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The Chasm Widens: Cold Blood on Doctor Who

What do we have when even memories fade? When our own past is brutally ripped away from us, when time itself is so malleable that it can be rewritten to erase the memory of a loved one from existence itself?

The Doctor has traveled throughout time and space, arriving at fixed points in time and others that are far more changeable. He's witnessed beautiful and terrible things but likely none more heartbreaking than being forced to remember it all, even when those around you forget, waking up to a false dream that's far too real and far too tragic.

On this week's episode of Doctor Who ("Cold Blood"), the second half of the installment established in last week's "The Hungry Earth," the Doctor attempted to launch a desperate rescue mission under the surface of the Earth to recover those taken by the Silurians to their civilization down below--including Amy Pond herself--while on the surface, Rory and a ragrag group attempted to gain information from their Silurian prisoner.

Would there be any hope of a peaceful resolution to this inadvertent conflict? Or were the two races doomed to start a war that would destroy the entire planet?

"Cold Blood," written by Chris Chibnall and directed by Ashley Way, arrives at a very precise time in our own relationship with the planet, a time when an oil spill threatens an entire ecosystem and continues to rage unabated. The notion that Chibnall and showrunner Steven Moffat would be quite so prescient in their use of a drill in this two-parter is haunting and the tragedy unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico only makes this adventure all the more gripping and depressing.

But while the real-life oil drilling might expose our own greed and hubris, "Cold Blood" serves a different purpose: to show the similarities and differences between two species who inhabit the same planet, two species that might look extremely different but whose exteriors belie the same mistrust, fear, and aggression... and also the potential for co-existence in the face of those issues.

There was a real beauty to the fact that the Doctor stayed true to himself and to his mission: finding a peaceful solution to dangerous situations. It's in keeping with his distaste for guns or violence (though, as has been proved throughout the series, he's not above acts of genocide to protect the universe): the peaceful solution is always the best one. So it's fitting that he would create a negotiating session between the Silurian regent Eldane (Stephen Moore)--who was in fact narrating this installment--and humans Amy and Nasreen (Meera Syal) as they attempt to find some common ground, finally agreeing to share the Earth's surface (particularly those areas unsuitable for human habitation) in exchange for Silurian technologies: irrigation methods, energy sources, etc. "Be extraordinary," the Doctor tells Nasreen and he believes it. It might be why he loves the human race so.

It would have worked, had each side not fallen prey to fear and anger. On the surface, Ambrose is taunted into attacking Alaya with a taser, electrocuting the prisoner to death. Is she at the end of her rope? Yes. Is she terrified that she'll never see her husband or son again? You bet. Scared that her father Tony will succumb to the venom and die? Sure. But she gives in to the very reaction that Alaya sought: anger. Unable to break the prisoner, Ambrose gives in to her basest desires, looking to punish this creature for others' actions... and she convinces Tony to set the drill to burrow again and breach the Silurians' oxygen pockets.

(The Doctor's anger at Ambrose is palpable: "You were so much less than the best of humanity," he tells her scornfully.)

Below, Restac herself falls prey to her own rage. She hates "the apes" and wants her race to reclaim the surface which they see as rightfully theirs. She doesn't want negotiations or research; she wants results. She murders kindly scientist Malohkeh and attempts a coup d'etat to remove Eldane from power and launch a full-out war against the surface.

The Doctor of course saves the day but it's not without a major loss on his own side. Activating the Silurian failsafe--a toxic fumigation that will force the soldiers back into hibernation--Eldane attempts to save both races, reseting their hibernation for 1000 years, when he hopes that another peace effort can be brokered between the humans and the Silurians. Tony agrees to stay in order to survive Alaya's toxins and Nasreen wants to stay with him; they'll go to sleep with the other underworld dreamers for a millennium.

But Restac isn't going without a fight and, just as the group reach the TARDIS, she shows up and shoots Rory as he, the Doctor, and Amy notice another crack in the skin of the universe. Just why does this phenomenon seem to be following them? What is it, really? The Doctor believes that it's a space-time catastrophe, a massive explosion that has torn rips in the fabric of the universe. He reaches into the chasm and pulls out... something.

But the Doctor doesn't get a chance to examine it as Restac mortally wounds Rory just then... and his body begins to be absorbed into the light. What follows is utterly heartbreaking. We began this adventure by having Amy and Rory see their future selves across the valley, waving at one another. But not every point in time is fixed; some are more malleable than others and this is one of them. We witness not just the death of Amy's fiance but the erasing of his entire existence.

"I don't understand," he says. "We were on the hill. I can't die here. You're so beautiful... I'm sorry."

And with that, Rory, one-time companion of the Doctor, doomed fiance of Amy Pond, is wiped from the collective consciousness. The Doctor attempts to help Amy hold onto Rory's memory, to keep him alive in her mind, to not forget. But it's not enough. The memory slips away as Rory is pulled out of her memory altogether, a little red box containing her engagement ring is just another piece of detritus within the TARDIS.

Amy Pond is single once more and doesn't remembered that she was ever loved.

We revisit that scene on the hill once more but this time it's just Amy waving back, though our Amy has a moment of frisson where she nearly sees someone else across the valley. It's a shadow, a whisper, and it's gone too quickly.

I'm going to miss Rory terribly but I'm also intrigued by just where this storyline is going. The Doctor sadly remembers Rory while Amy doesn't. Is there any chance of Rory returning to her life? Or at least her memories of him? What of that little red box and the ring within? Can it reawaken that spark within Amy? And will the Doctor ever be able to tell her just what she lost that day?

What did you think of the episode? Surprised that they killed off Rory in such a brutal and heartrending manner? Head to the comments section to discuss.

Next week on Doctor Who ("Vincent and the Doctor"), the Doctor and Amy travel to 19th century Provence, where they encounter the legendary painter Vincent van Gogh but it's not all sunflowers and starry nights as terror lurks in the cornfields of Provence, but only the sad and lonely painter can see its menace.


Bella Spruce said…
Poor Amy! I can't believe Rory is gone! I wasn't too crazy about the Silurian storyline but Rory being erased from Amy's memory was shocking and sad and I'm curious as to how this moment will ripple into the rest of the season.
Unknown said…
Of course, Rory isn't the first of the Doctor's companions to die tragically. It is, however, the first time one was erased from history. Given that, I doubt he can come back (come back from where?) but stranger things have happened. (I miss the parallel dimension with a Doctor clone and Rose!)

It's interesting that we've been reminded that not every moment in time is fixed--some things, like Amy and Rory on the hill, can be changed. I wonder what else will change...

P.S. The Silurian technology of "irritation methods" doesn't sound too valuable. :-)
Anonymous said…
Hello Jace

I'm a new fan of Doctor Who. I see Doctor Who have a few spin-offs like Torchwood.

What do you recomend watching Torchwood after or along with Doctor Who?


Jace Lacob said…

While they are very different series (especially in terms of tone), I'd suggest watching them side-by-side as elements of Doctor Who seep into Torchwood and vice-versa.
The CineManiac said…
These two episodes weren't my favorite, but the loss of Rory was heartbreaking. Like you I think the worst part is that The Doctor can remember while Amy can't. He's constantly reminded of his failure in that way.
The Dr. has been told before about his companions- and people around him- giving up everything, including their lives for him. Rory is unfortunatly just another in a long chain.

I have to say, I've been watching the new Dr. and I'm not all that happy with him. I miss Davids Dr. and I just can't get into this new series.

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