May 27, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Doctor Who “The Devil’s Chord”

The Doctor and Ruby need to deal with a being that has stollen all the world's music.

So, I came across a fan theory that suggested the old neighbor lady of Ruby’s who keeps popping up in the backgrounds of every episode without the Doctor or Ruby’s really paying her any attention, the one who knew what a TARDIS was, might be someone the Doctor knows well and who is most certainly not a threat.

Yeah, the speculation said that maybe, just maybe, the old lady is the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan.  Ruby asks the Doctor about Susan in this episode, and the Doctor explains that when the Time Lords were killed off, they were wiped away from time and space, meaning even if the Doctor went back to the 1960s when he as the First Doctor and Susan were hanging around certain neighborhoods, they probably couldn’t find her.  That’s a lot of detail to explain what may have happened to the character that might not have been done for a character from Doctor Who canon unless it might have been necessary to explain something they were planning for later, and as a Time Lord herself, there’s nothing to stop Susan from having a new face.

Then again, Ruby seems to know a lot about the Doctor.  This may only be her third adventure with the guy, but she knows about Susan and how this Doctor has a granddaughter, so how much does she know about the Doctor and his alien status?  There’s dialogue to suggest they’ve been doing their travels for about six months right now, but the point stands.

Regardless, I am starting to get a feel for the Fifteenth Doctor, and he seems to be a guy who is enthusiastic about everything and just wants to have fun and explore.  That comes out when, after giving Ruby the chance to go anywhere in time and space, she says she wants to go to see the Beatles record their first album, and the Doctor is not only more than happy to do so, but he even happily explains that no one has ever asked him about that before.  He just loves Ruby’s suggestions, especially when she says that they should dress to blend in, and she even knows how to get into recording booths to listen to the performers play.

There’s just one small problem:  the Beatles’s song is terrible.  In fact, all the music being recorded at what will eventually be known as Abbey Road Studios is terrible.  Why?

Oh, that goes back to the cold open when, in the 1920s, a piano teacher and frustrated composer played the “devil’s chord” and summoned the non-binary being called the Maestro.  The Maestro claims to be the Toymaker’s offspring, and while the Toymaker was a reality-warping being with power over all games, the Maestro is basically the same, only their power is over music.  That does explain the music-themed wardrobe on a character that looks like a drag performer dressed up like Bette Middler.  By the time the Doctor and Ruby arrive in the 60s, music is basically dying.  No ways to express joy or heartbreak, nothing to dance to, and talking to Paul McCartney and John Lennon shows the two are kinda glad that’s the case.

George and Ringo have no lines in this episode, and for all the BBC promoted this as a Beatles team-up, the Fab Four don’t do much in this episode, with Paul and John saving the day accidentally when they finish the chord necessary to banish the Maestro back to where they came from.  Good thing, too.  A trip back to the present in the TARDIS shows the world is basically destroyed without music, and the Maestro seems intent to kill anyone who still plays any sort of good tune, including Ruby who has a song in her heart–Christmas music.  Huh.

So, how can the Doctor prevail against a being that can control anything that may make music of any kind, including the TARDIS because of the Cloister Bell?  He says he only beat the Toymaker because of dumb luck and another bi-generation would probably kill him.

Well, he knows playing a musical chord got the Maestro to come out, so the right one will send them back.  It would take a genius to figure that out, and the Doctor almost got it.  See above for who finished it.  But then something really strange happens.

See, the Maestro at the end of the cold open addressed the home audience and started to play the show’s theme on a piano.  The Maestro is a god-like being.  Why can’t they know they’re on TV?  But after their defeat, the Doctor says to Ruby how there is always a twist in the end before winking at the camera and then having an elaborate song and dance with a whole lot of people around Abbey Road Studios for a song about how there’s always a twist at the end.  Sure, the Maestro’s harbinger pops in there briefly, and it’s a happy enough song and all, but…does the Doctor know he’s on TV?

That’s a lot of fourth wall breakage.