Steven Moffat sets an example for pop-culture heroes, no spoilers

Sunday, June 12, 2011

At least, I hope I won't give away anything, in case readers haven't yet had a chance to see Doctor Who 6:7, "A Good Man Goes to War." And, note, I have yet to go back to rewatch the Moffat DW oeuvre: 1:9-10 ("The Empty Child," "The Doctor Dances"), 2:4 ("The Girl in the Fireplace"), 3:10 ("Blink"), 4:8-9 ("Silence in the Library," "Forest of the Dead"), all 5, and all 6. Topping it all off, of course, is that none of us has seen what Moffat will do in the second half of the sixth season.

But here is The Thing: A tedious trend in serialized pop culture is that somehow people who are married can't be heroic. Or interesting enough to care about. A character, once introduced as single, must stay single - or, if married, be returned to a single state, as is "normal" for that character. I'll accept that Reed and Sue Richards may be an exception - but even there, I think it's because Sue began as invisible and has pretty much remained that way. A married couple as equal partners, equally heroic, equally interesting, equally loving ... The "mainstream" serial pop-culture world not only does not have this as its norm, it rarely has it at all. Heck, the primary super-heroic family success story that springs to mind is The Incredibles, but that was conceived as a post-heroic-turns-heroic adventure - and, additionally, it was also pretty much a one-off.

But Moffat? He seems to specialize in giving viewers a world in which mothers and fathers - even some of the bad guys - act heroically and lovingly on behalf of their children. And a world in which the children are important, and abandonment is catastrophic. And in which marriage is not a boring end to adventure and heroics and edge-of-the-seat cliffhangers. Admittedly, Moffat must have had at least some of the story arc of Amy and Rory planned long in advance - but what a change it has been for the series, which has not had such Companions in any other arc since its inception in 1963!

And why haven't more creators realized that the story possibilities are increased, not lessened, when there is a family at its center? Why must they kill the baby, break up the couple, drive one of the couple insane, make one of the characters a cipher or villain, or otherwise confine their stories to a "normal" state of focus on One Single Hero, bravely facing adventures alone? Swiss Family Robinson showed readers in 1812 that a story could have a strong family as a major element and still be popular. (But, then, Johann Wyss was not setting up a series designed to spin off stories for decades.) There are a few comic-book writers who have avoided the routine of couple destruction; we should treasure them. But their stories aren't the norm.

Kudos to Steven Moffat - and to Doctor Who. I can hardly wait until "late summer," when BBC America promises Season Six will continue. (Keeping hope alive that, as at the start of Season Six, America will get to see episodes on the same day they air in England.)


Anonymous,  June 12, 2011 at 8:44 AM  

Although a somewhat misleading article title, I agree with your sentiments.

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