on the Doctor as Empire, illustrated through 4×10 “Midnight”

Thread originally posted on Twitter.

The Doctor as Empire: “the doctor always comes” :: “the sun never sets on the british empire”; “harbinger of death” as the genuine belief of the colonized; The Doctor as the White Man’s Burden; the trauma of Companions as the trauma of assimilation & coloniality;

the power of the Empire to keep Companions dependent on it; the reliance of the Companion on the Empire even though the Companion is disposable to the Empire; the utter INSISTENCE that the doctor be white;

donna noble as the colonized who has learned the secrets of the colonizer; donna noble’s fate as punishment for daring to ascend;

this weird thing about time lords and humans not being able to have viable children; how that has darker implications for the idea of the Doctor as the last of his kind; how the Doctor is perhaps a manifestation of anxieties over the end of the Empire;

hoo boy, unpacking my favorite doctor who episode, 4×10 “midnight”, through the lens of the Doctor as Empire: the Doctor’s worst fear is being outsmarted, having someone *anticipate* him before he articulates himself—the silent, the marginalized, beating him at his own game;

the funny thing is that they try to lampshade this by having dee dee & the professor be ABSURDLY racist, but the metaphor is still there, if not even stronger: the manifestation of “individual bigotry” contrasts against the institutional bigotry that’s never called out

ooh, and now the doctor shuts everyone up and demands that they all listen to dee dee. what a generous gesture from the Empire, to uplift Diverse voices while maintaining the status quo;

fascinating how the narrative implies that the Doctor is doing her a favor, building her confidence even by asking her to speak publicly and Overcome the image others have of her of being incompetent—but of course, it’s the Doctor who saves everyone

FASCINATING how they lampshade the fact that no one asks the hostess’s name despite the fact that she saves them. is it a coincidence that she’s black? at this point, I’mma say No; it’s a Symbol of sacrifices for the Empire, so noble, these nameless masses & their loyalty

I cannot believe donna noble is the companion and there is STILL a flash of rose on the TV. I’m going to interpret rose as the nobility of white womanhood that is to be protected and desired, and I’m gonna go so far as to say donna “noble” lampshades that she’s NOT “womanly”

donna as a companion is defined by her “incompetence,” which isn’t actually incompetence, it’s the fact that the status quo does not value her skills and labor. her whole character arc is “I AM good enough, aren’t I,” and when she transcends her position in life, she’s punished

it’s quite fascinating that she’s absent from this episode, actually; the whole uncanny thing about sky is that she has knowledge that only the doctor should have. sky has to be destroyed as a “monster” despite, objectively, only being a sentient force that wants physicality

when ANYONE gets knowledge that’s supposedly privileged to the Empire, that person is targeted and destroyed. cf. organizers, activists

the whole episode is supposedly an exercise in mob mentality—nothing more than LORD OF THE FLIES set in the doctor who universe—and the most telling thing of all is that the “monster” is even perceived as a monster at all—it is *the doctor’s* panic that incites violence

the crowd only says “let’s throw her out” after the doctor gets nervous about sky. and he gets to play the white knight saying “no one will be killing anyone”—he lampshades that they get to decide whether or not they’ll, functionally, commit a hate crime on a new life

everyone turns on the Doctor after realizing that he’s suspicious; they start realizing he’s not human. when he’s cornered, he replies, “because I’m clever!” “you’ve been looking down on us since the moment we walked in.” here is an actual uprising against the Empire

and the narrative paints it as the unreasonable thing to do. even though, quite honestly, the Doctor *is* the most suspicious one on board

“we all have to calm down and cool off and think”—the Empire using “rational debate” as a tool—emotions are considered “weak”, ESPECIALLY when an emotionally driven argument is against the Empire, even though the experiences of the subjugated COME with fear & anger

“you need MY voice in particular, the cleverest voice in the room. why? because I’m the only one who can help. oh, I’d love that to be true, but your eyes, I can tell you want something else. … you don’t have to steal it. you can find it without hurting anyone. & I’ll help you”

this is STRAIGHT UP projection from the Empire, particularly when the doctor says “do we have a deal.” exchanging power with the Empire requires a covenant (cf. BENEATH THE RISING by premee mohamed)

decolonization is taking the colonial framework of the Empire and subverting it to give full agency to the marginalized. “look at me, I can move, and now he can’t move. help me, professor. get me away from him”

“It was so cold. I couldn’t breathe. I’m sorry. I must have scared you so much”

why is this perceived as deception instead of the genuine confession of the marginalized?

the whole conceit is that the Doctor “can’t move,” i.e., his agency has been taken from him. at this point, sky is the only voice speaking, and the Doctor is literally voiceless. this is the nightmare of the Empire: having its discourse taken to “turn the tables”

of course, this is another manifestation of the Empire’s zero sum perception of the world. why did sky “steal” his voice? why isn’t the doctor simply frozen with fear, and sky simply growing to fuller sentience?

“that’s how he works. creeps into your head, and whispers. just listen. that’s him, inside.”

sky is straight up calling out the Empire’s coloniality as a mimetic perpetuation of itself (i.e., you learn the logic of coloniality that subjugates you)

when sky says “allons-y,” the hostess claims that she has “stolen the doctor’s voice,” simply because she used a catchphrase that’s “his.” why couldn’t she have been quoting him? mocking him? no, the use of language privileged to the Empire is a transgression in itself

the Empire can now breathe, knowing that the loyal sidekick has sacrificed herself, taking away the threat to the Empire’s status as exceptional (“because I’m clever”). the last note of the episode is donna imitating the Doctor, which severely unsettles him

yes, the narrative contextualizes it as evidence of the Doctor’s traumatic experience, but the overall effect is: this moment foreshadows Donna’s downfall, as she has uttered the Doctor’s catchphrase and “taken” his voice. he quickly puts her back in her place.

anyway. now I can’t ever watch doctor who again, thanks self

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