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Why I Need a Doctor

I think I’ve just figured out why Doctor Who is so important to me these days.

I know, it’s shocking – a geek like myself being a fan of Doctor Who.  I’ve been one since I was about seven years old.  I’d been hearing for years about that odd, British, science fiction show about a dimensionally transcendent police box and a guy who can travel in time and change his appearance, and at that time I’d never been interested enough to look at it.  But then, one day back in the early 1980’s, I happened to catch part of a special early evening showing of The Five Doctors on PBS – not too long after it had first premiered in the United States – and thought I’d go ahead and give watching it a try.  After that, they showed the regularly scheduled story for that week, The Creature from the Pit.  By the time I got to the end of the evening, I was fully hooked and would never miss an episode if I could help it.

photo by Andrew Wong

The show was like a life-line for me.  It encouraged people to revel in being different – which meant quite a lot to me.  To say I was a bit odd as a child would be a gross understatement.  My horrifyingly bad grade school experiences kept beating the idea into me that being different was bad, but here was a TV show giving me a completely different message – and in a much more entertaining way than I’d encountered from the name-calling bullies on the playground.

I kept watching the show right up until it went on what we can now happily call a long but temporary hiatus in 1989.  Then there was a long dry spell punctuated only by an American TV movie and a few books from Virgin that I managed to pick up every now and then.  I no longer had Doctor Who in my life in a significant way (though I’d go back and watch episodes that I’d recorded every now and then).  But I was okay with that.

The dynamic changed again, though, when the new series started in 2005.  I put off watching it for a while, but then when I did I became utterly hooked on it once again, and was soon as deeply attached to it as I’d ever been.  The new series had begun acting like a life-line for me again.

I didn’t realize why that was the case until a very short time ago.  It wasn’t because of the whole “being different” thing – that’s pretty much a given at this point – but because of the struggle the Doctor goes through in the new series.

You see, for all practical purposes, my life pretty much fell apart in 2005.  It had started falling apart long before then, but 2005 was the year of the final collapse.  I won’t go into too much detail about it right now, but suffice it to say that I went through some very difficult changes that left me a depressed shell of a person for quite a while.  Eventually, though, I started learning once again how to interact with people and even how to trust them.

It’s still not easy, though.  I’ve gotten to the point now that I can behave as though I’m alive and can go out and do things with friends from time to time.  But there’s always a struggle to keep myself from sinking back into the abyss.

In the new TV series, the Doctor’s life has fallen apart as well.  He’s lost nearly everything he cares about.  And he’s always struggling to keep himself from falling into the darkness.  Since the premiere of the new series there have been three new Doctors, and no matter which one of them you look at, you can see that struggle going on.

Maybe it sounds a bit nuts, but it’s an interesting parallel, and nuts or not, it’s working for me.  After helping me deal with the pressures of early life, my childhood hero went away for a while.  But when I needed him again, he came back.

The Doctor has his ups and downs, but when it counts, he’s able to remind himself that he’s not alone.  Despite everything that’s happened to him, he’s continuing to reach out to people.  He’s trying to befriend them and learn to trust them again, even to the extent of taking on new traveling companions.  Even though he had to watch as so much he held dear was destroyed, he’s still trying to keep going – to get back to living his life.

And if the Doctor can do that, then maybe I can too.

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  1. Lucci
    July 22, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    Beautiful Jim. I miss hanging out with you. I’ll have to show this to Clarise. She will appreciate it too, as the doctor is close to her heart also.
    ~ Mike

    • July 23, 2010 at 12:45 am

      Thanks, man. I miss doing stuff with you too! Accursed geography. Something must be done about that.

  2. July 22, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    I remember talking about what a great show Dr. Who was to someone from the UK. They said, “That Kid’s show.” Well I never cared. The Dr. always keeps going.

    • July 23, 2010 at 12:55 am

      Heh! Yeah, I don’t think Doctor Who has really been a kid’s show since at least the late 1970’s. But then, there are always going to be folks out there who’ll try to dismiss things they don’t grasp intellectually as unimportant. Usually they do it as a means of validating their existence – “I don’t understand this, so I’d better make fun of it before someone else makes fun of me for not getting it.” Am I ranting now? I’m ranting, aren’t I? I’ll stop. o_0

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