Thursday, August 4, 2011

True Blood: Eric's Vampire Nature

David Tennant as the Doctor in "Human Nature" and Alexander Skarsgard as Eric in "You Smell Like Dinner." Photos courtesy of danowen.blogspot.com and breesays.buzznet.com.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love the Doctor Who two-parter "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood," and anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows that I am enjoying the hell out of Eric's amnesia storyline on True Blood. It wasn't until the most recent episode, "I Wish I Was the Moon," that I realized that these two things were connected. Much of my fascination with the new, memory-wiped Eric Northman has to do with my deep and abiding love for those two Doctor Who episodes.

I put this together during the last episode, when Eric, captured by Bill and knowing that he was about to face the "true death," told Pam that he didn't want to become the "viking god" Eric again; that he didn't want to know the man who, along with Pam, "killed and fucked" his way through humanity. Sweet, guileless new Eric wanted to remain the man he had become, the man who loved Sookie and would do anything to protect her. Anyone who has seen "Human Nature" and "The Family of Blood" will see the similarities. In these episodes, David Tennant's Doctor becomes completely and fully human in order to escape from the titular ruthless family. He settles down in England under the name John Smith, teaching at a boy's school and falling in love with Joan Redfern (Jessica Stevenson). He knows nothing of his past as The Doctor.

Eric's line to Pam is heavily reminiscent of John Smith's reaction when he finds out his true identity, and is forced to make a choice: whether to remain John Smith and live happily with Joan, or whether to become the Doctor, the man who is "like night and the storm and the heart of the sun." When told by his companion Martha that the Doctor never gave her instructions on what to do if he should fall in love, he is horrified, fearful of dying in order to become a man to whom it would never occur that he might fall in love. It makes his ultimate decision to turn back into the Doctor and save the world painful and tragic rather than triumphant, and emphasizes the loneliness of the last Time Lord.

The Doctor and Eric are similar characters in many ways, even without their amnesia arcs echoing one another. They are both deeply lonely men, constantly living with the knowledge that they are different and that they cannot have the one thing they want: love, whether it be with Joan Redfern or Sookie Stackhouse. Eric is violent and frightening, but the Doctor is as well, a man whose name in Lorna Bucket's language does not mean "healer," but "warrior." And they are both marked by deep tragedy; Eric by the murders of his family and the death of his maker, the Doctor by the extinction of his own people at his hands. The personas they take on when their memories are lost are their only chance at redemption. Redemption through love.

I know, as (I hope) do the True Blood writers, that Eric can't remain amnesiac forever. The vampires need their Viking God to defeat the witch who wants them all to burn. Bill needs his sheriff. Pam needs her maker. Having seen "Human Nature" and "The Family of Blood," I know how Eric's relationship with Sookie must end. As beautiful and hopeful as he is now, he must at some point go back to being his true self, and break her heart in the process. Let's just hope that, like the Doctor, he learns a few things along the way.

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