Doctor Who

They say your first Doctor makes an impression. Mine certainly did. He ran into my life in a trademark blue suit, skidded several feet, and screamed, “OH, I AM BRILLIANT!” … and I loved him for it. My Doctor does not wear a white lab coat (well, maybe once…) or use a stethoscope (well, okay, he does, but usually to listen through walls) or prescribe medicine. My Doctor saves worlds on a daily basis. He does it with sarcasm, cheek, and a British accent. My Doctor is Doctor Who of the classic, cheesy sci-fi series by the BBC.

Doctor Who is a weird show with an occasional liberal slant. I’ll grant you that. But if you’re British, you have been raised on it. It is to England what tea is to the Queen: an essential part of life. I wish I had been raised on it, but I discovered it as an adult many years later, ten different Doctors into the franchise. David was my first Doctor, and to me will continue to be the Doctor even after the “new kid” comes in.

The indicators of my emotional response to his departure are evident. Watching The Waters of Mars, several things happened. First, I got a lump in my throat when he walked out of the TARDIS with his trademark grin. You know the one: it says, “I am an all powerful and sincerely awesome Time Lord. I am also the smartest man in the room and dashingly handsome to boot.”

Okay, so I’m not sure how much of that grin is the Doctor’s and how much of it is David’s, but let’s not nitpick.

Anyway… I felt a lump in my throat, and it started to loosen halfway through the episode when he was lamenting on being the last of his kind. In the last ten or so minutes I felt a pain in my stomach and then in watching the preview for his final two episodes, my eyes got misty. In another five or so weeks, the Doctor will either Die or Regenerate and the fans will say farewell to David Tennant. If my family thought me losing Donna was bad, they are going to dread my reaction to this year’s Christmas specials. I came stumbling out of their guest room over the holiday and looked like the TARDIS had crash-landed on me.

“Uh-oh,” Mom said. “Who died on Doctor Who?”

Twenty minutes and one rant later, she was sorry she had asked.

Christmas is supposed to be a happy time! It is not supposed to start up my waterworks and leave me cursing Russell T. Davis’ very existence. I well remember that atrocious conclusion with Rose and the alternate universe. I remember Donna losing her mind and becoming “just a temp” one more time. I remember the Doctor having to leave her! I also remember temper tantrums and rants with friends and general angst. It made for a memorable holiday season.

However, Davis did manage to deliver this time. It’s not that creepy water-possessed characters that I will remember so much as the Doctor’s ongoing emotional journey. Long after the sinister fissure-like cracked faces vanish from my mind, the repercussions from his choice and that horrific moment in which the audience realizes how truly terrifying the Doctor could be will linger in our minds. Admit it. The wide-eyed Doctor, with an almost evil gleam, shouts that he is the Lord of Time and will force its obedience, and just for an instant we felt a bit sick inside. The Doctor does not lose it. The Doctor has more common sense than that. The Doctor is not supposed to go against the laws of time: some things are fixed events, and you do not tamper with them.

Throughout the series, there have been hints leading to this conclusion. Martha eventually ceased traveling with the Doctor because she had seen too much of what he was capable of. Donna said that the Doctor sometimes needs someone to stop him. And now you have the fierce Lindsay Duncan (who frankly scares me on her good days) staring him down in a snowy street and telling him he has no business controlling fate and meddling with time, and no one should ever have that much power — the power to change the world forever.

I have seen the dark side of the Doctor. I remember him locking a girl into a mirror and forcing an alien to spend eternity as a scarecrow. I recall the destruction of the spider-like creatures on his first meeting with Donna. The Doctor might have a conniption fit whenever he sees a gun, but he has time and again eradicated entire races in his pursuit of a higher purpose. The Doctor has always had a bit of a God complex — it is his choice whether races survive or are wiped out. It is an incredible burden to know everything and have a decision as to whether or not to intervene. It is getting to him. My Doctor is going just a little bit insane. Maybe it is knowing that the end is near that encourages his recklessness, or maybe it is just that at long last the sadness is hammering him, causing him to almost dare fate to take him.

It is a journey that has become more and more apparent with the passing of time and the that I believe we will see more of in the final two episodes before another writer takes the literary helm and steers us into a new destiny for the Doctor. I will give the new fellow a chance but somehow think it is going to be hard for him to follow in such big shoes. Like him or hate him, whether he is “your” Doctor or not — and with all due respect to Christopher Eccleston fans — I think we’re all going to miss David when he goes. Especially depending on the manner in which he goes. If he loses it, my heart will break. I have already cried over him many times. Remember when he was mortal for a time? Rip my heart out and stomp on it, why don’t you?

In many respects, I think the new Doctor must be completely different. But if that comes to pass, it will feel as if the true Doctor has actually died — and I don’t know how the fans could bear it. Which is more painful, having another actor dashing and skidding about in David’s tennis shoes or having no remnant of him at all?

8 thoughts on “Doctor Who

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  1. I just got into “Doctor Who” this past year and I'm so very glad that I did. I love it. Well, the doctor. I'm not much of a sci-fi fan – but like you said, we watch the show for the doctor. It's about HIM and we love him. Your post was great – I feel just as you do.

    And Michelle ^^ I feel exactly as you do about the show…LOVED your comment!!

  2. Hi Charity

    I am very much on your side with this one. When the Christmas episode finally came, I cried multiple times, and every time I rewatch it for Tennant's spectacular acting and the glorious tragedy of the thing, I cry some more. But I always saw 'The Waters of Mars' not as the beginning of the end, but the end of the end.

    Nine was my first Doctor, but Ten was with us for several years, and so he is *my* Doctor too, but looking back you can kind of see the descent beginning. Nine was grouchy and temporamental in the aftermath of the war, and his regenration into the chirpy madcap Ten seemed right, because it was over, he'd done it, and it was high time for a new start. And Ten was such fun! He was still the tragic hero we love but he was new and shiny and relatively untainted by the weight of the past. And it was all fun and games until he lost Rose. And then Martha (much as I disliked her, probably because she had the audacity to develop a crush on him when both we and him were all still mourning Rose), and things got more serious for Ten. Donna was simply brilliant, but in my head I think it started around 'Midnight'. You saw the fear in the Doctor, the weakness and the panic. And then Donna was gone too, and in such an awful way. Of all three companions she at least deserved to go gracefully, not in the way she did, and not back to the life that she did. To me it seemed like the final straw that broke the camel's back. The man that stepped out of the Tardis and into 'Waters of Mars' was a Doctor broken, a Doctor alone and afraid, and waiting to die. And I think it ended the way it did not because the Doctor had a God-complex or a bad day, but simply because he'd lost so much, dealt with so mucb hurt, and he couldn't stand to lose one single thing more even if it meant breaking all the laws of Time to do it. He failed of course, and you could see it destroyed him, but it was something that had been coming for a while.

    In that respect I was kind of glad that he got the ending he did. Was it heartbreaking watching him stifle sobs in a London cafe, or curled up in agony on the floor of that glass booth? of course it was. Was it awful seeing him stagger towards the Tardis in the snow, and give his final line? Absolutely. And did I cry? Bucketloads. I was very sombre and quiet for about 3 days after, but I'm like that. I get involved. But in a funny way I'm almost glad he was allowed to die, because at least it was over. Finally there would be no more burden, he'd reached the end, done everything he was meant to do, and it represented some kind of rest for him. I can't imagine him waking up the next day, getting out of bed and continuing on alone. The Regeneration is the ultimate new beginning, and I think Ten was more in need of it than any of his past versions.

    That said, I'm okay with Eleven so far (waiting for the series to warm up and really get going, but even if he is very different, he is certainly a Doctor)

  3. Re Charity:

    Yeah, I'm not sure I'll like the new guy either. Pretty much for the same reasons. To be fair, I think anyone would have trouble filling David Tennant's shoes, though.

    And although a the few things I haven't liked about the tenth Doctor have been more of his 'human' things (falling in love with Rose, etc.), there are a lot more things that I have loved about him.

    Re Lady Neferank:

    Actually, this made a lot of sense to me. I think the Doctor is feeling very lonely. If I remember right, this is only the second regeneration since the Time Lords were destroyed. (I'm not positive on this, because I'm not familiar with any of the 'old' Whos) I think that is getting to him. He has tried having human companions, but the result of that is three heartbreakers in a very short period of time.

    In my mind, his motivation for trying to interfere with history was two-fold. Not only did he want to save the people who were supposed to die, he wanted to prove that he could change those 'set moments'. He wanted to be able to go back and change that one 'set moment' that robbed him of companionship. He wanted to bring back the Time Lords.

    Now, I could be wrong, but that is just the way I saw it.

    Oh, and as far as getting emotionally involved in TV shows, I'm terrible. I cried several times during The Waters of Mars, mostly from the incredibly sad/intense/tragic expressions that David Tennant can pull off.

  4. I think the thing that outraged me so much about this particular episode, was not so much that the Doctor was “playing God”, or taking the lives of the crew into his own hands–after all, on a daily basis, top officials, prominent businessmen, and government leaders make decisions that can send ripples around the world and influence countless people–what shocked me was that he felt he “knew better” than history. After all his experiences showing him that history can be so delicate, that even the most well meant attempts are invariably thwarted are go awry–he still thought he could do it–and tried to do it–with something as momentous as the future of the human race. To me, evidence of such overweening pride, was far more shocking than a flash of sadism would have been.

    The doctor talks of how the timelords were like the masters of time, and yet it seemed to me from what I gleaned in previous episodes, that the timelords' arrogance was their undoing.

    You'd think the doctor, of all people, would know better.

  5. You're not the only one who is impacted by shows. I frequently become emotionally involved in programs, and “Doctor Who” is one of them. I have cried SO MANY TIMES while watching it. Usually when he cries, because I cannot stand to see a grown man cry.

    There aren't many spoilers to be had, so the only thing everyone knows is based off of previews for the final episode. Which do contain a shot of Donna, and her grandfather. And… someone else. I hesitate to say in case you didn't see it.

    Regeneration does have an impact on Time Lords. Ten is a bit different than Nine. The one thing that has people a little concerned is that the Doctor shouldn't know when he's going to Regenerate. It usually takes him by surprise, so the fact that this Doctor is suddenly obsessed with his death means it might not go over the way we think…

  6. Thanks for this! I'm glad I'm not the only one who gets so affected by a TV show. My parents cannot understand it and tell me I am crazy because IT'S NOT REAL! Yes, I know it's not real. But it makes me sad anyway.

    I am staying spoiler free, but I sure hope the ending is not him… just completely cracking up. Though, can that even happen? I hate the concept of regeneration that is the trademark of the show, but my limited understanding is that it's still the same person more or less? So I can't imagine that he'd completely lose his mind.

    But then, after the ending they gave Donna, I don't put anything past them. And that's what scares me.

    It has never once occurred to me that she would return at all, but wow, I would die of joy to see her again. Like you said, it would almost make up for the rest.


  7. Paige — I had to talk about it somewhere or explode!

    I'm not sure how I am going to respond to the new guy. He doesn't appeal to me at all looks-wise and he seems very young, but then I rather suspect I was going to hate anyone who came after Ten anyway. It all comes down to if I can “take” him in the role or not. Moffat is an excellent writer and has done most of my favorite episodes, but unless the actor cannot carry it off I don't know if I will tune in as regularly or with as much excitement.

    David's Doctor is indeed more human than many of the other variations of the character. Some people don't like that, but I think it makes him more understandable and easier to identify with — instead of being cold and distant, he is approachable and sweet. And yes, just a wee bit insane. But he does seem to be getting more mad as time goes on, and I think it has to do with losing three companions in such rapid succession. Rose in a parallel universe (however much I disliked her, it still was horrible for him), Martha because she couldn't take it anymore, and perhaps most tragically of all, Donna losing her mind and forgetting all about him. THAT was sad.

    The Master is beyond awesome, but yes, I know that I will watch the last two episodes with heaviness in my heart and tears in my eyes. I hope Donna comes back. If they do in fact make their exit together, it will almost make up for all the rest.

    Never apologize for a long comment. I love them, as it gives me something to respond to. =)

  8. Oh, why! Oh, why, did you have to bring up last nights episode again! I was trying to suppress those memories!

    David Tennant was my first Doctor too, and I don't really know how I'll cope when he's gone. Your question at the end will be hard for me to answer. I have to say that unless the New Doctor really captures me in the first episode, well, I don't know what I'll do.

    I think what I love most about David's Doctor (besides David's acting and looks, of course) is the fact that a lot of his emotions are very understandable. I think he is much more 'human' than other versions of the Doctor. At times, this causes him to do things I don't really like, but I understand him.

    I think this last episode is an example of why this Doctor, in particular, needs a companion. He needs someone to help him to see reason, and to not become power-hungry in the name of saving things (or destorying them). And yet, he refuses to travel with someone now, because of the emotional pain his last three companions have caused him. I truly think his grief and his need for companionship is driving him mad.

    I am dreading the next specials, despite the return of the Master, whom I love. I'm really hoping they have something epic planned for Donna and the Tenth Doctor. Maybe they make their exit together?

    Anyway, sorry for the long comment. Your post reminded me of all the things I had swimming around in my head after watching the episode last night, and I had to get them out there.

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