How the Doctor became The Mirror…
This time it’s through The Doctor.
I love Doctor Who.
Doctor Who is one of those fandoms that spreads like a virus.
Most of my friends watch it, so I knew before I started that I was going to love it.
For those uninitiated, here is the short description of the show.
The Doctor is a type of alien called a Timelord. He can travel through space and time in a vehicle called the T.A.R.D.I.S. He picks up random companions to travel with him. Instead of dying he can regenerate, a process in which he transforms into a new person – complete with a new personality and body. This is how The Doctor has been played by 11 actors over the span of 50 years.
Everyone has “their Doctor.”
Mine is the current one, Matt Smith, the eleventh.
This is not a popular opinion.
Matt Smith is often referred to as a drunken giraffe.
The creator Steven Moffat said he moves as if he’s surprised by his own limbs.
He is not, by any means, the best looking Doctor.
He doesn’t seem to have eyebrows.
He is not suave.
He is not heroic in the traditional sense.
But he’s, hands down, my absolute favorite.
I know, I know…
So earlier this summer when it was announced that Matt Smith would leave Doctor Who, I sank into a very irrational and very real mini-depression.
Hmm, irrational feelings triggered by the television.
This isn’t about Matt. This is about me…again…
Around this time I had decided to go back to school.
I failed miserably at college the first time around but three kids and no child support later I realize that if I want to care for us properly I need to just figure out how to be a big girl breadwinner.
No more random creative business ideas.
I just need a big girl career and a big girl steady paycheck.
I realized then that my stomach-churning anxiety about losing Matt Smith wasn’t about losing Matt Smith.
It was about losing me.
I am The Doctor.
I have a serious, serious hero complex.
I am happiest when I am rescuing someone.
Over my 31 years I have snatched up one companion or another. Always someone who needs me or someone who thinks I’m exciting or someone a little more broken than I am.
I rescue them from (emotional) danger. I take them on adventures. I take them out of their mundane life.
The kid getting picked on…
The girl whose parents ignore her…
The housewife with the stale marriage…
They become my new shiny.
I move them into my life and world. I take them everywhere. I include them in everything. And with wide-eyed enthusiasm they come along.
But eventually it all falls apart.
Sometimes I have to leave them behind, for their own good.
Sometimes I have to leave them behind, because I can no longer help them.
Sometimes they leave me, because the fun has worn off and they no longer want to play.
I even have a fancy irregular heartbeat, like the double beat of the two-hearted Timelords.
I have spent the majority of the last decade in a sort of prolonged adolescence.
Boy bands, Adventure Time, footie pajamas in both “shark” and “zebra” theme, SuperWalmart marco polo matches…
This is what I’m doing.
If it reminds me of the Time Before Adulthood then I love it. I’m in.
But sitting directly alongside my aggressive rebellion against looking and acting like a “grown up” is something like wisdom.
When I went to the spiritual breakthrough retreat thing several years ago I was the youngest woman there by quite a few years.
And yet, consistently, retreat goers would pull me aside to say “If only I ‘got this’ when I was your age. I can’t believe someone your age is even here.”
but I’m also really old.
And I’m an alien.
I’ve mentioned the family lore that, as a baby, I told my mother I was from another planet.
That’s the theme of my life.
I don’t understand people.
And people typically don’t understand me. Just yesterday the security guard at my college was nearly frying his brain trying to figure out why I talk the way I do and what was I doing there and how am I possible and where’d I come from…
I finally just said “Look, bro. I’m a real live enigma. Stop trying to figure me out. There is no answer.”
Typically, though, I feel very alone. I think that’s why I rotate through companions so quickly.
I think “this one gets me” and then alas, that one does not.
And I am alone again…
Despite, in some ways, being my life’s greatest challenge and the biggest hurdle and detriment to my personal growth it is this “otherness” that made me cling to Johnny so desperately.
He was, and still is, one of the few people I’ve come across to “get” me without explanation.
We’re from the same planet.
The only other Timelord left driven mad and destructive through the trials of his childhood. He was so self-absorbed that he LITERALLY turned every person on Earth into him. He lives to take the Doctor down.
It’s easy for people to stand by and remind me and point out to me how dysfunctional my relationship with Johnny was.
I don’t disagree.
In the weeks leading up to my first day back at school I became really ominously preoccupied with my mortality. I even went to far as to write a blog post to be published posthumously in case I bite it in the next couple of months.
Now, I don’t think it was my literal death I was worried about.
I think it’s my regeneration.
Everything is changing for me.
From now on I will be a student. That is what will occupy my day and time. Then, if I am good at being a student, I will be an engineer.
Engineering is a grown up job.
With deadlines and a dress code of some sort.
I’m scared the bouyant, effervescent, childlike part of me that I just got used to will die.
I don’t know what parts of me will survive the journey.
I don’t know if my companions will be able to come with me. I don’t know who will be left behind.
I know I have to change. I know parts of me won’t remain. I know the core will still be there. I know, intellectually, everything will be okay.
But, as any Whovian knows, seeing a Doctor regenerate is hard to watch.
We become so attached. We don’t know if we will like the new version.
I’m so attached. I don’t know if I will like the new version.
Like the eleventh Doctor, a large part of my hero complex and giddy mania is my refusal to sit in silence and deal with myself. It’s a pleasant distraction. Because, like him, when I stop to think about how and why I have come to be the person I am right now…
When I think about all the loyal companions I’ve hurt or lost – with my words or flakiness…
When I think about the behavior and choices that led me to be alone in the first place…
I become consumed…
with shame and guilt.
But, like that clip shows, as we wipe our tears over the “death” of one Doctor the new one comes in and wins us over.
Despite my terror at becoming a new person, I take comfort in this.
And it is not beyond my notice that Matt Smith, who was 27 when he was cast as the Doctor, the youngest in the show’s history is being replaced by Peter Capaldi, who is 55 and the second oldest man to ever be cast in the role.
The raggedy, ancient man with the face of a 12 year old is being replaced by a real, live grownup.
And so it will be with me.