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Parenthood

I’m still working my way through Doctor Who, and got through “Father’s Day” over the weekend, an episode that to me epitomizes the strengths and weaknesses of the show. It doesn’t make sense, for example, that all the Doctor’s interventions, which happen in every freakin’ episode of the show wouldn’t have changed the world enough to make beasties show up and start, uh, eating everything. For that to be true, the Doctor has to consistently show up in places where something else has caused time or history to go out of whack, and whatever he does has to restore things to the way they were supposed to be, even if he doesn’t know what they are. That’s way too much chance to accept.But, despite the fact that the episode reveals that gaping conceptual flaw in the series, it’s also an example of what’s best about it. The tenderness and difficulty between Rose and the Doctor is beautifully executed. His anger at her is a reflection of his love and anger and fear — it’s an exceptionally vulnerable moment, seeing him run out on her. When they walk back towards the TARDIS hand in hand, it feels wonderfully intimate, even though it’s only the first stage of romantic or sexual touch.Most of all, though, I think this particular episode set back in Rose’s world does a lovely job of opening up her back story. The show is set just after her birth, so it’s less about formational experiences for her, and more about the architecture in which she grew up. What Rose learns is that her father was much less successful, and the relationship between him and her mother was much less loving and idyllic than she had been told growing up. But she also learns that despite his failures as a husband and as a businessman, her father was a decent, loving man. The episode is a great nod to the power of the stories we tell ourselves and others about our lives, and an exploration of her mother’s weakness and regret.One of the things I like most about the series is that Rose clearly wants to escape her mother, who is a difficult person, and not an exceptionally strong or smart one, though she’s definitely not evil. When we meet Rose, she’s young, working class, and doesn’t seem to have a lot of other prospects, or anyone driving her to think about living a more expansive life. But when the Doctor offers her an opportunity to see and live more widely in the world and beyond it, she dives for it, without fear or regret. It’s not that Rose doesn’t love her mother, but she needs to move beyond her, her mother’s apartment, and her mother’s scrapbook. In “Father’s Day,” she gets a narrative of her own to replace it. And she and the Doctor walk out into the universe together. It’s rebellion, sure, but intelligent rebellion, both for Rose, and to viewers. She’s not acting out. She’s growing.

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