On Doctor Who and Why I’m Not Ready

I almost wept into some clean laundry this weekend. I think it was a pair of my girlfriend’s purple jeans.

Let me back up.

I’ve discussed a certain concept a few times here, and at various other locales. [See: My Friend’s Backyard, also While Drunk] That fictional characters have weight, have a presence all their own.  One way to think of it is similar to the conceit that gods grow in power through the belief and devotion of their followers, but more to the point — our relationship with these fictional characters has a very real effect upon us. I think more deeply than we realize most of the time. The heroes and villains that we keep in the pantheon of our mind guide us and teach us. They vibrate in the airwaves between human minds, growing stronger and more tangible as the mental energy grows. Very Science Fiction, you say?

Well, that brings us to the Doctor.

[And, yes, I realize that this concept is the LITERAL PLOT of one of David Tennant’s episodes, the one where he turns into Dobby and Martha tricks the tardis-doctor-whoMaster with the DragonBalls.]

I’m a latecomer to this show. I caught a few of the classic episodes on public television as a kid, even had a friend force me to watch a brace of VHS tapes with the Seventh Doctor. I enjoyed them, but it didn’t really click with me. I filed it away next to a lot of other BBC errata from those years like Are You Being Served? and Red Dwarf. I was aware of the modern continuation, but it remained on my periphery, until a roommate and I finally bowed to the nerd pressure, and popped in the first disc of the Eccleston season.

And it hit me. From the moment he took Rose’s hand and told her how he could feel the spin of the Earth.

I’ve tried to put my finger on exactly what I love so much about this character several times. He’s wise, yes. And powerful, yes. And noble and just and funny and mad, the Wise Old Wizard Writ Large. But there’s something more to the Doctor. Something about the weight of his history, in the world of the show and in the legacy of his fiction in the real world. 50 years of this character, unbroken and irresistible. [Yes, I know the show was off the air for years — but they didn’t stop making the radio plays or novels, NOW DID THEY SMARTY PANTS.] The cumulative force of hundreds of writers and dreamers and actors all slapping on pieces of the Best Person. I’ve always believed that we tell stories to create the things the universe requires. It can’t all be blank rock and stale chemistry — we need gods and devils and heroes and villains and tricksters and sages. And with the Doctor, we tell the story about a person who is a little bit of each.

My roommate and I started watching during the weird in-between time at the end of David Tennant’s tenure. After Donna left, but before The End of Time, when it was just the movie/specials ever month or so leading up to the huge climax. So, we watched Nine become Ten, then Ten love Rose, lose Rose, lose Martha, lose Donna, and the Doctor-Donna. From first love with this character to his darkest hour in the space of a few weeks. And man, the final days of Ten were dark. Waters of Mars to me still stands as one of the most shocking, dire, and unbelievably bleak moments in the Doctor’s long life. Around this time we heard the first rumbles of the new actor chosen to fill the role, and as devastated as I was to see Ten march to his doom — I was eager to meet his new face.

Because, I felt like this could by my Doctor. We were latecomers to Tennant, and no one with an active internet connection should have any confusion about the levels of adoration that he earned and still enjoys to this day. I know it’s petty, but when the whole world loves a character or a show, it’s hard for me to get quite as excited. To get quite as invested.

So we watched Ten become Eleven.

And it hit me. From the moment he threw the toast.

This was my Doctor.

doctor-who-the-god-complex-promo-pics-1Matt Smith came to that role and did the impossible. He owned it without stealing one watt of Tennant’s lightning. He was the heir, the scion of all that came before, with a lovely patina of Two. He was daffy and beautiful and intense and, well, wonderful, as the Doctor must be. I would argue, the finest actor to play the role in its modern iteration. [Mainly because the show’s writing got very dodgy underneath him, and he had to make it all work with his eyes, with his face, with the pure certainty of his portrayal. But enough of that, I came here to praise Caesar.] The pantheon of my mind glowed and I felt that I understood the universe a bit better, as secure as children dreaming of Santa Claus must be. It comforts me to believe in the Doctor in much the same way. To know that that character is somewhere out there in the firmament, mucking about in the TARDIS. A sentinel of my worldview, a fixed point. I’ve watched Eleven’s adventures with great delight [except for long sighs and groaning ‘Moffat…’ every so often], to the point where when I think of the Doctor I see him, just as when I think ‘President’ I see Barack Obama. The role is an office, a mantle, and it comforted me to know that my guy was in there.

But now he is leaving. Eleven becomes Twelve, vicious clock hands. The Doctor’s core is change, regeneration. It’s how the show stays fresh, a new face ushering in a new brace of tales to tell. I know that, and treasure that. Intellectually, I can’t wait to meet Peter Capaldi’s Doctor.

But still.

So, there I was. On the couch, folding laundry. I hate working in silence, so I popped on Netflix. I browsed around a bit, then opted to re-watch one of Smith’s episodes, one of my favorites, The God Complex. I’ve seen it a few times, so I wasn’t really giving it my full attention, just some background noise as I sorted socks and folded towels.

I happened to look up, as Eleven peered into his room. [The episode is about a hotel, every room holds your greatest fear. The episode doesn’t show what the Doctor saw, but because I am just that nerdy, I know what Matt Smith said in an interview that he imagined. Ten men hanging from nooses, with one empty noose waiting for him.]

And it hit me. I’m not ready. I may have said it aloud, though only the dogs can attest to that. This has been a rough year. My mother died from cancer in May, after months of struggle. I’m still reeling now, depression and gloom have me in their grip. This is not a world I ever expected to live in. I’m not ready for my Doctor to go. It’s like swearing in a new President at war time. There’s going to be a gap. The chair’s going to be empty. One of the lights in my head is going to go dark, and it’s scary. It’s scary. I’m not ready.

Silly? A bit. True? Yes.

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Judge the Book by its Cover

I am beyond excited….and more than a little terrified. I actually have an artist working  on the cover art for Spell/Sword.

Cyberman – Mike Groves [poopbird]

I insist that you click on this super-rad Cyberman art and check out some other examples of his work. He’s got a lot of style-flexibility, but everything he does is interesting, distinctive and [as mentioned] on the north side of Rad. We had a great brainstorming session last week, and I should start seeing sketches in the next couple of weeks. I almost wrote ‘barnstorming’. I really want to have a barnstorming session in the immediate future.

Mike Groves – aka Poopbird – is a phenomenal artist, living in my hometown of Athens, GA. You should follow all of the links below and rub your grimy internet-hands all over his virtua-product. He is also an amazing tattoo artist, so if you need some ink (especially nerd-ink) he’s the man to call.

Poopbird.com

Tumblr.

Deviantart.

I can’t wait to see what he comes up with — even though the anxiety-engine in my head is already revving up.  Cover art means we’re getting closer and closer to the book being real, and launched into the world where everyone will hate it.

But at least the cover is going to be boss.

Star Prophet

Star Prophet lay in the dirt. Underneath the drain pipe by the abandoned Bojangles he lay in mud and water, the blue jacket he always wore, a black cord wrapped around each wrist. After school I would bring the lunch I had saved and sit with him on the broken concrete and talk and watch him eat — pushing each wrapper into his mouth and chewing the plastic. Not a crumb escaped and he would talk about planets.

“Jupiter now, that’s a giant musical note — a hum in the cosmos, a perfect counterpoint to the static coming off Mercury during the winter months.” a clean slide of plastic pulled from his mouth.

analoglove00b by jean fhilippe

He always wore the hood of his coat up, even in June-heat. Somewhere in his orbit of town he had found some white tape, and carefully lined out a star on the front peak of his hood.

“People gotta know. People gotta know.” Star Prophet said, right hand clutching the zipper tab of his coat.

“Yeah?” I said. “They gotta?”

“Gotta-gotta.” completing our joke.

He stank, sweat and plastic and wet earth. His hands were brown like mine.

“The chance, the promise — the song that the rings of Saturn sing. It belongs –we belong!” he yelled, a stray fleck of yellow bread falling from his lips.

They chased him away from everywhere. The stores, the streets, the fronts of churches. Star Prophet would run and point, sliding down railings and stairs. His long brown finger to the heavens, spraying spit and star charts into empty faces. Late nights he would grab rich drunk white boys by the lapels and shake them into his words about Orion and Sagittarius and the shapes of memory in the stars.

They beat him and broke him and chased him into the wilderness like a dog.

So we sat and talked, and the house waited.

“It’s in us -It’s in us the stars and the sky and the light of the sun and the dance of the moons, and I can feel it — I can feel it in my heart, lifting me up while I sleep, and I can’t sleep only dream the stars in my water, and in my earth the moon.”

Sometimes Star Prophet would cry. Sometimes Star Prophet would hold my hand, and that was okay.

“Tell ’em. You gotta tell ’em when I can’t. Won’t you?” he whispered.

“I will. I promise.” The stars were out and I was late.

“And Cheetos — maybe, tomorrow?” his star-marked hood bobbled.

“Yeah, okay.”

I walked home in the stars, to the dark house where my uncle waited.

[I finished this piece, and realized I was writing about Doctor Who.]