(Back in February of this year, I promised jjpor , the very nice creator and moderator of who_at_50 that I would post something having to do with the Ninth Doctor in March. I decided pretty quickly it was going to be something about Jackie and Nine, because I love both characters, and think they're more alike than different. And I figured that, having realized what I wanted to write about, it would be easy to write. More fool I.
It's been a far too long since I made that promise, but I finally finished my meditation on Jacqueline Angela Suzette Prentice and The One Who Stole Her Daughter.
Oh, and if you haven't explored who_at_50 , you really should. It's full of Who goodness, no doubt about it.)
The sky is dark and full of stars. They glisten like pomegranate seeds, and young girls hunger for them. When the girls are gone into the dark, to chase the sparkling, glistening treasure, who remains?
Let me tell you something about those who get left behind. Because it's hard. And that's what you become, hard.
The goddess Demeter is no slim girl. She has a thick waist, and her face is lined. She sits wearily; other gods can stand tall, she has no strength left to do so. Her child has left her to go into the dark and grief chains her to the earth.
It's just me these days, rattling about. There's my daughter, she's gone travelling. I keep her bedroom all nice and ready though, just in case she comes back.
Look at Jackie. Perhaps you see a would-be chav whose dreams extend as far as Strictly Come Dancing and no farther, whose vision encompasses nothing broader than the main chance, whose thoughts run in trivial circles dictated by the latest fad and barren of concern for the world around her. But her tracksuits and hair of bleached straw hide Jackie's strength.
When Rose met the Doctor, she was both ethical and moral. She knew right from wrong and generally tried to do the right thing. Once she met the Doctor, she did that regularly, in situations previously unimaginable to her. She did it well because she was taught well. And Jackie was her first teacher.
Jackie raised a child alone. She fed and clothed her daughter when it was probably difficult to do, scrabbling for money and doing without herself so that Rose could have. She did more. You can tell that she laughed with Rose, talked to her, comforted her; she made Rose feel safe and loved in a tough world. She was Rose's friend. When the Doctor took Rose to the end of the world, one of Rose’s first thoughts in the midst of all that wonder was that Jackie was dead. Many would simply have marveled at the dying sun, but Rose thought of the person most dear to her and mourned her supposed loss.
In fact, the first connection the Doctor made for Rose was courtesy of jiggery-pokery that allowed her to speak with Jackie. In making that connection, in unknowingly honoring it, he connected with Rose himself.
I'm ready to listen. I wanna learn about you and him and that life you lead.
Jackie’s surface hides the mind behind those watchful eyes (and watchful they are, certainly when it comes to her daughter.)
Do you think her stupid? She was not.
She was uncomfortable with dreams, yes. She tried to suppress them in herself and in her daughter, tamping down ruthlessly on Rose’s unspoken but recognizable wish to travel beyond the Powell estates. It wasn’t because Jackie was the kind of mother who hates the thought of her child doing better than she’s done. But dreams frightened her.
What do you suppose she dreamed for herself? The true dreams, the ones in which she didn’t have to scrabble for purchase in this life, in which she wasn’t alone? She loved pretty things. She wanted to be a beautician so that she could make people pretty. She couldn’t stop asking questions — that mouth of hers, never taking no for an answer, that was curiosity, the mark of a restless imagination. Perhaps her dreams held the seeds of art and wonder.
Never mind why, but you were right about your dad, sweetheart. He was full of mad ideas, and it's exactly what he would've done. Now, get on with it before I change my mind.
But she kept them buried. In the Powell Estates there are too many people around to laugh behind their hands, and gossip about how the widow was just as foolish as her dead husband. Places where life is hard, those are places where people are hard on those who look for a better life. So, no, no dreams for Jackie. Those things can hurt you. Look at Pete.
Jackie lost Pete before she had a chance to really know him, before she got a chance to say she was sorry for being jealous and petty, for thinking small when he thought big. I think it's clear that she knew it, and rued it. So this woman who always thought too small tried to rectify that by telling her daughter wonderful stories of a father who never existed – because Jackie knew he might have existed, had he lived. As she spun those stories, she unwittingly exercised her imagination and kept her mind alive.
When she told Rose to try for a job at the butcher’s, that Henrik’s had given her airs, yes, it was petty. It was selfish, too, the kind of selfishness a lonely woman falls prey to when she sees her only daughter, her closest friend, drifting away from her. But for Jackie all dreaming ever resulted in was heartbreak. And to see her little girl try for more, and have the world laugh in her face? That would break both their hearts. So she was ruthless and cruel because she thought it was a kindness.
She wanted to keep her daughter close, to keep her safe.
She's so far away. I get left here sometimes and I don't know where she is. Anything could be happening to her, anything. And I just go a bit mad.
The stories say Persephone was abducted by Hades. They say she cried out in fear, reaching for her mother as the dark god held her in his chariot and rode down to the center of the earth. At least some of the stories do. Others, well, they said she went willingly. And which thing would hurt a mother’s heart more?
Demeter searched for her daughter, walking up and down the earth. No one could tell her where Persephone was. Or if they knew, no one wanted to tell her. Hades was Zeus’s brother, one of the rightful masters of Olympus. Hades ruled the Stygian dark and everyone fears the dark.
Demeter inspired no awe. She an unglorious goddess, with lined face and thick waist. She was just a mother.
Perhaps they should have told her sooner than they did.
Demeter took out her sorrow and rage upon the earth. She was the goddess of growing things. If her daughter was not brought back, nothing would grow. If her daughter would not come back, then the world would turn to dust. She didn't care. Nothing mattered but her daughter.
We forget Jackie's power and we shouldn't. There are reasons that Hades might shy from Demeter.
She is brassy, yes, but brass catches the light and reflects it back on whoever is looking at it. They used to polish brass and make mirrors out of it.
Nine hundred years of time and space and I've never been slapped by someone’s mother.
We laugh at the infamous Tyler slap, but that slap frightened someone who knew a bit about power. The Oncoming Storm was reminded, in the middle of running away from pain and self-inflicted horror, that his own despair was no excuse for imposing despair on someone else. You don’t steal Demeter’s daughter and get away scot-free.
When the Doctor brought Rose home, he thought that was all he needed to do. Then Jackie — frowsy Jackie, tacky Jackie, brassy Jackie — told him he was wrong and forced him to own up to what he’d done. She forced him to look at who he was. He was the man who’d stolen her daughter.
Hades was born to Olympus, that heaven of capricious, powerful beings, but he ran from them and wrapped himself in darkness. He was alone, no family, no lover or friend, no dreams left to dream in the dark.
He survived, but why?
Hades of the dark, Hades who appeared from nowhere, bringing and being trouble as he erupted from under the earth to capture the heart of a girl. Under the earth, or from the sky, who’s to say? Hades came from the dark and from the sky, inky black and full of stars. And when he saw the girl, he reached for her. Who’s to say he didn’t hold out his hand to her? Who’s to say she didn’t reach for him?
What did Hades think, as he received reports that a grief maddened goddess cried out that she had lost her daughter and would not save the world? Did he care that the earth she walked upon was parched and dying of her rage and sorrow? Or did he only have eyes for the girl who was learning to love the new world he brought her to? Did he even stop to think what he risked by keeping her?
I could save the world but lose you.
When Persephone cried and wept, calling for her mother in those first timeless moments of fear, was Hades jealous?
Well, you can stay there if you want, but right now there's this plasma storm brewing in the Horsehead Nebula. Fires are burning ten million miles wide. I could fly the Tardis right into the heart of it then ride the shock wave all the way out. Hurtle right across the sky and end up anywhere. Your choice.
The story goes that when Demeter’s madness forced the hand of Olympus — for Zeus was fearful of losing worshipers to drought and hunger — the swift god Hermes was sent to bring Persephone out of the dark and back to her mother. When he brought her back, however, Demeter knew something was different. What have you done, she cried to her daughter. What has he given you? I took nothing from him, Persephone protested. Just these pomegranate seeds, because I was so hungry for something, and the seeds glistened so beautifully, like stars … and she looked back at Hades and smiled.
Demeter and Hades, Jacqueline Tyler and The Ninth Doctor.
They seem to stand at the opposite ends of the spectrum: light, dark, emotion, intellect, inward-hibernation and outward-seeking.
But that’s not the truth of it.
Look for the truth in the love they bore Demeter’s daughter.
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