Marc Alan Fishman: Who. Who? Who!
Yeah. I know. I’m last on the bandwagon, yet again. But that’s OK, kiddos. I found Nirvana well after Kurt Cobain passed away. As many of you would also note, I found Star Trek: The Original Series just a little over a year ago. Funny enough, that was one of my most popular columns. For all the nerd-rage that exists when we poke and prod one another about our loves, we’re also the first sub-culture to embrace noobies with the unbridled passion of 1000 angry Daleks. That’s joyful rage though, so it’s all good. A bit over a week ago, I became of a fan of Doctor Who. Whovians, take me into your bosom. Move the celery stalk first.
A bit of backstory to begin. Unshaven cohort Kyle Gnepper has long been an outskirt Who-fan. Unshaven cohort Matt Wright also partook of the good Doctor upon subscribing to Netflix. My own timey-wifey has been a fan for quite some time as well. Heh. As we are all apt to do when everyone we know is in to something, we feel the latent pressure to join in the rapture. So, on occasion, I tried. And tried. And tried again.
Each time, the same feeling would pass over me. I’d glare at a Dalek, or a Cyberman, or whatever the thing-of-the-week was, and I’d scoff. Even ladled with every well-budgeted CGI and modeling trick, the episodes reeked to me of technical limitations. Much as I’d railed against Trek, I couldn’t find the suspension of disbelief due to the constraints of a TV budget. And much like Trek, what was really missing was my understanding and appreciation for characterization.
If you’ll allow me one more deviation off the pathway before I gush over “The Day of the Doctor” special… it’s the aforementioned note of characterization that I need to extrapolate on. Take Firefly. There, Fox supplied Joss Whedon with a budget that made his sci-fi romp visually appealing at the get-go. Without the stigma of eww, this looks like it cost pennies to make, I was quicker to give the show a try (still way late and well after the show was DOA). As much as I wanted to hate the show, like so many before me, I was enchanted by the roguish charms of Captain Mal. I bought into the character, and quickly thereafter, I bought into the show. The same could be said for my finding love in other series like House, Modern Family, and more recently Hannibal (which I can’t wait to return). The common factor here is simple: my adoration is bestowed to shows (and comics, movies, et al) that give us strong characterization.
Now, onto Who. As I’d said briefly above, I’d given myself several chances to fall in love. Each time, I was met with an odd fellow who dazzled my friends, but confounded me. His mannerisms, his oddness, his aloofness irritated me. And when I’d make an attempt to find the hook of The Doctor, I’d be met with either terse explanations (“It’s just how he is, in this incarnation…”) or lengthy diatribes that attempted to cram decades of knowledge into a tight ten-minute lecture. In both events, I simply didn’t get it. Much with Trek, it would take me having to clear my head of preconceived opinions and walk into things blindly.
After dinner with my parents, my wife, son and I retired to the casa del pescador. I’d noted that somewhere around the 8:30 hour the living room TV was still blaring. You see, that is typically night-night time round these parts. But there, wide awake, sat my young scion and my lovely lady partaking of the Doctor. Figuring it would be best for me not to attempt to daddy-lecture my own wife as to the importance of adhering to a strict schedule, I opted instead for what all us white people do when we want to make a point, but fear confrontation: I sat in the same room silent, in hopes that waves of passive-aggression would communicate my feelings.
What? (See what I did there, Michael Davis?)
And so, I sat for the better part of an hour, watching “The Day of the Doctor.” With three Doctors sharing screen space, I was curious. David Tennant with his sand shoes, Matt Smith with his fussy hands, and John Hurt with his John Hurtiness. They occupied the same space, playing iterations of the same character. Different lives, but ultimately the same consciousness. And between them, a history, a future, and a mantra I had not heard until then.
“Never cruel or cowardly. Never give up, never give in.” And there it was. Just as I’d found my love of Trek via Kirk’s labido and Bones’ testicular fortitude. Just as I’d found my love of House via his unseen pain and self-doubt (and because it’s fun to watch him be a jerk). Here was The Doctor, making the hard choices, living and reliving moments in his lifetime, and decidedly declaring a purpose. This was to me the same as the oath of a Green Lantern, or Truth-Justice-and-the-American-Way.
When I’d posted on Facebook that I’d found a love for the character and now decided to jump in with the new season to come… I was pelted with more comments than I’d seen in the last year. Seems the whole world had become Whovian without me, but were quick to open their Tardi (Tardidisisisisis?) to me with open arms and weee-oooo-weee-oooo’ing sonic screwdrivers. For the record, I liked Tennant just a bit more than Smith (sorry, that Fez ain’t cool, no matter what he says), and Hurt more than either of them (“Why are you pointing those things? What are you going to do, assemble them a bookshelf?”). Doctor Who is about a hero who fights the good fight for all the universe, through all times. That I can certainly get behind. And now? I look forward to the future… the past… and all the timey-wimey in between.
SUNDAY: John Ostrander
MONDAY: Mindy Newell