*For the sake of simplicity I will be referring to Matt Smith’s Doctor as the eleventh Doctor.
*I will continue counting down my favorite Matt Smith episodes next week
The title says it all. I love working on this blog. I am always thinking of different topics to cover and I genuinely enjoy Doctor Who and being able to share my thoughts on particular themes or episodes with others. I love some of the conversations that have resulted from this blog and its accompanying facebook page. However, when it came to writing this blog post, I hesitated and procrastinated. Why? Because I was determined to not make this a sentimental, cheesy, and snappy goodbye to Matt Smith’s Doctor. Yet as I thought more and more about this post and as I agonized over what I wanted to say, I knew there would be no way for me to avoid being overly sentimental or emotional. And this is coming from someone who is comfortable expressing anger and excitement over sadness and tears. And to get so emotional over a fictional character…well that seems a bit embarrassing. A 24 year old getting so emotionally attached to a fictional character? Shouldn’t I have outgrown that tendency about 10 years ago?
But what can I say? My friend introduced me to Doctor Who (2005 series) during a particularly difficult time in my life. It felt as if my life was falling apart and things were looking as if they weren’t going to get better-not for the foreseeable future, and in many ways they got worse. I had been kicked out of an internship program after being honest about my struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts and I was forced to go back to a mother who, while I was growing up, was at best neglectful and at worse emotionally and mentally manipulative and abusive. My grandma soon took ill and I was forced (along with my older sisters) to try and navigate the government bureaucracy while at the same time dealing with a mother whose emotional maturity was that of a four year old throwing constant temper tantrums. Yet the show about a silly Time Lord, traveling through the universe in his Blue Box captured my imagination. Sometimes the only thing I had to look forward to after a particularly trying day was watching Doctor Who. I fell in love with nine and ten, and admittedly was suspicious of the eleventh Doctor. I told my friend that had introduced me to the series, “I’m not sure I can like Matt Smith, not after David Tennant” and she assured me, that I too would grow to love the raggedy doctor who had a fondness for bow ties, fish fingers and custard, and fezzes.
And boy was she ever right. The eleventh Doctor was funny and zany. He made me laugh during times when I really just wanted to be angry. He reminded me to hope, when cynicism and depression threatened to overwhelm me. Yet he was able to perfectly portray anger and sadness. I loved his relationship with Amy Pond. After growing up in an abusive household and unable to really connect with others, I found myself, during my childhood waiting to be rescued by someone-anyone-a deity figure, or a relationship, or even by higher education. So when the Doctor drops into Amy’s life, then disappears and leaves Amy waiting, I found myself relating to her story. And then he came back, he whisked her and later her husband Rory on fantastic adventures. Her childhood had been defined by strange happenings (disappearing parents, cracks in the wall etc), waiting for the raggedy doctor to come back, and being sent to psychiatrist after psychiatrist Yet unlike most of us, who are forced to eventually let go of our imaginary friends, Amy was able to travel and become best friends with hers. And what about the Doctor? The man who couldn’t stop running, who often hid away to prevent himself from getting hurt, fell in love with the Ponds. The Doctor, who throughout his lifetimes had been through so much pain and suffering, still managed to allow himself to care deeply and to make friends, even knowing that adventures and even friendships eventually come to an end.
Eleven, the silly, childlike time lord, masked a person that was deeply hurting. A person whose silliness often served as a facade to hide his pain and the burden he carried as a result of the Time War, who struggled with deep bouts of loneliness and sadness. He was a person who came across as invincible and unstoppable yet who suffered deeply when he couldn’t save others or when his actions, directly or indirectly caused the deaths of others.
What really struck with me was his struggles with loneliness and his tendency to run away (though those were shown in the other incarnations as well…). The Doctor and his inability to stay in one place, his inability to trust another person fully or to trust and love himself fully. While our situations were obviously different (him being a fictional character and all…) I saw bits of myself in him. I saw my struggle to be close with others and my deep self-loathing that often made me contemplate suicide. And I also saw who I wanted to be. Someone who cared so deeply about others and who always strived to do the right thing, someone who even though he had been hurt before, did continue to make friends, someone who although childlike continued to grow.
Eleven became like a best friend, someone I could relate too, someone who reminded me never to give up hope and as silly as this sounds, I will miss him. I am sure that Peter Capaldi’s Doctor will be great, but at the same time, I can’t help but feel a sense of loss. Eleven, who hated goodbyes, who tried to avoid them at all cost, was finally forced to say goodbye and to accept change. A notion I have difficulty accepting. I know change can be good-but it is also scary, it can mean losing control, and it often means saying goodbye. But the eleventh Doctor handled his ultimate goodbye with grace and strength. No escaping it this time. Throughout his time period as the Doctor, he grew and he changed. Perhaps it’s time I do the same? Perhaps it’s time I finally let go of my childhood pain and stop letting it define my future? Perhaps it’s time I grew up.
So thank you Matt Smith, for portraying a Doctor who was childlike, silly, and funny yet who also struggled with loneliness, self-loathing, and loss. Thank you for portraying a Doctor Who thoroughly enjoyed life and who never gave up on hope. I am excited for the next chapter in the Doctor’s life, but know that I will never forget your chapter. You did us whovians proud Matt.
And I just wanted to share a quote that my friend, Kelsey about why the show has such an impact on its viewers: