I made the right call yesterday when I decided to split the Eleventh Doctor’s story off from the other New Who Doctors. See, at the time I was just worried about the word count. But splitting off Eleven’s story also gives me room to gush about the author of this last story: Neil Gaiman. If you’re new here, you won’t know how much I love Neil Gaiman. But you’re about to learn. Oh boy, are you about to learn.
One of my favourite B-list Doctor Who episodes is ‘The Doctor’s Wife’. When I say B-list, I definitely do not mean that they are any worse than the A-list episodes. What I mean is that these episodes don’t have anything to do with an overarching storyline. Kind of like “Smith and Jones”, or “Midnight”, or most of Clara’s episodes in Season Seven.
‘The Doctor’s Wife’ is one of my favourite episodes because it is so original. Yes, yes, most everything that happens in Doctor Who hasn’t been done before, but in this particular episode, we get a human TARDIS. And we see, on no uncertain terms, how the Doctor and the TARDIS feel about each other. It is a beautiful episode and one that I really hope never gets repeated.
Here, have some feels:
Anyway, why the rant about ‘The Doctor’s Wife’? Because Gaiman wrote that episode. Gaiman, in all of his genius, gave us an episode that was perfect in every single possible way you can imagine. We get Rory-and-Amy feels, Doctor-and-TARDIS feels, Doctor-and-Time-Lord feels, and then some pure Gaiman-esque touches, like the people made from leftovers of dead bodies left on the “planet” outside of the universe. Genius.
Then there’s ‘Nightmare in Silver’. I might not like the whole fast Cybermen thing, however logical it might be, but the whole Mr. Clever v Eleven mental battle? I adored that. It’s how I imagine the Doctor if he turned to the dark side. Still absolutely bonkers, jumping on tables and talking in circles. Just evil. You have got to check out this video.
After “Name of the Doctor”, this was the only decent episode in the second half of the Season Seven, thanks to Mr. Gaiman.
What I’ve always loved about Gaiman is the subtlety in his humour. He makes humour seem effortless, something I have never been able to accomplish. All he does is slip in a couple of one-liners and he has me rolling on the floor, crying with laughter. Two of my favourites lines in Nothing O’Clock?
The contract was made out, and the buyer’s name was clearly written on it: N. M. de Plume.
In the beginning – before the beginning – was the word. And the word was ‘Doctor’!
I had to take five minutes after reading that last line to stop laughing before I could finish the chapter. Comparing the Doctor to gospel? No. Saying the Doctor basically is gospel? Marvellous. I’m pretty sure Gaiman would be the only author to even attempt that comparison. Well, the only one who could pull off a comparison like that in one sentence.
I don’t know whether reading Gaiman makes me want to be a writer more or make
me want to hang up my writing tools forever and give up. He’s that good.
In Nothing O’Clock an ancient enemy of the Time Lords, the Kin – locked up when the Doctor was just a boy – has escaped its prison and is causing havoc with Earth’s time stream. All as a lure for the Doctor. Because the Doctor is the last remaining Time Lord and the Kin can never truly be free if Time Lords still exist, in any capacity.
This was an Eleven and Amy story, situated in the time between the end of ‘The Eleventh Hour’ and the beginning of ‘The Vampires of Venice’. It was in that period where we didn’t really know much about Rory and didn’t quite know what Rory and Amy were doing together. The epic love story hadn’t kicked in yet. We’re following Amy when “she didn’t think the Doctor understood what she saw in Rory. Some days, she was not entirely sure what she saw in Rory.” (Two sentences. Gaiman how do you do it?).
What this setting means is that we can focus on the relationship between Amy and her Raggedy Man. There’s not one quote I can pull out that shows how Gaiman manages to capture their relationship without ever really addressing it. I think it’s more just the feeling of the overall story. Gaiman creates a mood that lasts from beginning to end, and you’re not even aware he’s doing it.
Something Gaiman is incredibly good at is making the most innocent things seem absolutely terrifying. The best example I have is in my review of his novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane. In this Doctor Who tale, he makes the childhood game of “what’s the time, Mr. Wolf?” into something so terrifying that I have a feeling that I will get a cold shiver down my spine way, way in the future if I ever hear my grandkids playing that game. (It’s a classic, why won’t it still be played then?)
There’s also this descriptive trick Gaiman does that I haven’t come across anywhere else. It’s really very simple, but it would be easy to screw up. I think that’s why the majority of authors steer clear:
The ceiling seemed furry: hair-like threads, or thread-like hairs, came down from it.
Legitimately all he’s done is move two adjectives. But what Gaiman’s managed to do is give us a more vivid image of what he’s describing, the sense of confusion in the scene, and a bit of characterisation for Polly, the eyes through which we see these thread/hairs.
Bless you, Gaiman, for restoring my faith in the English language every time I read your work.