These two episodes make an interesting pair. We start out with strong paralleling of the Doctor and Donna in “Partners in Crime.” Their thirst for adventure is the same, as is their investigative pluck & their concern for others. Despite Cofelia’s death, the episode ends in a place of relative innocence for the two of them — not only are neither involved in her death, they’re actively trying to stop it when it happens. They wave up at the blameless adipose children, themselves blameless. People who’ve chosen adventure over ordinary life.
But there’s more to doing what the Doctor does than that. And “Fires of Pompeii” is about taking the parallels into those more painful areas. When Donna puts her hands over the Doctor’s and presses the lever down, they’re both killing 20 thousand people and—as far as they know—themselves as well. Because of a shared sense of responsibility. She’s seen the horrible parts of the bigger picture he complained she missed in Runaway Bride, and proven herself his equal in that as well. I think it’s significant that this final cementing of their equality comes after she stands up to him, says she doesn’t know what “kids” he’s been traveling with, but she won’t be told to shut up. Her maturity and grit is the foundation for everything that happens.
She's not a kid, swept up in adventures. She chose this life, with plenty of time to think and plenty evidence of how messed up life in the TARDIS can be. How messed up the Doctor can be: she doesn’t harbor many illusions about him & she’s prepared to be that person she told him he needed, someone who could “make him stop.” Not only that but she knows she’s taking her life in her hands. She knows there’s going to be difficult situations. So when they come up, she’s ready. It hurts like hell, but it’s not beyond her to not only face down her own death (and the prospect of killing tens of thousands of people) but pull them both out of the nightmare that comes after.
I made these gifs because I was thinking about Donna's words to the Doctor. I think that she ties together all the themes of the episode when she says "Just someone. Please. Not the whole town. Just save someone." Because the whole episode is about saving someone.
First and most obviously they save a family from the titular "fires of pompeii." But there's more going on. They save each other, too. She saves him from being alone when she put her hands over his and shares that burden with him. Then with her argument that they save someone from the destruction she rescues some shred of hope inside of him, reminds him that there’s always something you can do, no matter how small. She reminds him of the smaller picture he forgets seeing the bigger one. And then he saves her right back by agreeing with her plan. He saves her from hurting the way it hurts to see everyone wiped out and know your own hands did that.
Whatever joy they find in the end of this episode is a byproduct of them saving each other, which is accomplished by how their similarities combine with their nonetheless different points of view. Donna can see how saving just one can mean something in the face of devastation and she shares that with the Doctor. The Doctor knows what it’s like to watch a civilization burn, see everything lost, and know it was your own hands that did that. He saves her from that even as she saves him from continuing to embrace his all or nothing thinking. She won’t be kept away from the hard decisions, but she won’t give into his despair either.
The real kicker is that, yes, the Doctor has to enlighten her about fixed points in time and the pain of things you cannot change. He does teach her that. But he’s not the sole fount of wisdom here. He’s not entirely right. He’s, in fact, very, very wrong to give into despair so much that he doesn’t even think to save someone. That’s what she teaches him. The way that they’re matched up like that, paralleled and each allowed to be right in their way is really fascinating and awesome to me. It's at the heart of why I love their friendship so much
Speaking of shipping. Feel free to avoid this last bit if that's not your thing, but my ~feelings~ on Runaway Bride tend more toward that direction.
so underneath the concrete sky
lucy puts her hand in mine
she says “life’s a game we’re meant to lose.
but stick by me and i will stick by you."
--jeremy messersmith - a girl, a boy, and a graveyard
I just had to gif this scene. Because there they are: sopping wet, clinging to each other, and laughing! :) It’s so perfectly them. And perfectly wonderful. The fact that they're touching leik whoa, with the Doctor leaning all over her and Donna welcoming that touch in this moment of joy -- definitely contributed to the appeal of this scene! I love how, within a few short hours, they really see each other and come to have an astonishing level of insight into one another and trust considering that they started out with Donna thinking the Doctor was some kind of terrifying alien abductor. lol <33
And this scene! Oh my goodness! By this point, Donna’s had a pretty tough day. She’s just discovered that someone she loves was poisoning her. She’s been kidnapped, attacked, and just generally thrown headlong into a world of aliens and danger, and she’s facing the empress of an alien species, probably the most terrifying being she has ever met. Yet her first reaction is to protect the Doctor when he’s threatened! They've just gotten to know each other, and he’s an alien himself, someone she was rightfully wary of not that long ago. I wouldn’t blame her for cowering in a corner somewhere or trying to run away, but she’s brave is our Donna. And loyal -- he's saved her life and shown her kindness, so he's on her team now and she takes care of her mates. She’s got such a good heart. Guh. ALL MY LOVE.
And I've got some shippy combo fanart/fic rec stuff.
I was re-reading shaggydogstail's excellent Ten/Donna post-S4 fix-it fic (if you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it!) and I made some cover art for it. Since then I've been on something of a Doctor/Donna kick (as kore can attest! lol). :) I'm working on a longer recs post for later.
This entry was originally posted at http://mswyrr.dreamwidth.org/351700.htm