fajrdrako: Ninth Doctor - Christopher Eccleston ([Doctor Who])
[personal profile] fajrdrako


Doctor Who in some ways this season reminds me of the Guy Gavriel Kay novel Tigana.

Now, if you haven't read it, I would highly recommend it. This is a fantasy novel about a group of freedom-fighters, but even more, it's about the power of a name. It's the Rumpelstiltskin theme: the power that comes from saying a name, or taking away the power to say a name, or the power of invoking a name.

The Doctor, of course, doesn't use a name. He's just... the Doctor. As in the wonderful exchange with Rose in "The Empty Child":
Rose: What was I supposed to say, you don't have a name! Don't you ever get tired of 'Doctor'? Doctor who?
Doctor: Nine centuries in, I'm coping.
So they tease us with his name, or the absence of his name, and we get nicknames like Theta (or so I'm told) but no clues as to his original name. I was rather hoping he didn't have a real name; that Gallifreyans didn't have to have names, that they could just be The Master or The Doctor or Whatever. No, Romana wouldn't fit that pattern. Or perhaps the fun of it is that the pattern is that there is no pattern. A free for all for names.

Rose called the Doctor 'Spock' in the scene I quoted. I was disappointed, back when I was an ardent Star Trek fan, to learn that Spock had an unpronounceable last name. Why did he need a last name at all? For aliens to have the Indo-European pattern of first name and last name seems absurd to me. I don't even know why we need that pattern, but don't get me started on that....

So now it seems the Doctor has a name, and would use it in one one situation.

There's an interesting parallel here to Captain Jack Harkness, another man with no known name, using a stolen one as an accidental tribute to the man he stole it from.

So they've raised the mystery: what was Jack's name, before he was Captain Jack Harkness? Does Captain John known? Grey would know, but Grey is in a frozen coma. Toshiko asked Jack directly in "Captain Jack Harkness", and he didn't answer. What was the Doctor's name, and why is it such a secret?

Having raised the question as a tease and a mystery, will they feel compelled to answer it? Part of the game in the new series of Doctor Who was that the Doctor never said the name of Gallifrey - not until "The Runaway Bride". But that's different. We already knew the name of Gallifrey.

The bottom line: I don't want to know the name Captain Jack's parents called him by. He is Captain Jack Harkness and that's enough for me.

I don't want to know the Doctor's name. I don't ever want to know. I love the scenes in which the question is raised, but dread any hints or clues. What name could be good enough for either of them, except the names we know?

Date: 2008-06-10 03:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] duncanmac.livejournal.com
Good question(s) about names.

Even among Indo-Europeans, the "first-name+last-name" pattern is not universal. The Romans, for example, had "first-name" [praenomen] + "last/clan-name" [nomen] + "clan-sept-name" [cognomen]. Examples of that include "Gaius Julius Caesar" and "Publius Cornelius Scipio". The Roman Senate also had the authority to tack on extra names to a person as a reward; Scipio became known as "Scipio Africanus" after defeating the Carthaginians in the second Punic War [IIRC].

I believe that the Spanish and all Latin Americans [including Mexicans] *still* use the three-name Roman pattern, which often gives Anglo-oriented customer-related programs the fits. :-)

Then there's the habit of putting the last [family or clan] name first, which died out in most of Europe a long time ago. The only Europeans still doing this (and they don't speak an Indo-European language) are the Hungarians or "Magyar." In much of Asia, especially the Far East, putting the last name first is still common, however. For example, in "Jiang Jieshi" [Pinyin], better known as Chiang Kai-shek, the "Jiang" is the family name.

Date: 2008-06-10 11:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fajrdrako.livejournal.com
Even among Indo-Europeans, the "first-name+last-name" pattern is not universal.

No. I was trying to find a cultural group that tends to use it, but even that is partial. Go back even a few hundred years, and you'll see Atilla the Hun and William the Bastard didn't use that pattern. They were a little more... descriptive.

So why assume aliens would use that pattern, or take their father's name? It seems to me like a failure of imagination.


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Date: 2008-06-10 04:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] duncanmac.livejournal.com
While I am at it, what about "Q" in TNG? I don't recall anyone in the Q Continuum (except for "Trelane" in the book Q-Squared) having a name that we'd recognize.

Date: 2008-06-10 11:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fajrdrako.livejournal.com
While I am at it, what about "Q" in TNG?

I like his name!

Date: 2008-06-10 04:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jonquil.livejournal.com
Lovely last sentence.

I'm not nearly so interested in awhat the name is, as in what circumstances he would speak it in -- look at how River apologized before telling him he'd spoken it.

Date: 2008-06-10 11:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fajrdrako.livejournal.com
I'm not nearly so interested in awhat the name is, as in what circumstances he would speak it in -- look at how River apologized before telling him he'd spoken it.

Yes. I liked that, but didn't understand it in the least. And why would he only tell his name in one particular rare or unique circumstance? We have no reason to think names on Gallifrey are generally particularly secret or sacred, though it's possible. Nor can I think of any reason this would be the case with the Doctor, but no one else. Maybe he and the Master made a pact - no names!

My guess would be that the circumstances of telling his name involve either marriage or death, but I can't think of anything that would explain this. And I can't think why she would apologize about the marriage, unless she was just worrying about a spoiler for his future. But perhaps the revelation meant one of them was going to die?

No, it doesn't really make sense... but it's all I can think of.

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Date: 2008-06-10 07:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wijsgeer.livejournal.com
for a moment, when the Doctor said he would only give his name on one occasion, I thought 'he would only give it in case he married'.

It sort of refers to those societies where people have a 'true name' one reveals only to the most intimate and true friends and lovers, a name that gives power over you, a magical name.

Date: 2008-06-10 11:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fajrdrako.livejournal.com
It sort of refers to those societies where people have a 'true name' one reveals only to the most intimate and true friends and lovers, a name that gives power over you, a magical name.

So it seems. Have he had reason to believe before that the Gallifreyans do this? or it just the Doctor? (And, I would guess, the Master.) Perhaps it's the case with a certain type of Gallifreyan?


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Date: 2008-06-10 11:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fruitbat813.livejournal.com
I´m pretty sure we´ll never hear the Doctor´s name but we might learn something about "the one reason he would tell someone, the one time he could" - which is a rather interesting choice of words really. The m-word might just come into it. "M" as in Medusa Cascade. There have been plenty of hints that it´s more than just a secret. Madame de Pompadour even said so and who wrote that episode, hehe ...

Date: 2008-06-10 12:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fajrdrako.livejournal.com
The m-word might just come into it. "M" as in Medusa Cascade.

What do you think that is?

There have been plenty of hints that it´s more than just a secret. Madame de Pompadour even said so and who wrote that episode, hehe ...

Steven Moffat has been setting this up since series 1. (The fiend!) It could be just a game he likes to play, but more likely he's got a plot brewing. I wonder what it will be?

I agree that we won't learn his name, but we'll learn about the circumstances in which he'd tell it.

Date: 2008-06-10 12:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fruitbat813.livejournal.com
What´s the Medusa Cascade? Good question and I don´t have a clue. The Master mentions it and so does Evelina in connection with the Doctor´s name in The Fires of Pompeii. In addition to that, one of the Carrionites in The Shakespeare Code wonders why the Doctor would "hide his title in such despair". Someone´s planning something, that´s for sure. How and when and if it´s going to play out, I have no idea.

It won´t have anything to do with anyone getting married though. Of that I´m absolutely certain.
No way is the Doctor going to marry his mum, because that´s who River Song is. Steven Moffat said so. Really, he did, I´m not making that up. Marrying your mum - that would be sick! :)

Date: 2008-06-10 05:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fajrdrako.livejournal.com
I love that [livejournal.com profile] redscharlach icon.

How and when and if it´s going to play out, I have no idea.

Neither have I, but I predict we will have our answers by the end of this series. Not about the Doctor's name, probably, because that's a Stephen Moffat thing more than a Russell T. Davies thing, but about the Medusa Cascade.

One way or another.

No way is the Doctor going to marry his mum, because that´s who River Song is.

That would explain a lot, though I'm not sure about the "pretty boy". Unless he's also her parakeet. And the non-recognition factor just doesn't fit.

Steven Moffat said so.

When? Where? I missed that.

Marrying your mum - that would be sick! :)

There's precedent, but I don't see the Doctor as Oedipus.



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Date: 2008-06-10 01:05 pm (UTC)
trialia: River Song (Alex Kingston) drinking a cup of coffee. (Default)
From: [personal profile] trialia
Re: Tigana... really? How so? I've only seen a couple of episodes of DW this season, but I adore Tigana.

Date: 2008-06-10 05:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fajrdrako.livejournal.com
I adore Tigana too. It's my favourite Guy Gavriel Kay novel, and that's saying a lot.

The connection is in names - unspoken names. In Tigana no one can say the name of the country until the spell is broken, and knowledge of the name is lost.

In Doctor Who, no one knows the name of the protagonist and he won't say what it is. (He wants everyone to call him "the Doctor".) Except in the latest episode, he meets someone who does know his name, which is spooky and powerful and mysterious of her.


Date: 2008-06-10 05:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rustydog.livejournal.com
I don't want to know the Doctor's name. I don't ever want to know.

I feel pretty strongly about this too. For Jack and the Doctor. Unless the narrative arc has been leading up to it from the beginning - and it hasn't, it's just one of the mysteries of the character - then I feel revealing it would cheapen an important quality of the character.

Date: 2008-06-10 08:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fajrdrako.livejournal.com
I don't think there's much chance the name will be revealed in either case. But it's a nice theme to play with. I don't know where they're going with it or why, but I look forward to further uses.

I love it that Captain John Hart took a name of the same form as Captain Jack Harkness. More self-reinvention.

And Grey - perhaps people of the Boeshang Peninsula have one-word names?

Date: 2008-06-11 01:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] walkingowl.livejournal.com
One of the many ways that ST:TNG disappointed me was to have the unthinking automaticity of personal name/family name, in that order. In the episode "Ensign Ro," we got a step in the right direction when the Bajoran ensign Ro Laren was given enough spirit to correct Picard when he called her Ensign Laren -- the Bajoran's have their family name first.

But, like you, I don't see why people need to have a family name and a personal name.

Vonda McIntyre's Starfarers! novels (there are four of them) had a character named Stephen Thomas Gregory. He makes a point of not letting anyone shorten his name -- he goes by Stephen Thomas. Someone observes that he has two first names, and he offhandly says that actually he has three. We later find out that his dad is Gregory. This is only one of many wonderfully nonlinear things that Vonda McIntyre has done... for instance, in "Dreamsnake," her first big success (first an award-winning short story, then a novel -- which I wish someone would make into a movie! and before Janine Turner is too old to play Snake!!), she deals closely with a species which needs three sexes in order to copulate.

Names are too common -- I mean, names are meaningful and intrinsic to me, yet people tend to toss them around without thinking about them.

Here's an odd quirk of NT popular culture for you: notice news accounts of, usually, serial killers. Sometimes, other heinous stuff too, such as individuals who assassinate one person (or try to). They are called by all three names. This is annoying on several points, for me. For one, assume that people all have middle names? uh, why assume that? For another, who in the world called Lee Oswald "Lee Harvey" during his lifetime, for cryin' out loud? And who called John Gacy "John Wayne," huh? Yet the media has these people ingrained in history by all three names. Even poor Dahmer... no middle name to be had, apparently, but now we all know him as "Jeffrey," not as Jeff. And he did go by Jeff.

And, like you, I won't even get into the habit of giving someone a nickname they don't want, and refusing to stop using it. That's one reason I introduced myself to you as Gayle, all those years ago: my first name had been taken from me and turned into things that I did not want but could not stop, so I cut myself off from it... till enough time had passed, and I could begin to reclaim it. In the version I preferred!

All this to say... both Captain Jack Harkness (ours) and the Doctor intrigue me, with their non-name names. I like it when fiction plays with conventionality. With things that go without saying, things that so many people find so easy to take for granted.

Date: 2008-06-11 01:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fajrdrako.livejournal.com
Vonda McIntyre got so many things right. Is she still writing?

Re Lee Harvey Oswald: I thought that was what every called him - before the assassination, I mean. Am I wrong? Lots of people have/use three names, like Sarah Jane Smith or Anthony Stewart Head. I thought he was one of those. Though I see Anthony Head has dropped the Stewart. Pity.

I always liked double names like John Mark Keyes (who's at the OLT) or Alexander Graham Bell or John Boy Walton. (Did I remember that last one right?)

both Captain Jack Harkness (ours) and the Doctor intrigue me, with their non-name names

Yup. It isn't as if they wouldn't be wonderful anyway. It's just that this is one of the many details that make them so delightful.

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The Doctor In US Political Cartoon

Date: 2008-06-11 03:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] raissad.livejournal.com
This is cool!:
http://www.salon.com/comics/tomo/2008/06/10/tomo/

Date: 2008-06-11 06:41 am (UTC)
order_of_chaos: Eridan Ampora from Homestuck as a dreamsheep dreaming of dreamwidth.  Blue stripy body, purple head, yellow horns. (Default)
From: [personal profile] order_of_chaos
"It's Bob."
"What?"
"My name. It's Bob."
"No, I mean what is it really?"
"I just told you. Bob."
"Your name is not Bob."
"Is so."
"Is not."
"Is."
"Is not."
"Is."
"I don't believe you."
"What's wrong with Bob? Perfectly good name, Bob."
"Of course it is. I still don't believe you."
"Fine. See if I care."

Date: 2008-06-11 12:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fajrdrako.livejournal.com
Hee!

"Bob" is the only name I can write in Egyptian hieroglyphics without looking it up.

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