(I wish I could write like elisi ; I wish I could think like promethia_tenk . If I could, perhaps I could have come up with something about Season 8 of Doctor Who that was better than this, or at least more organized. I've been thinking hard about this season ever since it started, but those thoughts never quite coalesced the way I wanted them to. They'd start - I'd get bits of imagery, or flashes of understanding - and then they'd dissipate.
The only thing I could do, in the end, was put those flashes and images into some sort of broken-tiled picture. I can't speak to themes and motifs; I can only speak of how I felt, and about what, and who. And I found, a little to my surprise, that I care a great deal about Clara, that indeed I found her the most compelling part of this season, with the new Doctor running only slightly behind her. I was ambushed by my affection for her, which happened with Amy as well. Why should I be so surprised, I wonder? Perhaps that's something for another day.
In the meantime there is this: unedited, unbalanced technically and probably thematically, not to mention emotionally.)
Glass breaks. Mirrors shatter.
People make mistakes.
People lie. People lie even when they are good, even when they don’t mean to. Perhaps they do it because they are good and they have done something that makes them ashamed of themselves, makes them hate themselves. They do it to avoid hurting themselves. They do it, too, to avoid hurting people they love. They do it to avoid responsibility. They do it because it’s easier than the truth. They do it because they want the lie to be the truth. They do it for good reasons and bad. They are still good people.
But lies break us. Even when they are done for good reasons, they are inherently wrong.
This is not a matter of morals or ethics, although those considerations are important.
It’s a matter of physics.
A lie is a rejection of reality. It’s a bald refusal to accept what is happening in front of you, behind you, around you, inside you. It is saying to the universe, “You have presented me with this, and I am turning my back on it.”
The universe does not take lightly to being insulted that way. You cannot break the laws of physics without being broken in turn.
Don’t whisper about multiple truths. Don’t talk about truth being subjective. You know what we’re talking about here. This is not Rashomon.
This is knowing something and choosing to say that you don’t know it. This is deliberately turning away from the truth you know.
This is a mistake, the kind that people make, that they excel at.
People lie. They cloud the glass, they turn the mirror to the wall. And each time they do it, they reject reality. Each time they try to create a false reality, they throw themselves hard on the walls of the real world. And it’s not the real world that suffers.
Each lie, each impact, creates hairline cracks in ourselves. The cracks spread, and we become fragile as glass.
The people we love, the ones we’ve lied to — and all for love of them — they break too, a little at a time. Because lies are destructive. We use lies as weapons … why on earth do we not see that the weapons we use can hurt the ones we’re trying to save?
Because we make mistakes. We are built of mistakes.
And so, with every lie discovered, even with the ones that are undiscovered, we damage the ones we love. The cracks spread and they feel their hearts become hollow and light, like glass that is under pressure.
And when it becomes too hard to keep the cracks from spreading, they can shatter.
And the liars, too, become shattered glass, bits of broken mirror.
Glass breaks, mirrors shatter. The glass is still smooth and clear, right up to the dagger point that can draw blood. The mirror shards still reflect the world, just a little. They are mistakes and lies, and they show the truth about broken people.
Clara is shattered glass.
That’s no surprise to us. We saw her leap into time to save the Doctor, and we saw what it did to her. Spread across time and space, losing herself, and watching as she became so many different people.
Imagine yourself as Clara — an ordinary, bright, adventurous girl with a sense of duty, learning, and kids — twisted and shredded by time and the vortex. She’d had no idea what was going to happen before she smiled and did the deed.
When she felt herself split apart, when bits and pieces of her fell away and forgot that they had been her, did she start to panic, to wish she hadn’t done it, to fight uselessly as she tumbled, trying to retain her sense of self? Even good soldiers panic, and sometimes they try to run from the battle, and if Clara panicked and wished herself out of the battle, it would not be surprising. Nor would it be wrong. But she might, like many soldiers in such a situation, have become ashamed of herself for trying to run.
In the end, she didn’t run.
She gave herself freely to save the Doctor. And she saved him. And he found her, and he put her back together, and they both told each other everything was better.
Clara Oswald fought in the Time War as certainly as the Doctor did — what else were her two fights on Trenzalore to save the life of the Savior of Gallifrey, what else could you call her role as all three Doctors stood, hands poised above The Moment?
She returned from war with stress fractures imperfectly hidden, broken pieces glued back together in haphazard fashion. Even if she didn’t remember every fragment of herself, even if she consciously forgot what happened to her, the damage was there. And gluing pieces back together doesn’t make the shattered mirror whole.
She came home from the war with a walloping case of post traumatic stress syndrome that she proceeded to lie about. What else could she do? Who could she talk to about what she’d been through, especially when she only saw and remembered bits and fragments of the ordeal, partial and imperfect images? There aren’t too many counselors left in the universe who can guide Time War veterans back to stability.
The story gets worse, of course. When she was on Trenzalore that final time, trying once more to save her Doctor, she looked through a crack in reality (and reality should never have cracks) and asked something on the other side to save him. She asked reality to cheat on his behalf. And what is a cheat, but a lie of a certain type?
She made a mistake, out of love.
Some might say this Doctor never should have existed. He should have grown old and died in Christmas — he had, indeed, come to an understanding about that, almost an acceptance. But the regular cycle was broken, and he was born unbalanced, because of Clara’s love.
Clara the broken, the recovered, the never quite repaired, tried to glue him back together, and convinced the Time Lords to do it on her behalf. And when he was given the gift of rebirth, he chose to make himself over in her image.
That was a mistake.
This Doctor makes them. He’s all about mistakes. He always was, but now? He is built of mistakes.
Every day of his twelfth incarnation, he has lied about how he felt. Even more than his predecessors. This Doctor lies because he does not want a connection with his previous selves. He does not want the heartache caused by family, he doesn’t want to want those things, and he doesn’t want to want the Earth, his only home now.
But he is the same man, the only Time Lord left who fought in the war. And if Clara has a walloping case of PTSD, you know how bad the Doctor’s is.
But he lied, too.
He was fine. He was alright. Just like any soldier coming back from something unimaginable and refusing to acknowledge the damage. He refused to call himself a soldier, raged when people called him an officer, became insufferable about soldiers, beyond anything he had been in his youth. It didn’t matter. He was a Time War veteran still, caught by it again and again, every time he thought he’d put it behind him. Trenzalore was as much a Time War battle as the fall of Arcadia. One more battle, one more scar, one more crack imperfectly patched.
Hence, the Doctor.
Clara lost the Doctor she had tried to save. No lectures from Vastra, no searches she made of his face, no changes she made in herself, could hide that from her. And she — bright, loving, stubborn, control freak — hated that she had to work so hard to see her Doctor. She did it, but she hated herself for not getting it right the first time. She hated herself for not trusting him, not realizing that trust is always at a premium for PTSD survivors.
Still, she followed him.
In fact, she tried to make herself over in his image, not realizing he had made himself in her image.
And the Doctor? He lied, and insulted her, and did everything he could to drive her away. And then he yanked her back to his side.
Two soldiers, lying about their wounds; lying to each other, damaging themselves and each other with the lies, but clinging together because only the other one might understand. Soldiers stick together, even when they say they aren’t soldiers.
Two injured people mirrored each other, became imperfect mirrors of each other, seeing parts of each other clearly and completely missing the point of each other. They lied to each other, and broke each other that little bit more every time they did it. The cycle is horrible, like addiction, and they both knew it.
Clara wanted to be like other people, but she couldn’t really stand being that way when she actually did live day after normal day. She longed for something else.
The Doctor wanted to be the Doctor, but he hadn’t figured it out this time around, because everything was new this time; the time he had was won through cheating, which is a lie of sorts, and he was mirroring his creator for lack of better guidance.
This would not end well.
But there was another soldier, from another war, with stress fractures of his own.
Was it so surprising that Clara was drawn to him? Unlike the other soldier in her life, this one knew how to work on being normal. He didn’t want to be an adventurer, he wanted to be a teacher. He dug wells, he taught maths, and that’s the way he wanted it. He had his own secrets, and his own heartbreaks, but maybe he was learning how to face up to them. Perhaps he could help her learn to do the same.
Was it so surprising that the Doctor was afraid of him? Danny Pink saw through all the anti-military rhetoric. He immediately knew who and what he was dealing with, and he called the officer, the aristo, on his lies. He fell in love with the Doctor’s addiction, and she, despite everything, was falling in love with Danny Pink.
He was a quiet man who made only a few requests of the woman he loved; sometimes he was heavy-handed when he did so. Even good, quiet men make mistakes. But they weren’t bad requests.
He wanted her to tell him the truth. He wanted her to stop lying. He couldn’t even fathom why she was lying, but he didn’t walk away because there was something in Clara that called to him.
(And let’s not forget that love and friendship are awkward, spiky things, often proceeding in fits and starts. He was willing to navigate the shoals of a spiky, awkward thing to reach Clara.)
Poor Danny. He was a good man, and he was a strong man, and he was an ordinary man who had made mistakes that he cried over, and he did his best to understand things that really require the mind of an adventurer to understand. He was no adventurer. He was a nurturer, and he wanted to bring that out in the woman he was coming to love, despite the stupidity of falling for someone who lied. Perhaps he understood why she lied, without understanding the things she lied about; soldiers recognize each other even on unconscious levels.
Poor Danny indeed. In the end, he was a hero without the chance to escape the hero’s fate. He was killed by two soldiers of Gallifrey.
Mind you, perhaps he chose to die for one of them. Or perhaps he chose to die for the world. That difference may have meant the world to him, as he became an aristo, an officer, and called all the Cybermen everywhere to follow him into death.
It would have made no sense to Clara, even though she’d once done something very like that. Damaged Clara, not quite the Doctor, no longer just a bright, adventurous woman with a love of learning and a love of children. Broken and imperfectly stitched together, all she might have seen was her own failure to save someone she loved.
Quite like the Doctor, really.
Glass breaks, mirrors shatter. Good people lie and break themselves and the ones they love.
And yet, they love.
And perhaps that is the one thing to remember, like the tiny fairy in Pandora’s nearly empty box.
Broken people love, and perhaps love harder for knowing that they need something to hold themselves together. Soldiers put out their hands for help, and other soldiers try to reach back.
It’s not nearly enough, but it’s a start.
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