Failure to Launch: On Finally Finding my Doctor

By Rach from Tadcaster, York, England (David Tennant  Uploaded by Cirt) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

My Doctor. By Rach from Tadcaster, York, England (David Tennant Uploaded by Cirt) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to fandom these days, I have to be exceptionally picky. It’s not like when I was in college, where I had stupid amounts of free time and no cares in the world. I’ve got kids. I’ve got work, finances, responsibilities. Just like my game playing, my television/movie fandom-watching selection have suddenly achieved what feels like an unreachable standard.

But in the last two years, if there’s one fandom that’s risen above all the rest, it’s Doctor Who. People near and far, influences across the board from Neil Gaiman to my closest personal friends have all praised the new series, festooned their Pinterest boards, and gone all gangbusters for the new doctors and their (admittedly) rather confounding stories. (I mean, seriously, try to explain an episode to a non-Whovian and watch their facial expressions. It really is priceless.) And that’s not to say I’ve had no influence from Who at all. In fact, as a kid, I watched the older series (Baker period) religiously on PBS. I remember nothing but scarves and hair, but I like to think it’s made some kind of imprint even though dim. It was predestined!

So, about a year ago I decided it was time for me to sit down and start. My husband was on board. We revved up Netflix and began, as was suggested, with Eccleston and the Christmas special. I was prepared for that wonderful moment when a fandom enters my heart, when I find something I’d been looking for for years and years and wonder how I ever saw the world without it. I mean, seriously, everyone I know and respect and love adores the show, so it seemed like there was no possible way for me to fail.

But it did. It failed hard. “Let’s watch another,” we said. And we did. But we still didn’t get it. Then we tried the next doctor, the tenth. Oh yes, I loved Tennant. This was far better. The hair, the smile, those eyes. So much to love. But Rose. Rose. I had problems with Rose, and so, for a second time, we stop watching. Mostly because I kept yelling at the screen for her being stupid (for the record, I mind Rose less these days, but I don’t get the whole Rose adoration thing–really, I just wish Martha could have been Ten’s Rose! She kicked so much butt.)

Then about four months ago we decided to try one last time. We met Donna, the runaway bride. And then I met Martha. And at last, at long last, it happened. Some strange chemical combination (wait, they’re talking to Shakespeare and quoting Harry Potter!) kindled in my brain and began to calcify, to take shape, to click. We plowed through season three and four, watching sometimes two or three episodes a night (and staying up far past our bedtime, considering the kids).

But then… then

You could say that one of the themes of the Doctor Who series has to do with life and death, with moving on and coping with loss. Because that’s what the Doctor does. He doesn’t die, he regenerates. But he’s always coping. He’s still carrying other lifetimes on his shoulders, and no matter how silly or strong he pretends to be, it follows him everywhere.

See, that’s the thing. I’m no Doctor. I can’t cope. I absolutely knew that Tennant’s end was approaching. We’d seen “Turn Left.” I’m not dumb. I know what’s happening. And, frankly, I don’t want to deal with that. So, like what I did with Firefly (for the record there are two episodes I still haven’t seen) I delayed the inevitable.

“We can’t,” I told my husband.

“Can’t what?” he asked.

“I can’t have him go. Not now. I just can’t.”

He seemed to understand. He fired up the queue. “Well, we can start with Eccleston again.”

And we have. Sure, I’m not churning through episodes like before. I know, eventually, I’m going to run out of time. I’m going to have to let Ten go and welcome Eleven, I’m going to have to avoid spoilers as much as possible (which, honestly, has been nearly impossible, damn you Pinterest). But not right now. Today the Doctor is happy and bright and new. Because that’s the Doctor that I need.

Which, really, is why he’s here to begin with.


15 Responses to Failure to Launch: On Finally Finding my Doctor

  1. I watched the eleventh Doctor live, and loved it. Going back and watching nine and ten, I did not like nine, and like parts about ten (liked him, but not the writing). As far as companions, Amy>Donna>Rose>>Martha, IMO. Keep watching, eleven is fantastic!

      • We know bow ties aren’t cool, that’s part of the joke, the doctor is old and crazy and ridiculous, because he can be, who has higher authority than him?

  2. Finding “your” Doctor is tough. I mean even just out of the three we have in this generation it’s tough. I felt like Chris didn’t have long enough time, David was robbed of his time, and I feel it’s too soon to tell on Matt. We won’t make a decision on him, I feel, til he’s gone and we miss him like we do for David.

    For me I love David’s time as the 10th Doctor. I like it mostly for his time with Martha. That series has some of my favorite episodes.

    But I also love Matt and the way he’s evolving more than the other two did. So it’s all about looking back, a retrospective on Doctor’s. In my opinion at least. :)

  3. I love scifi but i just can’t get into it, but everyones always talking about it and loves it so much so I’m gonna forge ahead, I liked the 9th alright but I’m still trying to get over them switching actors i’m in the first few of the 10th episodes.

  4. I was so jazzed about a new Dr. Who series that I liked it from the start. I never got into Rose the way a lot of fans did, but I liked Chris Eccleston from the very start. I was sorry to see him go after only one season, and not all that thrilled by David Tennant in his first special. In his defense, he did spend most of it asleep.

    The Empty Child & The Doctor Dances make one of the best Dr. Who stories I’ve ever seen, with Captain Jack being one of the best incidental characters introduced. The episode where the Doctor (Tennant) and Rose go to New^15 York and have a run-in with Cassandra, for me, indicated that great things were coming. By the time I’d watched Tooth & Claw, The Girl in the Fireplace, and the fantastic School Reunion (with Elisabeth Sladen), I had decided that the character of the Doctor had been created all those decades ago just for David Tennant. His portrayal did more for me now than Tom Baker’s performance when I was a teenager. He could play the Doctor for another decade and I’d still think his time too short. Gridlock (with Martha) was IMHO a classic, and the trilogy at the end of Martha’s run had me in tears at times.

    Donna was a companion I just didn’t get. She seemed so worthless in The Runaway Bride. Her season seemed to be good in spite of her. My favorite scene from that season didn’t even have her in it. In the second Sontaran episode, there’s a scene (and it’s fast) where the Doctor (Tennant) puts on a gas mask, turns to the general, and asks “Are you my mommy?” I damn near fell off the couch. Even now, thinking about that scene makes me chuckle.

    The Matt Smith episodes are all generally good. The Prisoner Zero story floored me at the end. But I think my problem with Matt Smith is identical to the problem I had with Peter Davison. The “new” Doctor isn’t bad. It’s just that while Matt Smith plays the Doctor well. David Tennant was THE Doctor.

  5. i just got into dr who about… 2 weeks ago… now i have 2 episodes left of the current season 7…
    i LOVE the show… i liked 9 but i dont think the show could go long with him, but 10… 10 was wonderful, david was great, i am glad he decided to leave on his own terms and allow the show to evolve instead of becoming possibly stale.

    11th… the way i look at it, the 11th doctor is the intro to a brand new show… new actor, director, “new” TARDIS, sonic screwdriver, companions, ect….
    10’s ending WAS a series finale, he visited all his previous companions and had a “good bye” moment with them (personally i think his poisoning took wayyyyy to long to kill him), i am glad they had a “ending” seeing as how NONE of the companions (seemingly) are to ever return again… aside from River, river is a GREAT character and i really hope they do not “kill” her off, she always seemed like she had sooo much more history with the doctor than what is shown in the show, i hope they keep her alot longer.

    and i dont want the 11th to go anytime soon, david had many years as the doctor, i want matt to have many more too, i love his goofy and silliness he brings to the doctor
    and i know once 11th is gone that i will miss him just as i do 10 AND 9

    maybe he will finally be a ginger ;)

  6. That’s EXACTLY how it was with me. I grew up with DW. My Mom was a HUGE fan and she skipped all over the place. Baker was my first, but I clearly remember the others. I hated each new doctor when they regenerated. As soon as I started to like them, they were gone again. I suppose it’s kind of a Whovian affliction. I was so excited to start watching the new series and I was so disappointed with Nine…but mostly because I couldn’t deal with Rose (I did love her family, though). I loved Ten and absolutely agree with you about Martha. I do love the villains through Ten’s tenure. Eleven is a lot like Nine to me. However, I have since watched Nine and now love him. I think it has to do with really getting in touch with The Doctor and not the actor that plays him.

    I have since watched other shows that the actors have performed in (Campion with Peter Davison is a perfect example). There is SO MUCH DOCTOR in their performances. It made me realize that asking people which Doctor is their favorite is not a great information gathering question. They are ALL the same Doctor. He stays with them when they leave the show and the new one that replaces him…still has all the Doctor’s qualities. Just a new skin. The people that like Nine have so much in common with the people that like Ten and Eleven and Four and Two.

    I think a more telling question is: which companion is your favorite. Captain Jack is mine; it says so much about me. Martha, Rose, Sarah Jayne, Amy, Rory, and Donna (as well as the countless others) have distinctive personalities and will have a distinctive following. Martha people and Rose people are completely different. Donna and Romana fans are different. Then you have K-9 fans (which is a whole other breed of fans).

    BTW: I love Firefly and have watched all the episodes so many times I can recite the entire episode without pausing. However, I won’t watch Serenity because I don’t want it to end. Watch the last two episodes (because there is still a movie). It’s probably the same reason I won’t play the final boss battle in video games. In my mind, it must continue.

    I hope you get to watch Eleven. It would be a shame for you to miss the Van Gogh episode. It will make your heart melt and a teary smile flash across your face.

    • Sounds like we’re of a similar mind. Yes. Sometimes you have the option not to let it end, and that’s totally okay (so I keep telling myself). I will watch 11. Just not now. Right now I live in happy place called delaying-Ten’s-sudden-but-inevitable-demise. ;)

  7. I liked Eccleston and the re-launch of Who. Sure it was a bit rough around the edges but they were just finding their feet in what was effectively season 1 (I know I know, the purists would disagree but to the people making Who at the time it would have been). As that season ended and I found out this ‘nobody’ called Tennant was going to take over I was annoyed. I wanted to see Eccleston’s ‘Fantastic’ Doctor grow more and I was intrigued by this broken, angry Timelord.

    However I always give the new Doctors a chance so I sat there with my arms wrapped around my waist, rocking back and forth watching the first few episodes saying to myself, “Fine! Well come on then Tennant, impress me!” And by Geronimo he did. I quickly grew to love him and was heartbroken when his term ended and this ‘nobody’ called Matt Smith took over.

    Again I sat their angry and frustrated that ‘my doctor’ had gone to be replaced by a young upstart but I gave it a try. The first episode blew me away and I fell in love with Matt straight away but the rest of the season left me lacking. There was something missing out of Moffat’s Who since RTD left and I couldn’t quite place it, I’ve always believed new Who is at its absolute best when Moffat is writing it and RTD is in charge, however I stuck with it and I’m glad I did as the last two seasons of Who have been the best yet, however I still love the previous Who’s and what they brought to the show just as much.

    I’m enjoying Matt and Moffat’s Who more than ever and can’t wait for more, until some ‘nobody young upstart’ comes and takes over of course, then I’ll be mad all over again lol!

    • I’m with you on Moffat writing and RTD in charge – Christopher Eccelston (who I love) was never consistently better as The Doctor as he was in The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. And the Moffat episodes with Tennant are some of the most memorable in the rebooted series. I think RTD kept more playfulness in than Moffat does, who makes things more dark. (Which is weird, when you look at his writing history – Coupling can still leave me in tears or laughter.)

      I’ve learned to like Matt Smith – if nothing else, his unusual face and voice give him a slight otherworldliness which is suitable for someone playing an ancient alien. Tennant was a wonderful Doctor, but sometimes, I wished he’d move out of his schtick.

  8. I grew up with Tom Baker as “my” doctor. But I don’t really remember that much about the stories – I was just a kid. I only caught a handful of episodes after Baker left, and only accidentally re-discovered Who when Eccleston started. My wife wasn’t interested at first, but at some point during the Tennant years she finally got hooked. We have gone back and re-watched every episode from the beginning. There are a couple of fantastic episodes with Eccleston, and so many with Tennant. But, some of the absolute best episodes are in Matt Smith’s era. I won’t spoil anything, but I hope you do finally choose to watch them…it may be hard to transition (both of us were immensely skeptical), but will be worth it!

  9. I agree with most of what you wrote. I also didn’t much care either way for 9 as it started, though I did quickly change my mind, after a few episodes, but damn did Rose make it hard… I utterly disliked that character. She did nothing for me whatsoever.
    And Martha? Damn!
    A smart, kickass woman who’s also training to be a doctor?
    I loved the concept, and even more so the vibe she gave off. She always seemed so involved in the Doctor’s life.

    I disliked Martha at first, but she really grew on me as time went by. She, with her grandfather, were a perfect addition to 10th’s development.

    11… I like the actor, and some of this doctor’s quirks are funny. I also quite liked his two companions. While some episodes were interesting, I far more often felt like they were more pretentious than smart.
    With 10 it was consistently good, 11 has a lot of hit and miss. Sadly, the overarching story has turned more and more into a miss for me, especially as established Whoverse stuff seems to get shrugged off more and more.
    Currently I’m hoping something changes, making it a show I can enjoy far more again, and not “Oh, well, at least it’s kinda Dr. Who” like Torchwood often was.

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