Doctor Who Turns Me Into a Quivering Jelly Baby
Peter Tatara - December 30, 2009
Doctor Who turns me into a quivering jelly baby, but it hasn't always. In fact, it hasn't until fairly recently. My oldest and only memory of the show's original run is a singular instance from my youth, my father watching an episode on our local PBS affiliate. He wanted me to watch with him, but I looked at it -- an oddly-dressed man running from an unconvincing Tyrannosaurus in contemporary England -- and wanted nothing to do with the thing. My second recollection of Doctor Who was the television movie in the '90s shown in the USA on FOX. I watched it and wanted to like it, but I hadn't a clue what was going on. I did download the theme as a new-fangled .WAV on the similarly-new-fangled internet and played it for days and days and days. My third encounter with Doctor Who was on the Sci Fi Channel. While Sci Fi had been airing the 21st Century reimagining of the show for some time, I only started paying attention with an all-day marathon of Series Two episodes, and I fell in love.
I couldn't understand for the life of me why I hadn't gotten hooked sooner. The show was nothing short of a joy. While my taste in science fiction tends to be weighted heavily in colossal narratives (Babylon 5), intricate mythology (LOST), and brooding drama (Battlestar Galactica), Doctor Who shocked me by being exactly the opposite. It was fun, it was silly, and it was spectacular. About a man who travels through space and time fighting monsters with nothing but his smarts and an outer space screwdriver, I couldn't believe how simple and -- yet -- how wonderful it was.
I couldn't get enough, quickly got myself up to speed, and just as quickly started evangelizing The Doctor to all my friends. While I've never made a hard sell over any other television series -- or comic book or video game -- to any of my friends before, Doctor Who was something that just had to be seen, and I'm proud to say while my girlfriend doesn't know the first thing about Star Trek or Star Wars, she's become a genuine Doctor Who fan thanks to me.
I'm writing this now in the last week of 2009, days after the first half of The End of Time, the two-parter that finishes David Tennant's run, in an attempt at quantifying my fandom for the series and -- specifically -- the neurosis I have for the show. Doctor Who, for some magic reason, has an ability to possess me and all-over consume me that I just can't understand. Looking at this past year alone, it's taken ownership of me with a staggering regularity.
In Silence In The Library and The Forest of the Dead, The Doctor lands on a planet-wide library and novelly comes face-to-face with spoilers about his own future as well as a woman -- River Song -- who knows The Doctor intimately, while The Doctor hasn't the faintest clue as to who the hell she is. The Doctor's a smart man, having been able to vanquish many an alien, monster, and even the Devil himself, with nothing but his intellect, but here he was stupefied by a woman who knew impossible things about him. As the first half of the two-parter came to a close, I became obsessed with finding out more. Who was River Song? Where did she come from? What did she know about The Doctor? I consumed every rumor, every spoiler, and every blatantly-wrong bit of speculation I could. It was literally a week when my every thought was about River Song and what would happen next. Seven solid days of being unable to function.
This happened again with The Doctor's Daughter, and all it took was the episode's name to trip me up. The Doctor's daughter? How does The Doctor have a daughter? The Doctor can't have a daughter! Needing to know more, I scoured the internet before its broadcast to try to comprehend the title. Once it aired, the episode was fairly pedestrian, although I've warmed up to it since, and it did include some moments that I still fixate on today. What did The Doctor mean when he said his daughter was "too much like him"? I still fancy these words coming back again and again.
Looking to the two-part episode that finished off Series Four, The Stolen Earth and Journey's End, I was again rapt, and the cliffhanger between the two set my mind ablaze. An impossibly colossal plot point, The Doctor's seeming demise, had me racing to consume anything and everything about the next episode. It excited me and the entire Who-loving slice of the internet. How could David Tennant die? Here and now? Didn't he have another year? Didn't they already film more episodes? Were they flashbacks? Fakes? In the end, The Doctor's death in The Stolen Earth was resolved in but a few moments in Journey's End, but it had spun out seven days of online insanity -- and I can only imagine panic in the streets in Great Britain.
But now here we are at the midpoint of The End of Time. The final Doctor Who episode starring David Tennant. The Doctor really is going to die. And he's got The Master and a whole planet of Time Lords involved in it. And I'll admit that I've spent hours a day combing through everything I can find online about how it all shakes out. I know everything I'm reading is wrong, but I don't care. Be it the most preposterous, impracticable theory, I want to read it, and I want to read it for the same reason some fan wrote it. Because -- for some magic reason -- he loves Doctor Who, and he's trying to express that devotion. He, I, and every other Doctor Who fan is equally worked up, and we're creating a time and a space out of our energies that's made of nothing but pure joy. I mean it. It's all about adventure. It's all about fun. And the fans throwing their ideas at the wall, and the fans inspecting them to see what sticks are all doing this because we don't want the adventure to end. We love it, and we love it all the more as we're down to the David Tennant finale, a man who's become this generation's -- my generation's -- definitive Doctor. You've got fans booing and hissing, and you've got just as many applauding and cheering this final episode. It's probably -- definitely -- the most out there the reimagined Doctor Who has ever gone, and while a lot of the detractors are complaining about the craziness, that's so much of what the show is. A quiet, introspective episode about The Doctor filled with brooding and malice? Or a balls out, over the top, bat shit insane conundrum that brings Earth, Gallifrey, and all of time and space to its knees?
Doctor Who is a joyous adventure about a man who fights monsters, and while The End of Time is going to some dark places, it remains an adventure still, with stakes and set pieces bigger than anything in the show's history.
And I cannot wait for Saturday to see how it all wraps up. Friends are coming over, BBC America is being turned on, and we've already got a box of tissues set aside.