I promise, next week I will eventually finish my countdown of my favorite episodes from Matt Smith’s era.
On the surface, running away seems to be a sure fire way to protect oneself from getting hurt, and occasionally it can be fun. Amy Pond ran away with her raggedy man the night before her wedding and even after she got married, in many ways she was very much the young little girl that the Doctor originally left behind. Rose ran away with the Doctor to get away from her boring repetitive life, even though it meant leaving behind her then boyfriend Mickey and her mother. Martha put her life on hold, not just for the chance to travel through time and space but also in hopes of getting the Doctor would notice her and care about her. Donna, quickly realizes she made a mistake when she turned down the Doctor’s offer of traveling with him. And of course the Doctor is known for running away-from his past in the Time War and from his past relationships. In Journey’s End, Davros characterizes the Doctor as “The man who keeps running, never looking back because he dare not, out of shame.” And of course we see his shame-over the Time War, over the many deaths throughout his travels that he could not stop or that because directly or indirectly. Shame can be a powerful impetus for running away.
Yet mixed in with the Doctor’s sense of shame is also a large measure of fear, especially in relation to his companions: he knows that eventually they will die or they will leave, and as a result he fears getting close to them. In fact once they leave, or he leaves them, he rarely mentions them again:
In a tv show, it is vital that the main character retain a sense of mystery. When the title of the finale of season 7 part two was released, The Name of the Doctor, fans were freaking out because they felt as if knowing the Doctor’s true name would essentially ruin the show. As an audience we want to get to know our beloved characters-but we do not want to know everything about them. A character that remains a bit closed off and that tends to run away from close relationships-at least initially, is a fascinating character watch develop. Yet even in the fictional world, running away never lasts forever. Even the Doctor needs to stop running even briefly. For example, every time he says goodbye to a companion he is forced to stop running.
However, while on a TV show it is entertaining to watch a character run away from his past or his fears only to be confronted by them later on-in real life the results are much more painful and the obstacles that force us to stop running are not the type that can be solved within an hour or within a season. They often leave scars. Today I realized that an acquaintance I knew died from cancer. I didn’t really think I would be impacted by this person’s death. Why? Because I made sure that this person was just an acquaintance. In fact, like a coward I ran away. I avoided any discussion about this person and I avoided going to the place where I knew he might show up or at the very least where his name would be mentioned. I avoided getting to know him and his family even because I didn’t want to get involved. To be quite frank I was incredibly selfish-I didn’t want to get to know someone only to be forced to say goodbye to him in a few months. I didn’t want to be privy to the anguish that his family would be experiencing as they attempted to make sense of a tragedy that should not befall anyone-but especially a family as kind and caring as this one. I was only thinking about myself and I realized I didn’t’ want to get hurt so I ran away and graduate school became the perfect excuse to hide away.
During the past few days I read the emails about his deteriorating situation and the pain of his family and friends but I managed to compartmentalize said emails into a little corner in my mind and keep on running. However, no matter how much you try to outdistance death it always catches up. He died yesterday and I am left feeling incredible sadness for his friends and family, and also an overwhelming amount of guilt over a missed opportunity. I thought that keeping him and his family at arm’s length would protect me but instead I robbed myself of the chance to be of some use to those who were hurting and to get to know a wonderful person. I didn’t want to say goodbye so instead I shut myself off and continued on my own selfish little path. And the fact is, that this is not an isolated case. Distancing myself from others has become a way of life. In fact it’s the only way I know how to live. Am I really protecting myself by running away or am I wasting my life reacting out of fear? Running away is supposed to offer protection against loss but instead it causes it.