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Old 05-10-2015, 10:41 AM   #1
Pitchwife
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Of Wizards and Time-Lords

As I remember well from our unforgettable Sound of Middle Earth skype sessions, not a few Downers are also avid fans of Doctor Who, a cultural phenomenon whose considerable charm unfortunately eluded me back then. During my absence from the Downs, however, I Saw the Light (in the form of binge-watching the 11th Doctor's first series on a TV marathon) and have become utterly addicted to the Doctor's adventures.

Imagine my delight when, surveying what had happened in the meantime after my return, I discovered a thread titled "The 12th doctor" in the Barrow Downs subforum - and my disappointment at finding it closed for being off topic with regards to Tolkien. I have therefore taken it upon myself to remedy this situation and create a thread for discussing themes and motives occurring in both Tolkien's works and DW, as well as any possible influence of the former on the latter.

This is not for discussing whether Classic Who is better than Nu Who or vice versa, or who was the best Doctor, or your preference for this companion or that one. This is strictly for comparing Who to Tolkien.

A few ideas to start it off:
  • The isolationist non-interference policy of the Time Lords in Classic Who, a race possessing nearly god-like powers which they refuse to use for the benefit of other races, reminds me of the fainéance (Tolkien's word) of the Valar with regard to Morgoth's activities in Middle-earth in the First Age; which would make the Doctor, in his desire to mingle and help, something like a self-appointed Istar.
  • Considering the last part of what I just said, could the Time Lords giving the Doctor a new cycle of regenerations just as he is about to sacrifice himself in defense of the people of Trenzalore in The Time of the Doctor be an echo of Eru endorsing Gandalf's self-sacrifice in Moria by resurrecting him as Gandalf the White?
  • Gandalf's eyebrows and Peter Capaldi's eyebrows. Need I say more?
Discuss!
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Old 05-10-2015, 08:09 PM   #2
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One thing which comes immediately to mind is the "Melkur", the evil creature in penultimate Tom Baker serial "The Keeper of Traken" which is trying to wrest control of the Source of Traken away from its Keeper. The BBC Classic Doctor Who page for the serial goes so far as to list The Silmarillion as an influence. While I don't think this can be stated definitively, "The Keeper of Traken" was produced in 1981, only four years after The Silmarillion was published. The serial's writer, Johnny Byrne, was an established science-fiction writer who had worked on, for example, Space: 1999, so it's possible a much-anticipated work of "fantasy" like The Silmarillion might have been on his radar.

Another substantial thematic similarity between the works of Professor Tolkien and Doctor Who might include the representation of the evil of tyranny. It doesn't happen so much in the new series because I think they don't have as much time for worldbuilding, but in the Classic Series the Doctor used to overthrow dictatorships all the time, which bears similarities I would argue to the plot of The Lord of the Rings in broad strokes.

Both texts also consider nonviolence: war is almost never really the answer in Professor Tolkien's work, and while it's sometimes mandatory it never results in the best solution. In Doctor Who the Doctor is primarily a nonviolent character, although not all the time, who usually tries to resolve the plot through intelligence rather than brute force. This might be compared again to the plot of The Lord of the Rings: the aim is not to defeat evil with weapons but rather by destroying a weapon (the Ring).

Both texts value learning. Also, the protagonists are often eccentric: Bilbo and Frodo and the Doctor are all eccentrics who are discontented at one point or another with the limiting nature of their own societies. Both also deal with the nature of time. The Elves probably wouldn't object to a TARDIS until they realised that, like with the Rings, ultimately things still change. Good typically triumphs over evil, but only after suffering and hardship. Both texts are of a "family" nature, I would argue - they can be appreciated at different levels by both children and adults.

I could go on, but I'll be going forever if I don't stop now. Doctor Who has 252 televised stories so far and Professor Tolkien's corpus of work is enormous so one could find similarities all day (one might consider how both explore colonialism/imperialism and channel the zeitgeist of their respective eras).
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Old 05-12-2015, 02:45 AM   #3
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Pipe This is my jam

I'm actually working on a paper to present at Oxonmoot on this very subject, but I have left it on my external harddrive at home (currently on holiday in Finland).

The Melkur is something I discussed in the paper, but there are lots and lots of parallels, intentional and otherwise. Trying to remember some of them off the top of my head but I may forget some as there were a lot.

One of the main things I focussed on was the Doctor as "Space Gandalf", which is what he calls himself in one of the mini-episodes from series 7. It's a very interesting parallel as they are both wise beyond human capabilities, a little eccentric and silly at times, and possess abilities that seem magical. They also have the whole 'coming-back-from-the-dead' thing. Not just in the Doctor's general ability to regenerate, but one might also make a comparison between Gandalf's restoration and the Doctor receiving a new cycle from the Time Lords on the grounds that his job is not yet done.
A criticism the Doctor receives often from his own people is that he seems oddly interested in the planet Earth and its humans. They regard this as ridiculous, a stupid thing for such a high and mighty Time Lord to be getting involved with. I can see this paralleled in Gandalf's affinity for Hobbits and pipe weed, etc. which Saruman criticises him for.
They act as advisors to their friends, obstencillay there to simply aid and guide people, though they often go beyond this remit. The Time Lords set themselves up as passive, sworn only to watch and never interfere, much like the Valar, but they do occasionally meddle by sending envoys. For the Time Lords this often comes in the form of the Celestial Intervention Agency (CIA), who will in tern snatch the Doctor up for covert missions. They eventually exiled the Doctor to earth as punishment for his meddling, accepting that there was evil in the universe and he had a part to play in combating it. The Valar, similarly, send their envoys in the form of the Istari, rather than interfering directly.

The relationship between Gandalf and Saruman has some mirrors with the Doctor and the Master. The Master was a Time Lord who was once the Doctor's closest friend (some have suggested former lover, brother, or just very close friend, it is left ambiguous). The Master tends to be regarded as slightly cleverer and the Doctor even sometimes asks for his help. They were once friends and then something happened that made them enemies. Now the Master has a mind of metal and a desire for conquest, to be the master of other wills.
He also possesses much better technology than the Doctor. A running joke has always been that the Doctor's rackety old Type-40 TARDIS is a piece of junk compared to the Master's Type-90 (which is usually just the Doctor's TARDIS set painted black ). While the Master relies on his superior apparatus, the Doctor is something of a wanderer, a vagabond, and - in his Second incarnation especially - a cosmic hobo. Much like Gandalf and how he is viewed, the Doctor is the underdog all too often when compared to his rival. The Master, like Saruman, is able to raise armies, build bigger engines of war, and does it all from a more secure seat of power.

Coming back to the Doctor as a wanderer, one who goes from place to place, helping out where he can. This seems very much like Gandalf. He never stops, he never stays, he never waits to be thanked, he just fights the good fight and moves on. He is offered kingships and leadership roles, and never takes them. The Doctor is offered the position of Lord President of the High Council of Time Lords, but runs away from such responsibilities. (Though he is still technically President Elect and will use the title when he needs to). Gandalf could have taken the keys to Orthank, could have taken the rods of the Five Wizards, and the crowns of seven kings, but he choses not to. He is no king and has no desire to be so. He even turns down the power of the Ring itself.

There are other little bits and pieces across the realms of time and space. The First Doctor has a very significant Ring, which is precious to him. The Seventh Doctor was played by Sylvester McCoy, who also played Radagast. And others I am forgetting right now!
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Old 05-12-2015, 06:28 AM   #4
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I am no master of Whovian lore (not even of Trenzalore :-p ), but another parallel in the "Doctor as Space-Gandalf" vein occurs to me: Gandalf, like the doctor, likes to take mortal companions with him. We know from the beginning of The Hobbit that Bilbo is by no means the first Hobbit to go off with Gandalf--and even if Gandalf has a preference for British--I mean, Hobbits--he also has companions now and again from outside that one, oddly-chosen, place--Aragorn being the example that comes to mind.
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Old 05-12-2015, 07:11 AM   #5
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The Melkur is something I discussed in the paper, but there are lots and lots of parallels, intentional and otherwise.
A couple of other things came to mind which you may have noticed. Firstly Traken is a very idyllic location in which evil things derive from outside. Such was the nature of Eä also:
the foundations of this world are good, and it turns by nature to good, healing itself from within by the power that was set there in its making; and evil in Arda would fail and pass away if it were not renewed from without: that is: that comes from wills and being that are other than Arda itself. [Morgoth's Ring]
The parallels between "The Keeper of Traken" and Tolkien haven't escaped those producing Doctor Who themselves it would seem. I don't know how people consider the Big Finish audios (like the show itself they are of extremely variable quality) but one good quality Peter Davison instalment from 2007, "Circular Time," cements this link. In episode 3, "Autumn," the Doctor and his companion Nyssa of Traken are holidaying on Earth in what appears to be the late 20th or early 21st century. While the Doctor is playing cricket, Nyssa sets about writing a novel about Traken (note that Nyssa is one of the last Trakenites: the Traken Union was destroyed by the Entropy Wave unleashed by the Master in "Logopolis," the serial following "The Keeper of Traken"). She describes her novel to a young human man, Andrew, who asks her (if I recall correctly) if it is "like The Lord of the Rings." Nyssa, of course, is an alien, and doesn't understand what he means.

That brings up another point: Doctor Who has a long history of using various "humanoid aliens" who are superficially identical to humans. In the Classic Series the Doctor had multiple alien companions of this kind (Romana, Nyssa, Adric and Turlough) in addition to his original companion, his granddaughter Susan. Despite their typically superior scientific knowledge these characters tended to be just as foibled as any 20th Century human. This I think evokes the argument in Professor Tolkien's works that even "higher beings" like Elves and the Ainur have "many degrees of error and failing" for such is the nature of life and existence. Even were we to become like them, we would not escape it.
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Old 05-12-2015, 03:36 PM   #6
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Thanks for your interesting observations, everybody! Obviously there are way more parallels than I was thinking of (although the Doctor and the Master as Gandalf and Saruman had occurred to me). Got to admit that while I've seen most of Nu Who my knowledge of Classic Who is more than sketchy - I have Beginnings (the first three episodes of William Hartnell) and Revisitations (select episodes of Troughton, Pertwee, Tom Baker and Davison + the 1996 movie) and have of course done some online research, but I was quite unaware of the existence of the Melkur or the Celestial Intervention Agency. Thanks again for enlightening me!

One more thing that has come to my mind beyond the Doctor as "Space Gandalf" concerns the two-part finale of the most recent series (Dark Water / Death in Heaven). It begins with the death of Danny Pink, lover of the 12th Doctor's companion, Clara Oswald - who subsequently, with the Doctor's help, goes on a quest to find Danny in the afterlife (aka the Nethersphere) and, if it can be done in any way, bring him back. Doesn't this sound a lot like Beren and Lśthien? Unlike Lśthien, Clara doesn't die herself, but in her telephone call with Danny's uploaded mind she makes it clear that she'd be willing to, if that's what it takes to be with him. However, both that part of the Lay of Leithian and the Who episodes are also gender-reversed reworkings of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, which would explain the parallels without any direct influence.

(By the way, Hookbill, unless a miracle happens I won't be able to attend Oxonmoot, but I would be very interested in that paper. )
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Old 05-18-2015, 09:56 AM   #7
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Something to think about: Davros. If Gandalf is analgous with the Doctor, and Saruman with the Master, is Davros more Sauron or Melkor?
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Old 05-18-2015, 12:10 PM   #8
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Something to think about: Davros. If Gandalf is analgous with the Doctor, and Saruman with the Master, is Davros more Sauron or Melkor?
Interesting thought. I'd say there are elements of both:
-as Morgoth was the "creator" of Orcs (corrupter of Elves/Men), Davros is the "creator" of Daleks (corrupter of Kaleds)
-as Sauron acted to "improve" an existing creature (Orcs into Uruk-hai), Davros acted to "improve" the Kaleds - by making them into a "superior" race
-like both Dark Lords, Davros is more dangerous because of his plans and the forces he can muster at his disposal than he is as a combatant - he is dangerous, and so were Morgoth and Sauron, but personal confrontation was rarely how they operated. That being said, Davros stories tend to involve personal confrontations between Davros and the Doctor. The exception I suppose is Remembrance of the Daleks where they communicate remotely but never actually come into each other's presence
-I'd say in some respects Davros is more like Sauron in that his nihilistic tendencies are outweighed by his power-lust. For instance in Genesis of the Daleks he tells the Doctor that he would willingly commit genocide because it would make him like a god: that seems more Sauron-like than Morgoth-like to me - Morgoth, at least by the end of his character arc, would I think commit genocide out of pure hatred rather than because it made him feel powerful/important. But that might be a stretch.
It's a tough one. I think he evokes elements of both characters. At the same time, however, the crucial difference is that Davros is vulnerable to his own creatures: in Genesis he is attacked by the Daleks, in Destiny they merely want to use him to outwit the Movellans, in Resurrection, Revelation and Remembrance he only controls one Dalek faction, at war with another. There's certainly no comparison in Professor Tolkien's fiction: it would be as if Morgoth or Sauron were threatened by their own Orcs, an absurd idea.

In that respect Davros too might be more like Saruman: both are "genetic engineers" (Saruman developed his own Uruk-hai and his half-orcs) and both are betrayed by servants (the Daleks and Wormtongue respectively).

I've actually seen it argued that Davros is more accurately the Doctor's opposite number than the Master is (in a theory which perceives Davros as the more complex antagonist and the Master as more of a stock "evil twin" character). So in that respect Davros may indeed be more like the Saruman to the Doctor's Gandalf. That being said, the Master's penchant for hypnotism evokes Saruman's Voice. So it's complex.
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Old 05-19-2015, 01:52 AM   #9
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Something to think about: Davros. If Gandalf is analgous with the Doctor, and Saruman with the Master, is Davros more Sauron or Melkor?
I would go with Melkor as a Davros comparison. Davros saw himself being immortalised through his creations, that the spread of the Dalek empire was analogous to the success of his creation. Much like Melkor's power being dissipated into his servants, and into the earth itself, one could see that as a parallel to being so invested in the spread of the military force and influence that it takes over his life.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Davros, Genesis of the Daleks
To know that life and death on such a scale was my choice... To know that the tiny pressure of my thumb - enough to break the glass - would end everything... Yes! I would do it! That power would set me up above the gods! AND THROUGH THE DALEKS, I SHALL HAVE THAT POWER!
The whole 'set me up above the gods' seems very Melkor-like. Back in the music, Melkor wished for his own creations and ideas to dominate the theme, he wished to conquer others and replace them with his own.

Sauron might be better seen as the Cybermen. He is the master of other wills, can influence thoughts and twist them to his own devices, removing that which he dismisses as irrelevant. He would create a world under his mind, a single mind controlling all.
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Old 09-17-2015, 10:41 AM   #10
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So, for anyone who is interested, I did my talk on this very topic at Oxonmoot!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xGU2I2uxGQ

If anyone wants the full transcript just ask and I'll send it to you.
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Old 09-18-2015, 05:40 AM   #11
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Old 03-12-2016, 08:15 PM   #12
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So I am watching this show - nothing big, you know, just to pass the time, uh, several hours a day... It makes chemistry class more entertaining: CARBOXYLATE! PROTONATE! PRECIPITATE! Anyway, can't comment on classic Who or the last two Doctors - I've only just finished the second season of New Who, but here's a couple other things.

It's been said over and over again in cross-fandom references that the Ring is a Horcrux. Well, in a way, the TARDIS is the Ring. Or a ring. For one thing, it's not just your regular piece of technology; it's not just made, it's more alive than a collection of metal parts (dunno if the rest of the series reveals more about that). It has a sort of mind and abilities of its own... not sure if I want to call it alive, but like the Rings of Power (especially the One Ring), it certainly has some sort of independent conscience. However, it seems to be tied to to the Doctor's life as well. The TARDIS doesn't work properly without the Doctor, and the Doctor isn't complete without the TARDIS, almost like they share some part of their collective being. The Doctor without the TARDIS is like a Ring-bearer without a Ring: they may be special, but they lost the primary thing that channeled their "special" into something physical.

Looking into the TARDIS is dangerous, like it's dangerous to wear a Ring of Power without having adequate strength of will to control it. Unlike the Ring, though, the TARDIS doesn't have evil motivations, if I may say so, but rather it would help you do the good that you want to do. While the Ring gives power to do evil and eventually corrupt oneself completely, the TARDIS is like a judge of right and wrong who grants you temporary power to fulfill a wish if that wish is right.

Finally, on a more superficial level: immortality!


Regarding the Doctor himself, he seems to me the stuff of tragic heroes. Pick any tragedy from the legendarium, and there will be a parallel. (Though he reminds me most of the narrator in The Book Thief - not gonna spoil the book for you if you haven't read it, but they are so alike it's almost disconcerting). Elves have been mentioned as a parallel, but I don't think the mortal/immortal relationships have been explored yet. Classic case is the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen, or even the death of Beren. Much though the Doctor resembles Gandalf, he doesn't have the same sort of calmness and wisdom. He's wise, and he'd do the right thing even if it kills him, but he lacks a certain peace or faith that Gandalf has. Since I mentioned Luthien, I wonder if the Doctor would give up immortality for a companion. He'd die to save others' lives, but to just stop being immortal. Give up being a Time Lord. I don't know.


And last but not least: bananas! A good source of potassium!
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Old 03-12-2016, 08:42 PM   #13
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Anyway, can't comment on classic Who or the last two Doctors
Your analysis here is pretty interesting. I'd never really seen the TARDIS as comparable to a Ring, although I think it's an intriguing comparison, and other ideas about externalising power definitely would appear as well in Doctor Who if one looked around.

I'd also argue that it's probably going to be a different kettle of fish comparing Professor Tolkien's work with Classic than it is with New because I think in some respects the two different eras of the show have quite different sensibilities, so some things might be more comparable to things in Classic, others to things in New.

Classic is partially contemporaneous with Professor Tolkien's own lifetime as well so it's possible that their concerns could be closer from a contextual point of view.

In that regard it's possibly also worth considering the influence the Peter Jackson films might have had on New given the resurgence of interest in "fantasy" in the early 2000s as a result and the fact that Doctor Who at times is more like "science fantasy" than "science fiction".
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Old 03-13-2016, 02:22 PM   #14
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Finally, on a more superficial level: immortality! [...] Elves have been mentioned as a parallel, but I don't think the mortal/immortal relationships have been explored yet. Classic case is the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen, or even the death of Beren. Much though the Doctor resembles Gandalf, he doesn't have the same sort of calmness and wisdom. He's wise, and he'd do the right thing even if it kills him, but he lacks a certain peace or faith that Gandalf has. Since I mentioned Luthien, I wonder if the Doctor would give up immortality for a companion. He'd die to save others' lives, but to just stop being immortal. Give up being a Time Lord. I don't know.
The theme of mortal/immortal friendship and even marriage was explored at some length in the latest season (or series, as they call 'em now). We learned that while the Doctor can't give up being what he is, he went to such lengths to bring a companion back from the dead that he had to have his memory wiped of her for his own good and the stability of all of time and space. Watch it, it's very moving stuff (and Peter Capaldi is the best Doctor since the reboot).


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And last but not least: bananas! A good source of potassium!
Do watch series 8 and 9, they have lots of bananas...
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Old 03-13-2016, 05:12 PM   #15
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Watch it, it's very moving stuff (and Peter Capaldi is the best Doctor since the reboot).
I thought we weren't meant to make value judgements about Who in this thread? (I do agree as it happens; or at least Capaldi in Series 9 and Matt Smith in Series 5 are the most Doctorish the Doctor has been in New Who in my opinion...)

The "moving" aspect is worth considering and adds weight to throwing the Peter Jackson films into the mix, in my view. Professor Tolkien's work has traditionally been seen, whether it's true or not, as "plot driven" fiction. Classic Doctor Who was also very much primarily a plot driven show for most of its run time. Modern Doctor Who is much more character driven, and it could certainly be argued that Peter Jackson's films embellished the characterisation of Professor Tolkien's characters for the sake of drama.

I think it's quite reasonable to see Modern Doctor Who as an "adaptation" in its own way of the original show, just as Peter Jackson's films are adaptations of Professor Tolkien's narratives. They both exist, in my view, as part of an ongoing trend in popular culture of the adaptation and reinvention of nineteenth and twentieth century fiction as "dramas" with twenty first century sensibilities and narrative priorities. Sherlock Holmes and Star Trek have undergone the same treatment.
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Old 03-15-2016, 12:52 PM   #16
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I thought we weren't meant to make value judgements about Who in this thread?
I am duly chastised and apologize for my unchecked outbreak of personal enthusiasm.

I would have chosen a different verb for what Peter Jackson did with (or to) Tolkien's characters - distort and denigrate come to mind - , but I can't fault your observation that contemporary storytelling seems to be more driven by character than plot. In the case of Doctor Who and Sherlock I happen to enjoy the results - but then at least with regard to New Who I'm in the same position as a fan of Jackson's movies who has but a cursory knowledge of the books. (J.J. Abrams's reimagination of Star Trek is a slightly different thing in my opinion - I don't feel there was a lack of characterisation in the original series, although it wasn't emphasised so much, and the shift to more character-driven stories started with The Wrath of Khan. I find Abrams's take on the characters refreshing, but so far his movies have been too much preoccupied with "How much stuff can we blow up in 120 minutes?" for my taste, like many a recent Hollywood action movie.)

To get a little more back on topic, the Doctor of New Who hasn't been free of moments of hubris ("Time Lord Victorious" in The Waters of Mars), and last season's The Girl Who Died / The Woman Who Lived showed him saving a girl's life with not so pleasant consequences for the girl. I've been thinking about what his desire to save people might turn him into if unchecked by companions, Time Lords and his own wisdom, and was reminded of Gandalf if he had taken the Ring - still doing good, but making good itself seem hateful. What do you think?
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Old 03-15-2016, 01:59 PM   #17
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To get a little more back on topic, the Doctor of New Who hasn't been free of moments of hubris ("Time Lord Victorious" in The Waters of Mars), and last season's The Girl Who Died / The Woman Who Lived showed him saving a girl's life with not so pleasant consequences for the girl. I've been thinking about what his desire to save people might turn him into if unchecked by companions, Time Lords and his own wisdom, and was reminded of Gandalf if he had taken the Ring - still doing good, but making good itself seem hateful. What do you think?
I've got a long way to go before I get to any of the things you've mentioned, but there is one very related parallel that I noticed so far. The Doctor is often alluded to as a godly being, and for good reason. Beyond his knowledge and abilities and life span, he also frequently ends up in a position where he has power over people's lives, and his judgement decides their fate - if they get to live or die, if they get a second chance, if they deserve any mercy. And in these moments I always end up thinking of Gandalf's famous lines ("many that live deserve death, etc"), and sometimes I think that the Doctor's judgement is too harsh. However, it's all good for Gandalf to tell Frodo to reserve judgement and show more compassion when granting mercy doesn't result in the imminent end of the entire universe. It's not like the Doctor lacks compassion; on the contrary, I feel like each time he has to make one of these judgments he condemns himself for having to carry them out. But I also think that lately (middle of series 3) he's more authoritative and less flexible in that role. I suppose constantly having the weight of the stupid little humans and the entire universe on your shoulders does that to you.

(To contrast with Gandalf - he was not the only Istar, though he did remain the last truly faithful one. But even so he always knew that there are powers beyond him who will not allow the end of the world to happen. The Doctor doesn't have that luxury.)
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Old 03-15-2016, 03:45 PM   #18
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I would have chosen a different verb for what Peter Jackson did with (or to) Tolkien's characters - distort and denigrate come to mind
Again, I was merely trying to use neutral language
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To get a little more back on topic, the Doctor of New Who hasn't been free of moments of hubris ("Time Lord Victorious" in The Waters of Mars), and last season's The Girl Who Died / The Woman Who Lived showed him saving a girl's life with not so pleasant consequences for the girl. I've been thinking about what his desire to save people might turn him into if unchecked by companions, Time Lords and his own wisdom, and was reminded of Gandalf if he had taken the Ring - still doing good, but making good itself seem hateful. What do you think?
I think this also serves as an interesting comparison. I wonder if in Classic Doctor Who the Doctor is more like characters like Gandalf, Galadriel or Faramir who deny that kind of power? One sequence which came to mind is this humorous exchange from the end of Season 16 serial "The Armageddon Factor" in which the Doctor has reassembled the fabled "Key to Time":
The Doctor : "We have the power to do anything we like. Absolute power over every particle in the universe. Everything that has ever existed and ever will exist. As from this moment - are you listening to me Romana?"

Romana : "Yes of course I'm listening..."

The Doctor : "Because if you're not listening, I can make you listen. Because I can do anything. As from this moment there's no such thing as free will in the entire universe. There's only my will because I possess the Key to Time."

Romana : "Doctor, are you all right?"

The Doctor : "Well of course I'm all right... but supposing I wasn't all right?"
The Doctor, despite being threatened by the evil Black Guardian, then scatters the pieces of the Key across space and time once again so that no one can wield that power.
Similarly, at the end of Season 6 and during Season 23, when the Doctor is put on trial for his actions of "interference", as the audience we are positioned to strongly side with the Doctor. It's only in the New Series that the Doctor is shown as going "too far", which is typically the domain of villains in Professor Tolkien's work. At the most the idea of the hero going "too far" in Middle-earth might be comparable to Boromir, but unlike the Doctor (or the characters who resist the Ring's temptation) he's more of a warrior than a man of wisdom (although the New Series would often like to sell us on the idea that the Doctor is a "warrior" but personally I consider this a misinterpretation of the original character on the part of the modern writers; note that even in Series 5 of the New Series the Doctor described himself as a "space Gandalf", but the writers fell back on a more "dramatic" idea of "the Doctor as a warrior" by the end of that Series and for Series 6, parts of 7 and parts of 8).
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Old 03-15-2016, 05:04 PM   #19
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But supposing I wasn't

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Beyond his knowledge and abilities and life span, he also frequently ends up in a position where he has power over people's lives, and his judgement decides their fate - if they get to live or die, if they get a second chance, if they deserve any mercy. And in these moments I always end up thinking of Gandalf's famous lines ("many that live deserve death, etc"), and sometimes I think that the Doctor's judgement is too harsh.
You usually get one chance to repent/make amends with the Doctor; forfeit that, and you're screwed - nicely illustrated in series 8's Flatlines, which has the Doctor tell the 2-dimensional aliens invading 3-dimensional space:
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I tried to talk. I want you to remember that. I tried to reach out, I tried to understand you, but I think that you understand us perfectly. And I think you just don't care. And I don't know whether you are here to invade, infiltrate or just replace us. I don't suppose it really matters now. You are monsters. That is the role you seem determined to play. So it seems I must play mine.The man that stops the monsters.
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It's not like the Doctor lacks compassion; on the contrary, I feel like each time he has to make one of these judgments he condemns himself for having to carry them out. But I also think that lately (middle of series 3) he's more authoritative and less flexible in that role. I suppose constantly having the weight of the stupid little humans and the entire universe on your shoulders does that to you.
That's the one series of New Who I haven't watched yet (David Tennant with Martha Jones/Freema Agyeman, right?), but based on what I know that's a good observation. He's going to acquire a new companion soon who'll do her damnedest to humanize him a little more.


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(To contrast with Gandalf - he was not the only Istar, though he did remain the last truly faithful one. But even so he always knew that there are powers beyond him who will not allow the end of the world to happen. The Doctor doesn't have that luxury.)
Correct.

Zigūr, thanks for your quotes from Classic Who (which, among other things, serve to show me how much I have to catch up with)! I think your post touches on one great difference between those nineteenth/twentieth century narratives you mentioned above and their contemporary retellings: whether it be Tolkien's work, Classic Who, Sherlock Holmes or Star Trek, the difference between heroes and villains is mostly clear (maybe actually a bit less in Tolkien that the others?), whereas in their modern versions we meet questionable heroes and villains who are often heroes gone horribly wrong. In the words of our own Hookbill: "What if there are no heroes but only villains who win?" - A lot less uplifiting, but closer to our ow experience, I'd say.

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although the New Series would often like to sell us on the idea that the Doctor is a "warrior" but personally I consider this a misinterpretation of the original character on the part of the modern writers
Agreed. At most I think he works like a martial artist using the enemy's strength to deflect their attacks.
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Old 03-16-2016, 10:23 PM   #20
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It's only in the New Series that the Doctor is shown as going "too far", which is typically the domain of villains in Professor Tolkien's work.
Hmmm, ok. When I said that, I was under the influence of a couple specific episodes (most strongly The Lost Bride and the two-episode sequence where the Doctor is an academy headmaster). The Doctor generally does not go too far, and he usually hates having to go as far as he does. For a few episodes in this series he just seemed more comfortable than usual in his "Turambar" role. I just watched the ending and the next special, though, and there he is back to the Doctor of series 1 and 2 - more like Gandalf and less like, oh, I don't know. Who would give out judgement in Eru's name?

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At the most the idea of the hero going "too far" in Middle-earth might be comparable to Boromir, but unlike the Doctor (or the characters who resist the Ring's temptation) he's more of a warrior than a man of wisdom (although the New Series would often like to sell us on the idea that the Doctor is a "warrior" but personally I consider this a misinterpretation of the original character on the part of the modern writers; note that even in Series 5 of the New Series the Doctor described himself as a "space Gandalf", but the writers fell back on a more "dramatic" idea of "the Doctor as a warrior" by the end of that Series and for Series 6, parts of 7 and parts of 8).
Haven't got there yet, but if I had to pick a "category" for the Doctor, geek would come waaaaay before warrior. He doesn't travel around to save people; he travels because that's the only thing he has left to do, but then he ends up in a situation where he must save himself and everybody else. He does end up landing on doomsdays quite often. He's like Faramir in that sense: he'd give all he has when he must, and he'd bring down judgement when he must, but he doesn't love the sword for its sharpness. He likes outsmarting the problem, figuring it out, not chopping it down. I don't really see him as a warrior; he'd hate that role. He just doesn't believe in unnecessary killing.

There was one episode where they called him the rage and fire and storm... Perhaps, when he is reeeeally traumatized by something, to the point where he half loses his mind, perhaps then that could be true. But that description just doesn't fit his regular self. It's like Galadriel, when Frodo offers her the Ring - "beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth" - she certainly could be all that, but she does not, and neither does the Doctor (at least in the 3 seasons I've seen).

Maybe, in several months, when I've actually watched the entire show, my Doctor comments would be more grounded. Now, I don't have enough of an impression of him in all his incarnations, so I feel like every new episode swings my perception around.
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Old 03-16-2016, 11:40 PM   #21
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In some respects, despite them even trying to convey it in the show, the Gandalf comparison doesn't entirely work, because unlike the Doctor, Gandalf had a mission, a reason for all his wandering: "I was the Enemy of Sauron; and my work is finished. I shall go soon."

The First Doctor, by contrast, describes himself as "a citizen of the universe." He's an explorer and traveller for its own sake: he left his home planet because he was bored! The most recent Series of New Doctor Who tried to retcon this motivation, but I consider that to be a cynical effort to try to ramp up the show's "drama".
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Agreed. At most I think he works like a martial artist using the enemy's strength to deflect their attacks.
There was a good line in the New Series episode "Flatline" about this: "rule number one of being the Doctor... use your enemy's power against them."
Note that this is something that needs to be broken down in a comparison with, say, The Lord of the Rings. In Professor Tolkien's writing, if you use the weapons of your enemy against them you become them, or just as bad as them. The Doctor, however, tends to do as you have said and "reflect" these attacks back in some way, and in that sense there is a point of comparison. Gandalf's plan involved using not Sauron's Ring against him, not a physical weapon, but another thing that could be construed as one of Sauron's "strengths": his ruthlessness and cynicism, which seemed to serve him well as an all-conquering tyrant, but made him hopelessly blind to his enemies' plan to destroy the Ring rather than use it. The Doctor similarly rarely succeeds through physical force but often overcomes his enemies by exploiting their arrogance, overconfidence or cynicism and lack of faith in the human spirit. A good example might be Sutekh the Destroyer in my favourite serial, "Pyramids of Mars", who is so confident of his inevitable victory that he ends up making his move too early and allowing the Doctor to trap him for the rest of his lifespan.

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Maybe, in several months, when I've actually watched the entire show, my Doctor comments would be more grounded. Now, I don't have enough of an impression of him in all his incarnations, so I feel like every new episode swings my perception around.
Absolutely, and apologies for littering this thread with things that would constitute spoilers. I heartily recommend watching the Classic Series when you are done with New. There's no need to watch Classic in order, really, as the Classic series has little serious continuity in the sense that plot developments very rarely come back later; it's more focused on the plot of each individual serial. It's a very different show in my view to the new one, and old-fashioned at times, but many of the Classic Doctors are very engaging characters and it often deals with interesting "science fiction" style issues. I think you'll have many more points to discuss in comparison to Professor Tolkien's work as a result of watching the Classic serials.
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Old 03-17-2016, 08:34 AM   #22
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Absolutely, and apologies for littering this thread with things that would constitute spoilers. I heartily recommend watching the Classic Series when you are done with New. There's no need to watch Classic in order, really, as the Classic series has little serious continuity in the sense that plot developments very rarely come back later; it's more focused on the plot of each individual serial. It's a very different show in my view to the new one, and old-fashioned at times, but many of the Classic Doctors are very engaging characters and it often deals with interesting "science fiction" style issues. I think you'll have many more points to discuss in comparison to Professor Tolkien's work as a result of watching the Classic serials.
Oh certainly! My plan was actually to start with Classic Who. The website I usually watch shows from had two tabs: "Doctor Who" and "Doctor Who 2005". I thought that they referred to the Classic and New Who, and started watching what I thought was Classic, but it turned out that both tabs were actually identical New Who - but it was too late to stop. It's gonna take me a while, but I will watch it eventually.
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Old 03-24-2016, 06:12 PM   #23
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Linking through meta

As I was mourning the passing of the Tenth Doctor, I attended a meeting about language and identity, and it turned out that the presenter was a Whovian and had quite a few examples of dialect perception from the show. I chatted with her for a bit afterwards, it was really cool - you don't often meet a person who's fascinated by two of the same things as you are. We talked about lots of planets that have a north, and about Judoon platoons upon the Moon, but here's something she told me that I never thought about before. She was discussing how different dialects are subconsciously associated with a certain group of people, and based on relationships with that group the language variation is perceived differently (fancy, formal, low-class, differences in race, class, location, etc). For instance, British accents as a whole are thought of as "cool", classy, formal, etc on this side of the pond. For instance, we hear the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler talk, and we subconsciously think they are cool just because of the way they speak (all true based on personal experience). However, apparently England English middle class people tend to look down on the accents that these characters speak - the Doctor sounds like he's from the North, which I'm assuming is subconsciously "uncool", and Rose sounds lower class. It would be really cool if someone from thereabout could actually confirm the influence of their accents, but at least this is supposed to be the theory.

I realized that Doctor Who probably contains a lot more "British" things - things you wouldn't really get unless you were familiar with that culture. In a way also, I think the writers/directors/producers may be imposing certain cultural aspects or preferences onto the show. Perhaps it is because of their main audience, and because the whole thing is based in the UK, but potentially because people automatically impose their own views or knowledge or feelings on their creations, to an extent.

The same is true for Tolkien, in many cases. LOTR is "based" from the Shire - the Shire is home, it's the normal, and it's the place that you relate to most naturally as home. However, in a way, it's Tolkien's home, but not necessarily the home of all the readers. There are some things that may be universal, like Frodo's desire to save the world for the sake of the Shire, but some details are very culture-specific. Specifically, when Sam keeps reminiscing about the Shire during the trek to Mordor, he brings up a lot of details of what home means to him. These details are part of what Tolkien probably felt meant home to him, or to people like him, but they might not be intuitive for all people. Easiest example is fish and chips. Many people can probably relate channeling nostalgia through food or smell, but not everyone would pick fish and chips as the dish. They would still get the general idea, but some poignancy of the image is probably lost.

To a large extent, TH and LOTR are shaped around the perceptions of the hobbits traveling in foreign lands. We see the world through a hobbit filter. That filter most closely matches to Tolkien's own view, and people whose cultures overlap his the most probably get the best "image". We see Doctor Who through the eyes of the companions, which are almost all British, and I feel like I'm missing quite a few details looking at it from their cultural filter (the whole accent thing being one of them).

This is true for any work - everything has a culture associated with it that doesn't always match the culture of the audience. I'm reading War and Peace, I'm almost finished, and I'm still not used to the ideas of fashion and taste (my friend was most disturbed by the woman with the beautiful mustache, but the thing I have most trouble accepting is the plump limp hands that apparently bespeak firm character and authority). But that's more like a complete immersion into a different place/time, while LOTR and New Who appear to be more culture filters: the ideas are universal, but some tiny little details are almost like inside jokes. It's not a bad thing, but it's a thing. It's actually kind of cool. And given how many parallels people draw between the legendarium and Tolkien's own experiences and culture, I think it's a legit point of comparison with Doctor Who.
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Old 03-24-2016, 08:37 PM   #24
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However, apparently England English middle class people tend to look down on the accents that these characters speak - the Doctor sounds like he's from the North, which I'm assuming is subconsciously "uncool", and Rose sounds lower class. It would be really cool if someone from thereabout could actually confirm the influence of their accents, but at least this is supposed to be the theory.
Interestingly, I was going over the first chapter of Book Five of The Lord of the Rings the other day and it's worth noting how often the Men of Gondor point out that Pippin speaks Westron with a different accent to them, something not always remarked upon elsewhere in the text. Beregond observes that "strange accents do not mar fair speech". Linguistic diversity is obviously important to Professor Tolkien, and here it seems to also extend to accent as well.

It's worth noting that in Classic Doctor Who, the first to sixth Doctors all spoke "BBC English", which is to say that they spoke with the "Received Pronunciation" accent which BBC Newsreaders and the like also used. Part of the point of this was because BBC programming was often aired all over the world, and a clear and precise accent was intended to be easier for a variety of language backgrounds to understand. Within the show, it was not until Fourth Doctor serial "The Masque of Mandragora" that an attempt was made to explain why the Doctor and his companions can understand all languages: "It's a Time Lord gift I allow you to share." The New Series later changed this to the TARDIS translating everything. At other times the Doctor was shown to not do this; the Third Doctor speaks mainland Chinese to a Chinese government representative in "The Mind of Evil", for instance, and it is untranslated for the audience.

Obviously it's a convenience, but one aspect of Doctor Who's general celebration of exploration and thus difference and diversity which might be a little limited is its exploration of language, which has not always received that much attention. The New Series has, I think, explored this a little more than Classic did. Professor Tolkien, by contrast, loved diversity of language and different languages, and this is reflected in his fiction. At the same time, however, he also has the convenience of a "Common Speech" in his writing, be it Sindarin in the First Age or Westron in the Third, which allows for convenience in communication. In that sense, perhaps both explore the role of language in the creation of the Secondary World, although it might be said that Professor Tolkien celebrates it a little more.
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Old 03-26-2016, 03:44 PM   #25
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Just binge-watched two series of the 11th Doctor in a couple days at the expense of real life... I can see what you mean about the whole warrior thing now. And... basically, I agree with you. However, some elements of that development have a bit of a Lathspell ring - a man who is blamed for a lot of trouble happening when really he just coincides with the trouble because he's trying to stop it. And as the audience, you know you can trust him and you know that he's helping, and you want to convince the other characters to listen to him too. But you also have Wormtongues running around spreading mistrust among people and blaming the man for the trouble. It's not his fault, Grimas! Be thankful that he averts what trouble he does!

On an unrelated note, is it me, or is New Who just trying to give a nod to as many other fandoms as possible? Not that I mind, but they do seem to love Star Trek. Still waiting for a Star Wars one though.


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In that sense, perhaps both explore the role of language in the creation of the Secondary World, although it might be said that Professor Tolkien celebrates it a little more.
And you know, I was thinking about that, and as someone who loves languages I feel somewhat cheated that everything sounds the same in the Whovian world. There are snippets of other languages here and there (Judoon is most prominent), but for the most part everything is just plain. I know that it's a show, and therefore has to be in English, but one thing I liked about LOTR was the description of how other languages sound to other people - like when hobbits hear Elvish, or when Legolas describes Rohirric. In Who, you don't even get a description of the feel of the languages. But there was a nice little bit of wordplay with names in the last few episodes. I had a feeling there was something up with this person's name - I know companions have short, resounding, catchy names, but this one was a bit over the top. Loved that part. Loved the revelation, and the name riddle.
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Old 03-27-2016, 09:07 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
And you know, I was thinking about that, and as someone who loves languages I feel somewhat cheated that everything sounds the same in the Whovian world. There are snippets of other languages here and there (Judoon is most prominent), but for the most part everything is just plain. I know that it's a show, and therefore has to be in English, but one thing I liked about LOTR was the description of how other languages sound to other people - like when hobbits hear Elvish, or when Legolas describes Rohirric. In Who, you don't even get a description of the feel of the languages.
There's no way to do that in television (or film) that I can think of, though.
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Old 11-23-2016, 08:19 PM   #27
Galadriel55
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Instead of working on my final assignments, I've been watching the Fourth Doctor. Thinking I'd extend the pleasure of procrastination, I revisited this thread and found this gem.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendė View Post
Something to think about: Davros. If Gandalf is analgous with the Doctor, and Saruman with the Master, is Davros more Sauron or Melkor?
Basing my answer mostly on the Genesis of the Daleks, I'd say Davros is neither Sauron nor Melkor - perhaps a bit of a Saruman, but to me he seems more like a Boromir who did not succeed (or perhaps try) in resisting the Ring. He bites the bait of power and military victory, thinking that he can use this power to shape armies that would bring down a formidable enemy. He lives with a sense of superiority over others, and looks at strangers with arrogance and a pinch of ethnocentrism. But in the end, he ends up biting more than he can chew - his power runs away from him, he is unable to control it and limit it to his own intentions. He becomes the puppet of his own creation, his own doing. Davros, in that episode, is the picture of Boromir had he taken the Ring.

In the episodes of New Who, this analogy doesn't really fit anymore. I was somewhat confused about who he was and what he did in the Tenth Doctor's episodes, but in The Magician's Apprentice / The Witches Familiar (one of my all-time favourites), he really is more of a Saruman. He has the nominal respect of the Daleks, and they do serve him - and obey him, to an extent - but really he is the one dependent on them, while they would live on perfectly fine without their leader. He wouldn't dare command anything too preposterous because his authority is so shaky, like Saruman did not really have authority over the Ruffians. They pillaged and plundered what they would - with Saruman's name and blessing - but had Saruman told them to actually risk their lives for something, that would have been the end of his rule. And weak and powerless, he rejects help and redemption, and is finally overcome by his own servants whom he had put down for too long - Wormtongue for Saruman and the Sewer Daleks for Davros. Mind you, Davros probably still isn't dead, but definitely foiled by his discarded "children".

Maybe they are the same. Maybe Saruman is indeed a Boromir who took the Ring, and Davros in Genesis is just Saruman when he starts out while in Magician's Apprentice he's the Saruman in the Scouring of the Shire. I suppose Davros is a combination of Saruman's appreciation of lore/science, and the tendency to study things by dissection and remake them his own way, and Boromir's lust for battle glory and the greatness of Gondor.

In unrelated news, I may be needing a new scarf.
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