kaffyr: The TARDIS says hello (Black Mirror)
[personal profile] kaffyr
Time and Tide
It took a while, but I finally tidied up the inside of my head enough to put some thoughts down relating to "Waters of Mars." Not a review, actually; more a riff and a contemplation. But yes, to cut from my own febrile blatherings to the chase, I liked it, a great deal. And perhaps I'll have other thoughts on it before The End, of a less floridly purple nature. **************
     Water runs downhill. Time moves forward.
     There’s nothing surprising about either statement. Physics: it’s the law – just ask Newton, or Einstein. Don’t ask Heisenberg, Schrodinger or Planck, though, because they might ask you this: What happens when it isn’t, necessarily?
     That’s the thing that struck me about “Waters of Mars,” and that I can’t seem to get out of my head – the similarity between water and time, and how much of a brilliant connection Russell T. Davies made when he put both at the center of this story, the beginning of the end for the Tenth Doctor.
     Think about what happens when you try to stop water; think about what the Doctor told Adelaide and everyone else on Bowie Base more than once.
     You can’t stop water.
     You can reroute it for a little while, through irrigation ditches or pipes, behind dams and levee walls. But eventually, it will escape the ditches, punch through the pipes, breach the dams and surmount the levees. Eventually it will find a way to run downhill, to find the level it – not you, nor me, nor an entire Army Corps of Engineers – wants.  
     Well, there is one way to stop water, but only by turning it into something else. You can boil it away, you can freeze it, you can let the sun steam and dry it into nonexistence – and even then, it’s still water in waiting. 
     Somewhere, that steam will condense into droplets. Somewhere what moisture the sun chased into the soil will meet up with an aquifer and return to the surface. Somewhere, even if it’s at the pole or floating in the black of space, a chunk of ice holds the promise of water, if only summer comes or it enters the orbit of a star, the pull of a planet. Then it’s back, and it becomes fog, and rain, freshets, rivers, oceans. And it is so, so much larger than we are, and it can win every fight we pick with it if we’re not careful. Ask sailors on the sea.
     Now think about time. You can’t stop it, either. Like water, it runs downhill. It runs in one direction – yes it does, eventually. Even in a universe that welcomes the Doctor, and pretends to run by an entirely different set of rules, a set which allows time to swirl and eddy like water round rocks, to be routed into ditches, imprisoned in pipes or held back from its proper course behind a levee or a dam. Time runs in one direction, and nothing out of Gallifrey can change that.
     Time Lords called themselves that, but they weren’t, not really. They could manage time, certainly, but they could never really master it, and they knew that, because they knew time so well. They knew the rules they lived by weren’t their rules. They were time’s rules; the universe’s rules, even in a fairy tale universe.
     The last Time Lord’s no different. The Doctor may jump from day to year to century at a whim, as a child jumps from stone to stone in the river, but he’s ruled by time and ushered forward by its pull as surely as that child’s motion is ultimately ruled by what the river allows her to do.
     The Doctor was born. He has aged. He has died and returned, nine times he’s done it, and each time he’s returned he has been one step older. He cannot grow younger, no matter that he has dark hair now where he once had white. Ultimately, he is as linear as any human, as linear as the rest of any universe – his or ours. He still runs downhill, because that is the only direction time ultimately allows any of us to take.
     We live in time. We are born into it, carried along in it, die in it. And he’s known that forever, even if he played a little more with time, in his time, than his more sedate brethren. He always lived by those rules, even if he bent them a little.
     But time came to Mars, water rose on Mars, and the Doctor forgot.
     It’s a forgivable sin – no need for anyone to say “I’m sorry.” Who could blame him for wanting to run uphill? Who could blame him for wanting to bend that rule until the rust flaked off it, until it screamed and broke under the continued pressure?
     It’s not surprising, not for the Doctor, who has, after all, lived centuries of a life that could trick one into thinking one can bargain with time. It’s not surprising for someone who’s lost so much, over and over again, who’s destroyed so much and saved so many at such personal cost. After enough time passes, after enough pressure from the implacable currents, even the strongest, the most steely of souls suffers metal fatigue, creaks, screams and crumples. Someone can become desperate to break the rules, or forget them.
     That kind of forgetting, though? It’s sin; forgivable, but mortal.
     All the mortal sins are about defying the laws of physics, you know. You can survive other sins, but you can’t survive breaking the laws of physics, whether they’re Newtonian, Einsteinian or Heisenberg’s and Planck’s.
     And when you sin against the natural order, unnatural things happen. Water will run in rivulets from the pores of your skin, from under the cuff of your jacket. You will vomit water, it will erupt and geyser, it will come from someplace inside of you from where there's no room for it to be, and it will be wrong.
     When you try to turn time uphill, you will ignore the knowledge that sits not only in your head, but your gut, and pretend you can change the laws. You will pretend that Gallifrey made those laws when, really, you know in your bones that Gallifrey simply bowed to them. And you will still do it, and it will be wrong.
     You have sinned. Because - to go back to the beginning - I lied about what Heisenberg and the others might say.
     Water runs downhill. When you try to thwart water, it will drown you. Time moves forward. When you try to thwart time, you will sink beneath its waves like a stone.

Date: Saturday, 12 December 2009 08:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dameruth.livejournal.com
Guh. That's freaking gorgeous. And very, very true . . .

Thinking about the Time Lords and their technology and the kinds of things they used to do with Time always reminds me of these lines from Kipling's "The Secret of Machines" -- even more so after seeing WoM:

"But remember, please, the Law by which we live,
We are not built to comprehend a lie,
We can neither love nor pity nor forgive.
If you make a slip in handling us you die . . ."

Although the gears and cogs the Time Lords work with are the physical laws themselves, the thought still holds.
Edited Date: Saturday, 12 December 2009 08:52 pm (UTC)

Date: Saturday, 12 December 2009 09:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tardis-stowaway.livejournal.com
Wow, I really love this lyrical meditation on the implacability of water and time! You draw your parallels very well.

Date: Saturday, 12 December 2009 09:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ljgeoff.livejournal.com
This is beautiful.

Date: Sunday, 13 December 2009 11:01 am (UTC)
ext_23120: ([who] tardis glows in the dark)
From: [identity profile] hibernate.livejournal.com
Here via link from [livejournal.com profile] selenak - this is quite amazing. Beautiful, insightful and so very true.

Date: Sunday, 13 December 2009 12:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ffutures.livejournal.com
Followed the same link - that feels exactly right, many thanks for posting

Date: Sunday, 13 December 2009 12:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] parrot-knight.livejournal.com
Here from [livejournal.com profile] who_daily - thanks for this, the most original insight into The Waters of Mars which I have read.

Date: Sunday, 13 December 2009 05:07 pm (UTC)
elisi: (Ten (WoM) by nilhuanwen)
From: [personal profile] elisi
This is absolutely gorgeous - lyrical, even. Thank you.

Date: Sunday, 13 December 2009 07:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mymatedave.livejournal.com
Oh I like this. Very poetic, very apt.

Date: Monday, 14 December 2009 01:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ibishtar.livejournal.com
Really absorbing meta. It's the most original piece of writing on TWoM I've seen. You did a great job describing the parallels between the flow of water and the flow of time.


Date: Monday, 14 December 2009 05:45 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Well done, kaffyr. Captures the essence of the episode and the Doctor's ... flow so very well.

-twop's cutecouple

Date: Monday, 4 January 2010 04:08 am (UTC)
kerravonsen: Ninth Doctor, silhuette of autumn leaf: "All things die." (all-things-die)
From: [personal profile] kerravonsen
Is truth. Is poetry. (bows to you)

Date: Monday, 4 January 2010 04:14 am (UTC)
kerravonsen: Ninth Doctor, silhuette of autumn leaf: "All things die." (all-things-die)
From: [personal profile] kerravonsen
It made me love the episode all over again.

Date: Wednesday, 3 March 2010 08:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] azalaisdep.livejournal.com
Here very late on a rec from [livejournal.com profile] kalypso_v; what an elegant, and powerful, extrapolation from the water metaphor. It works particularly beautifully in the light of what we now know came next ;-) Thank you for that!

Date: Wednesday, 3 March 2010 10:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] green-maia.livejournal.com
Here on a rec from [livejournal.com profile] kalypso_v
(here (http://green-maia.livejournal.com/247002.html)).

This is powerful, beautiful, and brilliant.

Would you mind if I friend you?

Date: Wednesday, 31 March 2010 11:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] green-maia.livejournal.com
Thank you! And thank you for friending me back!

I put this entry in my Memories, BTW - I hope that is okay.

Date: Sunday, 28 March 2010 12:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] diebirchen.livejournal.com
Sooooo, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle for quantum physics isn't going to cut it in this case. The force of gravity on that water -- not just a good idea, but the law. Well and truly reasoned. It is to be hoped, that Heisenberg, wherever he may be, could take note, unlikely thought that be.

Date: Tuesday, 20 July 2010 04:00 pm (UTC)
promethia_tenk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] promethia_tenk
Hey! [livejournal.com profile] elisi pointed me over here while we were debating some of the current season, and I'm very glad she did. Such a linchpin episode and you do a brilliant, not to mention lyrical, job of describing why it's so important.

Will definitely be bookmarking this for future reference.

Date: Saturday, 24 July 2010 03:02 pm (UTC)
sea_thoughts: (DWThe Bell Tolls - immobulus_icons)
From: [personal profile] sea_thoughts
Linked here by [livejournal.com profile] elisi. I really like how you've drawn the parallels between water and time - we talk about how time is a river, don't we? We talk about how things in the past are 'water under the bridge'. The Doctor should have listened to himself: water is patient, water can wait. This is why water always wins. And this is why time always wins. This was such an important episode for the Tenth Doctor and I really like how you expressed this.

Date: Friday, 27 August 2010 05:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ladymercury-10.livejournal.com
All the mortal sins are about defying the laws of physics, you know.

In what way? I think this is an interesting idea, I'm just not sure how you're using the term "mortal sins." Are you referring to the Catholic concept of mortal vs. venial sins?

I've been linked to this meta more than once, and it's a really interesting and lovely analysis. I didn't enjoy Waters of Mars, but I think you dig out the important ideas that were buried in it, and that's redeemed the episode for me at least a little.

Date: Friday, 27 August 2010 02:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ladymercury-10.livejournal.com
Hmmm. I see what you're saying, but I still don't get how trying to break the laws of physics is sinful. I suppose you could say it's a kind of fatal pride, but even then I don't think all the mortal sins are about defying the laws of physics.

Date: Tuesday, 31 August 2010 01:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ladymercury-10.livejournal.com
Oh, when you explain it like that, it makes a lot more sense. I think what you're saying is something along the lines of what it means to talk about "laws" of physics? As in, they aren't laws in the sense that if you break one, you will be sent to jail--they're laws in the sense that you can't break them, that they are simply descriptions of what always happens.

Date: Tuesday, 31 August 2010 02:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ladymercury-10.livejournal.com
Thanks for taking the time to explain it to me! :)


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