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On Whovian Blasphemy March 19, 2015

“Death in Heaven” was an interesting end to a season that I believe was the best of the new series. A typical Moffat two-parter, it started strong and petered out a bit by the end… the end… the end.

To be honest, I wasn’t entirely certain that the episode was going to end. I counted three, possibly four good places for the episode to conclude, but it seemed that Moffat just wanted to keep going. And going. And going. Like the energizer bunny of the sci-fi genre.

I’ll admit that I didn’t think any of the endings were particularly bad. (Though none of the additional material really seemed to contribute to the story line.) That is, none of them until the last when Santa stepped aboard the TARDIS. At that moment, my heart filled with fear.

The thing about Moffat’s writing is that it can be hard to tell whether he’s about to do something completely rational (providing that rational is truly possible in a program about a time-travelling alien) or to take the show into the realms of the ridiculous. I now had weeks to wonder whether we were about to discover “horror of all horrors” that Santa Claus is a Time Lord.

It wasn’t the idea in and of itself that was particularly difficult to comprehend. He does manage to deliver toys to the entire world in a single night and his bag is definitely bigger on the inside. It was that the idea required the introduction of a fictional character into the world of “Doctor Who”.

Much to my delight, I discovered that I was not the only fan harboring this fear. Much to my dismay, I discovered that most of my non-Whovian friends simply didn’t understand. We all know, after all, that “Doctor Who” is a fictional series. It stars fictional characters who live in a (mostly) fictional universe. Or do we?

While I try to maintain the pretense of being a “reasonable” person, I have to confess that I have occasionally found listening for the wheezing of that big blue box. A part of me longs to escape with the Doctor (or at least my idea of the Doctor) and explore the universe. To look at everything with the awe of a child encountering the world for the first time. To see sights others have never seen and to have the kind of adventures that no one else believes are possible.
I want to face the type of problems that force me to “think outside of the box”. I want to make the hard decisions. To stand up for what I believe. And to see everything turn out alright in the end. It is because of this and, despite what I know, I could never utter the Whovian equivalent of blasphemy, “The Doctor isn’t real.”

Christmas came and went and, to my delight, the show retained its integrity. I could hear Whovians everywhere letting out a long sigh of relief. Whatever they may have thought of the episode (I confess I rather enjoyed it), one thing was still certain: Santa isn’t real. The Doctor is. And that’s a world with which I can live.

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1, 3, 12: The Journey of a Whovian March 12, 2015

There’s a maxim that it’s possible to love the Doctor for the man, himself, but still favor certain incarnations. Watching forums, it quickly became evident that a failure to love the same regenerated forms as everyone else can be dangerous business. In fact, even my fiancé has expressed some concern at my lack of affection for David Tennant.

That said, my love of traditional sci-fi in the fashion of the old “Flash Gordon” serials left me more deeply attached to the classic Doctors. But even there, my favorites seem to differ from the mainstream. Yes, I like Tom Baker (I’ve met very few Whovians who don’t), but I can’t honestly say that I like him as much as Hartnell or Pertwee.

Older Doctors (not necessarily classic ones) have a unique repartee with their companions. Fathers and grandfathers, rather than lovers, they evoke a certain mystery. Like bottomless fonts of wisdom, teachers with but a few pupils. The affection they express for their companions is the same I would hope to receive were I fortunate enough to travel on the TARDIS – enough to know they care, but no so much that they become a threat to a regular romantic relationship.

This is important since, to be honest, I think my fiancé has been a little concerned that he might just end up getting left behind if a blue box suddenly materialized in front of me. A few too many episodes of Matt Smith’s Doctor (for whom I do feel some affection) have left him in a position where he can confidently cast himself in the role of Rory. Fortunately, as much as I appreciate the energy and wide-eyed-wonder of Smith’s character, he isn’t the one with whom I’d be most willing to travel. So I stick to my guns. I’m a first/third Doctor girl. Or at least I was.

I have to admit that I was quite curious when I noticed that the distinctly not-young Peter Capaldi had been cast in the role. While fans of the new series threw fits over the injustice of choosing a man old enough to be their father, I watched with ever deepening curiosity. And found myself slowly becoming a twelfth Doctor girl.

I can’t, of course, give Capaldi all the credit. While he plays the Doctor, he wasn’t the one responsible for all the throwbacks to classic “Who” that marvelously appeared throughout the eighth season. (I confess that I appreciated the bits of nostalgia scattered throughout.) But the slightly grumpy, distinctly charming incarnation grew on me with each episode.

Then “Dark Water” happened. I admit that I’m not easily spoiled, so the accuracy of the speculation about Missy did nothing to ruin the episode for me. I absolutely loved the Cybermen (and the fact that the Doctor missed something so incredibly obvious). But what I loved most was the opening sequence… the bit where Clara decides to get her due.
Despite the seemingly universal hatred for Clara, she is one of my favorites among the newer companions. (I admit to rather having liked Donna, too.) There is something about her innocence and strong will that harkens back to earlier companions like Sarah Jane. And I particularly love the strictly platonic relationship she has with the Twelfth Doctor. The result was that I felt the full impact of her betrayal in a way I couldn’t have anticipated.

I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat. Waiting. Waiting to see if the Doctor would do what most people would have done or whether he would prove himself the hero I hoped he was. I bit my lip as he responded to Clara’s question regarding the future of their friendship. And I slid to the edge of the couch as the Doctor replied, “Do you really think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?”

It didn’t really matter how the series ended. It didn’t matter that I thought the Cyber Brig was a bit of an overkill or that I thought the Danny/Clara sequences went on a bit too long. I simply didn’t care. From that line on, I was a 12th Doctor girl. If I were going to travel with just one of them – Capaldi’s Doctor would be my first choice.

 

The Accidental Whovian March 5, 2015

I didn’t mean to become a Whovian. In fact, if you’d asked my opinion of “Doctor Who” a few months ago, I’d have shrugged my shoulders apologetically. I’d have listened politely as you recounted the wonders of travel through time and space. Then I’d have walked away leaving you to question why, with my clear penchant for science fiction, I didn’t love the Doctor.

To be honest, much of my apathy was the result of a poorly-timed introduction to the show. Having heard my friends rave about the creativity of the writers, I’d decided to tuck in at what I mistakenly believed to be the beginning. In an episode entitled “Rose”, I met the Doctor, his not-yet-companion, and a few zillion plastic mannequins hell-bent on destroying modern day London. So much for time and space! It wasn’t very different from the average British sit-com… just significantly weirder. I hung in for as long as I could, but about fifteen minutes in, I simply gave up. Give me “Star Trek” any day.

At the same time, I couldn’t help wondering why so many of my friends were so passionate about the program. Most of the time, their taste was spot-on. So why this? And more importantly, how had they converted my fiancé into a hard-core Whovian? Was there voodoo involved?

“You just need to get past the first couple of episodes,” he reassured me. And to prove his point, he made me sack out on the couch with him and watch a few. To my surprise, the show did get better. And while it didn’t peak my own interest, it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t indulge my sweetie’s new passion. So we watched together until Eccleston regenerated into Tennant. Then, my fiancé went home for the semester and I conveniently forgot about the show.

To be honest, I’m not sure what caused my renewed interest in the program. The semester had been fairly boring for me and, looking for something interesting to “take me away”, I decided to take a shot at the Classic “Doctor Who” episodes offered on Netflix.

I selected an episode entitled “The Aztecs” and hit “play”. There, in all his glory, was William Hartnell – the First Doctor. I watched as great acting mixed with terrible props and sets worthy of the old “Flash Gordon” serials I remember watching with my dad. And I was hooked.

Over the next few months, I watched every episode I could get my hands on. I decided that my favorite Doctors were 1,3,7 and 11. I conned my fiancé into buying me a stuffed Dalek who I christened “Dave”. I bought “Dr. Who” novels and perused “Dr. Who” comic books. I bought a “Dr. Who” belt and followed “Dr. Who” fan-groups on Facebook and through my iPod. I subscribed to “Dr. Who” podcasts. I waited, along with the rest of the world, for the premier of “Deep Breath” and delighted in each wonderful, confusing moment of the two-hour special.

It had all happened without my knowing what was going on. I had accidentally become a Whovian.

 

On Plot Lines, Needlework, and the Unfortunate Deterioration of Eyesight April 3, 2014

I am currently in the process of re-watching the entire “Downton Abbey” series for the fifth or sixth time. As the drama plays out, I sit silently upon the couch with a tiny needle gripped between my teeth. I gaze at the diagram, searching for the row where I last left off and consider how much easier this was before I needed bifocals. Now, the tiny thread-color symbols seem to blur into a single, indistinguishable mass vaguely recognizable as “things I’ve stitched” and “things I haven’t stitched”.

Because I am hand making a large number of my Christmas gifts this year, such trials must be gracefully borne. When I was younger, such endeavors were the result of a restricted budget. (After all, how much could a kid do with $2 a week?) While I make significantly more now, the principle remains the same. Health insurance and fuel for my truck take precedence over fancy presents – even for those whom I love most dearly. So here I am, carefully stitching the first of what promises to be at least four meaningful gifts destined for the walls of my closest friends.

Of course, unlike when I was a child, these gifts are not simply glue-gunned bits of scraps. While everyone will be receiving some form of needlework, not every item is identical. Nor is each item simply a variation upon a theme. These are not mass-produced trinkets designed to save me the bother of shopping or the investment of money which might otherwise be spent on play things. These are carefully selected items designed to convey message and meaning to those who receive them.

That the creation of such gifts takes time is evident, so I had the wisdom to begin my work in January. And, since stitching is a relaxing, but not particularly stimulating task, it was incumbent upon me to find something else to captivate my mind for the many hours of labor ahead. Movies like “Indiana Jones” and “Star Wars” quickly made their way onto my list as did “The Mummy” and a few “James Bond” films. I contemplated watching the entire series of “Stargate SG1” again as well as assorted seasons of “Star Trek”, “Dr. Who”, and “M*A*S*H*”.

Doubtless my TV watching hours will seem quite extravagant by the year’s end, but I anticipate that each moment will have been well-spent. I should be able to recite all of the Dowager Countesses lines for four seasons and may even be able to hum the “Imperial March” backwards. The best part, however, will not be the knowledge that I can provide hours of entertainment at any party or even that those I love will receive genuinely meaningful gifts – it will be the delight I feel when I walk into the optometrist and explain that it’s entirely my friends’ fault that I need stronger bifocals. Then again, it may be the look on my friends’ faces when they discover that they took the blame!

 

 
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