[This next scene, right here, Smith ringing the bell and rallying the students to defend the school? The internet has Taken Issue with it, because OMG, CHILDREN ARE BEING CALLED TO BATTLE! And I just did not that vibe at all. Part of me was too thrilled that Smith was finally back to taking charge after being disappointingly shrinking-violet in the dance hall - Joan had to lead the mass exodus, for goodness sakes; he froze - and the rest of me was just caught up in the thrill of action. "Enemy at the door!" Defense system. Seems sensible enough considering that the Family is already murdering people willy-nilly. Do you see another army standing by? Like or it not, which I don't think I did back in part 1, these boys - who, you know, are at least in their teenage years, many of them looking very much like men, and what IS the average age a soldier starts? - are somewhat trained for this.]
I really, really cannot stand alien!Baines anymore. The eyes, the weird twist of the neck (never mind the long and manic strings of sentences); WHY CAN'T YOU TAKE YOUR CUE FROM THE OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS AND LOOK NORMAL? It's like he's half Frankenstein. The other alien!townspeople give off a chilling vibe, but they do so without looking/sounding like deranged asylum escapees.
However, I really love alien!Lucy and her red balloon. She's so awesomely sweet and creepy at once. We need this actress in more shows/movies, lots more.
Well, that's a good idea, Headmaster. Wander outside, sans weapon, to reason with the lunatics.
["Do you think they will thank the man who taught them it was glorious?"
If I may digress for a moment - what's crazy is, as a past event, doesn't it still seem glorious? You think of the world wars, and you think of valiant heroes and history and medals. War isn't like that anymore. Vietnam only gets remembered as a mess, and what are our Middle East battles? There's no glory to Iraq, no real prestige or honor to a tour of duty (for me personally). I support the troops and all, but current military photos in the paper don't make my heart swell with pride the way pictures of old uniforms do. I mean, you think Iraq, you think protestors. The World Wars, for all the horrors that have been detailed about them, still have meaning. Your mileage may vary; please don't explode me in a ball of flaming comment.]
Wait, what war in South Africa are we talking about? *needs badly to brush up on world history* It sounds interesting. Compelling stuff of early 20th century novels, maybe.
Oh, YES! I have been waiting and waiting to hear the awesome "Just Scarecrows to War" theme!
[This really needs to be more than a minute and a half long. The bells! The drums! The trilling piccolo melody over it all! Man, that is some excellent picc. Sorry, is something happening in this scene? I'm distracted by the AWESOME MUSIC. (Otherwise, I'd probably be under the desk in fear right about now)]
OK, the thing with
[Speaking of things I appreciate about Joan, "Those boys are going to fight. I may not be a doctor, but I'm still their nurse. They need me." I realize she kind of ducks the whole alien issue, but she is needed in another capacity right now. It's very devoted.]
"How can you think I'm not real?" [*taps chin* I think...right here is the part where David Tennant stabs a knife into my chest and begins the twisting that will last pretty much the rest of the episode. It's the trembling when she starts pressing John about what his childhood was like, and he realizes he can't answer, and begins his own round of questions in that desperate and pleading almost-whisper.]
"When I kissed you, was that a lie?" *is falling apart* His eyyyyyes. Just so you know, this right here is fulfilling every fantasy I've ever had about Tennant in other roles. I've avoided movies like Casanova because really, there are limits to my love, but emotionally vulnerable moments like this are things I did not think I could get with the Doctor. I was not entirely wrong about that. THANK YOU FOR FINDING A WAY AROUND IT.
"Am I not enough?" *is dying with joy* Both broken and a little bitter. And oh, how I love her immediate and equally tight-lipped rebuttal. Oh, oh, "What choice do I have?" STOP KILLING ME WITH YOUR INFLECTION, DT.
[That's it, I officially insist that there be a parallel world where John and Joan live out their happy little lives. As much as I thoroughly advocate whatever John Smith does to follow 1913 norms, I also like that Joan is constantly tempering those attitudes, and he's amenable to them. Imagine the approach to parenting!]
OH, WITH THE GOODBYE KISS! *squeals and flails about* [I actually forgot about that! So watching it back now is like a whole mine of undiscovered joy. It's so sudden and brief-but-intense. Very declarative. I like that. May have rewound it a time or 20. Someone really needs to picspam the hell out of this episode. This space reserved for link to an impressive John Smith and/or John/Joan picspam when I feel it is safe to hunt LJ again. (go forth, minions, and find me one!)]
"Scarecrows" music encore! And - oi, oi, GIVEN this watch?! You impertinent little arse! You stole it!
Ooh, dark!Doctor flashback! *pets* Poor thing. Goes mad over losing Rose. Manifests itself in ugly ways. [Really, I'm scared to watch Runaway Bride again. I think by this point I might just curl up in a ball and howl by the time we get to the dark!Doctor part of it]
IDIOT BOY! Would you QUIT with the opening the watch and sending the Family back on the Doctor's trail? HIDE BETTER.
[Crap, I didn't notice the part with all the boys crying as they take aim and fire before. Um...well, I still refuse to redact my pro-defense statements! Nyah! My feelings of shame are obliterated quickly by a resurgence of annoyance with the boys' choir music. Then again, John's expression of horror and guilt as he looks around him could bring them back in a hurry.]
K, the Headmaster totally deserved that. But whatever, I'd still totally shoot the little alien!girl. Lucy Cartwright's dead anyway.
[Tim: *opens watch and saves group of boys from execution*] All right, boy is not being an idiot for once. But I consider that a fluke.
21:26: In Which RS Devolves Into An Increasingly Hysterical Mess For Four Minutes [wait, seriously, this is 4 minutes? The meat of the emotional beating takes place over four minutes? It felt like hours! I'm devoting an entire chapter in my novella to this section! Anyway. Don't worry, we'll rewind. But from here to the part where the Doctor returns, I just want you to experience what it was like in my head. Straight transcription, and not a word extra.]
-*sobcakes* John Smith hurts meeeeeeeeee! He's all crying and begging and WAAAAAAAAAH!
-"Because he's lonely." *WAILS* "And that's what you want me to become?" *WAILS MORE*
-*completely sobs* "Is that how he talks?"
-*is wailing on a whole new plane* "Falling in love, that didn't even occur to him?"
-Dammit, Martha, ew.
-He's CRYYYYYYYYYYING! *wails, squeaks* BREAKDOWN TIEM NAO.
-SOB. SOB. SOB. AM STILL SOBBING, DAMN IT!
-WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY WITH THE FUTURE VISIONS?
-Oh my God, with THE MARRIAGE and the BABY
-AND THE CHILDREN! THERE ARE CHILDREN NOW! WHY ARE YOU SHOWING ME THIS! WHY SUCH TORTURE?! THIS IS CRUEL AND UNUSUAAAAAAAAAAAAAL!
-AM CRYING A COUPLE OF ACTUAL TEARS RIGHT NOW.
[A/n: At this point, text ceases entirely. There is just a series of dots/slash marks slapped across the paper, which are not actually meant to be words - this is what happens when I get so excited that it's the equivalent of typing "!!!" and just have to rapid-fire hit the paper with my pen. Drawing actual exclamation points requires too much focus, so I just do the dots.]
-Oh, wow, old Tennant. That I didn't need to see. Snapped me right out of it.
-THAT IS A LIE. VOICE BREAKING AGAIN = I BREAK TOO.
[All right, very good. Don't worry, there will be more capslock abuse before the review's over, but I desperately need to go back and put myself through the emotional wringer properly now. Except for how I've been resisting doing that for over a week, because IT HURTS. *whimpers and tries to push self forward*]
21:26: Rewind Time
[So, frankly, the Doctor could have come back at the 22-minute mark, and I'd probably still have turned into an emotional wreck, just over the way Smith goes from disbelief to denial to fear and outright pleading in the space of a few seconds. There's slightly selfish pleading ("I'm John Smith! That's all I want to be! John Smith. With his life, and his job... and his love; why can't I be John Smith?"), which is nonetheless pitiable, and then there's the completely heartbreaking plea for validation. "Isn't he a good man?"
Joan's killing me right here, too. The way she gets him through this, even when it ends up hurting her, is probably half the reason I love her so much.
Also killing me: Martha's apologetic wheedling from the side. "But we need the Doctor." At this point, I almost believe that if they didn't need him, she'd let him stay like this.
"I'm just a story." That's another thing that's ticked me off in my travels around the internet: all the talk that John Smith isn't real; he's just an invention, a fantasy. Which: no. I mean, yes, technically, but only in backstory. Here and now, now that he exists, he's quite valid as his own person, who could be sustained for the rest of his natural life. What he lacks in memories would be replaced with those he made. As far as I'm concerned, he's really no different than an amnesiac. ...an amnesiac orphan who had no parents or other relatives/friends, beyond a servant, to remember him. BUT STILL. God, general-public reviews make me argumentative. Stupid dwrewatch not having sufficient material at the end of the project.
Um. Meanwhile, BACK IN EPISODE LAND, John's completely fallen apart, and the love and empathy all over Joan's face is nearly as painful to watch as his panic. Sometimes my brain makes up wild delusions that in one of the parallel worlds where this couple exists..in my head...John Smith's dreams eventually drive him mad, and Joan ends up the faithful Clara to his Robert Schumann (OH, OH, I JUST MADE A REFERENCE TO SOMETHING I LEARNED IN MY MUSIC CLASS! Go college! Despite the fact that the reference has no actual relevance). That's kinda what I'm seeing right here. I apologize for being random; it's 2:00 in the morning of my fourth hour working on this post, and the only way I'm getting through it is by slogging ahead without pause.
I kind of love how John lashes out at Martha with unnecessary aggression. "You're this Doctor's companion; don't you help?! What exactly do you do for him?" He's like a fear-biter dog. Trapped and scared with no way out, so he fires blame at the one person who knows something because she doesn't have enough answers.
"Why does he need you?!"
"...Because he's lonely."
"And that's what you want me to become?"
Aaaand, take several hatpins, align with heart, and stab like so. It's a perfectly reasonable answer for Martha to give, and rather a good one - she's not along as his brilliant colleague, after all - but then Smith spins that answer on its head, and you're like "...oh. Yeah. That is really crappy in comparison to the bliss you've got going on right now." And you don't even know what happened to Rose! *has Doomsday flashback and curls up in fetal position*
*pets Smith* Poor innocent teacher.
"Is that how he talks?" Between the gasp of fear and the fact that he's practically shaking, I am seriously approaching a point where I think the village could stand a few more bombs until the Family dies out and all is well with Mr. Smith and Nurse Redfern for the next half century. Then his gaze shifts and his tone becomes a mixture of misery and accusation ("You knew this all along, and yet you watched while Nurse Redfern and I..."), and I get a lot closer to that point.
"Falling in love? That didn't even occur to him?"
"Then what sort of man is that?" Remove hatpins. Take several knitting needles. Align with heart. Stab. "And now you expect me to die!" Repeat stabbing motion, with fervor.
(As an aside, I would like to partially reverse my earlier opinion - I disagree with the fact that John Smith changing back to the Doctor means the former's death. Nine didn't die, and neither will this man. It's not precisely the same thing, but it's also simply not the same heavy permanence of *death* per se. It's only leaving - disappearance - a puff of smoke. This sounds kind of callous to my ears, and I don't know what I'd be telling Smith himself, but the point is, while it may be Doomsday-painful, it's not nearly as gruesome an outcome as "so your job was to execute me" makes it sound.)
On the execution note, I'm pretty sure that look he gives her when he says it is packed with nothing but contempt. Awesome. So Martha reverts to her imploring tone of voice, which is actually quite hard to resist, because she still manages to sound full of regret even though her next sentence makes it very clear that she doesn't want him to stay like this anyway.
I try to ignore those sentences because they rip me right out of the moment and make me want to SLAP HER SILLY. Doctor/Martha shipping is not a place I think I'll ever be able to go. This is just so pathetic and needy, especially with so little basis, that I can't even have sympathy for her.
The rest of this moment, the part where he stands there looking on the verge of collapse and starts breaking down before Martha and Tim have even left, renders me utterly incoherent. You can usually find me letting out a high-pitched wail and/or sob of frustrated grief, kicking the wall, at the impossible miserableness of John openly crying in Joan's arms. It tends to require rewinds, slow motion, and pausing. That being said, this is actually the best thing I have ever seen on my Doctor Who screen. It is so good that it actually cannot be improved upon with fanfic. I mean, when I daydream, it looks like this.
Oh God, I love them I love them I love them. I love them in a right-on-par-with-Doctor/Rose-way.
And then, just when you think you can maaaaaaybe make it through the episode without actually crying, maybe? You get them sitting together, and the tremulous strings of "The Dream of a Normal Death" begin in the background. I went into silent tears no fewer than three times the next day at work when this song came on my MP3 player, repeating heartbreaking lines from this scene. Now when I'm playing the soundtrack and working (at work or on the computer), I've gotten to a point where it all fades into background music...except that every so often, I'll be hit with a tremendous wave of inexplicable sadness, and I'll be confused for a moment until I realize, yep, we're on this song again. Every time.
"He won't love you," in a voice still recovering from the crying. You probably know the drill: remove knitting needles. Replace with giant knives. Stab, stab, stab.
"I had a husband. He died. I never thought, ever again..." And Joan's whisper there is without a doubt the saddest and most heartbreaking line she has. DESPERATELY NEED TO BELIEVE IN PARALLEL UNIVERSES. Joan deserves a second chance at happiness. I
"And it was real, wasn't it? I really thought..." Ball goes to John. PARALLEL WORLDS PARALLEL WORLDS LA LA LA!
Next: forget the knives. Just go ahead and stand in front of a cannon. I'm frankly shocked that my heart hasn't worked itself into frenzy of grief and short-circuited at any point. Because honestly, this is Cruelty Overload. It's beautiful, and it's terrible.
WAAAAAAAAAAAH, I WANT THEM TO GET MARRIED. Look at the sheer joy and bubbling-over enthusiasm! And the prettyful kiss! And OH GOD, THE BABY. *explodes from squee; is dead* I just - he's sitting on a bed, holding a baby! Wearing an expression of adoration whilst soothing it! [dude, I didn't even notice the baby was crying until like my tenth time through. that's how magical it is] And Joan is in a nightgown and shawl with (perfectly arranged) mussy hair that's not put up, cuddled up next to him with their son or daughter, and it is FULL OF DOMESTIC BLISS AND FAMILY INTIMACY. And because that's not enough to kill you, let's cut back to John and Joan's expressions in between each shot, which I cannot actually describe because they're simultaneously sublime and unbearable.
But both of those things were in the preview. Was not expecting one last flash of walking in the woods (wearing a fine gray suit) with three children - aw, see, I knew he'd make an exceptionally wonderful father! - which...was pretty much the point where the tears welled up, and they fell at his absolutely gutting "Did you see?" Yeah. That's the pinnacle of heartbreak for me.
(Oh yes, and then there's elderly!John, which is a sight that still terrifies me when I look directly at it, but in retrospect, he's aged rather gracefully. Still has all that wild hair.)
Aaaand, now John Smith's gone and I have to go back to my combination running commentary/after the fact notes. *is sad* I'm telling you, if you wanted to overhaul the entire tone of the show and make it about John Smith from now until the end of the series, I would not be diametrically opposed to that!
*wakes as if from dream* Oh, right. The aliens. Kinda forgot about them for a while. Stupid aliens.
[And I should confess that until I actually wasn't sure whether it was the Doctor or John Smith who went back to the ship. I kind of assumed it was the former, but I forgot to look at how much time we had left, so I certainly believe it was the latter. Certainly did a good job of acting shaky and scared. At least until he managed to slap a whole lot of buttons on his way down from the shove, and that made it pretty obvious.]
RS: *is disappointed* Oh. Kinda feels like I'm Rose looking at Ten for the first time, to be honest. Not sure I like this character, even if I do eventually recognize him. Hopefully will warm up to him just as quickly.
[Hey, is that "All the Strange, Strange Creatures" I hear at the end of this scene? Didn't recognize THAT one before. Unless I'm mistaken.]
Ooh. That's creepy, the girl in the mirror, that reflection over your shoulder?? OOH he can be scary when he's dark. I had forgotten just how scary he is with that grim, pityless expression on his face.
[And you know what? I love it. It's chilling to the core, but in the way a truly good episode of The X-Files was. I still shiver at this part, and I don't care if the General Public is varying levels of outraged/horrified by/otherwise disquieted by his behavior. I think it's a rather perfect responses. And this voiceover is utterly remarkable. "We wanted to live forever. So the Doctor made sure that we did." AWESOME.]
Owwwwww, I thought the heartstabbing was over! No fair drawing parallels to Nine's regeneration! (Can you change back? Yes. Will you? No.) You and your stupid love of parallels! I mean, not that I'd expect him to say anything else, and I don't quite begrudge the decided firmness with which he refuses, but damn it: I still miss John Smith.
"He was braver than you, in the end." WHOA, hey, no, let's back off the Doctor bashing. Watch your tongue.
[This scene makes me profoundly sad, in a different way from the emotional floodgates above. It's sad in a way that I just want it to be over, the Doctor trying to create things that aren't there to fix things when there's no way he can. He did the right thing, but he couldn't do it without destroying something else. Much as I'd be delighted for her to travel with him, she does the right thing in turning him down. "Starting again" isn't really an option. They both know that. He offers it like a whim, a lark - "we could try, at least." Which, you know, she just lost the love of her life (version 2.0). "We could try, at least" is not precisely a comfort.]
"Everything that John Smith is and was...I'm capable of that too." Hm, see, now what I'm hearing is ROSE ROSE ROSE, as in WE ARE NOT CRAZY FOR WANTING OUR SHIP. We don't have to get it in a canonical way, but I consider that proof enough that it's at least possible and, thus our ficcish notions are therefore not implausible.
"If you hadn't come here ... would anybody have died?" OOH. THAT WAS COLD. AND KIND OF CRUEL, given the suddenly ill look on his face. C'mon, Joan, you had me for so long! And then you lost it! At a probably opportune time, since we'll never see you or your would-be husband again, but...
[I redact my feelings of not-liking her at the end, because obviously I am still crazy for the pair, but I do still feel an uncomfortable twinge every time we get to that last sentence. It's like I can actually see her pull out the shiv and sink it in. She's blank, detached, almost complacent - and then that final dig.
On the bright side, watching the impenetrable wall come down between them as she closes off and his old wounds resurface, that's when my love for the Doctor and my Rose pain and my need for them to be ultimately reunited, no matter how much canon I have to rewrite in my head, comes roaring back full force. So I guess it serves a purpose.]
And I'm thinking that after she waits for him to leave, standing there cradling John's journal, it's the first time she's cracked and cried throughout this whole ordeal. Awww. OK, I still love her a little bit.
[Bam! "The Doctor Forever," because this episode is just determined to make sure that it lays claim to every ounce of sad (and also impossibly beautiful) music on the soundtrack.]
"I would have said anything..." Oh. Yes. THIS WON'T BE AWKWARD AT ALL. Thank God Martha's babbling is cut mercifully brief and hustled along by the Doctor without too much embarrassment. I'd be happier if it were never ever mentioned again.
...wow, their hugs really have no appeal for me at all. No matter how may times I replay this one, he looks like he's going to attack her when he lurches forward with his arms held up like that. It's WEIRD. Although that closed-eyes smile over her shoulder is bit cute.
OI. TINY TIM, THOU ART NOT WELCOME. (God, isn't this episode over yet? *whines* It's after 1 AM! I am frickin' tired! Been an emotional punching bag for an hour already!) [Future Self: Yeah, well, you'll be one for SIX hours and get no sleep before work the second time through, so suck it up!]
Doctor voiceover! And I officially got my moment of WWI, with the trenches and barbed wire! *sighs in contement*
*jaw drops* And veterans, and a memorial! OK. Damn. Now I may cry again. For as much as I hate Tiny Tim, I am not immune to the sweeping emotion that must come with seeing the Doctor and his companion again, even just in the distance, decades later - looking just the same as when you were a boy. Plus the music, and the watch! STOP PLUCKING MY HEARTSTRINGS, DAMN IT! I CAN'T MEND THEM ANYMORE TONIGHT!
RS: OMG FINALLY. *immediately shuts off device and hits the internet, bursting with emotion, to shriek, rave, complain and squee*
[And you know how that went. What you may not know is that for several days afterward, I not only couldn't contemplate the idea of moving on, I was pretty sure we should just end the series there. I mean, not really, but it also seemed like a pretty good stopping point. Now that I've spent, you know, a grand total of 12 hours working through my many, many, MANY issues with those two episodes, I am ready to move on, but just like there's a sticking point after "Fear Her" for me in my head, I feel like there's going to be a sticking point after "Family of Blood," too. Just a little bit of a shift, making everything afterwards feel like part of a different era. Hard to explain. Future Self gets it.
Up Next: Yeah, still can't bring myself to watch the preview because my brain is sorta bogged down in ye olde 1913 era. I'm feeling an urge to reread Goodbye Mr. Chips and watch lots of period films, and think the only way I'm going to actually move on with Doctor Who is to suddenly start the episode playing. However, I'm aware that it is "Blink" which everyone has been swearing up and down to me for six months is the scariest episode ever. I've bought into the hype, so I really hope it lives up.]
So there you have it. Incredible experience. Have to say, I'm kinda tempted to see if I can convince my mom to watch these two episodes, so I can share the squee with someone. I'm not sure she'd like Doctor Who as a whole, but she tends to enjoy period films, and this is so different that I think she could enjoy it on its own. On the other hand, if she does end up wanting more, it's probably not the best intro to DW.
P.S. F***, there's a Facebook support group for the S.4 finale?! (...shut up. I wanted my Shiny Renewed Obsession Love to be Facebook-official and was looking for groups). THIS DOES NOT BODE WELL. Fearing what I do not know is almost as bad as dreading Doomsday. Notice how I said "almost." Dreading Doomsday was definitely worse.
Although considering the fact that my fear mostly consists of whether or not Journey's End will break my heart worse than Doomsday... OK, I've been awake for 24 hours, so I probably stopped making sense a long time ago. *drop-kicks post out the door and onto the internet*