I am a newbie whovian I was staying over at a friend’s house in mid Feb and she introduced me to the doctor. As those who have been whovians for longer periods of time know, that once you are in the clutches of the doctor there really is no going back. I am currently on season 4 (though I do know bits and pieces of what happens in later seasons as a result of joining various facebook “Doctor Who” pages and groups) and thoroughly enjoying myself. I haven’t been this enamored with a TV show since I was a pre-teen and young teenager when it was Xena Warrior Princess that captured my imagination. Though there are a number of shows I like to watch on a consistent basis, my interest with “Doctor Who” is much more intense than say my interest in “Glee.” Over the past few weeks I have been trying to figure out what it is about the Doctor that holds my attention. The allure of traveling through space and time is a small part of why the show fascinates me, but I think the main reason why the show resonates with me has to do with the loneliness the Doctor struggles with.
I will explain what I mean in depth, however, to the older whovians, please excuse any ignorance on my part. I am slowly making my way through the previous series on Netflix and hope to be mostly caught up by the end of the month.
Also for any other newbie “Doctor Who” fans who are even behind me, I do include quotes from the episodes I have seen.
I struggle with major depression, and while I know intellectually that so many people in this world do as well instead of offering me comfort that there are others that know what I am going through, it simply reinforces my notion that perhaps life, with all of its pain and loneliness isn’t worth living. Every day I wake up in pain, and because I have an insatiable curiosity I am always reading and learning, and such curiosity simply leads me to learn how many people throughout history and in our current time period have struggled with an enormous amount of pain and suffering. As a sensitive person, I get overwhelmed not only by my own pain but by others as well and I don’t always know how to distance myself from the suffering others are going through. To be honest I am not even sure if I want to completely distance myself from the suffering others are going through. There are too many people who are apathetic and indifferent to the suffering of others.
I struggle with knowing when and how to express my pain and suffering and when to keep it to myself. If I talk about my pain too much, I bore people or become a Debbie downer. If I keep it inside I begin to self-destruct. I drink more, I isolate myself, and I become suicidal.
I was attracted to “Doctor Who” because the Doctor’s struggles with unbearable loneliness. As he was told by the Jeanne Antoinette Poisson in “The Girl in the Fireplace (episode 2.4): “Such a lonely little boy. Lonely than and lonelier now! How can you bear it?”
People talk about how they would want to live forever, yet the doctor has lived for hundreds of years and seen his species massacred. Although he travels with a companion, that does not always negate his loneliness. I’m not saying it does not help to have someone share one’s travels and adventures with. But he has a deep abiding loneliness that his companions distract him from, but thus far have not been able to heal him from his loneliness. (Maybe that happens in the seasons I haven’t watched yet…)
In the few seasons I have watched, the doctor never forgets that his human companions will grow older and die. Now I understand that changes a bit in future seasons, but thus far from what I have seen this holds true.
In the episode “School reunion” Rose Tyler and the doctor share an exchange that exemplifies his “curse.”
Rose: “I’ve been to the year five million, but this, this is really seeing the future-you just leave us behind! Is that what you’re going to do to me?
The doctor: No. Not You.
Rose Tyler: But, Sarah Jane-you were that close to her once, and now…you never even mention her. Why not?
The Doctor: I don’t age. I regenerate. But humans decay. You wither and you die. Imagine that happen to someone you…
Rose Tyler: What, Doctor?
The Doctor: you can spend the rest of your life with me. But I can’t spend the rest of mine with you. I have to live on, alone. That’s the curse of the Timelords.
I do know what eventually happens between Rose and the doctor that’s one of the things you can’t avoid when poking around the internet or joining “Doctor Who” related facebook pages (still have to see the actual episode though) but that above quotes to me epitomize why the show has a hold on me
Now major depression or suffering from a mental illness is not the same as being a timelord (no traveling through space and time for me, sadly) but for those suffering from a mental illness (and for those who care for them) the loneliness can be unbearable. And it would be nice, even for a short period of time to be able to have someone to share the loneliness and pain with. For those who haven’t been through chronic, long-term, major depression it might just seem as if those who suffer from it are complaining. “Why can’t you just get over it?” Trust me, if I could, I would have a long time ago. Major depression makes it hard, at least for me, to love and to be loved. You become trapped in your mind and others can’t reach you. All you see is the ugliness in the world.
For those who care for someone suffering from depression or any other mental illness, it can be tough to watch the person change and in some cases “wither” into a shell of their former selves. For some people there can be improvement and help through medication, counseling, exercise etc for others, it is a daily battle and one that is not always won. It can also be hard to see the beauty, to find meaning.
I like the Doctor because, at least so far, he still manages despite all the pain and suffering he has seen and experienced, to hold on to the good. His belief in and admiration for humanity is puzzling yet provides me with a small measure of hope. His instance that every life matters, causes me to risk hoping and believing that my life matters.
In the 2005 episode, “Father’s Day” Rose changes the past by saving her father’s life. Her father who was supposed to die in 1987 and whom she was never supposed to have met. In defending her actions, Rose says: “But it’s not like I changed history. Not Much. I mean, he’s never going to be a world leader. He’s not gonna…start World War III or anything.
The Doctor: Rose, there’s a man alive in the world who wasn’t alive before. An ordinary man; that’s the most important thing in creation. The Whole world’s different because he’s alive!
Now those who have seen later seasons know about a parallel universe, however, I still think the gist that every life matters remains the same.
As sad and pathetic as this sounds, especially since I know the show is fictional, I feel less alone watching “Doctor Who.” The Doctor isn’t real, but it helps to know that a character like him was crafted. Such a character needs to have some basis in reality, and loneliness is a universal phenomenon. Everyone experiences loneliness at one point or another, the duration and intensity might vary but loneliness is part of what it means to be conscious. “Doctor Who” allows me to forget about my depression and loneliness for a bit.