SciFi Friday: Doctor Who Conclusion (Spoilers for US Viewers)

It is a slow week in the United States with the 4th of July holiday. The SciFi Channel is taking a week off from Doctor Who due to the holiday, but this has been a very interesting week for those watching in the U.K. and those of us downloading the episodes after they are shown there. This post contains very major spoilers and those watching on the SciFi Channel might want to hold off on reading. The spoilers are far more significant than the news which leaked ahead of time that the Daleks play a major part and that Davros has survived. If you read further, you have been warned.

The Stolen Earth is part of an effort of Russell T. Davies to really go out with a bang as he concludes his tenure as show runner. The earth is literally stolen and then attacked by a new Dalek race cloned directly from Davros. The story brings together all of the supporting characters who have been companions to The Doctor since the series returned: Torchwood’s Capt. Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen), Dr. Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) and Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) unite to battle the Daleks.

The Doctor is reunited with Rose in the final moments but gets mortally injured, setting up the tremdous cliff hanger for the finale, Journey’s End. The episode will be an extended sixty-five minute show. Having the earth in danger is not a big enough cliff hanger for Davies to end on as viewers would have no doubt that The Doctor would manage to save the earth. Instead Davies came up with the biggest cliff hanger possible as The Doctor began to regenerate.

There are many possible ways for this cliff hanger to play out. It could turn out to be a failed regeneration and The Doctor might remain in the form of David Tennant. The other extreme is that David Tennant really is leaving and they have done an incredible job of keeping this a secret in Great Britain, where a change in the actor playing The Doctor really is big news.

I suspect that something in between these two extremes might occur. There very well might be a new Doctor formed from the regeneration, but the question would be how long he (or she) would be around. The episode might end with a cosmic reset, which would be easy to do with the current story possibly occuring outside of normal time.

Another consideration is that there might be two Doctors for some time. We might both have a new Doctor for the regeneration and there has been speculation that the David Tennant form will be cloned back from the severed hand in the Tardis. This would be a way around the limit in regenerations which are possible, allowing the series to continue for many years to come. If there are two doctors, this might even last through next year as instead of a regular series there will be special episodes, with Tennant not necessarily staring in all. Perhaps whatever happens in the season finale will not be totally resolved for another year.

The fate of David Tennant’s Doctor is not the only question. Donna is not expected to return as a companion next year. She might simply return home with her family, or other possibilities exist. There has been speculation that the reason Donna has been able to control The Tardis is that she is actually a Time Lord, possibly The Rani. Maybe Catherine Tate will regenerate herself by the end of the season but her character will remain in the series.

Refining Obama’s Iraq Policy

It is getting to the point where it appears that some in the media are going out of their way to try to fabricate examples of Obama changing his position. I suspect that this is because lazy journalists find it easier to write a story claiming a politician has flip-flopped as opposed to really discussing their position. Perhaps it is simply that they never understood his views in the first place. The latest example is on Obama’s position on the war.

The Politico begins a misleading story by writing, “Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on Thursday backed off his firm promise to withdraw combat forces from Iraq immediately and instead said he could ‘refine’ his plan after his trip to Baghdad later this month.” The Caucus does a better job of quoting Obama’s statements and instead of characterizing this as backing away from a promise says, “many of the nuances that have long been tucked into Mr. Obama’s policy have begun to emerge.”

For those who have paid attention to the details of Obama’s position, as opposed to stopping after the first sound bites, nothing has changed. I discussed the same topic back in March when Samantha Power made it clear that the sixteen month time table was not written in stone, Power also said:

You can’t make a commitment in whatever month we’re in now, in March of 2008, about what circumstances are gonna be like in Jan. 2009. We can’t even tell what Bush is up to in terms of troop pauses and so forth. He will of course not rely upon some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or as a U.S. senator. He will rely upon a plan, an operational plan that he pulls together, in consultation with people who are on the ground, to whom he doesn’t have daily access now, as a result of not being the president.

For those who are still fighting the primary battles, I also noted in the same post that the Clinton camp had said essentially the same thing–at least on some days as later Clinton in this post is an example of Clinton also saying the opposite. No politician running in the winter and spring of 2008 could say with certainty the exact steps they would take in 2009 as this would depend upon conditions on the ground at the time. Any settlement will also require diplomacy with Iraq and their neighbors, making it impossible to state an exact plan before taking office.

The interview I quoted above was only one example of this being discussed by the Obama campaign. Steve Benen presents another example:

Some are interpreting these comments as either a reversal or evidence of a looming reversal. I don’t see it that way at all. In fact, if you’d told me that these exact same remarks came from Obama in February, I’d believe you.

As the Democratic primary process unfolded, the Clinton campaign tried to get out in front of this issue by saying that she was committed to her withdrawal plan — no matter what. When Clinton’s communications director was pressed on whether Clinton would proceed with a withdrawal regardless of conditions on the ground, he said, “Yes.”

Obama was never actually willing to go there, and as far as I can tell, has always given himself some flexibility on troop withdrawal. Here’s a report from four months ago:

“Susan Rice, foreign policy adviser to Sen. Barack Obama, told reporters a short time ago during another conference call that it is “striking” if Clinton’s troop withdrawal plan would not be subject to some judgment about conditions at the time. Obama, Rice said, is committed to withdrawing “one to two brigades a month,” but also to going slower if that pace would threaten the safety of U.S. personnel.”

That, in a nutshell, is what Obama said today, too. In fact, as far back as March, Samantha Power argued that the next president would have to consider conditions on the ground when implementing a withdrawal plan. Indeed, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard Obama say that he wants to be as careful getting out as Bush was reckless in going in.

In terms of “refining” his policy, that, too, is consistent with Obama’s general approach — he crafted a withdrawal policy nearly two years ago. Of course it’s going to be refined based on changing conditions.

With that in mind, Greg Sargent raises a good point about the context:

“These strike me as less a signal of a coming change in his position on withdrawal and more like a combined effort to defuse the charge that he’ll withdraw recklessly and to preserve flexibility as commander in chief.”

Quite right. The McCain campaign wants desperately to argue that Obama supports an immediate, “precipitous” withdrawal, that would disregard conditions and/or the wishes of commanders. Given this, Obama’s point is pretty straightforward — he wants to give the Pentagon a new mission (getting out safely), based on a flexible timetable. Nothing he said today changes that formulation at all. I understand concerns about Obama “moving to the middle,” but is remarks in Fargo aren’t evidence of a shift.

While the Clinton campaign had taken both sides on the question as to whether the withdrawal plans were firm regardless of the conditions, Obama has been consistent in placing qualifications based upon the situation once he takes office.

There are at least two key differences between Obama and McCain on the war. Obama realized going to war n Iraq was a mistake from the beginning while McCain was in favor of the war. Obama realizes that our national interests, as well as the interests of those in the region, are best served by a policy aimed at getting out of Iraq while John McCain is willing to remain for one hundred years. The media is resorting to trivialities in making an issue over whether Obama will get out in exactly sixteen months, along with being incorrect if they claim that this represents a change in his position.