Author’s Note: This is a modified Skype rant I had after I finished up the Doctor Who episode “Human Nature”. It’s pretty belated, but what are you going to do? I hope you enjoy!
The 10th Doctor really is a selfish bastard, isn’t he?
The Doctor plays god. He can’t help it. He’s immortal, a Time Lord, practically a god. We could say he is a god, because gods can be destroyed, as he could be, it’s just very difficult.
The 9th Doctor did play fast and loose and he was TERRIFYING. He was a wrathful god. But there was…something softer there. There was something that understood the delicacy and depth of feeling. This can be seen especially in “The Empty Child”/“The Doctor Dances”. For all the jokes there was a REAL depth there, and the Doctor was aware of it. You know he figured out Nancy was the kid’s mum, even if he didn’t say anything until the last bit. That was really a part of how he was: These extremes of emotion. There is this ire and wrath, but there is this extreme softness and kindness despite that. And, yeah, he was king of snark, but nevertheless…
Of course, you can see the writers were setting up for a romance between Rose and the Doctor throughout Series One. You can see it brewing there, especially on Rose’s side, but the 9th Doctor had a lot of bullshit in the way to really be cognizant of it, until Rose becomes a god herself. She’s the Bad Wolf. She scatters the words across time and space. And that was fucking dangerous, because it would burn her up and kill her, and it knocked the Doctor out of this maniacal state. He (for all intents and purposes) killed himself to make sure she was safe, that she didn’t die (he promised Jackie). You could argue he’d do that for anyone, but I don’t think so. The awe on his face when she comes out of the TARDIS and it’s revealed she had been leaving the clues all along, from this moment in time… That opens depth of feeling and the wrath is forgotten for a moment.
Then he regenerates, becomes the 10th Doctor, who is a different person in many, many key ways. All of a sudden, the romance is front and centre and really intense. It makes a kind of sense, because we saw the Doctor (as the 9th) in those last moments suddenly realize what this companion means to him. But we have this scene where 10th Doctor tells Rose immortals don’t get to have relationships because their companions are mortal. They die. They wither. That’s fucking painful. But, despite that, he makes the conscious choice to have a very intense relationship/romance with Rose.
And then that’s taken away.
That’s crushing, for both of them. And, wow, he was too much of a coward to just out with it and say he loved Rose even though he KNEW he had a limited amount of time? How heartbreaking for her. And you know the Doctor realizes what a derp he was, with that final shot (before Donna shows up). He was TOO CHICKEN to say how he felt. And he would never have a chance again. It was like Rose died. I mean, she will, but to him, since he can’t cross universes, she’s dead to him. That is over, too suddenly, really, for either of them. And he didn’t have the guts to say what mattered. So he’s back to being lonely, and that loneliness is so much harder now because he let himself get attached. He chose to put himself in a position where he would feel that devastating loss. What will he do?
He picks up the next mildly interesting girl he can, and, arguably, emotionally manipulates her into following him like a puppy because, you know, that kiss, and that TARDIS, and all that space and time. He can’t face the immensity on on his own, can’t stand to be alone, so he takes Martha around, after the stint on the moon, and she’s so enamoured of him. She puts up with his offhand and backhanded remarks. She puts up with the racism and sexism directed at her across time and space. But she gets even more short shrift: The Doctor doesn’t see her. She’s just a piece of meat along for the ride. He might care, in the way that he cares about life in general, if she gets hurt or could die; it’s not the same care he had for Rose in the least.
Which brings us to “Human Nature”.
Of course it’s painful for Martha to see John Smith (i.e. the Doctor, only locked away for safety in a human body and mind) falling in love with another woman because, wow, what was she this whole time? How strong is her memory? What had she been doing for him this whole time? It hurts her, too, when John Smith demands to know what good she is to the Doctor because, honestly, she’s not sure herself because he doesn’t even treat her like a person. Maybe that’s because he doesn’t want to get close to someone again, maybe it’s because he’s just lonely and needs someone to fill the space. But that is selfish. He consistently hurts her, and treats her like shit, and she takes it, because he’s the Doctor, and she loves him.
Then, as Joan Redfern says, on a whim, the Doctor is brought to this place in 1913 – except he’s not the Doctor. And John Smith doesn’t really give much of a shit about Martha – even less of a shit than the Doctor – but he does care about Joan. Deeply. He cares about the students, in his way. He cares about the shooting, the killing, all that. But he’s human. A human with strange dreams (and Rose even dominates there).
I do not think it was selfish for John Smith to want to live, to remain as he was. And Joan was right, John Smith was far braver than the Doctor. John Smith chose to die. And then—oh, and then!—the Doctor comes up to Joan and asks her to go with him. He has the audacity—the GALL—to ask her that, after all that happened. I like to think Joan felt as insulted and outraged as I was. She loved John. The Doctor, though he looks like John, is not John. He comes to her and plays with her feelings, asking her to come with him. I like to believe she was not uncongnizant of what Martha said, about being invisible, treated as second best, or even third best, and felt that was shit behaviour, too (despite time period prejudice).
The 10th Doctor is selfish and self-centred in his pain. In that pain he plays god with other people’s’ emotions. With Martha, whom he picks up because it’s better than being alone, and with Joan, because he can steal John Smith’s memories and feelings and, forgetful that Martha is even around, he can extend his hand to this other woman, manipulating her very real feelings. When John asks “What kind of a man is that?!”, a man who wouldn’t think of the contingency of falling in love, he’s right. What the fuck was he thinking? Probably he wasn’t, because love is pain.
For claiming to know and understand and love humans so well, the Doctor sure doesn’t act like it. To him, it’s as if their feelings are these malleable things, and they bend to his will. What are human feelings compared to those of a god’s?
This is likely going to piss a lot of people off, as I get the feeling the general consensus is the 10th Doctor can do no wrong. The 9th doctor was a snarky jerk, and a genocidal maniac when it came to it, but he didn’t emotionally manipulate people. I can see the 10th Doctor’s pain, but it bothers me, all these actions he takes because of it. Where the 9th Doctor’s ire was directed abroad, at the universe, the unjustness of fate and a sense of self-loathing, the 10th Doctor’s pain seems directed at people. He is relentless and heartless in every strike. That he might not see what he’s doing because of his pain is a dreadful excuse, because the Doctor should be better. Everyone loves him, in some way, but, to me, he is undeserving of that love.
He was a great man before. He became something else entirely.