It’s at this point in our analysis of series 11 that we must step back and acknowledge that it is very, very messy. This episode we’re discussing has had its airing order shifted around so much it’s basically impossible to ascertain where it originally fitted, for instance (the sixth slot? I think?). That’s undeniable. But then again: a lot of Who is messy – it’s just the issues this run has been experiencing feel all the more problematic given the structural strengths of the previous era and the way it very explicitly set up themes and avenues which are not all followed upon on one side; and the fact that it’s 2018, that Donald Trump is president of the United States, that the world sucks, and that it is incredibly easy for storytelling failures to become actual moral flaws in such a context.
The Doctor, as both a character and a concept, embodies this chaos well. The Thirteenth Doctor is, to put it charitably, complicated: she “loves conspiracies” (“Arachnids in the UK”) and also dislikes them (“Kerblam!”); she has a real love of material pleasures (be them the Kerblam! products, fried egg sandwiches, or apple-bobbing) while also basically acting as a tour guide for people who flee the horrors of materialist societies; she advocates for love and hope, but fails to shape these principles into an actual praxis or any form of political action.
And the Doctor, is, of course, allowed to be contradictory, with some writers even making a point of emphasising it: but these contradictions feel incredibly frustrating after the final Capaldi series, which felt like a very careful elaboration of a political agenda specific to the show, a (re)definition of its mission as a TV program; and with the first female Doctor. Because there is a problem there: in and on itself, having the Doctor adopting a privileged position is not unique, or even bad. It’s incredibly easy to rationalise their policy of historical non-intervention when you put it in relation with the fact they come from a society which is essentially the history police (and, according to the Wilderness Years lore, the creators of the concept of history itself, through Rassillon supervising the “Anchoring of the Thread”): there is a part of the Doctor which will always carry forwards that education, that sociological determinism, be it only in the way they experience time not as a linear succession of ordeals and sorrows, with actual effort required to structure a good life, but as what is essentially a highlights reel. But by changing the parameters of gender, you end up with what is essentially Schrödinger’s aristocrat: holder of privilege and subject of oppression simultaneously, and the series structures itself, consciously or not, around that paradox.