Before I start, I want to point you to this post from Seanan McGuire’s Tumblr, because I am aware of the problematic aspects of the things I am discussing here (I wouldn’t mind a female Doctor; I really would love to see Paterson Joseph as the Doctor, too) … but I do enjoy the shows I’ve got.
SPOILER WARNINGS: One very small spoilery thing that is not plot-related (ie, it’s not how it happens, or the storyline of the episode), more a detail, about the new Doctor. If you don’t know who John Hurt’s character is in the 50th anniversary, be aware that I am about to name him in the next paragraph. Major spoilers for all the previous Doctor Who seasons, and some major Star Trek movie spoilers for Wrath of Khan, Search for Spock, and probably Into Darkness, assuming you’ve seen the original movies.
I’m using old-school numbering. John Hurt is the War Doctor, the numbers go around him. Just so we’re on the same page while you read; number however you want otherwise. :)
I was born into Star Trek fandom. It wasn’t something I got a choice in or questioned during my childhood; my mother was a Trek fan, and so I was, as well. My dad converted during the Next Generation years, and so my family was united.
I fell away from the Trek faith somewhere around the second season of Deep Space 9, then came back with a vengeance during the Dominion War (SISKO LEFT THE BASEBALL, OH MY GOD), and basically broke with it during Voyager. My insanely violent response to Star Trek Into Darkness tells me that, deep down, I’m kind of Orthodox Trekkie–do not ruin the most emotionally resonant moment in all of Star Trek by flipping it and resolving the entire damn thing in ten minutes at the end! The Star Trek movies (Khan through, probably, Voyage Home) taught me that actions have consequences, and that you can try to change the world, to change fate, but you won’t return to the status quo. All you can hope for is, well, hope. Because “Jim. Your name is Jim” was not what I wanted, but it felt right, even when I was a kid.
And Into Darkness … well, didn’t go there.
(Really, reading the above over again, I suppose the next bit isn’t that shocking …)
I fell in love with Doctor Who in 2006.
I’d always been intrigued by Doctor Who, back when all you saw of it over here (read: a small town in Florida) was an occasional episode on late-night PBS–as far as I knew, Doctor Who was a dude with a blue police box that was actually a space ship, and he wore a crazy-long scarf. Later I heard about the regeneration thing, but that was … probably in high school, from the same group of guys who taught me that Monty Python was a group and not some English comedian who did jokes about Spam.
The thing was, as far as I could tell, our local PBS station showed Doctor Who sporadically, if at all, and so it wasn’t until the 2005 reboot showed up on SciFi (it wasn’t SyFy yet) that I got to really watch it.
I liked it.
It was fun, and Christopher Eccleston was good, and the Doctor was really interesting, and Rose was cool (if a little young for my demographic), and wow, the TARDIS. Yeah, I liked it.
And then “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances” aired, and “Just this once, everybody lives,” and I fell hard and fast and deep into total fangirl love.
I loved the sweep of the show, and the utter joy of it, but mostly I loved the darkness underneath that joy. At that point in my life, which was toward the end of a dark period for me (I didn’t know it for sure, yet, but I thought I could see the light), the idea that you could have joy overtop the darkness … well, that was very appealing.
Plus, just that once, everybody lived.
I was suspicious of this David Tennant character, until, “No second chances. I’m that kind of man.” Then we were cool.
Ten became “my” Doctor right around the time he saw Sarah Jane Smith again and got that goofy smile.
So when I think about who “my” Doctor is … it’s Nine and Ten.
(Donna is my Companion. Though the Ponds come a close second. And Martha Jones, walking the world to tell a story, is always and forever a BAMF.)
This is all to say that Matt Smith regenerating was not my first rodeo. Nor was he my Doctor. He was the first Doctor who was not my Doctor, actually–but if you’re a Whovian, you have to be resigned that not every Doctor will be yours. It’s cool; I still liked Eleven. He seemed like the oldest Doctor since the actual old guys–something about the way Smith carried himself always seemed like an older man to me–and he gave good Climactic Dangerous Doctor Speeches (“Let somebody else try first”).
(I also enjoyed that bow ties were, like, all over two of my shows at around the same time.)
But … Doctor Who was different, too. Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat are two different showrunners. They come at stories differently. I feel like Davies is more huge and operatic, and Moffat is more clever and twisty. Davies isn’t as steampunk. Moffat isn’t as space-y. Moffat always seemed more gritty, even with something like “The Girl In the Fireplace.” (They both leave plot holes you can drive a damn truck through, though.)
(Interestingly, I think Neil Gaiman falls right between the two of them.)
In the end, while I love Steven Moffat (I am a fan of Sherlock, and Jekyll), especially in small doses (guess who wrote “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances”?), he doesn’t hit my narrative kinks the way Russell T. Davies does. This isn’t criticism–my husband’s been digging Moffat’s Who a lot, and I still love the show. If not every Doctor will be your Doctor, not ever showrunner will be your showrunner–or not for every show (I love Russell T. Davies and would still watch Sherlock if he were running it, but it wouldn’t be the same show anymore).
So nope, didn’t cry when Eleven regenerated.
(To be fair, I didn’t cry when Ten regenerated, either, because the Ood choir kind of killed the moment for me. Literally operatic doesn’t work for me.)
No, I cried when Donna got to be the most important woman in the universe, but the Doctor had to take her memory of it away … right after he got to give Rose the one thing she’d wanted.
I knew the regeneration was coming. The show will survive (if it can redeem Paul McGann it can manage anything). I admit, it probably would have had more emotional punch had I not just seen the 50th anniversary special a month before (I still have some conflicted feelings there that maybe I’ll blog about in future), but I doubt I would have cried, anyway.
Even the Doctor has to face the consequences of the things he’s done. And the thing he does the most is change: his companions, the future, fate … and he changes. Mostly. Look at the ears! New teeth. Chin–blimey! And, you know, unappealingly-colored kidneys. But still the cleverest person in the room. Still saving the universe with a screwdriver. Still a madman with a blue box.
Or to put it into the language of my first fandom: I cried when Spock died at the end of Wrath of Khan. But when he came down the mountain at the end of Search for Spock? Nope. Because he wasn’t quite the same, no, and we weren’t sure if he ever would be. But after all that grief, and overtop all that darkness, there was hope: he knew Kirk’s name was Jim.
(That’s what Doctor Who is all about, Charlie Brown: change and hope–and the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism, as Craig Ferguson has told us. Now we just hope the new guy remembers how to fly the TARDIS.)