*****SPOILERS ABOUND-PROCEED WITH CAUTION*****
Most of what I have to say about the wonderfulness that is Spyfall 1 & 2 has already been said…THE MASTER! GALLIFREY! GOGGLES! All of which made me happy.
But, it’s the invitation into the heart of The Doctor really floats my boat. After Series 11 addressed some authentically important buisness (Rosa/The Partition/Loss and Grief), Spyfall launches Series 12 with, for me, the most satisfying combination of Doctor Who storytelling traditions… Important business (technology and privacy) AND continuity (The Master) AND the hearts of the Doctor (she has once again lost Gallifrey) AND a multi-episode story arc.
I take great joy in Whittaker’s and Chibnall’s wacky, distracted, relationally focused Doctor. I find her personality delightful, especially when she puts her relationships with her companions and weekly guest characters at the top of her priority list. However, in story after story in Series 11, she became a living deus ex machina, brilliantly saving her friends and everyone in their vicinity without any internal struggle or personal challenge. Without an internal world, she was reduced to a shallow, albeit entertaining, plot device.
But Series 12 looks to be different. Chibnall has stated in the press that there will be some series-long arcs, and now it looks like this will include a character arc for The Doctor-hurray! The story-telling choices to welcome her oldest frenemie into the gang and to confront her (again 🙄) with the purely emotional challenge of a destroyed Gallifrey, (let’s face it, Gallifrey itself is pretty irrelevent to the universe in any practical sense, outside of the Time War) create personal challenges for the The Doctor. She has no choice but to respond to these events as they relate to her internal world. For example, she doesn’t put off visiting Gallifrey because of a lack of interest, she actively avoids it because of a ton of painful feels.
I don’t love The Doctor because she is a hero. I love the Doctor because she feels deeply, reacts strongly, and struggles with the meaning of … well…everything. I love her because she is a complicated, multi-faceted character that has a complicated past full of ambiguity and ambivalence. She may be the smartest entity in the universe, but her intellect doesn’t protect her from the journey of living an embodied, imperfect life anymore than it does the rest of us.
In particular, I found her choice to take away the memories of Ada Lovelace and Noor Inayat Khan deeply satisfying. Actually, I hated that she took their memories. I hate it every time The Doctor violates another being by messing with their minds without consent. So, to be totally accurate, I loved hating it. The Doctor has been doing that shit her whole life. Whittaker and Chibnall aren’t creating an idealized woman, bending the character to accommodate some perfectly nurturing, maternal archetype, just because the character has transitioned from male to female. She’s a character first, evolved and evolving through 57 years of storytelling. She struggles with profound flaws and makes bad decisions, even as she strives to “Never be cruel or cowardly, to never give up and never give in. To be kind.” Her gender is secondary to her character, allowing the character to continue to make bad decisions and find redemption in ways that are consistent from story to story. Just like the rest of us.
That is why I love The Doctor. And she has…finally…returned.