Saturday’s amazing episode of Doctor Who pricked me into thinking about unresolved sexual tension, which is so common in media these days that it has its own acronym (UST).
Unresolved Sexual Tension is a great way to keep stringing your viewers along from week to week, if you have viewers who get off on that sort of thing, but in the end it’s a cop-out: the characters never talk about their feelings for one another until the last possible moment in the series, which robs us of the chance to see what how their relationship would work – or fail to work. The tension between the Doctor and Rose is precisely of this kind: the first move in their relationship is also the last (ditto with Doctor/Martha). It’s not just lazy storytelling – it’s storytelling that renders itself pointless, because we never have time to see the consequences of either character’s choices.
That’s why Amy out-and-out propositioning the Doctor in Saturday’s episode was great television. The Time of Angels two-parter was glorious and terrifying, full of near-death experiences and existential horror. Amy nearly died many times, and in the aftermath any sane person would be asking herself, or himself: what, in my life, have I wanted to do more than anything, but talked myself out of because I was scared? Of course she tackles the Doctor as soon as she has the chance! And of course the Doctor rebuffs her – “You’re human! You’re getting married in the morning!” And now they can’t un-say these things, or un-do them; they’ll be a part of the characters’ relationships for the rest of the season. Amy’s actions will affect her relationship with the Doctor, her relationship with her fiancee, and (apparently) the universe as a whole.
In the end, “actions have consequences” may be the overarching theme of this season. The Doctor doesn’t let the Atraxi just leave after threatening to burn the Earth; he calls them to the carpet. The Beast Below features a spacefaring Starship UK in which every citizen is torn between two horrible alternatives, and even the Doctor himself almost makes the wrong choice – saying even as he does it that he will live with the consequences. The Doctor saves London in Victory of the Daleks, but in the process he lets the Cult of Skaro (or whatever) escape, and of course in Time of Angels/Flesh & Stone the military bishop accuses the Doctor of escapism: he gets to run from the massacres in his wake, but the bishop’s men are dead and someone will have to tell their families. And of course River Song is a prisoner throughout the episode, most likely for killing the Doctor…
So, “Actions have consequences.” And, “Time can be rewritten.” Interesting dialectic there, Mr. Moffatt.
More on that later, though. For now, back to work.