Lurky McLurklurk (ionlylurkhere) wrote,
Lurky McLurklurk
ionlylurkhere

DVD commentary: The Game of Making

Last one for this go round! Requested by elliptic_eye.


This is one of the fics I'm proudest of, to be honest. (The day I got the email from kalima asking to include it in Lost Luggage -- which seems to have become cyber-squatted these days D: -- remains one of the happiest of my fannish life.) One of the things that surprises me about it. looking back, is how short it is -- I seem to have got long-winded in my old age.

There's quite a lot of backstory to the writing of this, because it is very much me getting over my squick of the power issues in Doctor/Companion. I was an asexualist by default for quite a while and when I got over that I still didn't like Doctor/anyone where there's an imbalance in time travel capacity (so, basically, I was fine with it if it all happened in one trip -- with exception for Reinette because of the Doctor's lack of control of the time windows -- or if it was someone with their own ability to time travel -- y halo thar, River), because of the capacity for him to rewrite their history until he gets them to like him. This is very Moff-influenced, as you can probably tell by the stuff I've mentioned already: his one bit of professional Who (you can't tell me he didn't write fic as a nipper, I shan't believe you) pre-new-series was a short story in Decalog 3, "Continuity Errors", where Seven constantly interferes in a librarian's history until he can persuade her to lend him a book from the reference section he needs to defeat an alien invasion (there's a very funny element to it where the librarian's perception of Benny's fashion sense changes with each iteration). And I take that red-bicycle-when-you-were-12 line quite a bit more seriously than the rest of fandom, I suspect.

So, anyway, I spent a good couple of years thinking "ooh, squicky power issues" in relation to Doctor/companion. And it only very belatedly occurred to me when I found myself shipping Martha/Ten on the basis of the Tennant/Agyeman chemistry that "power issues" = "kink". In fact, I remember a very specific conversation that prompted it, but it was behind someone else's flock so I won't go into detail.

I am very slow sometimes.

"Are you sure this is what you want?"

I would like to claim that this is commentary on certain pornfic clichés but it is actually what I think the Doctor would do, so I've never seen the objection to him doing it in fic.

He always asks her that. Sometimes they are making love tenderly and the answer comes with a smile. Sometimes they are in the throes of animalistic passion and it comes with a grunt of frustration. Sometimes they have already done all manner of other things and it comes with heavy sarcasm.

But the answer is always, always "Yes".

So here is the thing: why Martha and not Rose? Partly it's that I never found the Doctor/Rose ship particularly appealing -- mainly because canon tried to sell it so hard while at the same time being coy about it to try and walk the tightrope between attracting shippy interest and not pissing off old schoolers too much (whether RTD should care about such things is up for debate, but I don't think if you look at the treatment of any number of things in canon that there's any room for doubting that he does care, much more than his protesting about "ming mongs" would suggest) -- and so it's only when a ship of this type I was interested in came along that I had a vested interest in looking into it more detail, but there's another reason.

Which makes her wonder why he feels the need to ask every time. Perhaps he just likes to be completely sure. Perhaps he is not confident in his reading of non-verbal signals. It took him long enough to notice she was interested, after all.

Note the handwave past their non-relationship at this point in canon. (This was written in early S3, probably around the Dalek two-parter? All the S3-y bits later on are based very much on broad outline spoilers, 'cos I was avoiding finding out details.)

She decides to ask him.

"I want to be sure it's what you want," he tells her.

"Yes, yes, very New-Man-ish of you." She looks at him. "But you're not a New Man, you're an Old God."

"What are you getting at?"

"Gods need worshippers, don't they?"

"Funny, that's what Alistair said once. Well, not in so many words. He said I needed someone to pass me my test tubes and tell me how brilliant I was."

Obviously Liz said that first, but not to him on screen the way the Brig did. I could make some claim like I was deliberately using the Brig here because of his slightly more antagonistic relationship with the Doctor, thus making it not just about people who fancied him or whatever, but actually it's that I'd forgotten.

Martha laughed. "But seriously. When you wanted to prove to me that you could travel in time, you went back and took your tie off in front of me before we met from your point of view."

I am very fond of Smith and Jones in general and that bit in particular. Around the same time as this, I also wrote "Establishing Events" which is in some ways the non-porny version of exploring that scene. It's also much more explicit about the Seven/Ten parallel I set up at various points, which I do believe in. (The Martha/Ace parallels may be more in my head.)

"Yeees," said the Doctor slowly. "Where are you going with this?"

"Because it doesn't matter if I say 'Yes' or not when you ask. You're a godlike time traveller. If I said no, you could always go back in time and change my history so that I did want to. In fact, for all I know that's exactly what you've done."

This is the first point where we're really getting to my objections to Doctor/companion.

"OK. But what if I told you that I didn't need to? That there are squintillions of people between the Dawn of Time and the End of Everything, and that just by the law of large numbers some of them are going to be compatible with me without me needing to do any complicated manipulations?"

This is a good rebuttal, but it's not enough for me.

"I'd say 'Charming!' And then I'd say that 'squintillion' isn't a real number."

"So what if I told you that I didn't want to? That what makes you precious to me--" she knows this is the "you" that means her, uniquely and individually, but also encompasses all the others who have gone before and will come after "--is your independence, your different perspective?"

I like that little bit there about the specific/non-specific "you".

"What if I told you that I wanted you to?" Her heart is beating faster; even saying the words is exciting her in unexpected ways. She props herself up on an elbow and turns to him, emboldened by this sudden arousal. "What if I told you that I wanted to be yours, wanted you to make me however you wanted?"

And here is where we bring in the kink.

She reaches out a hand, stroking up and down his skinny frame. But he convulses, and wriggles away from her touch until he is almost falling out of the bed. She pursues him, reaches out, finds the hardness between his legs. "What's wrong?" she asks. "I can tell this is turning you on."

"Of course it's turning me on." He sounds irritable, almost snappish. "Exercising that sort of power is what being a Time Lord is all about. Of course it's exciting to think about it. But it would an abuse of that power." He pauses as he searches for a way to describe it that she will understand. "It's a rape fantasy, Martha."

There is silence.

Until she says: "We could always pretend ..."

I don't see any of this as particular OOC, it is explicitly a fantasy. A fantasy for the Doctor of the sort of thing he turned his back on when he left Gallifrey, and for Martha of getting close to him on a level inconceivable before she'd met him.

* * *

Here is how the game is played:

She tells him an early memory, a formative experience. He explains to her how he could manipulate it to change her personality.

They both become excited.

At the crucial moment, he asks "Are you sure this is what you want?"

And she says "Make me, Time Lord."

What I should talk about here is the double meaning of the "Make", but here's the fun part: I have never read the "Take me, Time Lord" fic, I only know of it second-hand. But I felt no compunction about riffing off it here.

* * *

"Your history is a statue, carved from a block of marble. With each intervention, I chip away at the marble -- carefully, precisely, controlled. Each time the possibilities are constrained, but the statue comes closer to perfection, closer to my vision."

I did have fun thinking these bits up, but it was bloody hard work.

* * *

Jack is very experienced. He has seen much, sinned much and, lately, forgiven much. It does not take him long to work out what they're doing. Despite his broadmindedness, it gives him concerns. When he's alone with Martha he tries to express them.

At the time of writing, all I knew was Jack was coming back towards the end. I was envisaging it as being like the end of S1, where he's another companion, so this is slightly Jossed by the fact that Utopia/Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords all run into one another.

"I know what I'm doing," she responds. "We know what we're doing."

"Really? How can you really know what he thinks? He's lived a dozen lifetimes. Humans are ... pets to him."

And here's another objection about the power issues, though of course it's also a fannish-debates-about-the-Doctor's-sexuality bingo card square (with or without exception for favoured companion X). To be honest, putting this in Jack's mouth is a bit of a cheat because it allows rebuttals like this:

"I'm not the one who spent a hundred-something years just waiting for him. How many lifetimes is that? I know which of us I think has the bigger Doctor problem."

He doesn't -- can't -- respond directly. Instead, he says simply, "Be careful, Martha."

"Go back to your pets in Cardiff, Jack."

* * *

"Your history is a river, flowing from the mountains of your birth down to the endless ocean. The river is broad and deep, difficult to divert. But if I climb up into the mountains, and put a rock in just the right place, its whole course changes. Valleys dry up and plains flood, at my merest whim."

* * *

They have defeated his oldest adversary, the devil to his god. But the victory is bittersweet, as all victories are that come at such high cost.

Again, all I knew was the Master was coming back (I didn't even know for sure that he was Mr Saxon, though there was obviously going to be some sort of link); that they'd win at a high cost seems fairly inevitable, though with the rewind switch of the Paradox Machine you can argue the toss about whether the cost was particularly high.

Their lovemaking after is part celebration, part desperate affirmation of continued life.

And it slides, as it so often does these days, into the structure of the game. But somehow it is awkward, strained. They are haunted by the spectre of one for whom the game would be serious.

This, though, resonates nicely with the Paradox Machine given that I didn't have a clue about it. I also like it for the way it has kinky people having kink-tinged sex even when they're not particularly trying to.

They stop. Their physical conversation turns into a verbal one, but becomes no less awkward.

"What's wrong?" she asks.

The green light of the TARDIS bounces harshly off the angles of his face. She has never felt his alienness more strongly. "Power, Martha. That's what it's all about."

"You mean this, or ... ?"

"That's what he wanted. What they all want in the end." He turns to her. "I'm opposed to power. Freedom is opposed to power. I shouldn't want it."

"But you do."

"But I don't want to."

She kisses him on the cheek. "It's OK. I understand." But Jack's words come back to her. Can she really understand him?

For a while, they stop playing the game.

But only for a while.

And again, with the slipping back into it.

* * *

"Your history is the manuscript of a poem, that I draft and redraft endlessly. I scribble out a word and replace it, or change a single comma, and your whole meaning changes. You are a palimpsest, overwritten with a hundred different possible versions."

* * *

The game escalates, as such things do.

He starts to weave elaborate tales around the stories she tells him, suggesting that he has already been involved in them, has already intervened to make her a more perfect acolyte.

Possibly the religious imagery side of things is slightly overdone.

He starts to take side trips, a habit he had dropped a couple of regenerations ago. (Explicit Seven ref, obviously.) He walks out onto some alien shore, waits a while and comes back inside, then pretends that he has been in her past, making minute, precise adjustments to her timeline. She pretends that she has grown more willing, more eager, more pliable. And perhaps she is; perhaps the game, by itself, has wrought the change.

* * *

"Your history is scarred skin, grown back in a new form after I have cut it. And yet I cut it, again and again, to mark you as mine. My creature, my creation."

* * *

One time, she suggests an elaboration: that she be complicit in the changing of her history, that he include her in the story of his manipulation.

His eyes grow pale and distant. He becomes colder, withdraws.

At length, he explains to her. About the other Miss Jones. Sam, who he met when she was already the end product of such a process. Whose other self -- whose real self -- had then appeared and been forced by desperate circumstances into making the choice to create her alter ego. No, not even a choice -- a leap of faith. It had not been a game then, with a world in the balance and the masked, shadowless ones waiting in the wings.

OMG, I had in fact completely forgotten this bit until just now. Of course you have to bring in Dark Sam if you're doing this and are me and obsessed with the EDAs in general and Faction Paradox in particular.

He explains to her that a paradox is the worst thing possible. Better an eternity of tyranny than a moment of acausality. He explains that in the end, their game is inescapably about paradoxes. And then he falls silent, staring at his shadow on the wall as though it will disappear if he looks away.

And again, this fits really well with the way S3 went.

They do not play the game again.

* * *

One day, she enters the console room to find him taking off. It is the first time since the game stopped that he has been out into the universe without her. Her heart thuds with the possibility that he is resuming their play.

I don't know how well this sells the forbidden-fruit-turn-on side of things, I think possibly it relies on you assuming it.

When the noise of the engines has faded, she asks "Where have you been?" She tries to make the question sound naive, but cannot stop desire creeping into her voice.

"Changing your history," he tells her. But his tone is not the playfully masterful one of the past. It is the tone of the man that the monsters have nightmares about. "What we've been doing isn't healthy. It has to stop permanently. I've gone into the past to arrange things so that you'll want to leave."

She feels suddenly as though she has become a monster to him. "Don't you dare try and blame me. You know you wanted it."

"Good," he says sadly. "It's working."

"Bastard!" She slaps him, a sudden, shocking physicality amongst the mind games. "You utter bastard. Take me back right now. London 2008. Right now."

He starts flicking switches, turning knobs. She goes to her room, suddenly sickened by the paraphernalia of the time-travelling lifestyle. She grabs a bare minimum of belongings and stuffs them into a bag.

When she returns to the console room, the doors are open onto a London street. She is on the threshold when he calls out her name. She turns to face him.

* * *

He cannot explain to her. It will not work if he does. He needs to be rid of the temptation she poses. He knows she is right, that she is not to blame for his desires. But nonetheless she has become the nexus of them. It is not her fault, but it is still the case. To change history to suit himself would cross a line he dare not. He has not done it, even now. But he is not above manipulating her into thinking that he has. And that is enough.

Ultimately, though, this is where I get over my concerns about Doctor/Companion because despite the fact that he's a manipulative bastard, it turns out that I do trust the Doctor not to abuse his power.

He can express none of this. In the end, all he can think of to say is "Are you sure this is what you want?"

"Screw you, Time Lord."

She turns and walks back into reality.

And again, it's only a slightly more miserable version of her actual ending. I'm slightly perturbed at how well it all fits the overall arc.

And here's the other why-Martha-not-Rose thing. The thing is, you could write this fic with Rose, it just wouldn't have this particular ending. Because the one thing canon showed us again and again is that more than anything she wants to stay with the Doctor. And I really don't have any desire to write fic that dark.
Tags: dvd commentary, memery, writing fic
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