The night before Easter marked the arrival of the Eleventh Doctor.
Matt Smith admittedly had a tough act to follow. Christopher Eccleston reintroduced the new series by generating sparks with Rose Tyler and then David Tennant took over… and the fandom was born. More than that, it exploded. It’s no wonder why, considering “Ten” had a dorky adorableness working for him — and was just plain nuts. For the next several seasons and several specials, Ten made us laugh and cry. He snogged more girls than the show’s original creators could have ever dreamed of. Two of his assistants fell head over heels in love with him and then — well, Donna arrived. She certainly was not “in love” with him (good for her) but she filled that niche in his heart the others never could by being the best friend a time lord could have.
Then the news hit, a two-in one. The first filled fans with glorious expectation — Moffat was taking over. Moffat, the genius behind some of the series’ most outstanding episodes… “The Doctor Dances,” “The Girl in the Fireplace,” “Blink,” and “Forest of the Dead.” Moffat, a man who can systematically scare the hell out of us and gouge out a few tears at the same time. Admit it — who didn’t cry at the end of “The Girl in the Fireplace” when the Doctor says farewell to Madame Pompadour? And which one of us can claim to watching “Blink” late at night, in the dark, alone? Yeah, me neither. I have become suspicious of shadows and stone angels thanks to Moffat. He was the terrific news. The bad news was that David was leaving. Cue screams of outrage and howls of despair. Multiply that by wailing fangirls tearing out chunks of their hair and swearing never, ever to return to the franchise.
Then came the new casting, and the whining started. I should know, I was right in the middle of it. The new Doctor is too young. Too homely. Too cute. Too psychotic. His outfit sucks. His hair sucks. His face sucks. His voice sucks. What do you mean they are re-designing the Tardis and getting a new theme song? That sucks!!
Some of us (and I won’t say who) bounced back and forth between severe depression and absolute determination not to like the new Doctor. Then the last special with Ten in it came out and all of us freaking cried. My father called about twenty minutes from the end, not realizing the mortal mistake in committing such an atrocity. “What’s your problem?” he asked. I blubbered something he could not understand, but he made out three words: Regeneration, Doctor, and Who. “Oh, I’ll call back later,” he said, and hung up. I bawled my way through the episode and got to the end. I saw the new Doctor. I threw a tantrum. One minute the Doctor — MY Doctor — was there and the next some twenty-six year old punk pretending to be the Doctor tried to make me laugh. I did laugh, but then I pounded my fist on the desk and went in for round two with the Kleenex box.
Hiatuses are good things. Very good things. It allowed me to mourn. It allowed me to think about Moffat being a genius. It made me forget when the new Doctor was going to appear and so when he did, I didn’t have time to get indignant. I just sat down and watched it. And… well, the Doctor has returned. 3 minutes in and I said, “He’s not so bad, really.” 10 minutes in and he was “charming.” 15 minutes in he had me laughing so hard I almost cried. By the end, the verdict was in. He’s not David, but he is the Doctor. There is no doubt of that. Moffat loves the Doctor and it shows. He has brought back the humor and the childlike wonder that he went through as a childhood fan. He has introduced a companion that started off loving the Doctor, so she’s not about to fall “in love” with him — because that has likely already happened. I suspect more than one of us found that last shot, panning through her collection of home-made Doctor memorabilia and trailing up to her wedding gown, absolutely darling.
If there’s one thing Doctor Who is not, it’s never about the scripts. It’s about the Doctor. We don’t watch for the daleks, we don’t watch for the companions, we don’t watch for the grand adventures or the costumes. We watch for the sheer joy in seeing the Doctor slap his forehead and scream, “OH I AM BRILLIANT!” We watch for his massive ego, his self-congratulation, and the totally insane things he does. We watch to see him throw waffles out the front door, scrounge his fingers through his hair and stand it on end, and go bolting down a long hallway just before a massive explosion goes off. And if the episode just happens to be incredible (“Blink,” anyone? or how about “Midnight”?), that’s a bonus.
Doctor Who is the ultimate obsession for the sci-fi fan. It’s the show even non sci-fi fans watch. My mother hates sci-fi but still is familiar with Ten. It’s our happy drug of choice, our escapism from the lousiness that is “real life.” Our chance once a week for a glorious thirteen weeks to visit different times and places, with a man that just might do something crazy. No, correct that, is certain to do something crazy. In short, life would not be the same without it. Don’t ask me to explain this insane, crazy, fun and sometimes downright aggravating fandom full of screaming girls and the occasional dude with a pocket protector. It just is. We know what we like and what we don’t, and so far it seems that we like what we’re seeing.
Moffat knew what he was up against, and Matt Smith didn’t allow the snarling of millions of females worldwide to intimidate him. Together, they made us laugh and then they made us experience a bit of a lump in our throat at that split second glimpse of Ten. I won’t lie. I still miss David, but Matt is pretty dang terrific and at the end of the day — he’s still the Doctor. I for one can hardly wait to see what he does next.