Thursday, 25 November 2010

Doctor Who "A Christmas Carol" Examines Themes of Morality and Humanity

Doctor Who Spoilers has found an interesting piece of speculation that might, in part, explain the plot of "A Christmas Carol". A good deal of this could be entirely wrong, but just in case, if you're worried about spoilers, click here.

Before he essentially commanded the fate of Doctor Who, Steven Moffat wrote a short story, "Continuity Errors", for Decalog 3: Consequences. The plot is rather simple, appropriate for a story of its length: the Seventh Doctor frequently alters a librarian's past, time and time again, in order to make her, as a person, more obliging to lend him a book. One poster on Gallifrey Base first suggested the possibility of the Christmas special and Moffat's old story having near-identical ties. With the plot summary for "Continuity Errors" in mind, let's take a look back at the BBC's official synopsis.
"Amy and Rory are trapped on a crashing space liner, and the only way The Doctor can rescue them is to save the soul of a lonely old miser. But is Kazran Sardick, the richest man in Sardicktown, beyond redemption? And what is lurking in the fogs of Christmas Eve?"
Not much to go on, but stay with the train of thought here. For whatever reason, Amy and Rory have found themselves on a space liner, probably at the Doctor's expense, that is doomed to crash. As the synopsis states, somehow the Doctor realizes that an old man "beyond redemption" has the opportunity to save them; maybe Sardicktown lies near the space liner's destination, or some such coincidence. In any case, the crux of the matter is that the Doctor could very well decide to subtly alter Kazran's life, in tiny ways over a period of years, showing Kazran the error of his ways in blatant Dickensian style.

Much like "Continuity Errors", the Christmas special might therefore deal with broad themes of humanity and morality. If, as Kazran said, "People can't [be re-written]", then the Doctor can do nothing to save his companions; but if he changes the scope of the old man's life from a young age, when Young Kazran wandered those shark-infested halls, then indeed "Christmastime can be rewritten". Moffat promised us a plot with time travel on the scale of "The Big Bang", and "Continuity Errors" could be the possible root of it.

But more importantly, does the Doctor have the right to change this man's life? It's a theme we have dealt with before, most recently in "The Waters of Mars". The Doctor has changed immutable history before and suffered the ramifications of his actions. He has gradually molded his friends and improved them, because he is, after all, the Doctor, the man who makes people better. But we have not yet watched him methodically dissect a single man's life, choosing different choices so that the outcome will be to his design. In such a hypothetical regard, the Time Lord has never been more terrifying.

If he revisits the Laws of Time motif again, Moffat will be raising some of psychology's age-old questions and solving them in a brilliant timey-wimey format. Certainly Kazran's life can be altered, but will Kazran himself, as a person, fundamentally change? Are people defined by their genetics or their experiences, or both? And should the Doctor nevertheless be allowed to manipulate the very nature of a man — his soul and his being, even if he could become a better person — so long as the consequences of that man's cruel inaction are greater still?

Perhaps the cure is worse than the disease . . .


Yas said...

I think this is a distinct possibility. Have only ever found a synopsis - through legal means or not.

Has anyone got 'Continuity Errors'? - It is supposedly one of the best Dr Who time travel stories ever written - desperately want to read it - the synopsis is fascinating as it is.

10thPlanet said...

Best I can find is a full synopsis.

If anyone has "Continuity Errors", would they be interested in scanning it for us?

Raukodraug said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Raukodraug said...

It looks like there is one copy available on Ebay...