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Doctor Who: The Timeless Children

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#1 Virgil Vox

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Posted 01 March 2020 - 09:07 PM

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The season finale. It feels like just a few weeks since the season started airing and now it is over.
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#2 Sci-Fi Girl

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Posted 01 March 2020 - 10:45 PM

Well that was ... ... Something!

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#3 RJDiogenes

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Posted 04 March 2020 - 07:24 PM

So. This is the big change in the lore of Doctor Who. I have some mixed feelings. The Doctor has always been special among the Time Lords, so it's certainly appropriate to have that special status made implicit in some way. Being a mysterious entity from another dimension who is the progenitor of all Time Lords is perhaps a little too special, but I can live with that. When you think about it, it's really not that much of a change.  Before this episode, she was one of a species of regenerating aliens called Time Lords-- now she's one of a species of regenerating aliens who we don't know the name of.

The revelation that countless regenerations preceded the Doctors that we know is a bit dubious-- and doesn't entirely make sense. Why did Doctor Ruth have a TARDIS if she preceded the Doctor who stole the TARDIS?  And do we even know that the Timeless Child was this being's first regeneration? First generation? First iteration? First life? Whatever you call it.  And just the fact that there were so many seems to diminish the Doctors that we know somehow.  It was such a special thing when she went beyond that magical number of thirteen-- now it doesn't mean much.

Most ominous, though, was that sequence of changing children in the examination chair. The fact that they were all children implies that the Doctor never grew up in those days, but rather regenerated from one child's form to another.  So either she was incredibly accident prone or Mommy Weirdest was inducing those regenerations through bloody murder. "Let's see-- she regenerates when I stab her. I wonder what will happen if I decapitate her."

And the interludes in Ireland turned out to be disguised flashbacks to his childhood, with the fall off the cliff and his inexplicable survival an analog of his first regeneration. But that sequence ended with a mysterious mind wipe. Why did the Time Lords feel that the mind wipe was needed?  And if the Doctor grew up with the Master, that means they somehow got him to regenerate back to a child's form, which seems to contradict the pattern. An error, or do they have further revelations in mind about the mechanics of regenerations?

As if this wasn't enough to process, we have the destruction of destroyed Gallifrey. How many times must they destroy that place?  When the revival began, my least favorite aspect was the alleged destruction of Gallifrey and I always hoped this would be corrected.  The other reason that I loved that scene with the Curator was that it revealed the survival of Gallifrey and teased its return as an active participant in the series. But the place is pretty much toast now, and there's no marmalade or tea.

Oh, and the Master was in this episode. And Cybermen. Whatever.

So I guess we'll just have to wait and see where they take this. As I say, I have mixed feelings.  In essence, the ideas aren't bad, but I am left feeling disquieted somehow.

And is this the first time we've had a season-ending cliffhanger?  Don't they usually mostly wrap things up?
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#4 Christopher

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Posted 04 March 2020 - 08:27 PM

View PostRJDiogenes, on 04 March 2020 - 07:24 PM, said:

So. This is the big change in the lore of Doctor Who. I have some mixed feelings.


I haven't seen it -- don't know when I will -- but I spoiled myself on the big surprise, since I knew I wouldn't be able to avoid the conversation for long.


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The Doctor has always been special among the Time Lords, so it's certainly appropriate to have that special status made implicit in some way. Being a mysterious entity from another dimension who is the progenitor of all Time Lords is perhaps a little too special, but I can live with that. When you think about it, it's really not that much of a change.  Before this episode, she was one of a species of regenerating aliens called Time Lords-- now she's one of a species of regenerating aliens who we don't know the name of.

I don't think the Doctor needed to be a Chosen One to be special. The Doctor was special just for being an iconoclast, for not playing by the ossified rules of the Time Lords. The Doctor was just a kid on a joyride, essentially, but he started hooking up with human companions who pushed him to be more responsible and altruistic, and he started helping people, and he kept doing it so long that he got really good at it. That's enough for me. There are too many Chosen One stories in pop culture already, too many stories about heroes who are more special than everyone else. The ones that work best for me are the ones where the Chosen One perception is explicitly just hype built up around an otherwise fairly ordinary person who has to rise to others' expectations or defy them, like Harry Potter or Katniss Everdeen.

Besides, I got tired of how the Steven Moffat era stopped being about the Doctor exploring the universe and became about the universe reacting to the Doctor. It's too fannish if the main character's own identity or specialness becomes the one overriding thing that the stories are about. It would've been cool to see the Doctor confronting a deep dark secret in the Time Lords' past, but did it really have to be about the Doctor herself? Couldn't it at least have been about her mother or her mentor or somebody she cared about?



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The revelation that countless regenerations preceded the Doctors that we know is a bit dubious-- and doesn't entirely make sense. Why did Doctor Ruth have a TARDIS if she preceded the Doctor who stole the TARDIS?

Well, there were plenty of TARDISes on Gallifrey -- the question is why she had a TARDIS in the form of a police box.



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And do we even know that the Timeless Child was this being's first regeneration?

I don't think that matters. The fact that we don't know what came before the Child was found is the mystery that I assume will be explored going forward.

Indeed, that's the thing that might redeem this for me. Making the Doctor's identity a mystery is going back to the origins of the series -- it's called Doctor Who for a reason -- but it's a new twist to have it be a mystery to the Doctor herself.


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And just the fact that there were so many seems to diminish the Doctors that we know somehow.  It was such a special thing when she went beyond that magical number of thirteen-- now it doesn't mean much.

I get where you're coming from. But it has been hinted at before. "The Brain of Morbius" showed about eight different mystery faces in the Doctor's memory that were implied to be earlier incarnations, even though "The Three Doctors" had explicitly established Hartnell as "the earliest Doctor" years earlier. I always figured they were Morbius's past selves, but apparently they were always meant to be past Doctors, despite the contradiction. DW continuity was always very loose, and one writer or story editor didn't necessarily define things the same way as their predecessors or successors.

When the first series ended in '89, they were building toward the "Cartmel Masterplan" (named for story editor Andrew Cartmel) in which it would be revealed that the Doctor was a sort of reincarnation of the Other, an ancient figure who'd been one of the founders of the Time Lords. So his current life had begun with Hartnell's incarnation, but he'd been technologically resurrected from a previous existence. This new retcon seems to be along similar lines.



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And if the Doctor grew up with the Master, that means they somehow got him to regenerate back to a child's form, which seems to contradict the pattern. An error, or do they have further revelations in mind about the mechanics of regenerations?

Time Lords often change age when they regenerate, and now we know they can change sex or ethnicity too. Maybe it is possible for them to regenerate into children.


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And is this the first time we've had a season-ending cliffhanger?  Don't they usually mostly wrap things up?

No, it's happened before. The Series 7 finale "The Name of the Doctor" had a cliffhanger ending leading into the postseason special "The Day of the Doctor," and the Series 10 finale "The Doctor Falls" had a cliffhanger leading into the special "Twice Upon a Time."
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#5 FarscapeOne

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Posted 05 March 2020 - 01:19 AM

This revelation would also explain The Valeyard from "THE TRIAL OF A TIME LORD".

It would also explain how The Doctor even got to BE a 13th regeneration... The Doctor basically has infinite ones.  Though it does make you wonder what that beam of regeneration energy was that went into Matt Smith's Doctor right before he ended and became Capaldi's Doctor.

One other question...The Master, if memory serves, was already past his 12 regenerations limit.  Could he have been another of The Doctor's species the Time Lords found?  Is it really a coincidence they grew up together, at least during that version of their childhood?

This does also bring up a possibility... those creatures at the beginning of the season from another universe.  Could they be The Doctor's species in original form?

#6 Christopher

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Posted 05 March 2020 - 08:41 AM

View PostFarscapeOne, on 05 March 2020 - 01:19 AM, said:

This revelation would also explain The Valeyard from "THE TRIAL OF A TIME LORD".

That would require the Master to be lying or misinformed about the Valeyard's origin, but I guess either is possible.



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One other question...The Master, if memory serves, was already past his 12 regenerations limit.  Could he have been another of The Doctor's species the Time Lords found?  Is it really a coincidence they grew up together, at least during that version of their childhood?

The Master was given a new regeneration cycle by the Time Lords so that he could fight in the Time War. Before that, he gained renewed life artificially by stealing the power of the Source of Traken and the body of Tremas.



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This does also bring up a possibility... those creatures at the beginning of the season from another universe.  Could they be The Doctor's species in original form?

I'm surprised they didn't resolve that thread during the season.
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#7 FarscapeOne

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Posted 05 March 2020 - 11:24 AM

Traken and Tremas... I forgot about those.  I do remember that The Master was given the new regeneration cycle, but it does make me wonder why they simply didn't give that to ALL Time Lords during the Time War.

Regarding those aliens... maybe they'll resolve that question next season.

#8 Christopher

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Posted 05 March 2020 - 11:33 AM

View PostFarscapeOne, on 05 March 2020 - 11:24 AM, said:

Traken and Tremas... I forgot about those.  I do remember that The Master was given the new regeneration cycle, but it does make me wonder why they simply didn't give that to ALL Time Lords during the Time War.

Maybe they did. Timothy Dalton played Rassilon, who in the classic series had died long, long ago. So they may have resurrected every Time Lord ever -- but then they lost and were all (apparently) destroyed, with only the Doctor and the Master escaping.
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#9 RJDiogenes

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Posted 05 March 2020 - 09:09 PM

View PostFarscapeOne, on 05 March 2020 - 01:19 AM, said:

This revelation would also explain The Valeyard from "THE TRIAL OF A TIME LORD".  
I actually thought of the Valeyard, even though I know very little of Doctor Who lore.  But didn't Doctor Baker recognize him or it?

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One other question...The Master, if memory serves, was already past his 12 regenerations limit.  Could he have been another of The Doctor's species the Time Lords found?  Is it really a coincidence they grew up together, at least during that version of their childhood?  
I kind of have a feeling that the Master may be the Doctor's stepmother, who infused herself with the regeneration sparkly stuff before the 12-regeneration limit was imposed.
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#10 Christopher

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Posted 05 March 2020 - 09:25 PM

View PostRJDiogenes, on 05 March 2020 - 09:09 PM, said:

I actually thought of the Valeyard, even though I know very little of Doctor Who lore.  But didn't Doctor Baker recognize him or it?

Nope, the Doctor was taken by surprise when the Master revealed that the Valeyard was some sort of future offshoot of his dark side. (That was a first for DW, the "current" Doctor encountering a future version of himself -- a bit of timey-wimeyness of the sort that would become more common in the Moffat era. Not to mention that the whole third part of the trial arc involved the Doctor defending himself with footage of an adventure in the Doctor's near future with a companion he hadn't met yet.)
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#11 Norville

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Posted 07 March 2020 - 09:15 PM

That was certainly a piece of television that existed. I knew I wouldn't like Chibnall as showrunner, on the strength (weakness) of his other work in my opinion, and didn't like S11, so when S12 came around, I watched the first two episodes, then dumped the rest of it until the finale. (Great job, Chibnall, you mediocre ex-fanboy, you.)

His characters are nonentities (except for Sacha Dhawan's Master, who seems to reverse any improvement Missy arrived at, because we must ignore anything from Moffat and Capaldi time, but at least was interesting in his mix of rage and suicidal sadness, such as when he reflected that he'd have been okay with it being the end for him). His Doctor, upon turning female, magically became a passive, ineffectual, magic pixie dreamgirl, who needed the entire plot of this episode explained/mansplained/Mastersplained to her in excruciating detail, and who generally has things happen to her instead of taking initiative, *and* who seems to take no moral interest in changing bad things. Her "fam" barely interact with each other, but they're apparently a great team because we're told they are. Graham was the only one who had any life to him in S11, and he didn't have it in S12.

I hope DW can survive this hack as showrunner, but will probably not watch again until he and Whittaker are gone.
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