I think that people who disliked the 50th because it changes the outcome of the time war have skewed perspective on what it means for a story to have depth.
"It actually makes the Doctor so much better as a character in my opinion, because it makes him less hypocritical. Have a problem with him mind-wiping Donna’s greatest achievements from her brain without her permission, even though it was the only way to save her? I know I did. But now I know the doctor would allow exactly the same thing to himself BECAUSE HE DID. Feel irritated that he would let River be punished for a killing she never committed? My hand’s up over here. But once again I know the Doctor would allow himself to be put in the same position BECAUSE HE DID."
I find the latter parallel fascinating.
Because, essentially - aren’t both River Song and the Doctor imprisoned for a murder they did not commit?
Both find themselves essentially forced into committing their “crime”, both are shown a way out of this predicament at the last minute, both nevertheless have to suffer the consequences for an act they didn’t do.
For River, this is very much a physical happening - she is forced into the space suit by the Silence, and the laws of time dictate she has to kill the Doctor. Her prison comes with cells and bars, her escape and ultimate pardon are literal in nature.
The Doctor finds himself facing a choice that goes against his very being - yes, there is a choice involved, but how little does there seem to be in circumstances that dire. His prison is his own mind, his guilt, the weight of what he did.
"I have no desire to survive this."
”Then that’s your punishment. If you do this, if you kill them all, then that’s the consequence. You live.”
The Doctor still lives.
His pardon - he knows it will come. Unlike River, his prison doesn’t come with guards he can trick or a lock which can be picked. But time, time will ultimately set him free and he knows that when he makes his decision in The Day of the Doctor.
The comparison is, of course, flawed - nothing, including River killing the man she loves, can truly compare to the genocide of the Doctor’s entire species. But as the OP points out, it puts River’s fate into perspective.
While, personally, I tend to find complaints about the Doctor letting River “rot” in prison somewhat misguided (because it is River Song and no one is “making her” rot in prison, not the law and certainly not the Doctor), TDotD shows the Doctor in somewhat similar circumstances, making a somewhat similar sacrifice. River’s fate no longer stands on its own, he has lived it a thousandfold.
(When he “allows” River to make that sacrifice, the Doctor doesn’t know of this, of course. It makes his prior decision to let her believe she truly killed him all the more wrong. For one moment, he was willing to let her suffer the same fate as he did, but without the respite of knowing the truth in the future.
But in the end, he tells her. And in the end, he remembers what truly happened to Gallifrey.
And ultimately, both of their unrightful punishments find their end.)
Steven Moffat, Grief, and How “…Why It’s Killing Doctor Who” Is Mistaken
(Dedicated to ladymaryandmatthew - have a lovely Christmas, dear!)
I have been asked to address “What Steven Moffat Doesn’t Understand About Grief, and Why It’s Killing Doctor Who”, a wordpress post which you might have seen because links to it have been posted a sheer endless number of times on tumblr. It’s fairly short, so if you’d like to understand my points better, you might want to read it - although I will refer to all major arguments made in the article and, where appropriate, quote from it.
In summary, the article laments what it calls Steven Moffat’s “fear of consequences”, for which it finds evidence in his tendency to reset events and his relatively lower “proper” death count when compared to RTD. Based on this, the author ends on this rather dramatic note:
“When you cannot deal properly with grief or loss or change, you cannot write believable characters or interesting stories. And as long as this show lacks believable, real, characters and engaging stories, it will continue to suffer. So please, for the good of Doctor Who, shed a little blood and actually deal with it. Revel in consequences. Let your human characters behave like humans. In short: restore the heart to a dying show.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I strongly disagree with these remarks. Overall, I find the argumentation sloppy, with the inclusion of storylines Moffat was not in charge of and a somewhat incorrect presentation of RTD era Doctor Who. Throughout it all, I can’t help but wonder whether the person who understands grief less might not be Steven Moffat, but the writer of the article. She also decides to ignore much of the complexity and growth which distinguish Moffat’s characters, but seeing as she only touched upon this subject matter in side remarks, I do not have the appropriate space here to discuss this to its full extent.
Instead, I will question the equating of bloodshed with consequence or character growth and discuss some of the instances mentioned in the article. I will come to the conclusion that Moffat’s era does not lack grief and that we do in fact see characters grieving or being deeply affected by the death of a loved one. For Moffat’s Doctor Who, even the “reset button” never truly represents an obliteration of the events that happened. Instead, they retain their meaning through character’s memories and the impact it has on them.