Traveler's Halt

by Jacob Clifton June 30, 2009
The Next Doctor

The Doctor and Mr. Smith are in the home of the latest murder victim, Reverend Aubrey Fairchild. "Found with burns to his forehead, like some advanced form of electrocution." John Smith crosses his arms, and nearly his eyes, trying to work it out. What was important about the Reverend? The Doctor finally looks over at him and notes how he asks so many questions, John Smith. "I'm your Companion!" Companion to an ersatz brummagem Doctor in the Home Counties, a human Doctor, a good strong man not yet beaten down. A man with his memory taken? Just a man, to take the reins for awhile.

"The Reverend was the pillar of the community, a member of many parish boards. A keen advocate of children's charity." But why would the Cybermen want him dead? And what's the connection to the first death? (None of these questions means anything, and their answers even less; as a mystery, it's not even trying. I think this, combined with the wack wackiness of the Cybershade chase, is the reason I'm so lukewarm on this episode. I never like the Christmas Specials, but this one... Well, better than the Kylie one, at least. But as a bridge to the 2009 Specials it works. It certainly underlines where our boy's at, post-Donna, and how scary and sad it's still possible to get, which is all the mandate required. Still, ugh.)

"It's funny," the Doctor says. "I seem to be telling you everything." John Smith nods. That's how it works. For the Doctor; for the Companion too: "As though you engendered some sort of... Trust. You seem familiar, Mr. Smith. I ... Know your face." MAKE OUT MUSIC starts, but you can see for a second how this episode works, or is supposed to work: as the prelude for a story about Companions and companionship, about the worst goodbye -- worse than Adric, worse than anything -- leading to a splitting off of hearts and a loss of memory and retreat into that worst of all buffalo, the Doctor who Masters, it's a beautiful reversal to play this episode straight: John Smith, deliberately and once again laying down his title, his name, in order to remember her. To put his hand on the wall once again and feel her on the other side. I'm your Companion, of course I ask questions. I'm your Doctor, of course you trust me with your whole heart.

"I can't help noticing you're wearing a fobwatch..." John says, and the Doctor nods. "Legend has it that the memories of a Timelord can be contained within a watch..." He flips it open, John Smith does, and the works go flying: gears and springs and cogs. No bigger on the inside than it was outside, just like the Doctor. "Maybe not," says Smith, embarrassed, and bids his Doctor continue. "Look for anything different, possibly metal. Anything that doesn't seem to belong, perhaps a mechanical device that could fit no earthly engine." To protect his Doctor, Smith keeps his screwdriver quiet, as he roams and sonics things. "It could even seem to be organic, but unlike any organism of the natural world..." The Doctor hears the buzzing whine of the sonic screwdriver, and John quickly puts it in his pocket. "Just me... Whistling?" As though by coincidence, or in the guise of another excellent question, John wonders offhand what might be in this particular chest.

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