Martha's mandate, to care for the Doctor's human heart, is kicked into overdrive: she's been covering for him on more than the usual emotional level for the last three months, in a time and place that would be uncomfortable for almost anybody. Taking Donna's warning to heart, the Doctor has turned himself human -- again, a theme in every episode -- in order to hide from his vengeance. If the Aubertide Family will just die off, there will be no need for him to get Old Testament on their asses. He knows: he's like fire and ice, and rage. He's like the night and the storm, and the heart of the sun: he's ancient, and forever. He burns at the center of time, and he can see the turn of the universe. He is terrible, and wonderful, and there are risks involved with power. His heart is endangered. By falling in love, he endangers his other heart as well. And the god suffers too: the most compelling part of his Last Temptation vision is that everybody's safe. Companions, Smith, the soldiers and boys, and Joan: he no longer has to be a hero.
The human John Smith -- who lives on in the Doctor, just as the ten Doctors live on in Tim Latimer and John Smith -- teaches the Doctor the most important lesson: self-sacrifice. Not something gods really understand until they go human on you, historically -- that human strength is more powerful than divine strength, because one begets the other. This is where we get into sticky territory that we've already talked about with The Second Coming, but it's even harder to understand here, so I'll just say: absent circumstance, if the Doctor chooses his Companions based on his admiration for them -- if Companions are allowed to stay because of love -- then the Doctor could choose no more worthy a Companion than John Smith. And he knows it. Though they never speak, their relationship mirrors and foresees the end of the season, too: the Doctor heart kneels down for the executioner, so that the Master heart can be absolved.
"Let me also wear/ Such deliberate disguises/ Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed staves/ In a field/ Behaving as the wind behaves..." The scarecrows are hollow men. They take on the appearance of humanity, but are neither of it nor in it: on the face of it, they are terrifying, but inside they're empty. They're like beasts pretending that they're alive; they're like Masters pretending they don't depend on their Companions and slaves for their very existence. This is the source of the schoolboys' relief in the most compelling scene of the piece, which is recapitulation of the truth of war: mere boys, firing on straw men, tears falling from their eyes. When we talk about the drums of war, when we talk about the sound of drums, this is the truth: nobody ever wanted to be a villain, and nobody ever wanted to kill. They got there by cruel fate, and they must be loved.
We talked a lot about Restoration of the Divine, once upon a time. About Sophia; about Ahriman taking apart wishes, dreams, lies, cages, ourselves, and giving that light back. I thought the new "grace" would be "glory," this season, and I was right -- the up- and downsides, the rise and fall -- but really, we're just back to Reclamation of the Demonic, which is the other side of what we do -- the part where we set aside the Doctor and start looking for the Master. Everything that means anything is in the darkest and most neglected corners of your house, in the places you're not sure of. In the bug rooms and the cobweb corners, those are the things that keep you from being free. But the truth is that those things belong to you, helping to make up what you are, and by ignoring them, you give them so much power that you could have for yourself, as glory. The Daleks in Manhattan couldn't love Sek, couldn't handle the Diagoras he turned into: and if they could, he would have led them into the light. What's horrible and wonderful depends a lot on your perspective. It depends on how big your house is.