Doctor Who Tuesday Trope Chekhovs Gun

first_imgFrom survivor’s guilt to the action girl, Doctor Who‘s cup runneth over with repetitive motifs.Each week, I’ll tackle another trope, examining its use, effectiveness, and relevance to the long-running BBC show. First up, some prolific advice from Russian playwright and short story writer Anton Chekhov.BBCCHEKHOV’S GUNMeaning: If it is not essential, don’t include it in the storyVariations: Chekhov’s Boomerang, Chekhov’s GunmanUsage in Doctor Who: To create drama by introducing concept earlier in the season/episodeChekhov famously told fellow playwright Aleksandr Semenovich Lazarev that “One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off.”Doctor Who revival showrunners Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat must have hung the same motivational poster of Chekhov in their offices.The part-time writers and producers made it their full-time mission to hang a pistol on the wall in the first act, then fire it in the second or third.Those seemingly innocuous 3D glasses the Tenth Doctor infamously wears in season two finale “Doomsday,” for example, are more than a wardrobe malfunction.Sure, he looks extra cute in the red-and-blue specs, but the audience is left wondering why the heck he’s fighting Daleks and Cybermen in anaglyph 3D. Only in the end do we find out the Doctor’s unconventional eyewear allows him to see “Void stuff”—a type of background radiation that clings to those who traveled through the Void, including the bad guys.The trope is subverted, meanwhile, in season four two-parter “The Sontaran Stratagem”/”The Poison Sky,” when former companion and current UNIT member Martha Jones recruits the Tenth Doctor for an investigation.Writer Helen Raynor (“Daleks in Manhattan”/”Evolution of the Daleks”) blatantly ignores Chekhov’s instruction and instead goes to some trouble pointing out Martha’s engagement ring and reluctance to use guns.“Of course—That’s how the Doctor will know when she’s replaced by an evil clone in the cliffhanger ending,” the logical audience thinks. Think again.It turns out to be neither obvious detail; instead, the Martha clone simply smells wrong.Similarly, Chekhov’s Boomerang is an item you didn’t realize wasn’t a single-shot gun and comes back into use (the Doctor’s fob watch); Chekhov’s Gunman is any character innocuously and unimportantly introduced who later proves important (Lucy Saxon).For more Whovian wonders check out our Doctor Who gift guide.last_img

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