I mean, most Doctor Who episodes show the importance of words, but this one especially drew my eyes to words. Note: contains *spoilers* for the 2012 Christmas special.
I enjoyed most of the Doctor Who Christmas special this year, and now I have given it time to be absorbed, I can start examining with a (mostly) objective eye. However, this is not to make me a critic, but to look at a few scenes with a writer’s eye, as I do. In another post I might comment on what I liked and didn’t like about the episode.
One of my favourite scenes was the ‘interview’ between Vastra and Clara, partly because I find Silurian Madame Vastra (from the dawn of time) and her wife, Jenny, such genuine characters as well as fascinating detectives.
The other part of why I enjoyed this scene was due to the insight it gave us watchers into Clara’s intelligence and curiosity of The Doctor – through only a few words. You see, The Doctor has gone into shutdown mode after the death of the Ponds, and he refuses to help the world survive. Thus, Vastra and Jenny have to make sure that anyone they let contact The Doctor is not just ‘any old human’.
So, Vastra sets Clara a rule during their conversation: she can only respond using one word. I can say that it would probably be quite difficult. Definitely worth taking the time over, even with the apparent ease of some questions.
After she explains the losses The Doctor has faced recently, Vastra says (and I paraphrase from memory), “kindly choose a word to show that you have understood what I have said.” A human of average intellect or diminutive imagination would likely say “yes” or another affirmation. But not Clara. Clara says “man”. It is left up to viewer imagination as to what she truly means by that, but I take it to mean that she’s saying that The Doctor is not just a mystical person who lives on a cloud in a blue box, but he is also a person with heart(s) and emotions.
This brings such a great point into light. Every student of literature, writer or linguist (this I have found through my Latin) knows that words are important, even down to the singular. It’s quite amazing that one word can give an entire description of a scene, if one would wish it. Some words can be atmospheric, others sharp. Some can tell of their own meaning: an ‘oxymoron’ is from Greek, literally a ‘sharp-dull’ word. And some words can be two-sided, too. ‘Overlook’, for instance, and ‘sanguine’.
We must use these words to the best of their effect, be it to show a personality through the dialogue someone says, or to show the points that one character might miss but another would pick up. I have a lot of love for theme. Once again, Doctor Who has delivered such a good point subtlety. Tehe!
It’s possible to describe whole paragraphs in one word, but often this is lost on the reader. I recently said (in response to a word-one challenge) that my 2012 was ‘closing’, but, although that says so much to me, the one who has lived through the close, it may say nothing to a reader.
Nevertheless, these things are what we must do to tell a story. Keywords, ideas, feelings; these singular items are to produce a response from readers and to enlighten them to the whole we are unravelling around them. And isn’t it great to be able to do that? I feel honoured to be a writer sometimes (other times I wish I were way less ambitious)!
One day, I hope I can write or be part of a conversation that involves one or multiple people of the conversation answering with meaningful one words. It’s just an idea that, to me, works.