Welcome back to Geek of All Trades, y’all. This is the place where you get to watch once a month as I stumble through new and geeky things I haven’t tried. The past six months here have been interesting, to say the least – let’s recap:
In general, these have been peppy, upbeat articles where you get to laugh at how bad I am at doing new things. This article might be a little different. Because in this article, I have to do a new thing that’s absolutely devastatingly heartbreaking. I have to say goodbye to my Doctor.
Now, if you’re a Whovian, your face just did this:
But if you’re not, your face probably did this:
Let me explain. As you probably know, Doctor Who has been around for just over 50 years, and centers around the travels of a time-traveling alien-who-looks-just-like-a-human called The Doctor, who moves from place to place in a bright blue police call box (the TARDIS), and has a penchant for saving the human race from enemy species like the Daleks and the Cybermen.
To move the show along, the Doctor has a certain number of “regenerations” – he remains the same person, but his face and his voice change (giving the producers room to cast a new actor). To date, we’ve had 11 – well 12 – Doctors, and we just saw the first episode of our 12th – or uh, 13th, depending on whether or not John Hurt counts (he totally counts).
Still with me? Good. Naturally, this leads the fandom to split a bit among who “their Doctor” is. It’s often the one you began with, the one that taught you to love the series – the one who first led you into the wacky, campy, heartstring-tugging world that is Doctor Who. But it doesn’t have to be – maybe you started with Eccleston, but you’re a Tennant girl. Regardless of which Doctor is “yours,” seeing him go is a process of immeasurable pain. Or so every long-time Whovian had always told me. “My” Doctor was the 11th, and he’ll have been gone exactly one month tomorrow.
Fair warning, this post contains slight spoilers about Doctor Who in general.
You might be saying to yourself, “Why is the regeneration of “your” Doctor so especially painful? Theoretically, he’s the same guy, right?” Well, yes, and that’s why Doctor Who doesn’t experience a massive fallout in ratings and viewership after every regeneration. The show has enjoyed a solid, though at one point niche, fan base for years now, and with the ratings boom that built after the series rebooted in 2005, it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere any time soon.
Yet still, the Whovian fandom is made up of a legion of people who are both passionate about what they are currently watching and nursing deap-seated wounds about what they used to watch. We’re fans of the here and now AND the “glory days” (though exactly when those days are differs for each of us). Each of us is the companion of a past Doctor, reliving our adventures through time and space through the one that replaced him. And that’s hard.
Let me illustrate what I mean through my favorite example – myself. By Doctor Who standards, I’m a fairly new fan – I began watching in 2007, 44 years into the history of the show. (Clearly, I’m a bit of a late bloomer). With so much history to explore, catching up seemed to be impossible, and I decided to make it a bit more manageable by starting where the reboot began – with the 9th Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, and his companion, Rose Tyler. I’d heard stellar things about the series, and I’ve always been a sci-fi fan, so Doctor Who seemed like it would be a perfect fit. I dove into the first few episodes, sure I would form an instant connection.
I liked the general premise of the show, but I had trouble connecting to either of the two leads. This Doctor didn’t look like he was fit to save the world, he looked like a guy who might awkwardly hit on me at the local pub, then exclaim, “I’ve forgot me wallet!” And then rush out, sticking me with picking up his pint. I tried to give him a shot in other avenues – humor, intelligence, feats of strength. This guy just wasn’t my cup of tea, and neither was his companion.
So I decided to see how the show had progressed in the last couple of years, and skipped over the Tenth Doctor (big mistake which I’ve since corrected) to get to the Eleventh. His first episode was also the first of his new companion, Amelia Pond. Instantly, I was hooked.
Here was a Doctor in a body just a few years older than mine, with a mind like a steel trap. I understood about 1 in 10 of the words in each of his plans, but I liked it that way. He was completely brilliant, totally eccentric, and buzzed through each scene with more energy than I have in a week. I didn’t need to understand what he was talking about – I’d follow him anywhere anyway.
And thankfully, I got to live completely vicariously through his brand new companion, Amy Pond – both of us dazzled by the possibility of “anywhere in time and space,” both of us exploring what it means to plan a wedding and commit your life to someone, both of us throwing sassy barbs while sporting Scottish blood and a head full of fiery hair. We are, and have always been, a perfect match.
As the seasons progressed, Eleven’s quirks became more familiar and his character more complex. I will never understand his penchant for wearing fezzes, but he taught me a lot of what I know about showing up (at any cost) for your friends, the importance of using your mind (and not your weapons) to defeat evil, how to be brave in the face of almost certain defeat, and how to cherish every single second of the present (even when it seems that you have endless time). Even if he’s not truly gone, that’s what I’ll miss about my Doctor. That and his stupid bow tie.
Soon enough, there will be fans of Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor that will be in the same position as me and the constant companions of the previous 11 Doctors. And when they join our ranks, they’ll understand – and we’ll be waiting with our bow ties on.