As a long-time fan of such clevernesses, I was very impressed.
Three women, three women, three women.
- Dave Sim
Thousands of years ago, which can’t be right, I lived in a house on top of a hill and next to a park. Although time’s compressed those years into a single layer of memory, a couple of instances still glitter like iron pyrites. The first book I read zoetropes into the day I set the school long jump record before becoming an x-ray of a fractured clavicle. Quick-fire gallery of head injuries: climbing frame; rock; warehouse door; an unexpected tree and then the strobing freezes with the dog bite that made me miss Hancock donating blood. Eventually your childhood moments’ll become baggage like this, unique experiences hardening into a personality and a worldview. For the most part, over the years we get better at hiding who we were, kidding ourselves that we’re growing up and ‘maturing’, rather than decaying a little more with every entropy-drenched footstep. It’s hilarious really.
Part of whatever it is that hides behind my eyes formed through comics. One of the brightest flecks from the past is the day that I got a letter from Pat Mills. Both of you know who I’m talking about, but just in case any civilians have wandered in, I’ll thread in some background. Pat Mills helped create 2000 AD, and has always been one of its most influential writers. It was while he was writing Slaine for Fabry that we started corresponding. I was presumptuous and cheeky, in the way that an invincible hormone cauldron will always be. To his credit, Mr Mills read what I wrote and offered helpful suggestions. I was still too young to run away and join the union, so, as recommended, I read The White Goddess instead.1
I spent a good fortnight wading through the copy I'd ordered from the library. I lugged it around in my schoolbag, leaving it sitting conspicuously on my desk during lessons to see if any of my teachers would bite. Unfortunately, they’d got used to the James Herberts, Guy N. Smiths, various Omen novelisations and individual issues of Watchmen, so this was a hiding to nothing with all of them, except my History teacher, who pounced on it before offering me some golden advice that we haven’t got time to go into today.
There’s a famous saying about opinions that’s funny, scatological and totally inaccurate. Our opinions form as a result of our experiences, upbringing, societal values and everything I was pretending to go off on one about in the opening paragraph.3 In many ways our culture conditions us, which is part of the reason our prejudices growl whenever we’re stimulated. Well, yours don’t, obviously, but that’s because you’re-
No, that’s not going to go anywhere. You’re just as prone to confirmation bias as the rest of us. We all, to varying degrees, seek out information that backs up what we already think and ignore any that doesn’t, that’s how we’re set up. Confirmation bias is as fundamental a building material of whatever this nebulous consciousness thing is made up of, as apophenia is. We’ll get back to that.4 You already know all this anyway.
Opinions are less escape hatch and more feedback loop, similar to the effect achieved by standing between two mirrors; your reflection bounces between the shiny surfaces, creating a disorientating illusion that looks a lot like infinity, but isn’t. If you replace yourself (and the mirror, before it wears out) with an experience then you’ll create an opinion. Despite the cherry-picked evidence to the contrary, all of your opinions are generated internally. Y’know, like faith.
Without confirmation bias and apophenia, conspiracy theories would starve to death. Horrible mess, yes, but both the internet and Doctor Who5 forums would be much quieter places as a result. It’s painful, but it doesn’t hurt to challenge your opinions. Try and argue the viewpoint that’s the polar opposite of your own. Listen to the podcasts that you don’t agree with. See if you can understand exactly what it is that causes your veins to become ropes and the subsequent froth to ruin your, otherwise lovely, jumper.
I’ve said this before, so don’t get annoyed. Doctor Who and Who fans5 have come to represent something that looks worryingly similar to a religion. There’s a central figure who, over the last half century, has become at least as real as Robin Hood ever was and, possibly, occupies the same real estate of the human mind that other folk heroes, demons and gods do. On top of that, there’re the sacred texts, the ‘canon’ being revealed weekly by the Baker Street Boy currently acting as the Doctor’s voice in Cardiff. Every separate revelation gets torn apart like it’s a commandment. There are as many different interpretations as guests at each argument. I’ll leave aside the apocrypha for the moment, partly because there isn’t time but mostly because it doesn’t matter.
There’s a lot of anger amongst Who Fans5 and this might well come down to shaky faith. The thing with faith is that it doesn’t stand up to evidence, or, more correctly, proof. The problem with proof, of course, is confirmation bias. It sidles up, whistling, then turns your head so you’re only looking at the bits that make sense to you because they fit with what you already thought. However you’ve constructed your opinion, it’ll only ever take a tiny bit of levering to bring it all down. Luckily, you can always refuse to listen.6 Texts, as you already know, can be made to say anything. Any interpretation backed up with textual examples is valid. Now, we’re getting somewhere.
I don’t for a moment think that Mark Gatiss ever intended any of the awkward interpretations that have been applied to the majority of his Doctor Who scripts. They’re there because he’s drawing from a well that’s situated firmly in the Imperialist section of Hartley’s foreign country. Likewise, I’m not going to discuss missing episodes, leaks, whether Auntie and Uncle Sam are dancing yet, or any of the other pro-am keyboard chatter that may or may not have spillaged since Kill the Moon went live.7 What I am going to do is offer three interpretations of recent Doctor Who that are just as valid as the ones in your head. Or your browser history.
First. Either Steven Moffat’s rewriting history or he’s actually Fenric. Yes, his character Clara absorbed fifty years of Doctor Who into her back story, but did you notice the way she erased Idris while doing so? If you ignore what’s been said recently about Moffat writing the lion’s share of The Doctor’s Wife, then this makes total sense. Also, you’ll note that Neil Gaiman’s sophomore Doctor Who script was nobbled, like poor Silver Blaze, by a combination of miscasting and dubious directing. And that’s dubious directing from someone on his first Doctor Who, so he’s obviously been set up to fail. The fact that the director in question started his career working on Neverwhere adds a certain spice. And, when I tell you that he worked on the David Yates directed Harry Potter films? Yes, the same David Yates who announced he’d be directing the new Doctor Who film. Remember that? Obviously, since Matt Smith took over, there's been a reign of terror at Roath Lock. It’s the only explanation that fits all the facts. And Private Eye said so.
Although the case is already watertight, I’ll throw in some bonus stages that Moffat has to be taking on his terrifying ascent to the rank of Imperial Grand Moff. How many stories does he need to produce to beat J.N-T’s run? How many regenerations until he’s handled the most? How many years until he’s the longest-running producer? How many Doctors until he’s written more than anyone else? And, precisely how much actual rice pudding is needed before it can be classed as 'unlimited'? Chilling stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree. It’s not even slightly possible that this is a severely clever chap doing an impossible job whilst operating at the very peak of his abilities, because that’d be too... mundane.
Next. Moffat’s weird White Goddess obsession. Graves decided the Goddess represented the three-fold muse that drives poets first to a writing desk and then round the bend. Although recently co-opted as a Wiccan symbol representing the different stages the Moon goes through - “Hello, Earth.” - there’s a long history of triple Goddesses popping up in different cultures throughout history, all overseeing mortals. The three aspects are often described as Maiden, Mother and, as Terry Pratchett so delicately put it, ‘the Other One’. There’s a definite lunar association, well, we’re talking about Diana and Selene aren’t we? Tempting as it would be to mention Steve Moore here and Neil Gaiman here, I won’t. Let’s just say that there’s potentially a lot more going on in Kill the Moon than people who haven’t read Sandman or watched Genesis of the Daleks might notice.2
Jung connected the archetype of the Triple Goddess to Zeus, suggesting, at a stretch, a kind of companionship. “It’s your moon, Womankind.” That sounds like the sort of thing a male god might say. So, Courtney’s the Maiden but neither Lundvik nor Clara are mothers, though, at a push, Hermione Norris could be playing- Oh, wait. It’s 2049. How old’s Orson Pink now? And, if she’s his grandmother, wouldn’t that make Clara… the Other One? I said Moffat had an obsession with the Goddess and then left it dangling. You’re probably thinking I won’t mention Amelia, River and Amy, but you’d be wrong. And then, because you know where this is going, you’ll point out that the three aspects of the Goddess are supposed to represent the sky, the earth and the underworld. Clara’s obviously the sky, Courtney’s quite down to earth but- well, you’ve got me on the last one.
As long as nobody says ‘nethersphere’.
As long as nobody says ‘nethersphere’.
Finally. Moffat gets his ideas from me. This is, by far, the most convincing theory. We know for a fact from the new title sequence that the head priests of Who constantly watch Who Fans.5 Last year, I wrote a selection of pieces for a Doctor Who website that handled more than two hits a day. Amongst other things, I pointed out that it might be an idea if the music sold the dialogue rather than vice versa; if you’re writing ‘trapdoors’ into the architecture of the arc structure then it might be an idea to close them before something terrible escapes, clutching a thesaurus in its trolly claws and doing barking. Both of these suggestions have been acted upon. But, here’s the proof. These are the final words of mine the site published.
Basically, it’s not you. It’s me.
None of this means anything.
1. What you might not know is that Mr Graves wrote the novelisation of the popular BBC sitcom about a dysfunctional Roman family that your parents loved. It starred Brian Blessed, that nice Professor Yana and the War Doctor.2
2. “I’m making perfect sense, you’re just not keeping up.”
3. You’d almost think it was planned.
4. The Library Angel. Lovely lady. Didn’t I already introduce you?
5. That’s how you spell it.
6. I found out yesterday that my ongoing Season 8/Series 34 theory had been dragged into an alley and given a thorough kicking by the relentlessly enthusiastic Doctor Who Extra EPK. Serves me right for ignoring it. Bah.
7. Doctor Who’s never been science-fiction. Most of ‘science-fiction’, or ‘speculative fiction’ if you’re after a grown-up writing prize isn’t even ‘scientifiction’ as it was originally known. Science grew out of alchemy, which is still also hugely misunderstood. Alchemy was never about turning lead into gold. That was purely symbolic. I do still think Jane Austen wrote sub-par fanfic.