Monday, 5 September 2011

Mark Gatiss, Night Terrors (Doctor Who) 2011


Last Saturday's ep.: very enjoyable, much better realised (in key ways: stronger conceit, better structured and paced, better-judged characterisation and less "wait, what-the-??" bollocksness all round) than the preceding week's 'Let's Kill Hitler!' story. I especially liked the Doctor's 'I've seen things you people wouldn't believe, attack ships on fire off the shoulder of specific content altered to avoid copyright infringement' speech ('Do you see these eyes? These are old eyes' -- lovely delivery from Smith really nails the moment). And the ending, where the Dad hugged his young son and told him he loved him, was genuinely affecting. But then I'd be likely to say so, since I am a Dad and I have a young son, whom I love. At any rate, Gatiss is getting better as a writer, I think. Apparently there's talk of him as a future showrunner, when Moffat steps down.  Well, I suppose they'll need someone to fetch the coffee, and that.

Now.  Well.  Here's the thing about decoding dreams the Freudian way: once you get into the habit of reading off for manifest and latent content it becomes both gratifyingly easy and surprisingly eloquent and revealing ... or, at least, it gives the simulacrum of eloquence and revelation, which is all we can really ask for. Some Who episodes are more dreamlike than others in this sense; but 'Night Terrors', true to its name, was very like a dream indeed. More, problems on its manifest level are, I think, resolved by reading the latent content, which is nice. For example: the premise of this episode [spoilers] is that l'il George is a Tenza alien, who has (cuckoo-in-the-nestishly) morphed into the perfect kid for his infertile parents and wants nothing more than to feel safe and loved and to belong. We discover that all the monsters and the terrors are the result of Tenza-George manifesting (via his [wave-hand] alien telepath[hand-wave]ic powers) the terrible anxiety that his parents are going to send him away. Fine, but, thinking back: his parents were only thinking of sending him away because of his debilitating level of fear and anxiety. So something doesn't add up, chicken-egg-wise, in the show's conceit.

But this doesn't matter.  The latent level is where the show's emotional punch is located. See, this is a story about a talented kid with a secret who lives in terror that his parents, once they discover his secret, will reject him. It is the story of somebody who hides his secret self in his closet, even though this act of repression causes him misery and angst. You see, he is not like his parents, even though he loves them dearly.  And although they love him dearly, he is terrified that they will reject him and send him away if they find out the truth. The truth that is in the closet. The girly, dolls-house sort of truth about his actual nature that is tucked away at the back of his closet. The emotional release of the show comes when the Dad embraces his son and tells him that, no matter what secret identity is hidden in his closet, he loves him and will never reject him. How could that not be touching?

And to think some people find Freudian interpretations of dreams reductive! In other news: according to the Independent on Sunday's Pink List of 2010, Gatiss is the 38th most influential gay person in the UK. Bravo!

4 comments:

PeteY said...

Sounds a bit like AI.

As a straight man, I'd say Gatiss would be the most likely to turn me...

Hillbert said...

Nicely chimes in with the Doctor's final words as well.

"Might pop back around puberty mind you, always a funny time."

Richard B said...

While enjoying a show that for once wasn't an installment of the 'overarching-plot-which-is-now-so-convoluted-as-to-have-become-infinitely-dense', I have grown tired of plots which are solved by the character 'facing their fears'

I like protagonists that defeat their enemies by some remarkably clever method that in hindsight was obvious (and, no, saying "Captain, why don't we invert the primary tessellating feedback loop and re-route it through the main sensor dish" doesn't count)

In the 70's it was joked that there was a special face an actor had to learn to show s/he was projecting or recieving telepathic influences, nowadays it's the '...gulp, and yes I am facing those fears' face.

Please, no more internalised solutions to externalised situations - and no, Dadhug doesn't count, that was just mopping up the loose ends.

Richard B said...

Sorry, did I miss the latent?

Again, not clever enough... every child has the dichotomy that they are other, remember, when you tell a child the story of the wolf and the pig, that the child is both wolf and pig - this story may have been a burgeoning sexuality story, or it my have been a child's response to a parent being threatened (the landlord) or a revolt against age and death (the old neighbour)or just a realisation of the possibility of independant action.

I'm sorry, but if this story was centered around anything more than 'a child believes they are the centre of everything' - then I'm afraid it was all a little too amorphous for me...