Sunday, March 2, 2014

An Older Man and a Young, Impressionable Woman

AV Club recently finished their retrospective review of the new Doctor Who's 2nd Season, which is as far as I've made it into the "new" series myself. Since the theme of the season was the nature and lasting power of 10/Rose's relationship, especially as the season moved along, I figured I might as well do the fashionable thing and chime in on the relationship as well. Granted, it's been several years since the season was initially released, so I doubt I'm going to break any new ground here, but better late than never, I suppose.

At its core, Rose's relationship with the 10th Doctor was pretty straightforward - he's an older (about 700 years older, more or less), well-traveled gentleman and she's a young, impressionable woman. Rose loves the Doctor in a near-obsessive, all-consuming way, the way a teenager falls in love with someone. She wasn't just willing to sacrifice her previous life - her family, her friends, her job, her neighborhood, everything - for the Doctor, she actively encouraged him, practically begging, to take her up on it. The 9th Doctor was reluctant to do that; he cared for Rose the way an father-figure or an older brother might, at least until the end, and attempted to preserve some distance between the two. The 10th Doctor, however, actively reveled in the attention in the same way that a 40+-year-old millionaire might appreciate the unbalanced devotion of a pretty 18-year-old - he enjoyed the way she made him feel, the way she encouraged instigated his long-forgotten, more youthful tendencies (hence the running gag with Queen Victoria in "Tooth and Claw"), and rewarded her accordingly.

Unfortunately, at least for Rose, the Doctor had 700 years of perspective to draw from. He could never feel the same way about Rose that Rose felt about the Doctor because the Doctor ultimately had a life outside of Rose. Rose's entire existence had become co-dependently wrapped around the Doctor's - she lived exclusively for him. The Doctor, however, had a life before Rose and he knew that he would have a life after Rose. Sooner or later, the relationship had to end, either through death, boredom, or Rose getting sucked into a parallel universe. The writing was on the wall after the "The Girl In The Fireplace" - as fun and eager and complimentary as Rose might have been, she would never be an intellectual equal to the Doctor, someone that he would be able to look at eye-to-eye and experience attraction from that connection. When the Doctor found the Madame de Pompadour, and when she clearly expressed interest in him, his reaction was not that of a man guilty of betraying a lover but instead a man lost in a desert, enjoying a rare, satisfying drink. Without the Doctor, the Madame de Pompadour was still the mistress of the King of France - Rose, however, saw herself as nothing without the Doctor and they both felt that acutely.

In the end, for Rose's health as well as the Doctor's, the relationship needed to end. Rose needed an opportunity to discover that there is life after the Doctor, though I wouldn't be especially surprised if, like a lot of people that endlessly yearn for a particularly intense, lost love, she never really recovers. The Doctor, meanwhile, needs someone that he can respect and can look him in the eye, someone that can hold him more or less responsible for his actions.

Now to see if he finds that in season 3.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Ikraine, Ukraine, we all scream for...

Crimea, Kerch - Shutterstock

Ah, the Ukraine - home to one of the more fetching politicians in recent memory, along with a few thousand Russian troops that have suddenly taken up residence in the Crimea. So, what should the United States do about it?

Well, before we answer that question, let's establish some background information:
  • The Ukraine, or more specifically, Kievan Rus, is a foundational part of Russian identity. It was the power center of what passed for the Russian state before the Mongol invasion in the 14th century.
  • The Ukraine, in its current form as a national entity separate from Russia, didn't exist until after the Treaty of Brest-Livotsk created it to better secure Ukrainian grain supplies for the German military.
  • Russia has fought to secure and retain the Crimean peninsula more or less constantly since the 16th century, starting with the Russo-Crimean Wars that initially secured the peninsula from the Tatars (Turks, more or less), followed by the Crimean War, which didn't go well for anyone involved but definitely didn't go well for Russia, then followed by the Crimean Campaign in World War 2 and the counter-invasion.
Conceptually, the Ukraine's existence, at least in certain Russian minds, would be similar to how Americans would feel if the British "liberated" New England in the War of 1812 and it eventually turned into its own country. The story of the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock is a key part of the history of the establishment of the United States, along with the battles of Lexington and Concord - even if New England somehow became its own country, even if New England really wanted to remain its own country (and, after the Holodomor, the Ukraine really wants to remain its own country - that's a big part of the reason there were so many Nazi sympathizers in the Ukraine to begin with), it'd be very difficult for the rest of the United States to really respect that or see things that way. This would be doubly true if the United States built a rather important naval base in, say, Rhode Island and built a "company town" around the base that was filled with Americans.

Now that we have the mindset established, it shouldn't be hard to understand why Russia doesn't take Ukraine's independence particularly seriously, along with why Russia feels perfectly comfortable invading the Ukraine's version of our hypothetical Rhode Island. It also shouldn't be hard to grasp that, if someone were to attempt to guarantee the independence and integrity of our hypothetical New England, we probably wouldn't take it well - from our position, New England is an integral part of the identity and territory of the United States, regardless of how our hypothetical New Englanders might view the situation. If a few Bostonians want to riot against our cause, well, tough - they're supposed to be Americans, damn it, and if they think we're going to let anyone help them forget that, they're going to be in for an unpleasant surprise. A nuclear surprise, if necessary.

This is why Ukraine is screwed. 

Russia cares about the Ukraine far more than anyone else in the world does, including us. Russia - or at least those currently in power in Russia - are willing to go all in to get what it wants out of the Ukraine because, from their perspective, the Ukraine shouldn't be a country in the first place. Since Russia doesn't have the means to occupy all of the Ukraine, they probably won't, but they'll definitely "liberate" the parts of the Ukraine that are more or less amenable to Russian rule (the Crimea definitely fits) and there's not a thing the Ukraine or anyone else will be allowed to do to stop it. Putin will happily endure any embargo, any diplomatic tut-tutting, in return for bringing the Ukraine back into the fold - and by "happily endure", I mean Putin will happily remind everyone that if they even think of crossing him in any meaningful way on this subject, he'll make it his personal mission to make everyone else on the planet miserable. Russia, for all its myriad problems, still possesses the means to make the world an obnoxiously difficult place - I wouldn't put it past him to release a few nuclear weapons to Iran and North Korea, or at least threaten it behind closed doors should anyone suddenly feel brave enough to stand up to him on this.

To answer the original question - what should the United States do about this - we need to ask ourselves, How far are we really willing to go? In my mind, unless we're willing to go all the way to DEFCON 1, which we're not, we should just close our eyes, cover our ears, and accept that not all stories have a happy ending. Besides, it's none of our business anyway.