Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Doctor Who: Vale Decem vs. Infinite Potential

If there's one thing you should know about me, it's that I absolutely love the show Doctor Who. One of my favorite aspects of it, besides all of the zany storylines and fantastic characters, is its music.

The composer for the modern series, Murray Gold, really knows how to ramp up the adrenaline and emotion of what is occurring on screen with his music. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the scores he created for the 10th and 11th Doctor's regenerations, dubbed "Value Decem" and "Infinite Potential," respectively.



The 10th Doctor, portrayed by David Tennant, is probably my favorite Doctor. That is the case for many Whovians, and Gold likely knew this when putting together Ten's regeneration theme. The theme, called "Vale Decem," or in English, "Farewell Ten," is extremely emotional and can be rather depressing (I don't suggest listening to it when you're feeling down!)

The 10th Doctor was probably the most "human" iteration of the Doctor that we've seen, and as such he was truly afraid of regeneration, which he equated to dying. The song therefore plays off of the feelings of Ten, as well as that of the viewers. While the Doctor laments the fact that he's about to change, "Vale Decem" mournfully accompanies him towards death. The full translation of the song, embedded above, basically says "farewell, we appreciate what you did for us and will always remember you, farewell..."

I don't want to go.
A tragic ending for one of the more uplifting and optimistic iterations of the Doctor. Ten had a sincere faith in humanity, and though he had a bit of an ego (the Time Lord Victorious persona) and described himself as the "Oncoming Storm" at times, he was still, in the end, as relatable of a Time Lord as one can be. He felt like he was a part of the human race, at least in some way. He didn't want to let that go. 




I hated Matt Smith at first. He was the young upstart who took away my beloved 10th Doctor! But people change, and so did I. Over time, I ended up loving him almost as much as Tennant. I even own his screwdriver, and a "Bow Ties Are Cool" T-Shirt!

Smith was far more of an alien Doctor than Tennant. He was a fool, a genius, socially inept, colorful, oddly physical, and all around an awkward fellow who was unlike any human you or I know. Eleven therefore handled regeneration far differently from Ten, and the music reflects that. While Tennant regenerated to a sob-inducing score, "Infinite Potential" is more nostalgic in tone, which perhaps makes sense given the fact that Smith performed his final inspirational monologue, quoted below, to this tune:

"We all change. When you think about it, we’re all...different people...all through our lives. And that’s okay. That’s good. You gotta keep moving, so long...as you remember...all the people...that you used to be! I will not forget one line of this. Not one day. I swear. I will always remember when the Doctor was me."

I will always remember when the Doctor was me.
As the personification of a truly alien time lord, Eleven knew he was going to change at some point in time, whether it be by permanent death or by regeneration, and he accepted that. Unlike the more human Ten, Eleven embraced the future, taking solace in the fact that he would retain his memories as the Raggedy Man. While Ten turned into Eleven with a look of shock, horror, and utter dismay on his face, Eleven turned into Twelve with a half-grin, ready for whatever is to come.

Infinite Potential is definitely not a cheery song, though it is nowhere near as heart-wrenching as Vale Decem. Whereas Vale Decem is a dirge ("song of death"), Infinite Potential is a song of acceptance, and of looking forwards. Even the name hints to this deeper meaning. Granted a new regeneration cycle, Eleven now has "infinite potential," his life has essentially been reset and he's free to go and do everything he could possibly want to do. This isn't a goodbye; it's a new beginning.

The human Tenth and the alien Eleventh. Looking at them in this way, the different themes of their respective regeneration musics become more clear. Though Infinite Potential's slightly more optimistic melody made it a little bit easier to accept Matt's departure, I still look at the above image of him, and think to myself, "I didn't want you to go."

Whether he portrays a more human or alien Doctor, Peter Capaldi has big shoes to fill.  

2 comments:

  1. Just to let you know, the name of the song is "Vale Decem" not "Vale Decum"

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    1. Thanks! That's what I get for transcribing the title from a YouTube comment.

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