Final Fantasy VIII and Doctor Who: An Analysis
Final Fantasy VIII is something of a Black Sheep in the franchise. As it is my favorite game, I am not entirely sure why. Part of it might be the jarringly different magic mechanic, along with a stiff translation that fouled all the personalities of a number of characters, especially Squall and Rinoa, combined with a battle system that, if exploited correctly, could result in blowing through the game. However, I found it to be a game, even with the mistranslations, to have a good plot, and the battle system made the game a load of fun that can only be matched by Fallout and Skyrim.
But, I need to stop digressing, because Final Fantasy VIII is an incredibly fascinating game to look at plot wise, and actually resembles the Revived Doctor Who in terms of story-telling, which adds more than a little depth to the story. Also, since Final Fantasy VIII is about 16 years old, there will be no spoiler warning.
The Villains and their Schemes
Rassilon, as seen in The End of Time
This is probably the easiest, and most obvious jumping of point for this article, so lets consider the basic plans of the villain. Ultimecia wishes to be able to initiate a process called Time Compression. Doing this would enable to recreate the Universe in her own image, as what would essentially be a Goddess.
If this sounds at all familiar to Doctor Who fans, it should. Because this was Rassilon’s Plan during the 10th Doctor’s Final Story, The End of Time. In that story, Rassilon planned to use something called the Ultimate Sanction, which would cause a paradox so severe, that space-timee would rupture, destroying the universe. However, Rassilon had devised a way for the TIme Lords to escape as beings of pure consciousness, unaffected by causality.
This sounds an awful lot like the Time Compression mentioned above. Not to mention, the part about becoming beings of pure Consciousness certainly sounds like attaining Deity-esque levels of power. Of course, even though The End of Time would not come out until almost 11 years after Final Fantasy VIII, playing it now can certainly colour the way people read the plot of Final Fantasy VIII afterwards, because there is a far amount of leeway in terms of how one interprets the game.
The Nature of Time in Final Fantasy VIII
Of course, this would likely be the next logical step to talk about in regards to their connections, because one would need to get an idea of how time might operate in the Final Fantasy VIII universe. At first glance we might have to accept that Ellone’s statement during Disc 3 as correct:
“You can’t change the past. I just found that out. When I was kidnapped, Uncle Laguna went on a journey to find me… But because he did, Uncle Laguna wasn’t able to be by Raine’s side when she died. Raine wanted to show Laguna her new born baby… Raine kept calling out for Laguna. So no matter what, I wanted Laguna to stay in the village… But it didn’t work. I can no longer make it back to that moment… And also… I can only send you inside someone I’ve met before. I’m sorry, Squall. I’m about to disconnect. I’ll try again to speak to you this way.”
In Final Fantasy VIII, Ellone was able to send the minds of three characters to the past, which apparently did have an effect on the 3 people in the past, as they could feel it. This is mentioned at the beginning of Disc 2 by Laguna and Kiros. Moreover, we never see Ellone project herself into the past, like Ultimecia does, using a machine invented to mimic the brain patterns of Ellone to allow the user, Ultimecia in this case, to projected herself into the past, where she is capable to taking total possession of anyone she is inhabiting, as seen with Edea and Rinoa. It is fairly safe to say that one can affect the past, but Ellone is either unable to do it for herself, or doesn’t know the full abilities of her powers. More on that in a little bit though.
Another facet of the same issue may be that her own ability to affect time during the period when the game takes place is that the main actors in the game are stuck in a time loop of sorts. Much like Madame Kovarian during the 11th Doctor Era, Ultimecia was trying to prevent her an event in history from happening. But in doing, her interference caused the event in the first place. Of course, there are other examples of this in Doctor Who, but Madam Kovarian’s situation is the closest to Ultimecia’s. Being stuck in the time loop, logically, would mean one’s actions might be pushed in a certain direction, though whether this was a result of the Time Loop itself, or those with knowledge of the Time Loop is a question to be considered a little later?
Is there a Doctor and a TARDIS analogue?
Before we get to the final point, where I try to wrap this up, this would seem to be the a logical point to go to. With so many parallels, are there any for the the mainstays of Doctor Who?
I would argue that there are, though the analogue to the TARDIS is far more obvious than any to the Doctor.
Ellone essentially serves as the TARDIS for Final Fantasy 8. She is the one to send the consciousness of the Characters back to the past, and a machine is eventually made to replicate her abilities in the future.
As for a direct equivalent to the Doctor, that is far more difficult, but there are people in the story who seem to have a clearer picture both of what is going on, and how to move through the Story.
The most obvious of these is Edea. She was the one who had the nearly adult Squall show up, and got the power from Ultimecia when she followed Squall back through time and died at the end. In the story she gave her husband the idea to create Gardens, which would be used to fight the Sorceresses. It is unclear how aware Cid, her husband, was of the events going on. He certainly took every opportunity to force power onto Squall, which would suggest that he knew that Squall was involved with what happened to Ultimecia, and he likely had some idea of the time travel as a result. She likely became far more aware of what would happen after Ultimecia stopped possessing her, as we find out from the script that she was the one explained things to Odine, and Laguna later on in Disc 3. In most stories, the Doctor has a significant degree of awareness of situations above those of his companions and other characters, or at the very least, is more perceptive.
Which brings us to the 2nd Analogue. Laguna Loire. He was the one, with the help of Odine, who took the information they learned from Edea, and came up with the plan to be able to be meet Ultimecia, although, as of the wall as it was. However, an Whovian will be able to tell you, rarely are the Doctor’s plans a simple affair, and quite often, they are quite crazy. Humorously, Laguna is not the smart one between him and Edea, and possibly Cid, but he is the charismatic one, which is something most Doctors have been, along with being incredibly smart.
As for the main characters? Their role would seem to be akin to the Companions, though Squall does turn into an effective leader, able to make hard decisions, and some tactical choices. But overall, they remind me of a quote about the Doctor from Davros.
You take ordinary people, and you fashion them into weapons.
And it really does fit. The main 6, save Rinoa characters are no older than 18 years old. And they have been trained for years at a private military academy. The were ordinary, albeit orphaned children, but over time were turned into Weapons, so to speak. Rinoa is unusual, as she actually chose fighting, giving her a degree independence from the other 5, who were put onto a certain track.
How this changes the interpretation of Final Fantasy VIII
Of course, the final point is in regards to how this could change how the story is viewed. And it does change things a fair amount. For example, remember the circumstances that led to Rassilon wanting to use the Ultimate Sanction? Namely, that the Time Lords were at the brink of defeat against the Daleks, with Dalek Ships have gotten to Gallifrey.
Now, lets go to Final Fantasy VIII, when we first see Ultimecia’s Castle in the future.
I am going to note that I remember the screen immediately preceding this one has even more bodies strewn on the ground. This seems to suggest that perhaps Ultimecia is losing her fight. The SeeDs fighting her got to a point just outside the front gate. Not only that, but once you enter her castle, it is hard not to notice that the castle is in serious disrepair, and several areas are heavily damaged. Perhaps her attempt at Time Compression was an attempt to escape defeat at the last moment?
Parallel to this theory is the fact that we really do not know much about a specific reason why, though through her speaking through Edea, we do know that the Sorceresses of her time are hated. This is in contrast to the current time frame during Final Fantasy VIII. While there is a fear of sorceresses during Final Fantasy VIII, because of the one who ruled Esthar, and thought that Edea could be used to intimidate other nations. However, from other information in the story, we learn of 2 other un-named Sorceresses. One stood up for her failing nation, the other submitted her self to research, which helped develop the form of magic used in the game by most of the non-players. Certainly, it was a fearful respect, but not the outright hate we hear from Edea when Ultimecia is speaking through her.
“…Lowlifes. …Shameless filthy wretches. How you celebrate my ascension with such joy. Hailing the very one whom you have condemned for generations. Have you no shame? What happened to the evil, ruthless sorceress from your fantasies? The cold-blooded tyrant that slaughtered countless men and destroyed many nations? Where is she now? She stands before your very eyes to become your new ruler. HAHAHAHAHA.”
Of course, there would be a simple explanation for that. What she did was history, and after that crisis ended, people would be watchful of the Sorceresses. At some later point, as history became fuzzier and fuzzier, persecution would start, and eventually one of these Sorceresses would become Ultimecia after being pushed too far. This theory is actually detailed in a previous link, provided here again. And there is even good examples from the Real World of this. Look at the mysteries still surrounding where Vinland is located, mentioned in the Nordic Sagas, and whose validity has been bolstered by the discovery of a Settlement in Newfoundland, and discovery of a settlement at Baffin Island. Or, for an even better example, with more historical detail, lets look to the Muslim World.
During the Islamic Golden Age, which roughly lasted from the days of the Rashidun Caliphate, to the destruction of Baghdad by the Mongols, there were quite a large number of developments that would be forgotten for centuries, with the most glaring one being the first theory of evolution. Scholars such as al-Jahiz in the 8-9th Centuries, Ibn Khaldun, at the end of the Golden Age, and perhaps the most detailed complex writings on this came from Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, who lived in what is Iran from 1201 to 1274. However, since that time, more reactionary and traditionalist people have become dominant in the Muslim world causing the Islamic World to fall behind, depriving the Muslim World of what had once been its strength, its ability to absorb ideas from elsewhere, a thirst for knowledge, and a want and need to push forward.
In addition, let’s go back to Ellone, and her saying time cannot be changed. While this again, could be seen as true at first, we do know that the consciousness of the various characters have very real effects on the world. Which could mean two things. One, that Ellone cannot use this power on herself. We only ever hear about her sending others back, but another possibility is that, since she is caught in the Time Loop, her ability to affect things is heavily reduced. The 11th Doctor, during The Time of the Doctor, refers to this as the Destiny Paradox.
TASHA: Not me. The Kovarian Chapter broke away. They travelled back along your timeline and tried to prevent you ever reaching Trenzalore.
DOCTOR: So that’s who blew up my Tardis. I thought I’d left the bath running.
TASHA: They blew up your time capsule, created the very cracks in the universe through which the Time Lords are now calling.
DOCTOR: The destiny trap. You can’t change history if you’re part of it.
Ellone is a core to the story, as she is the one who is ultimately has to send Ultimecia farther back into the past, which, because of Ultimecia’s interference, she is destined to do.
A final curiosity would be the nature of the end of the game itself. Is the game a true time loop, like the Doctor Who episodes Blink and Time Heist, or more like the one in The Big Bang? This one, can realistically be only food for thought. While Ultimecia does attempt to absorb time and space in the final battle, it is never stated how successful she was before being defeated, though she got quite a ways through the process. But, even with contextual evidence that can be applied from one series to another, based on similarities, the incredibly esoteric imagery at the end of Final Fantasy VIII simply does not provide enough information for a firm grounding in any direction. Don’t believe me? Look at this.
I forgot one section, which, while not directly related to the rest, solidifies the connection between New Who, and Final Fantasy VIII. That thing is love. In Final Fantasy VIII, this turns out to be a very important driver to the plot. It causes Squall to cross half an ocean on the off chance of bringing Rinoa out of a coma.
In addition, the care Squall’s teammates put in to try and fix some very real emotional damage is incredibly obvious throughout the game, and Laguna’s time travel plan hinges on the the fact that the 6 of them will remain connected through their bonds to one another.
In New Who, especially under Moffat’s showrunning, love has also been an incredble driving force. It was Rose’s Love for the 9th that pushed her to become Bad Wolf, and the love towards the Doctor and between his companions was a huge factor in defeating Davros. It is what led Rory to wait 2000 years for Amy, and love for Amy by both the 11th and Rory caused them to go on a rampage during A Good Man Goes to War. It led Clara to put her life on the line to protect the Doctor more times than any companion before, and what led the Doctor to rescue her during the Name of the Doctor, and save her soul by offering to kill the Master. And it is what led the Brigadier to overpower his Cyberman Body, and vanquish the Master to save the Doctor.
Love can be an amazing force, driving one to do things that one previously thought you could never do. It can make one far more powerful than one can imagine. Without love, the Doctor wuould have been defeated long ago, and without love, Ultimecia would have one. This ephasis on Love is the final connection between Doctor Who, especially New Who, and Final Fantasy VIII.
I should have a pure Doctor Who page in the next few days. A pre-season commentary, which will include the evolution of what has been happening in Doctor Who Canon during the off-season.