Friday, April 16, 2010

Like Cain. Or the mole on my right wrist.

It’s a bit presumptuous to question the ontological logic of a show about time-traveling. We must relegate so many aspects into the safety umbrella that is "suspension of disbelief." There are those categories of viewing that act as prisms of a sort, or points of departure (that is, with which we may maintain a moment of ambiguity, both disbelieving and not, simultaneously): those that enable the viewer to query his own perception of historical events, those that are "remarkable" inasmuch as they are defined as science-fiction excitement, and those that are simply groan-worthy. None of which seem worthy of sparking a true inquiry into the mechanics of time and being, at least not as devices qua devices.

But there are certain points where a paradox is too inexplicable, too contradictory, that it even unbalances the suspended disbelief that there can be such paradoxes in the first place.

Now I know no one other than Wer, Wif, and Briullov have seen an episode of Dr.Who. I still think the specific paradox I have in mind is prevalent enough I can talk about it here, because it has infiltrated even the linguistic system of the English.
To be marked.
Marked for glory, by destiny, for fame, by Voldemort, by S.S.B.J.

By the Doctor. Showing here.

Here’s the point. The Doctor is an alien who goes on adventures in time and space with his human companions. Typically he is white and British and male and Briullov and I have speculated as to the Imperialist OVERtones of that but if I end up writing about that, it will not be here.

Usually said human companions are female, and usually they are young and nubile. Showing here. And here.

Imperialist and a randy ol’ bastard.

No, I said I wouldn’t write about that here.

What I mean to say is that in the case of the first woman to whom I linked, Martha Jones, there’s a slight paradox that arises because the Doctor time travels to the morning before she meets him and startles her, just to prove – later that same day – that he can time travel. But the only reason she drew his attention to herself was because she had been startled by him earlier in the morning when he had proven to her later that same day that he could time travel but he was inviting her to travel with him because she had proven herself…

You see why it’s called a paradox.

That’s more-or-less a moment I can put into the second category of my “suspension of disbelief” template – that it’s a science-fiction television show, let’s sit down and enjoy, no real skin off my back, etc. (Did I get the metaphor right that time? I accidentally said “hair off my chest” to someone recently and now I worry that I speak in mixed metaphors.)

What prompted this was the second link above – Amy Pond – into whose kitchen the Doctor crashed when she was a little girl. At that same moment there was crack in space-time that allowed a creepy alien that can shape-shift by stealing other creature’s minds in her bedroom. That bit’s important.

The Doctor had to pop away, but he left for twelve years as opposed to the five minutes he’d mentioned. Imagine that – an alien in a box that disappears who promises that he’ll return immediately, and take you on adventures, and then never does. And that’s what Amy does – she imagines, and she dreams, and from that one encounter she built an entire image-obsession in her own mind. An image-obsession that imprinted, or left its mark on her, as truly as did the creepy alien that had those same twelve years to graft itself onto her mind.

The Doctor invites Amy to travel with him because she had dreamt about him and helped him defeat the creepy alien, but she does both of those latter actions because he had come to her when she was a little child. It’s not a paradox as much as it is messed up. Even less than in the typical human situation of having or not having historical agency does Amy actually have any choice in this matter. She was in a place at a time – right or wrong – and she was marked because of it. In this case a specific individual character “marked” her, but how often is that the case?

And how often do we use “to be marked by X” as shorthand for something inexplicable, or some form of serendipity, or some act of the S&S.B.J.? What is the balance to draw between the inertia of historical structurae and schemae and the spontaneity of agency?

Possibly to be continued. (Also, cf. a similar thought-post at ahsasha.)

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