SciFi Weekend: Raggedy Man Goodnight–The Time of the Doctor

Time of the Doctor1

The Time of the Doctor tried to do many things at once: be a Christmas episode, be an action story, tie up questions from the Matt Smith era, be a regeneration story, and be an homage to the Matt Smith era. It succeeded or failed to various degrees in each, but in the end managed to do enough to be a memorable chapter in Doctor Who, especially as a proper way to end the story of the eleventh Doctor.

After recent Christmas episodes which were more clearly based upon Christmas stories or themes, The Time of the Doctor resorted to naming the town where the Doctor spent centuries Christmas, along with brief scenes of Christmas dinner at Clara’s home. There were far too many other things to accomplish to get bogged down with a true Christmas story, but this sure gave a new meaning to the War on Christmas.

Sometimes if felt like he has been making new interpretations up as he went along, but Steven Moffat did try to tie up loose ends from not only the Matt Smith years but, in dealing with the Time Lords and the regeneration limit, the entire series. He handled the regeneration limit well, explaining the situation for those who have not already read about it on the blogs and without dwelling on it too long for those who have already heard the discussion. Matt Smith quickly explained to Clara that he was on his last regeneration once you counted the John Hurt Doctor:

CLARA: “But you don’t die. You change – you pop right back with a new face.”
THE DOCTOR: “Not forever. I can change 12 times. 13 versions of me. 13 silly Doctors.”
CLARA: “But you’re number eleven, so -”
THE DOCTOR: “Are we forgetting Captain Grumpy? I didn’t call myself the Doctor during the Time War, but it was still a regeneration.”

Explaining yet another previously uncounted regeneration, the Doctor pointed out that “Number Ten once regenerated and kept the same face – I had vanity issues at the time.”. Of course we knew that somehow he would not die at Tranzalor any more than he died at Lake Silencio, but instead would regenerate despite the previously established and easily broken regeneration limit.

Before nearly dying of old age, the Doctor spent over 300 years on Tranzalor fighting the Daleks and others at a standoff. Several other enemies were also thrown in, often quickly. The Weeping Angels were present only to briefly grab Clara’s ankle (without sending her back in time). The Cybermen had a cameo, with far more memorable scenes from Handles, a severed Cyberman head who chronologically  became the companion to spend the most time with the Doctor and was reminiscent of K-9. These cameos would have been pointless, and even distracting, in a normal story, but were present as part of the homage to the many events of the Matt Smith years.

After frequently throwing out the question, Doctor Who? into many stories, Moffat made the answer a key point of this story. Unfortunately the explanation makes little sense once you think about it. The Time Lords were hidden in a pocket universe and would not return until the Doctor said his real name. It doesn’t make much sense as to why this would be so important and why the Time Lords would even think that the Doctor would want them to return. Many events during the Matt Smith years have been revealed as being based upon attempts to prevent the Doctor from bringing back the Time Lords. Why would they think that the Doctor would do so after he was the one who made them disappear? Gallifrey was hidden behind the cracks in time which have been present in multiple episodes. Why didn’t the issue of the Doctor’s name or the return of the Time Lords come up around prior cracks.

Time of the Doctor2

I fortunately downloaded the BBC broadcast as I hear that at least one key explanation was cut from the BBC America version for commercials. The Silents were revealed to have been genetically engineered priests. Once someone gave their confession, they would forget about the confession. A cool idea until you question why. The key line which I heard was cut from the US showing was that Madame Kovarian led a renegade offshoot of the Silents from the Papal Mainframe which was dedicated to killing the Doctor as the way to prevent him from speaking his name and allowing the Time Lords to return.

Moffat managed to tie in many previous events into this narrative, including the explosion of the TARDIS. River Song was created as a perfect psychopath to kill the Doctor (but he wound up marrying her instead). The Doctor’s greatest fear behind a door in The God Complex was revealed to be a crack in time. The episode included other references to earlier in this regeneration, such as eating fish fingers and custard before regenerating, as the Doctor did after regenerating from Ten to Eleven. There were also references to earlier regenerations, such as using “reverse the polarity to the neutron flow.” Eleven has now said this more often than the Third Doctor actually did. The Doctor also referred to The Five Doctors with use of the“Seal of the High Council of Gallifrey – nicked it off the Master in the Death Zone.”

Moffat created a memorable new character in Tasha Lem. She seems to have had a romantic history with the Doctor and can even fly the TARDIS. She explained to Clara,”Flying the TARDIS was always easy. It was flying the Doctor I never quite mastered.” Such dialog could easily come from River Song, the only person other than the Doctor who we previously saw fly the TARDIS. The Doctor told Tasha Lem, “You’ve been fighting the psychopath inside you all your life,” reminding us of how River Song was called a psychopath in the same episode. Perhaps the episode was written with thought of including River Song. There has been some speculation that Tasha Lem is yet another manifestation of River Song, possibly taking a new bodily form after leaving the library.

Moffat also has a habit of bringing up themes and then dropping them (but you never know if he will one day return to them). The Doctor faking his death at Lake Silencio had no long term meaning as subsequently everyone still seems aware that he is alive. Clara’s wiping of the Dalek memory of the Doctor in Asylum of the Daleks has been forgotten. Moffat played with the meme that the Doctor lies by putting him in a truth field in this episode. This was also forgotten. The Doctor lied to Clara when he said he told her he would not send her away and lied at the end about having a plan.

Time of the Doctor Wig

Moffat even took advantage of Matt Smith having cut his hair for a movie role. The Doctor hid a spare key to the TARDIS under a wig. The scene only worked because of the knowledge that Matt Smith was actually wearing a wig during the filming of the episode. It also reminded me of when Sam Malone revealed he was wearing a wig on Cheers after word got out that Ted Danson actually wore one.

The episode might have been improved by making it longer than an hour and providing a more sensible conclusion. The Time Lords sat behind the crack and did nothing for years. Then Clara said, “His name is the Doctor. All the name he needs, all you need to know about him. And if you love him… help him.” This was enough to get the Time Lords to act. While questionable, it is at least consistent with the Doctor Who theme of often having the companions perform important actions to save the Doctor.In a way it also resolves the issue of the Doctor’s real name by pointing out that it doesn’t really matter.

The Time Lords gave the Doctor a new regeneration cycle. Previous episodes have established that this is very rare, but not without precedent. It remains to be seen whether twelve more regenerations will be enough to keep the Doctor alive as long as the show continues or if another way will need to be found to grant additional regenerations in the distant future. The regeneration energy was enough to enable the Doctor to easily shoot the Dalek ship out of the sky. If the Time Lord’s possess this much power, it is hard to believe that they were ever seriously threatened by the Daleks during the Time War.

Time has been rewritten and the Doctor did not die on Tranzalor. This would also mean that there is no tomb where Clara was fragmented into multiple copies to save the Doctor from The Great Intelligence. Yet another of those timey wimey paradoxes.

The regeneration was drawn out, enabling Matt Smith to appear yet again as a young man, eating custard. The episode showed growth for the Doctor. Ten didn’t want to go and Eleven hated endings. Finally Eleven was ready and accepted his fate as “times change, and so must I.” As he saw Amelia Pond, the first person he saw as the Eleventh, he said, “I will always remember when the Doctor was me.”

Time of the Doctor Amy Pond

Karen Gillan will always be the companion most closely thought of  with Matt Smith. Like David Tennant visiting Billie Piper for one last time before he regenerated, a vision of Amy Pond got to say to the Doctor, “Raggedy man. Goodnight.” Ironically both Karen Gillan and Matt Smith were wearing wigs in this picture, having cut their hair for movie roles.

Some fans have been disappointed because the regeneration scene did not show a prolonged transformation of the face from Matt Smith to Peter Capaldi. I suspect this might have been for budgetary reasons. I thought it was far more symbolic to have Matt Smith remove his bow tie just before changing. Bow ties and fez hats belong to the Eleventh. Others might wear them in his honor, but it will always be remembered that it was Matt Smith who said, “Bow ties are cool.”

As with previous regenerations, Twelve was observant of his bodily changes.”I’ve got new kidneys! I don’t like the color!” There are bigger concerns when the TARDIS alarms go off and he asks Clara, “Do you happen to know how to fly this thing?” It sounds like we might have another crash scene coming up, unless either he is either messing around with Clara or soon regains his memory.

Unfortunately we have to wait until next fall to find out.

Time of the Doctor Peter Capaldi

Will Barack Obama Receive The Credit He Deserves On Health Care Reform?

Support for Obamacare has fallen to new lows but, as has been the case all along with such polling, it is largely based upon misconceptions as to what Obamacare is and how it will affect people. There has generally been far greater support for the major components of the Affordable Care Act when polls have concentrated on this. Opposition to Obamacare has generally been based upon opposition to either items which are not really in the law (such as death panels and forced change from private insurance to a government run plan) or based upon predictions which have questionable basis in the actual law.

This is not to say that there have not been problems. The first month of the online exchanges started out poorly, but this was a problem easily circumvented by either waiting a month or by purchasing insurance directly from the insurance company’s web site (as I did). The issue of cancellations of some health plans (even if the insurance companies had the option of grandfathering people in) was been greatly exaggerated, with most people receiving more comprehensive coverage at a lower out-of-pocket cost. A relatively small number of older and more affluent people will pay more. However, even though I have to pay more, I consider it worthwhile to have a policy which could never be canceled due to developing medical problems and due to having caps on total out-of-pocket costs.

There are predictions that people will lose their current doctors but so far no evidence that this is a meaningful problem. Before the Affordable Care Act, every year there were many patients who I could no longer see because their employers changed them into plans I do not accept. This will remain the same, but unfortunately many people will blame Obama for this, just as they mistakingly are blaming Obama for many other health care issues which have nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act. Many also fail to realize that, thanks to Obama, we will no longer see the previously common occurrence of people who stop seeking medical care because they have lost their insurance and are unable to get a replacement.

There are frequent stories in the right wing media claiming that doctors will not accept patients with plans purchased through the exchanges. This will be clearer after January when we see if there are any shocks in how insurance companies reimburse for plans purchased through the exchange, but so far I see no evidence to support this fear. The plans which were available locally were almost all from the two biggest insurance plans active in the area. The  majority of doctors participate in these plans, and will such participation will continue uninterrupted in January. Maybe my Blue Cross plan will suddenly start paying out less than it did in the past, leading colleagues to decide to stop accepting it, but that is not likely. Insurance companies are interested in having a share of the currently enlarged individual market and are unlikely to engage in acts which will lead to people dropping their plan at the next open enrollment period.

In other words, market forces will help prevent the problem which conservatives are using to scare people with. Funny how conservatives only believe in market forces when it is convenient for their arguments. Plus the higher premiums (before subsidies) which conservatives complain about are a factor which would allow insurance companies to maintain fee schedules comparable to plans sold through employers.

A big question is what will happen over the next few months as people see what really happens under Obamacare, and most people with insurance find that things are not all that different from last year. Christopher Flavelle argues at Bloomberg Business that somebody has to be wrong about Obamacare:

A CNN poll taken last week showed that many Americans are exaggerating the effect of Obamacare on their own lives. As I wrote on Tuesday, this suggests the law will get a bump in public support over the next few months, as the widely anticipated negative consequences don’t materialize for most people outside the health-care insurance exchanges.

The poll is interesting for another reason: It suggests that the public’s divergent views on Obamacare don’t reflect different opinions about the proper role of government, so much as wildly different understandings about what the law will mean for the average American. Here’s the thing: They can’t both be right.

Start with this question: “Do you think you and members of your family will or will not be able to receive care from the same doctors you see now?” That isn’t a question about political preferences; it’s asking respondents to make a prediction of fact.

So the difference is startling: 79 percent of Democrats said they’ll be able to keep their doctor, compared with just 44 percent of Republicans — almost a 2-to-1 gap. Unless doctors start dropping patients according to their party affiliation, those two groups can’t both be right.

The same is true for a question about whether people expect to pay for medical care. Here the gap is even larger: 86 percent of Republicans said yes, compared with just 47 percent of Democrats. Again, unless insurers structure co-payments and deductibles by party, they can’t both be right.

Based on those numbers, one of two things will happen in 2014. The first is that access to doctors will fall and the cost of care will go up for most Americans; Democrats will (gradually) realize they’ve been misled, and support for the law will collapse.

The second possibility is that access to doctors and the cost of care won’t change for most Americans; Republicans will (gradually) realize they’ve been misled, and the case against Obamacare will disintegrate for the average voter. Fear of that outcome may explain why Republican leaders have been so frantic in trying to undermine the law now — they’re afraid that once their base realizes the warnings about Obamacare were wrong, they will stop paying attention.

It seems almost unnecessary to note, a week before the law’s coverage provisions take effect, that the vast majority of Americans who get their insurance outside the exchanges won’t see any big difference in cost or in their ability to see their own doctor. Unnecessary, because whether you agree with me or not, we’re about to find out. All we know for sure is that somebody is wrong.

To some degree the polls should shift as people see what really happens under Obamacare, and the scare stories do not come true. On the other hand, if my predictions are wrong and doctors will not accept people with insurance purchased through the exchanges, we will have a very serious problem which would undermine the success of Obamacare.

Unfortunately matters are not so simple as to expect that support for Obamacare will immediately climb when people see what the Affordable Care Act really does. I fear that, driven by ongoing conservative misinformation campaigns, people will continue to blame every problem in health care on Obama, regardless of whether the Affordable Care Act is responsible. Health care costs will continue to go up, and insurance companies might continue to use limited networks of physicians to attempt to control costs, as has been occurring for years. The trend towards higher out-of-pocket costs in health insurance also began before Obamacare and is likely to continue.

Later this year there will probably be stories about doctors having to spend large amounts of time and money due to a conversion from ICD-9 to ICD-10 diagnosis codes. I have already seen some Republicans blame this on Obamacare. Actually this is a change which came about under George Bush, with implementation later delayed until 2014.

Another problem which Obamacare will face is that people will enjoy the benefits of Obamacare without realizing it. I bet people are already taking it for granted that their health insurance now covers many preventative tests with no copay or deductible, or that they can keep dependent children on their plans until age 26. But how many realize that this is a result of Obamacare? If someone developed a serious medical condition and their insurance continues, will they realize that if not for Obamacare they might have lost their insurance and have been forced into bankruptcy in the past? Benefiting from Obamacare will not translate into support in the polls if people fail to realize all the ways they are now better off.

Obamacare is not perfect and some changes should be made, but all available evidence shows that it has brought about a major improvement in health care, bringing the United States closer to the standards of the rest of the industrialized world. This was done without a government takeover of health care and, for better or for worse, we have continued the American system of market-based health care coverage. The question is not as to the success of Obamacare, but as to whether Barack Obama will receive the credit he deserves for its success.