Five years ago, I was working this tutoring job that was starting to wear on me. I worked at a middle school that was close to my apartment, a middle school I still have very fond feelings for, even when it did make me weary. Tutoring didn't pay that well and I had wonky hours. Some days, I started late morning, and some days I had a gap in the afternoon between classes when I was able to run home and grab some lunch. This was also the year I started watching Doctor Who.
I binge-watched the first few seasons of the new generation of Who, but all in totally wrong order. I started with the Matt Smith years, since he was the current Doctor at the time, and then I went back to Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant to catch up, but even those I watched out of order. While normally I am a very chronological type of person (see: I am a librarian), I enjoy that I immersed myself in a backwards way in this one instance. Because, after all, Doctor Who is very timey-wimey.
When I was feeling particularly tired about my job or questioning my life choices during that time in a particularly melancholy way, I threw myself entirely into the Whoverse. A good Doctor Who ep is totally immersive--you can't watch and surf social media on your phone at the same time (a habit I practice far too much these days), or else you will have no idea what's happening. I spent my mornings and my afternoon gaps watching episode after episode. Getting into them usually made it that much harder to drag myself back to school.
Looking back now, I view my tutoring years positively--a lot of the stuff I learned at that tough school is still elemental to how I feel about teaching today. But I also look back fondly on all those hours spent watching Doctor Who when I just really didn't want to go back to the real world. Doctor Who is a special show in general, but finding a good escape when you really need it always feels special and deeply personal. And even though I know Doctor Who is one of the most universally loved shows of all time--I had no idea five years ago, because I was way behind the times, how much nerd cred it would give me with kids--my relationship with it felt special and deeply personal.
Which is why it's a bit of a bummer that I haven't felt that special connection with it for quite a while. I know there are a lot of think pieces out there about why this might be, but I'm not overly-analytical about it. I'm out of touch with the hardcore fan base. I don't necessarily love Steven Moffat, but I don't think he's ruined the show. I actually do really like Peter Capaldi as a Doctor. I always want to keep watching, but sometimes I don't watch as closely. I don't miss it too much when it's gone.
However! I've started watching the newest episodes that began airing last month, and I liked Billie straight away. And this is not just because she's the first openly queer lady-of-color companion! Although that is of course a big plus!! I especially liked the second episode, Smile. It felt like classic Who: this interesting idea about a future world, an idea that seems plausible and bright and shiny at first, with funny, campy robots/aliens. I loved their ridiculous emoticon faces. The audience is told right away how this bright and shiny place is in fact laced with scary evil and desolate heartache caused by human hubris, duh, but it takes Billie and the Doctor a little longer to figure that out. And waiting for them to figure it out, and having no idea what they're going to do to fix it, makes for such good TV.
So as I watch Season 10, some of my Who feelings are coming back. And while I probably won't ever reach my binge watch immersion feelings of five years ago again, I want to write some of my thoughts and feelings down. These will be very random and I'm going to limit myself to five to start with, because frankly, I've already said a lot of thoughts in this post.
1. Clara Oswald. Eh?
I think one of the biggest anchors behind my Who ambivalence (Whobivalence?) the last few years is that I never truly connected with Clara.
At first, I thought her storyline was going to be fascinating. How had she already appeared on so many timelines in the Doctor's life, without any memory of them? Who, or what, WAS she? So much potential for backstory and twists and intrigue! But I feel like for large spans of time we forgot that her story was timey-wimey at all.
In general, a companion is only truly compelling when there is more to their story than just their adoration of the Doctor. They have to be their own full, complex human being. Which is probably why the only episodes where I felt totally into it over the last few seasons were when Clara was developing her relationship with Danny Pink. This is not to say that Clara didn't have any meaning without a dude at her side, of course, but Danny was a great character. And when he was gone, Clara just...didn't have any of her own stories anymore. And while I don't have any negative feelings towards her or Jenna Coleman's acting, she felt almost too perfectly plucky, too adorable and charming, too close to a Mary Sue. I liked her--I just never loved her. And maybe I have to watch her final episodes over again to truly understand what was happening, but I feel like there were just so many unanswered questions about who she was and what her purpose was.
This also makes me slightly apprehensive about Billie. I know we're only three episodes in, but other than knowing that she's queer and pretty pumped about her new life aboard the TARDIS, we know absolutely nothing about her. Yes, I like her a lot so far, but you better give her some character development stat, Doctor Who, or else I'm gonna be real sad.
2. David Tennant is the best Doctor, forever and ever amen.
I mean, I feel like this is practically cannon at this point. He is just the best! I want to do a re-watch of some of his seasons but it might be too emotional. He didn't want to go. :(
Kathy watched Jessica Jones a few months back and it traumatized me how evil and scary he was on that show. I know David Tennant has been on a lot of things, and plays evil and scary really well, but I REJECT IT EVERY TIME. He is the Doctor. The best one. And that is all.
3. I still miss Donna.
I know Donna was only the companion for one season, but I still feel like she's overlooked. I only know of one other person who loves Donna the way that I do. A lot of people think she's even (gasp) annoying. But I loved her from the very first second! From the very first second to the very end, she is the companion that gives the Doctor the most shit, that has just as much verve and sass and confidence as he does, and not in a I'm-so-cute-and-subservient way, but in a I-am-just-as-important-as-you-okay way. And funny! Like in the screencap above, I can't remember anything else that happened in that episode but I do remember that scene being HILARIOUS. And her grandpa, ugh, don't even get me started. Wilfred. :(
I also attest that Donna's ending as a companion was the most gut-punching, unfair, heart-wrenching ending of all time. YES, EVEN WORSE THAN ROSE'S. I SAID WHAT I SAID.
4. Blink v. The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon
Blink (Season 3) is undeniably the most famous episode of all the new generation episodes, and for good reason. It is scary AF, yes, but it is also just such a finely crafted episode. A perfect stand-alone mystery from start to finish. GOD, it is good. Mind-blowingly so.
BUT. The first episodes I ever watched were the back-to-back Season 6 openers, The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon. And I remember being pissed at all my friends who told me Doctor Who was just full of time travel and whiz bang fun, because this shit was TERRIFYING. I just remember that creepy faceless astronaut scaring me SO BAD, and those stupid lines on their arms and faces. Nopey nope nope nope.
5. I still have no idea what happened on The Name of the Doctor.
I know that it was fun having so many Doctors together. Seriously, that was hella cool. But the rest, man. I....have no idea. Like, okay, who was John Hurt again? And just like...what the eff was happening?
Five random thoughts went by fast. I haven't even mentioned River Song yet! OR how much I want Sue Perkins to be the next Doctor after a genius stranger on the Internet implanted the idea in my brain. So many other random thoughts to vomit out into the void! Hopefully, if Season 10 goes well, all these random thoughts that other people have likely articulated much better in think pieces somewhere on the Internet already, well, I'll write them down anyway soon!