06. Extremis (A Friend of Mine)

A brief power outage at about 9:00pm caused me to miss the first 5-10 minutes of this episode the first time through. I’m using this as an excuse for having to watch it a second time to really get it, but let’s be honest, I probably would have needed a full second viewing even without the outage. Oh, the Moffat-y twists! I read a lovely review that described this episode as a Dan Brown book meets The Matrix, and I agree 110%. Since I like both of these things well enough and Doctor Who much more, I was happy! And the cherry on top, Missy is back!

missy im your friend gif.gif
“I know I’m going to die. I have to say it, the truth. Without hope. Without witness. Without reward.”               (image source)

Keeping Missy in mind, one thing that intrigues me from this episode is the friendship between the Doctor and Missy/the Master. We hear over and over that they are or once were friends; however, they’re in constant conflict when we see them together on the show. How does this work? Can they really be friends in spite of all their drama and dissension? And if so, what does it mean to be friend? As friendship is a constant theme in Doctor Who, I thought this would be a fun topic to explore.

extremis shes a friend.gif
“Of course she’s not dead.” (image source)

A Friend of Mine

One idea is that our friends are our allies, similar to allying countries in a time of war. This idea is formally called the “Alliance Hypothesis” and is backed by research from a group at the University of Pennsylvania. The researchers suggest that we choose our friends in part based on “cognitive mechanisms designed to assemble support groups for potential conflicts.” Or, who will be there for us when we need them the most.

Along these lines, the Doctor *thinks* Missy is a friend he can call on in the most difficult of times (e.g. when he’s blind and the world is taken over by all-powerful alien monks). I wonder if Missy will be the friend he thinks she is this time? As a forever optimist I’m hoping so!

extremis vault.gif
“Something’s coming, Missy, and I’m blind. How can I save them when I’m lost to the dark?” (image source)

Friendship has a number of benefits (I know this sounds obvious, but some of these are cool and maybe unexpected!). People with satisfying relationships among family and friends are generally “happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer“. In addition, friends can give us confidence. To demonstrate, participants in a study were asked to stand in front of a hill and evaluate its steepness. People who stood alone described the hill as being steeper than those who were standing next to a friend.

What I found to be super interesting is that pain intolerance can predict how many friends we have. In this study conducted at Oxford, young adults completed a survey on their social networks. To test pain tolerance, they were asked to do a “wall sit” and hold the position for as long as possible. Results showed that people with larger social networks held the position for a longer time. More friends = greater pain tolerance.

Finally, evolutionary biology suggests (probable) reasons why we make friends. Friendship isn’t unique to humans and modern times.A main question from an evolutionary perspective is why would we invest our resources in someone who isn’t related to us? Possibly because interacting with friends makes us feel good, which biologically means release of feel-good chemicals like dopamine that relieve stress. Or, maybe a long time ago friends were needed to provide support and protection in a fight or share food.

I already knew my friends, like Doctor’s friends, are hella cool. What I’ve learned is that they’re even more amazing and important than I already knew! Hooray for friendship! I think Ten sums it up quite nicely…

hand to hold gif
“There’s a lot of things you need to get across the universe. Warp drive, worm refractors…” (image source)
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