my unlikely favorite doctor who episode

It wasn’t because of the clip show.

This song certainly helped:

But it wasn’t because of that either. Not entirely.

It was that arcing blue center, the core of this Doctor and all the ones that came before, right there at Trenzalore. I love the idea of there being a core to us. A core someone can find. When I saw that episode the first time–alone, thankfully, as I prefer to be in such instances–I thought, there it is, the culmination of so much I wanted to do or be, wrapped up with a bow of a score in a scene in a scifi tv show. All those memories, bits and pieces, fragmenting. I watched the flares of blue lightning and thought of neural synapses firing, fading, as dementia sets in after not one but two doses of general anesthesia thanks to a botched first surgery. (Will I forgive doctors? Oh, I think not.) And when Clara, for whom I held nothing but contempt, previously–I missed Amy and had no desire to give the new girl the time of day–looked at it and realized what she must do, there was this lovely little twist in my gut. Go, go, go, damn you! Not because I wanted to see her end but because I wanted to see her fix things. Everything broken and breaking, time turning in on itself, memories not just being lost but unmade. And she could fix it. When she leapt into that blue current, I was rapt: the thing I would do if I could, repairing pathways that should never have been scuffed out of existence. Flinging bridges back over the abysses. Putting people back together.

The other day, I didn’t dress warmly enough. (I know–surprise.) My long underwear was in the wash and I’d grabbed the wrong pair of gloves on the way out, so by the time I got home I was shivering pretty badly. The front door had frozen shut, catching the wind and the snow full in the face as it does, so I had to rip my hands out of my too-thin gloves and fiddle with the lock and slam into it a few times to get it going. By the time I was indoors I was in full-on theatrical teeth-rattling shiver mode. And as I tore off the suddenly stifling hats (yes, multiple hats) and sweaters, tossing them into a damp pile by the door, I knocked over a picture I’d found in a box at home, of my dad, healthy and amused, cheekily posing looking down at a book titled Road To Paradise whilst sitting, clearly, in a dining car in a train on–to judge by the cover of the book–arguably that same road. And what had been really violent shivers became really violent sobs. (Odd, how your body’s like “screw it, you’re close enough anyway, you’re going to do this now.”) Because I can’t remember the last time he wasn’t bowed under the weight of my mother’s illness or of dead friends or dead dogs or unimpressive children or ailing knees or ankles. Or time. He wasn’t bowed under, in the picture. He didn’t care! He was on a roadtrip with his family, taking a silly picture on a train in the verdant spring countryside. There was nothing to bow down to yet, as far as he was concerned.

I’m not a very dedicated Doctor Who fan–I’ve only seen Smith and a bit of Tennant (no BBC for the current one, sadly), and I grow bored when people want to get too deep into the details of past doctors and potential future doctors. But this? I was so on board for this. I’ve mentioned before how gradeschool writing assignments asked us to pick superpowers. I went with something it was okay to talk about in front of others–jumping into photographs or something–but my first impulse was always to ghost through and invisibly fix things. Dad’s metal ankle. Mom’s deafened ears. The principal who grew lumps in her breasts and had a decorative tree planted for her in front of the school. I explicitly did not want to be visible–I did not want to have to deal with people’s reactions to the knowledge that I was the reason things were better. I just wanted them to be better, damn them.

Maybe it’s why I’m so receptive to fantasy narratives where you undo snarls in the world. The Rifts in Dragon Age, the portals in Oblivion…the scene in Memory of Light where the very earth is cracking, crumbling away into impenetrable darkness, and Egwene goes in there and wham, she blasts the everloving fuck out of everything broken and knits it back together with the ferocity of her belief that she can and that it should. That was the most beautiful part of that book! Not what happens to her, not that that’s what it costs, but the visuals. The making whole of the unfairly, unjustly fragmented. Fantasy is cyclical. You tend to be able to put things back together. Or if you can’t, you’re made to think that that’s okay, because it’s part of some grander narrative in which what’s broken isn’t really broken, because it was necessary–just part of the tapestry, an absence required for the presence of something else.* In the vacuum of space, or the harsh fluorescence of modern-day waiting rooms, we can’t convince ourselves that’s the case. Nothing that comes undone will return to the way it was. We have laws here. Matter cannot be created or destroyed. Meaning you have to deal with all the shit that doesn’t disappear when things go bad. Everything’s still there, just worse. And unfixable.

Anyway. Good song, no?

*Yeah, I know. Religion. A difference being that no one ever blew up a bus or denied end-of-life-visitation rights over an argument about a tattered fantasy paperback. So do please excuse me if I retain my preferences on that score.


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