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!