Sunday, 24 November 2013

Quaeritur: What dissolves a (Time Lord) marriage?**

Those who haven't yet seen the Doctor Who 50 year special may want to postpone reading this!


One of the bizarre plot moments in the Dr Who Fifty Year Special was a scene in which Doctor number ?10 (?11) (David Tennant) marries Elizabeth I (yes, as Damian Thompson has tweeted and posted, the show is a load of campy nonsense, but isn't that how it was back when we loved it?).

Now, as those who still follow the show will know, Doctor ?Eleven (?Twelve) (Matt Smith) married Dr River Song (Alex Kingston).

So is he a bigamist?  Is his marriage with River Song invalid?

Marriage is of course dissolved by the death of either partner.  But if you are a Time Lord equipped with a TARDIS, the death of your human partner means rather less than it usually does, since you can visit them at any point in their lifetime without the need to maintain chronological order in such meetings.

In fact, the Doctor and River Song's encounters, you may recall, mostly seemed to occur backwards from her perspective (the first time they meet from his perspective is the last time from hers).

The solution to the problem presumably is that the two marriages take place between different versions of the Doctor.  But does Time Lord regeneration constitute death for this purpose?

I'm going to suggest that the answer is yes: his old body is destroyed after all, and the new one comes complete with a new personality.  And marriage is about bodies in the end, since no one is married in heaven...

***PS If you watched the show, and resented the fact that they didn't manage to include more of those former incarnations and companions, do go watch the Five(ish) Doctors Reboot put together by Peter Davison, and with numerous hilarious cameos from many associated with the show and outside it.


Joshua said...

By the time he married Dr River Song, Elizabeth I was long dead, of course.

In any case, I suspect a purported marriage between a human and an alien (even one who is half-human) would be invalid: a human can only contract a valid marriage with another person of the same species and opposite sex.

Kate Edwards said...

But surely linear time isn't really relevant here given that he can still go back and see her, or pick her up and travel with her in the Tardis?

The species point is an interesting one though, given that in this case it doesn't seem to rule out reproduction (the Doctor being half human after all and has a granddaughter, though we don't know through which relationship).

And are you telling me that Spock's parents (Sarek and Amanda) weren't validly married either?!

Louise said...

Quite apart from the fact that it is doubtful that an alien and a human could contract a valid marriage, it would seem that the marriage with QEI wasn't consummated, and it is clear that the Doctor had no intention of sticking around, therefore raising grounds for annullment. One could also argue that he was coerced into it. Also, assuming the Doctor has not been baptised, it would not be a sacramental marriage.

I think with regards to the timeline, at the time he married River, QEI was dead, therefore he was free to marry. I don't think the fact that he could go back in time would change that, although it would cause some awkwardness.

Of course, if this is all true for the Doctor and QEI, it would also raise questions as to the validity of the marriage of Spock's parents, though the Church would assume it valid until proven otherwise.

I always assumed that the Doctor's granddaughter came through a union with another Gallifreyan, but I could be wrong.

Kate Edwards said...

Good points on coercion and consummation (though it was pretty unclear to me whether or not he was serious about it all!).

But if the 'she was dead at the time' argument holds, time travellers seem doomed to become unmarried every time they travel outside the lifetime of their partners. If they travel backwards, before the person was born, they clearly can't be married, and the marriage presumably is dissolved by death every time they move past that persons lifetime.

That seems to me implausible.

Isn't it better to think of a time traveller as essentially existing in a quasi-angelic (aevum) sort of time, whereby the reference frame is their own linear experience of time irrespective of whether they are moving forwards or backwards or just hanging out in the time continuum?

On that logic, they stay married until either their own death (or regeneration),or it becomes impossible to return to the time of the person they are married to (no more empty moments from the moment they married forwards in the lifeline of the person they are married to that they can visit without duplicating their presence)?

Of course the story with two time travellers involved becomes more complicated still....

SCEcclesia said...

You guys are seriously hilarious! Thanks Kate, Josh and Louise for your unique reflections on the Whovian day of the century. For myself, the 50th anniversary almost overshadowed the end of the Year of Faith. Having watched the special early on Sunday morning I couldn't stop thinking about it during mass. Then, after Holy hour in the evening I raced home to catch the excellent docudrama on the original series with my kids.

Ultimately I was disappointed that Ecclestone didn't join the Special, at least for the War Doctor's regeneration. Given actors for Dr's 1-3 are dead, Tom Baker's cameo and taking the "five(ish) doctors" and "the Night of the Doctor" into account, all other previous living incarnations participated.

Kate Edwards said...

Yes the Year of Faith end was indeed a fizzer, with the Doctor, EI aside, proving rather more spiritually nourishing!

I agree Eccleston would have been perfect in a version of the Hurt role, pity whatever trauma he suffered at the hands of the evil Beeb couldn't be worked past.

Still the Bake moment was lovely, and I did indeed rewatch the episode with an eye to those shrouds after seeing the marvellous fiveish doctors reboot...