Saturday, 8 November 2014

Thoughts on faces

It's fascinating that he can't get a handle on her face.... it's been the best running theme in the series.

Clara has of course, by any measure, a fine physiognomy - it's smooth, uncluttered contours in little need of explication - but he just can't seem to find his way around it. From the beginning he's struggled with her age, her expression, the presence or absence of make-up, the inflated eyes...the lot....

At first I thought this merely an amusing element in the redefinition of the Doctor and the recalibration of his relationship with Clara. An entertaining way to emphasise a move away from the youthful 'sexy' Doctors of yesteryear and a chance to emphasise the aloof, alien nature of incarnation number twelve. But maybe it is more than that...

Lithuanian philosopher Emmanuel Levinas tells us that, at its' heart, all ethical behaviour, all good all evil, is, when it comes down to it, a response to a face. At the root of all our moral deliberations lies the immediate demand that the face of another (or the other) places upon us.....

Before reason, before language, before biology, before 'got ten pee fora cuppa tea guv?', comes a face. It makes a demand upon us, orders us, compels us. We might dress it all up later into a wordy ethical stance or post-hoc rationalisation, but underneath all that, we are called to act (even if only to ignore) by a face.

And Clara certainly has a commanding face. Levinas even refers to the face of a 'widow, orphan or stranger' and, at the start of last week's episode, Clara was, by all but the most legalistic definition of the term, a widow...

So, I suspected, a Doctor who can't get a grip on faces, is a Doctor uprooted...He's let her down before, or at least been a tad what we might term 'slippery' on a few issues. Sloped off when the moon needed blowing up. Failed his CRB check around the kiddies. Maybe dropped a feller out of a hot air balloon. We have perhaps a Doctor whose ethical moorings have slipped. A Doctor unsure of the foundations of the call that others make upon him.

But then he got that call didn't he? ........And in the best scene in the whole thing, when Clara did what so many bad guys fail to do and directly threatened the Tardis, the very centre of what he is....he came through......After so much doubt and ambiguity about his moral nature and their relationship... he came through, without hesitation or ambiguity. We know with absolute clarity what he is and what they are.They are George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. They recognise the ethical claim that each holds over the other. They know and accept their moral responsibilities. They'll forgive each other just as once twice forever. They don't want your freedom. They will drag each other to Hell and back just as long as they're together......

Forget the gender journeying Master or the soggy, see-through Cybermen......the best revelation last week was The Doctor.

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