Ten points for the person who knows, without looking at the internet, the name of the play for which that’s the first line.
Today I’m going to talk about costumes. Specifically, costumes and the way they were used in “The 11th Hour,” the first episode of Team Moffat’s run on Doctor Who, which aired Saturday.
Costumes are everywhere in this episode. The villain is a shape-changer powered by people’s dreams; the heroine and new Companion, Amelia, is a kiss-o-gram, which is to say she dresses up in costumes, goes into parties, and kisses people. The newly regenerated Doctor is wearing a different body. Even the TARDIS changes its “clothes” over the course of the story.
Moffat didn’t do this on accident. Why the costumes? Why the disguises?
Like any story about disguises, this is a tale of identity. The Prisoner Zero plot is the main clue: to save the world, the Doctor & Amelia have to reveal the shapeshifter hidden among the ordinary humans of a sleepy English town. Prisoner Zero steals its form from the dreams of coma patients. Only when it is forced into a dream of itself can Prisoner Zero be defeated – the final mask it wears is its own. “A perfect imitation of yourself,” the Doctor says.
Let’s think about Amelia, the Scottish girl in the English town who keeps her accent for ten years without a whit of association with other Scots. In yesterday’s post I wrote that she was a powerfully drawn character, someone you can imagine easily at age 4, 7, or 70, with the Doctor or without him. Ironically, though, a key aspect of her character is her uncertainty about her own identity.
Like Prisoner Zero, Amelia changes shape in order to survive , fitting the dreams of the people around her (wet dreams, possibly: sexy policewoman, sexy nurse, sexy nun). She’s even assumed a different name, one more real and less “fairy tale” as the Doctor puts it.
Towards the end of the episode’s Act IV we see “real” Amelia revealed through her dreams of herself, as a girl standing beside the raggedy Doctor. But Amelia is more complicated than Prisoner Zero; her dream-self is not the final word on her identity. She is enduring (keeping her accent, biting her psychiatrists) but she knows that she must change. She’s playing around with the kiss-o-gram job, and that play is, I think, a kind of practice. Adult life is putting on of costumes: slacks and sharp shoes for work, jeans and a corduroy jacket for the bar, a uniform to be a police officer or a barista or a priest. At the end of the episode, we see Amy prepare to don one of the most earnest of all costumes, one that indelibly marks a person’s future : a wedding dress. On her wedding night, who is she, really? Amelia, the girl in her nightgown with the Doctor? Amy, the woman about to be married?
There’s a crack between the two: a crack in worlds, a crack to terrify even a brave young girl, a crack through which monsters can escape. To save the world this time, the Doctor needed to reveal the true Prisoner Zero; to save the world in the end, Amelia will have to reveal, or possibly choose, the true her.
I realize I’ve been harping on Amy/Amelia these last two days. Tomorrow, I’ll explore the identity question with respect to the Doctor, though the Doctor is far more direct so hopefully I’ll be able to do it shy of 600 words.
(The answer’s Hamlet, by the way.)