To Read Them Openly (Doctor Who: Face The Raven Review)

Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up. — CS Lewis

his hearts stop. they exist beyond time normally, beating in a flow even he can’t understand, a four-on-the-floor rock and roll that masters his dreams. now, they stop. to stop, to freeze in amber. this is how he is able to feel. and now he feels fully. the inky black cloud Me calls a bird has entered Clara Oswald’s heart, penetrating her like a spear of light held by an angel. like she wasn’t even there. he refuses to hear her scream. she spreads her arms crucified. she has been surprised by the ending of her tale. yet he senses she is overjoyed. babies are sad. always so sad. why is she happy? he expects her to regenerate. hanging there like a fossil angel. he’s seen this before. from inside. a mockery of the Pieta. a triumphant mockery. and truly the story logic so far has rules. questions have answers. implications unfold. she must regenerate. he wants to be her when he grows up. he has staked his being on this hoped for ending. that’s faith, isn’t it? 

but she doesn’t. because he is alive, because he couldn’t take the bullet. she falls to the ground, anticlimax incarnate. joy of dissolution all. she knows something he doesn’t, and it enrages him. there is no “run, you clever boy, and remember me”. no catchphrase. no logical thread binding this incarnation to his hearts. it only makes sense. she is his duty of care. she is dead. he doesn’t have to. and this time he won’t.

now he understands why Ashildr tore out the pages.

Dossier File 93/11-333:TS

Celestial Intervention Agency Asset

Gallifreyan X-Risk

Renegade Time Lord

Pseudonym: The Doctor

***If you are reading this, you are in violation of the laws of time. What is explicitly true cannot be made explicit by indirect communication, by signifiers. This is not a text transmission. If you are reading it, you are an enemy of Rassilon with an interest in the Doctor. You are in violation of the laws of time. Stories end. They are not to be read openly lest you also become fiction.***

On November 23, 1963, in the Mutter Spiral, on the third planet of the heretofore insignificant Sol System, the Doctor made his first appearance in the imaginal battlespace. Who is he? This can never be answered, although speculation is contained in the Masterplan document. Suffice to say that he is what Earth postmodernists call an Other. That is, from his own point of view, he is the perceiver but never the perceived.

Another way of saying this is that he is a role. He plays the heaven-sent angel, a messenger. The Greek root angelos — he is not a daimon, an intermediary. This would imply self-knowledge, would raise him from character in a story to Christos. Between God and Man, with all that that implies. No longer content to carry a message, although some might say he is desperate to do so.

Let us return to the day before The Doctor plays his role for the first time. Before he is given a name. Before he has a reason beyond blind abyssic opposition to his own nature, before he is torn between heaven and hell, before he opens the Doors of Perception. Let us look at the forest first, then the Tyger. Let us go down and define the story in which the Doctor exists.

11/22/63: The death dates of three individuals crucial to human history. Aldous Huxley, John F Kennedy, and CS Lewis, by ascending importance to our narrative view of the subject.

“I was wondering,” said the Savage, “why you had them at all–seeing that you can get whatever you want out of those bottles. Why don’t you make everybody an Alpha Double Plus while you’re about it?”Mustapha Mond laughed. “Because we have no wish to have our throats cut,” he answered. “We believe in happiness and stability. A society of Alphas couldn’t fail to be unstable and miserable. Imagine a factory staffed by Alphas–that is to say by separate and unrelated individuals of good heredity and conditioned so as to be capable (within limits) of making a free choice and assuming responsibilities. Imagine it!” he repeated.The Savage tried to imagine it, not very successfully.”It’s an absurdity. An Alpha-decanted, Alpha-conditioned man would go mad if he had to do Epsilon Semi-Moron work–go mad, or start smashing things up. Alphas can be completely socialized–but only on condition that you make them do Alpha work. Only an Epsilon can be expected to make Epsilon sacrifices, for the good reason that for him they aren’t sacrifices; they’re the line of least resistance. His conditioning has laid down rails along which he’s got to run. He can’t help himself; he’s foredoomed. Even after decanting, he’s still inside a bottle–an invisible bottle of infantile and embryonic fixations. Each one of us, of course,” the Controller meditatively continued, “goes through life inside a bottle. But if we happen to be Alphas, our bottles are, relatively speaking, enormous. We should suffer acutely if we were confined in a narrower space. You cannot pour upper-caste champagne-surrogate into lower-caste bottles. It’s obvious theoretically. But it has also been proved in actual practice. The result of the Cyprus experiment was convincing.””What was that?” asked the Savage.Mustapha Mond smiled. “Well, you can call it an experiment in rebottling if you like. It began in A.F. 473. The Controllers had the island of Cyprus cleared of all its existing inhabitants and re-colonized with a specially prepared batch of twenty-two thousand Alphas. All agricultural and industrial equipment was handed over to them and they were left to manage their own affairs. The result exactly fulfilled all the theoretical predictions. The land wasn’t properly worked; there were strikes in all the factories; the laws were set at naught, orders disobeyed; all the people detailed for a spell of low-grade work were perpetually intriguing for high-grade jobs, and all the people with high-grade jobs were counter-intriguing at all costs to stay where they were. Within six years they were having a first-class civil war. When nineteen out of the twenty-two thousand had been killed, the survivors unanimously petitioned the World Controllers to resume the government of the island. Which they did. And that was the end of the only society of Alphas that the world has ever seen.”The Savage sighed, profoundly. — Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

the castle is a hell of his own making. he is imprisoned either in the left ventricle of the anterior cardioplex, or the frontal lobes. Rory Williams stares into the cage at the nameless boy. He reads the story openly. 

You know what’s dangerous about you? It’s not that you make people take risks, it’s that you make them want to impress you. You make it so they don’t want to let you down. You have no idea how dangerous you make people to themselves when you’re around.

this would be insulting were it a real event. it had been. here it has a different impact. it’s him. he’s condemning himself with a face he remembers. he wants to be them all when he grows up. he listens, as the mockery grips his ankle reassuringly.

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

Oh, don’t you ever tell me to mind my language, don’t you ever tell me to take the stabilizers off my bike, and don’t you dare lump me in with the rest of all the little humans that you think are so tiny and silly and predictable.  You walk our Earth, Doctor.  You breathe our air.  You make us your friend when that is your mood to and you can damned well help us when we need it.

she slapped him he had never been prouder of anyone never loved anyone so much

I’m the one who is doing all the work, so we just want you to stay cool for a minute. [laughter] — JFK, 1962

there was music playing in his head while he said stuff like that. he asked her to be him. he didn’t regret it then. he was planning on retiring. now he’s been shot. back and to the left. success is a magic bullet. the fisher king is wounded and no doctor can cure it. moon dreams burned to ash and the impossible girl was not the astronaut

“I am not your mother! I won’t tell you how it ends because the knowledge would kill you. Not that you desire it more than you love me, although in my more mature and realistic moments I consider the possibility, but because sometimes, Doctor, you don’t want to know where the story ends. I’m the only water in the forest and you’re the tiger. Shaking me like I’m a Christmas present will break me. And that would break us. SOME THINGS ARE BETTER LEFT UNKNOWN!”

it dimly dawns on him that there is something he hasn’t done. he hasn’t given her the screwdriver with the chip and the red light on it. it’s red. why is it red? His eyes are red. tears are demonic. dry. deserts. they end stories. he is not an ophthalmologist. he is not even a real doctor. he blinks. hope enters his tired eyes, a dream rising from dust he kicked off his shoes long ago.

I can imagine no man who will look with more horror on the End than a conscientious revolutionary who has, in a sense sincerely, been justifying cruelties and injustices inflicted on millions of his contemporaries by the benefits which he hopes to confer on future generations: generations who, as one terrible moment now reveals to him, were never going to exist. Then he will see the massacres, the faked trials, the deportations, to be all ineffaceably real, an essential part, his part, in the drama that has just ended: while the future Utopia had never been anything but a fantasy. — CS Lewis, The World’s Last Night

the law of the street. it seemed so petty,.so paltry, so…focused on the specific at the expense of the general. on human emotions and the behavior that fit within their boxes. one-heart thoughts by minds who only ran one way. they couldn’t even remember what they had for breakfast and they wanted to decide the fate of entire worlds, intervene in romances moved by compassion? compassion was beautiful. it made you kill people but it was worth it as long as your lover lived. she would despise him now. she had won. PE. the tin dog. Local knowledge. all the same person. what was his name again? He’d just seen him after breakfast yesterday…

“Are the gods not just?”
“Oh no, child. What would become of us if they were?” — CS Lewis

the gods were not being just today. they’d finally had their question answered. Doctor Who? no such individual. he was a social fiction. a name. a projection. what you wanted to see. the goodness in your own heart you were afraid to face. the evil you weren’t was there too, obscured behind a sweater vest and a ribcage by the good. he couldn’t see it. it was like asking a doctor to heal himself, only it required letting the patient die on the table. and Me had given him that space. all bets were off.

she had reacted to immortality poorly. acted like she’d been struck. turned into a weapon in the hands of Odin, like her fate hung by an inevitably self-evident thread on some loom of hell. only people who were hiding from themselves did that. only monsters. only daleks. only gods. and gods don’t exist. we hope they do, pray to them, but they don’t. 

“Before you go, before you take the Retcon — and you will take it — I want you to see something.” Mayor Me produces torn and yellowed paper, stained with liquid, burnt. On closer inspection, Rigsy’s artist’s eye recognizes the pigment staining the words is heavy in iron and salt. The ink is mercury. There is a smell of sulfur. He thinks, remembers. That’s his neck.

“This is old. Very old. Where did you get this?”

“I wrote it. READ.”

My children died yesterday. I burned them and scattered the ash next to my lover. Before she took sick I wanted to give her the Aegishjalmur, to let her live as long as I did. Now my body is covered in buboes and I wish only peace. But like him, I am fire and ice and rage. I’m like the night, and the storm in the heart of the sun. I’m ancient and forever…I burn at the center of time and I can see the turn of the universe… but…it would be as monstrous as he to suggest that I am wonderful. That I am a gift to anyone. I must earn these things, sacrificed, pinned by my own spear to the world tree…myself to myself. Just me in here, always.

Never again will I ever allow or cause anyone to suffer as the Doctor suffers. I do not think of myself, for myself is a vessel that dies of the plague. I will never stop dying as long as I am Ashildr, weaver of stories, girl who admires the Doctor and wishes to be like him. I have a body. I must reject it. I have a face. It must be for others that this face shines. I am no longer. if I exist, someone suffers as the Doctor suffers. These pages will be carried in a locket for the rest of my life to remind Me, that once that suffering happened to someone who wore her face. It was unbearable. Never again. 

I am compassion. I will kill the King and lay waste to his lands. Someday, he will be forced to express the compassion that I feel to escape himself. is this a paradox? Face thought and memory, o Baldr…give me your eye!

Riggsy was crying when he returned to himself. “Why tell me?”

“I wanted someone to understand. You’re suited for it. Without these papers you’ll forget about as fast as I do, relatively.”

“Thank you.”

“No, thank you. Go to your wife and son.”

“Yes ma’am.”

He doesn’t. He goes straight to Clara. She will understand. She will help.


Is anything more certain than that in all those vast times and spaces, if I were allowed to search them, I should nowhere find her face, her voice, her touch? She died. She is dead. Is the word so difficult to learn? — CS Lewis, A Grief Observed

There are rules! Dramatic unities! Tragedy! It had followed all of them, except one! Hubris should always kill the one who shows hubris. This should resolve the unity. It had killed her. The Raven had shown terrible grace, left him alive hanging from a burning thornbush as a whirlwind beat his face. Clara Oswald had not shown hubris. She had shown a goodness he was incapable of. And a skill, a panache. She had played her role to the hilt. SHE WAS THE DOCTOR! THE DOCTOR IS DEAD! that’s why he can’t be the Doctor anymore. It would be dishonorable, maudlin. And it didn’t do her any good. Never does anyone any good. Leaves you with terrible guilt and grace alike when you act like the rules matter. Like names, words, morals, goals, winning are all that matter, or matter at all. Who indeed? Clara who. 

Syntax is returning, capitalization. A lack of interest in maudlin self-expression for its own sake. Self-indulgence, as if the story of Clara Oswald’s Last Stand was somehow less worth telling than The Fairy Tale of the Boy Who Ran. 

Knock knock


Doctor Who?

The patient died while you were healing yourself

What would Rory do? This is the question. He has never wanted to be anyone when he grows up more than he wants to be Rory. What would Rory do? 

It occurs to him and he facepalms. Rory is too busy being Rory to ask such stupid questions! Of course! Rory Cipher. Rory Po-Face. Rory No One. Rory “names are so not things and I can too take hers!” POND. Rory who followed a woman into hell so when the Devil betrayed her she wouldn’t die alone. Rory the Centurion. Rory the Good Man. Rory who made demons run. Rory who through pure love stopped being an Auton and didn’t kill Amy…he stopped being a…

No. He became one. Truly. In that moment his will was finally able to settle on love like an ember on gasoline. Hybrid vigor. Both halves. He no longer hated the part of him that enjoyed this. He loved Amy with the same fervor with which he loved making demons run. It was why he’d gone to war. Why he’d won. 

What seem our worst prayers may really be, in God’s eyes, our best. Those, I mean, which are least supported by devotional feeling. For these may come from a deeper level than feeling. God sometimes seems to speak to us most intimately when he catches us, as it were, off our guard. — CS Lewis, Letters To Malcolm


He has been praying all this time to let the answer be that he was a good man. He has forgotten what happens when you make the question explicit. It must never be asked, because when you do you prioritize form over function. Form over function makes your body a pepper pot, your hand a plunger, your “I love you” a murderous monotone “exterminate!” They declare this the way he asks “Doctor Who?” And it’s a stupid, stupid question. In Ancient Gallifreyan, “who” does not exist. The English word “who” implies a discrete object. To make a noun proper, say, spelling Doctor with a capital D, is to depersonalize, in the English grammar. But in Gallifreyan this is all a barbaric yawp. The word translated Who is a verb, an interrogative modification of “to do”. “The Doctor [block computation result] does what? [input block vector]”.

They gave him this name. Ian and Barbara. They found the Unearthly Child and his granddaughter. They decided a man so kind, so learned, must be a Doctor. And he hadn’t even been kind at all. It had bemused him. To see himself as others saw him…this was Clara Oswald’s last and truest gift. Now it demanded more of him than he could ever give. That was okay, though. 

He would face the Raven. He wouldn’t run anymore. He would be the Doctor. The healed Doctor. The Doctor who knew what horrible business healing was, who had a reason to do it well with true compassion. The Fisher King raised the screwdriver, tested it. The light glowed red, like a burning lump of coal. Too long it had always been winter and never Christmas. But this was Christmas yet to come…and he would spend it with River. 

Have you ever thought what it’s like to be wanderers in the Fourth Dimension? Have you? To be exiles? Susan and I are cut off from our own planet – without friends or protection. But one day we shall get back. Yes, one day. — The Doctor, November 23, 1963



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