Well, not the end of love, because who knows when the story begins, and when it ends?
I finally got my thoughts together after watching Let's Kill Hitler, and I managed to put them into words that make sentences that make paragraphs. A lot of them. Hence the cut, because yeah, verging on prolix here.
One warning. This commentary treats Let's Kill Hitler like Rory and Company treated Hitler.
Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in
With the first half of this line, Steven Moffat managed to infuriate me.
The second half contained, I eventually discovered (or decided, I suppose, but I'm betting on the first) that he had apologized to me — and not just to me and not just for the front half of the sentence.
I heard in that entire sentence an essay, a bemused and defiant apology, an apologetic scream of confusion and a ... well, not a promise to change, but an acknowledgment that everything changes, and everything probably should, particularly in matters of the heart. His, primarily, but also those various tattered and worn hearts that he writes, as well as the battered and bruised fannish hearts he plays with.
It's all about love, really.
Oh, kaffyr, you mystifying pontificator you, whence came that bouquet of epiphanies? Out of a hat, you say? Or someplace else? Or was it the drugs?
Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
First things first.
Let's Kill Hitler is typical Moffat: breathless pacing and marvelous character vignettes, a story both strengthened and weakened (almost to the point collapsing upon itself and held up by strength of will and acting ability alone at certain points) by his love for time travel-powered plots with hairpin turns and unexpected people, places, things and concepts.
And loads of people have commented on the story itself — some folks loved it for the chock-full-o-nuts intellectual and plot richness, some folks loathed it for the internal plot stupidities, some loved it for Rory and Amy and Eleventy awesomeness, others had (some rather reasonable) concerns about the way Wee Rory was presented, or the ways Mels' and River's characters were presented.
I agree with some of the concerns, didn't loathe anything, and loved about, oh, 87 percent of the whole thing. But what hit me the most as the end credits rolled had far more to do with the way this episode spoke of love, and the way that its' speaking of love gave me still more information on Moffat, and how that allowed me to come further to terms with Moffat — perhaps because I think he's coming to terms with me in a manner of speaking.
As I said, it boils down to love.
We're both of us beneath our love, we're both of us above
I haven't had an easy time of it since Moffat took over Doctor Who. It's been hard for me to synchronize the way I fell in love with the show all over again on his watch with my unease over the way Moffat seems to view women and relationships or, frankly, how he seems to view the human race in general.
I adore his cast, and his cast of characters. I think he's successfully reshaped DW following Davies' departure, making it quicker-thinking, writing faster-paced and overtly multi-pronged stories. He writes — and showruns — in quicksilver, which makes him hard to follow around, but equally hard to resist.
(I'll always love Davies for bringing the show back, for filling it out with humanity, for Nine and Rose, for Martha, for Donna, and for some work of aching, soaring grace and beauty. But when I go back to any of the series except for S1, I have to pick and choose episodes to watch, because some of them feel muddy and inchoate to me now.)
I'm never bored with Moffat's episodes even when they make me grind my teeth or go BWUH? And when an idea or an episode falls in on itself, as things spun out of quicksilver are apt to do, I can forgive because at least it's his reach exceeding his grasp, not a failure to dream.
Watching "Lets Kill Hitler" made my relationship with Moffat, and Moffat's Who, clearer. I am more content and less at odds with myself about him and his Whoniverse. And that's because it's helped me do the necessary synchronization, and it offered me that apology I mentioned about which more, anon.
Let's start with the brutal truth (the "as I see it" should be considered appended to all my comments from hereon out. I am well aware that I could be talking out of my ass.)
Moffat seems to be uneasy with relationships, unless it's relationships between children and adults (and even then ... well, just watch how he turns those relationships on their head, particularly in S6.) If it's relationships between adults, he writes them withdiffidence, and with one assumption at their base.
Each relationship — no matter how deep, how caring, how passionate, how long-lasting or permanent it is — grows out of mutual misunderstanding and resentment even as it grows out of, and into, yearning towards understanding and affection.
Moffat is a very smart man, and a gifted observer. There is nothing of which he writes that isn't part of the human condition, and he captures it brilliantly. He watches humans, men and women and, yes, children, interact. Then he recreates those byzantine courtship and friendship and parent-child dances as he sees them (as he sees them, remember that) in dazzling mixes of wit and vitriol, love and the desire to protect, and uncomprehending blindness and kindness.
And that's all real.
We do yearn towards each other, and we do resent each other. We all misunderstand those to whom we are drawn, and
we deal with it by learning, by refusing to give up and walk away, by overwhelming the resentment with the understanding and the love. We end up loving and wanting to protect that which we may not understand, but which we understand is important to us — is absolutely essential, in fact.
Moffat writes that in Doctor Who and he's written it before, in Coupling, where the relationship of Steve and Susan is alternately infuriating, hilarious and beautifully, vulnerably loving.
So all the humor, all the love, all the groping for each other even as we fear each other, and all the efforts to transform the bitter into the sweet ... it's contradictory, it's confusing and it's right.
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
No writer writes from anything if not from his or her own heart. Writers can springboard from their own hearts to places that look nothing like themselves, of course, and that's the mark of good and great witers; but it all starts at the center. And from what they write, readers can infer who they are.
I can build a picture of Moffat from his work, and I think it's important that I do so. Why? It won't be 100 percent accurate, it could be significantly out to lunch. But I don't think it will be, because really good writers like Moffat paint really good pictures with their words, and those pictures become the clearest mirrors in which they and others can seem themselves, and yes, I think I just mangled three, count 'em three, metaphors. But the point is that the picture I build of Moffat from his writing helps me understand his writing.
That's as infuriating and contradictory as anything in a Moffat script, probably. Hopefully it's as accurate.
No matter. The Moffat I see is not only a close observer of the human condition, but a man both repelled by and attracted to humanity.
He is a father and a husband, he loves deeply and he has a desire to protect those he loves. But he will freely admit that he doesn't understand them, and that those he deems incapable of protecting themselves may be able to do so just fine, thanks. And he sometimes resents that, and he knows his resentment is illogical, but it's part of him, damn it, and why can't people understand that? Well, he admits when the lights are low and no one's around, it's because he's screwed it up time and again, and he's too bright not to know it. So there's nothing to do but get up and try again to figure it out, to figure himself out, to figure her out, and them out, because he'll die of loneliness if he doesn't, and he can't stand the thought of them (of her) being lonely either.
And he lives through his mistakes, and sometimes he acknowledges them, and he messes up, and he loves all the more, because that love is the only thing that's worth all the crap it takes to find it, it's the only thing that's going to pull him out of the mess he made by not understanding, by resenting and being blind.
And he finds it in their eyes — the eyes of his children, the eyes of friends and companions, her eyes.
And he slips again and again, despite his best efforts, because he's a bit of a tosser, and he knows it. But his heart beats true.
That kind of affection and love, that kind of understanding? It's very human. It's very grown up human.
(Which, by the by, is why being able to be kind to children, to protect them, is so alluringly important to us tired old adults. To him. Yes, we know that childhood is frightening when one's a child. We know that children are cruel and we know they are blind and resentful, because we were children once, but we remember the love someone gave us when we were children, and we want to pass the favor forward, because the more love we give them, the better chance they have to beat the misunderstandings and resentments that can screw them up as adults.)
But the love thing ... loving my brother, loving my mother, loving my child and my lover — it's a full time job. It's the center of creation, and it powers me forward, and it drains me, and I wish I could run away, but I won't. I wouldn't change a thing. Not one line.
Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
And so Moffat has given us Nancy and her son, whom she treats as a brother until she gives in to the truth.
We have Amy, who bullied Rory because everyone bullied her, but grows past that as best her young damaged self can, because her heart's too big to be choked by her own bad habits, and because she loves him. We have Rory who put up with it, and resents it, and grows past that resentment because he wants to protect and nurture her. Because he loves her. They rescue each other.
We have the Doctor, an exercise in contradictory affections and rejections of humanity, who can't not help when he hears a child crying. And who tells us we breed like rabbits and says, with a great deal of smiling and affable resentment, that he'll never be done saving us. And is rescued by the dreams of a child who didn't forget him because he wouldn't let her.
And we have River Song, who is betrayed by adults who should have known better. Who is bent and twisted into a weapon by the very people who should have protected her— who, in fact, should have let her own parents care for her, but who stole her from them instead. Who is so broken by this — broken child of a broken mother — that she can't even live in the right direction.
But — determined child of a determined mother — she somehow puts herself back together.
It's love that allows her to put herself back together. Not just of the Doctor, but of life, of her parents, of adventure, of archaeology and the long con, of other men and women. Love is all that holds her together. And she's broken enough to resent it, but she's wise enough to keep loving.
(I have never thought, as some have, that River's new life in the library was somehow unfair or stereotyped or incomplete, because she was caring for children. To someone whose childhood was hell, built by adults who betrayed their trust and duties as adults, perhaps heaven is the rescuing of children. Besides, she will raise them to be adventurers, like her. But I digress.)
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
And when I watched Let's Kill Hitler and heard the Doctor — poisoned and resentful because the woman he
loves in some way, in some alien Time-lordish completely human way that he hasn't figured out yet, has just killed him (because she doesn't yet know that she loves him and because she's totally fucked up by people who did not understand their duty toward a child) — say what he does? I hear Moffat saying "here's the crap I believe when I'm weak, but I know it's crap. Give me time. I'm growing out of it. Because love's too important to poison with the crap. But for Christ sake, let me be .. at least until I can become something better."
Lyrics nicked brazenly from Leonard Cohen's "Dance me to the End of Love."