Some Streams of Consciousness on Doctor Who

Lately, I’ve been watching more Doctor Who than I should. That is, past episodes of the show. Heck, I would have an episode running in another tab as background noise while I do work, so “watching” might not be the most accurate term. But then during a lunch break today, I got to wondering why, then a ton of different thoughts all entered my brain at once and I thought: Better write this down. Though I should warn any prospective readers that this post might be rather…jumpy, very ‘train of thought / flow of consciousness-like.’ In other words, rather disorganized. Sorry! 🙂

When I was a kid, I never got into Doctor Who. I’m not afraid to admit that the opening title sequence scared me when I was four or five years old. At that time,Tom Baker was playing the fourth Doctor (aka “teeth and curls”), and for that opening, all I’d see was a bunch of stars, then the Doctor’s giant face appear in the center of the TV, which would then come flying towards the screen.I’m pretty sure I thought that giant face would emerge from the TV and chase me around, so I fled the room in fear. But I digress; the only reason I mention it is that my oldest brother at that time was into Doctor Who, and Tom Baker was his Doctor.

As a quick aside, another thing that scared me as a kid: Bill Bixby transforming into Lou Ferrigno in the live Incredible Hulk show; I could watch David Banner or the Hulk, but whenever he transformed, I had to leave the room for a moment.

Back to Doctor Who, the thing about fandom, the show, and thirteen portrayals of the Doctor (if you include the War Doctor, and no, this post is not a debate on the numbering of the Doctors,) one question often asked is: ‘Who’s your Doctor?’ I got into the show with the modern era, and interestingly enough, not with David Tennant, but with Matt Smith. I’m not sure what prompted me to watch the first episode of series 5 where Matt Smith took over. It’s not like I ever even heard of Matt Smith (no offense Matt Smith.) But from that first episode I was hooked. The writing, music, acting and story were just…perfect for me. And it helps that I think the writers took care to try and make it a good “jumping on” point for new fans. So anyways, Matt Smith is my Doctor. And I miss him in the role, and find myself watching a bunch of my favorite episodes / specials with him as the Doctor.

Peter Capaldi recently took over from Matt Smith. He’s doing a terrific job, and the show is still enjoyable for me. The Robin Hood episode was fun, the Dalek episode was illuminating, and the latest episode “Listen” was shocking in a good way (Interesting that I talked about some childhood fears earlier, and this episode basically was about fear…no, I didn’t plan it this way.) While the sample size is rather small, I actually think Capaldi’s first episode was the weakest thus far. That’s not to say his first episode was bad; it was fine for what it was, and the appearance of the Pasternoster Gang is always awesome. As another quick aside, BBC, just start a separate series starring Vastra, Jenny, and Strax already. It can fill the void The Sarah Jane Adventures left, and it’ll probably be a license to print money. Seriously, not hard to figure this out BBC. You’re welcome.

Back to Capaldi’s first episode, I recently told a prospective fan not to start with the current series airing right now, but to start with either the beginning of the modern era, which aligns more with our modern sensibilities, with Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, or Matt Smith with series five as either ones are good “jumping on” points in my opinion. Personally, I think Capaldi spent too much time in a post-regenerative haze. Granted, regeneration is a lottery, and how long it can have the Doctor acting addled and confused appears to be random (from a meta perspective, whoever wrote it, but eh, whatever), but as an episode, for prospective new fans, the Doctor is just all over the place in his behavior and actions, and while entertaining, it’s just not a good place to start watching Doctor Who. Compare that to Matt Smith’s first outing (writing-wise), and he was basically being the Doctor, helping Amelia Pond out, within ten minutes. The episode even mixes in some humor, with the newly regenerated Doctor desperately trying to find something he likes to eat.

So how about some of my favorite moments from Matt Smith’s tenure of Doctor Who? They’ll probably make more sense if you’re already a fan. But if not, though you’ll miss the context, they’re still powerful, moving scenes, and maybe there will be just enough to make you go think: ‘I should go check this show out.’ So here we go, just a couple of my favorite scenes from Doctor Who, in no particular order:

  • Doctor’s Rings of Akhaten Speech from ‘The Rings of Akhaten

Beautiful music? Check. Epic speech? Check. Doctor being heroic / self-sacrificing? Check. I’m fighting back tears whenever I watch this moment. Manly tears, of course. This wasn’t a popular episode for many fans. There were things I hated too, like the Doctor’s screwdriver being able to control / lift stone doors. Even if I can buy they were controlled by machinery underneath the stone, it was just one of those ‘Is there anything the sonic screwdriver cannot do?’ moments. But for me, the music makes the episode. It’s a very musically charged episode with lots of touching moments and an epic speech. At the very least, I can say I love this scene and a couple of other scenes from this episode. Maybe not the entire episode as a whole, but it doesn’t diminish this scene. Also, did anyone check out Matt Smith’s tear as he gave his speech?

  • Thirteen Doctors Saving Galifrey from ‘Day of the Doctor’

Powerful music? Check. Thirteen Doctor’s being heroic / self-sacrificing? Check. I just loved this climactic moment to this special. Sure, it’s somewhat fanboyish, but suitably epic. As an aside, the scene previous to this one where the Doctor reveals that he may have forgotten who he was, finding himself not sure what to do until he receives some prodding from his companion Clara; the companions aren’t just our ticket, our link to the alien time traveler. Various Doctor’s have said it repeatedly in more or less the same words: they represent the best of him, which is why he likes traveling with humans. He also reveals that the name he chose was a promise. The promise? ‘Never cruel or cowardly. Never give up. Never give in.’ His decision to alter his own history was a perfect lead-in into this scene. Unfortunately, I can’t find out it on YouTube, or I would have listed them back-to-back. Grrr.

  • Eleventh Regenerates to the Twelfth from ‘Time of the Doctor’

As a whole, I wasn’t crazy about ‘Time of the Doctor.’ Disappointment is too strong a word; there were some great scenes, but his Superman-esque / Dragonball Z-esque regeneration powers near the end were just…not very Doctor Who-y to me. It seemed like something out of Japanese anime, or a Superhero movie. Considering I love both, I would think I love it here, but I don’t. Still, I’m judging scenes, and Matt Smith’s final scene as the Doctor was very moving. Music was perfect, and he gave a great speech that really touched me.

“It all just disappears doesn’t it, everything you are gone in a moment, like breath on a mirror. Any moment now, he’s a’coming’…But times change, and so must I…We all change, when you think about it. We’re all different people, all through our lives. And that’s okay, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of this. Not one day, I swear. I will always remember, when the Doctor was me.”

I know what these words mean to me. I’ll let you, the reader, decide what these words mean to you.

  • P.S. Unshot scene from Series 7, an epilogue of sorts to ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’

The final appearance of Amy and Rory was heart-wrenching, and yet the most tear-inducing scene wasn’t even filmed. Still, the BBC released their storyboards for this planned scene, with Rory narrating what happened to him and Amy to his father in a letter. The music is perfect, and everything about it is tragic and beautiful and moving and powerful. A part of me wonders if the storyboards alone somehow make it more touching…because for an unshot scene, it’s just fantastic. All the scenes I listed above, I fought back tears, but this one made me cry. Manly tears, of course.

There’s so many more scenes, so many great moments, but this post will go on forever if I don’t stop now. I think I’ll just end this post with these words: I think the reason I enjoy Doctor Who is that for me, it’s thoughtful, emotionally engaging entertainment / art. What more can you ask for?

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