Who are you? : Doctor Who — ‘Pilot’
I think it was somewhere in the first few minutes that I found myself welling up. I was watching Doctor Who; ‘Pilot’, and it was — remarkable.
This isn’t a word that I comfortably apply to Doctor Who. Not recently in the least. I didn’t grow up with it, I didn’t watch it until Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper soared onto our screens in 2005 and burnt it all down. All of it. Rose and her Doctor, Rose and her Doctors.
It was in Rose’s heart, the way she could love everything, even the unlovable things, and bring such passion to it. Love is such a hard thing to have and to hold and yet she gave it out freely. She felt. She felt it all; Victorian Cardiff, and the universe, she felt it and she wanted to make it better. She loved rawly and foolishly and endlessly. She didn’t give in. Not once, not ever, not even when the universe had pushed her aside and into a whole ‘nother place.
(I attended a convention once, and my friend and I ended up in a lift with Paul Cornell. It was after ‘Father’s Day’ and we turned to Paul and asked him if could stop writing things that made us cry.)
And then there was David Tennant and his eyes. This is the thing about David Tennant as the Doctor; though he was all about movement and wiry, taut strings, he was also about stillness. Those eyes of his, the way he could see everything and feel it, inside of him. Blame. Pain. Love. So often the same, so close in this world of Who.
That was the Who I understood. That was the Who I loved. Those stories of fat and thick and raw, honest emotion. They bore their heart on their sleeve and they didn’t mind that. There is a honesty to such television because it is how we, in our best and worst times, would like to be. We would confess our love, our hate, and we would do that because we are people and even in the darkest points of our lives, we need to connect. We are not alone. You Are Not Alone.
Love. But then, the cleverness of Matt Smith’s Doctor, the — intelligent brutality — of him, and and the conscious uncoupling of myself from the series. The realisation that this, maybe, is not for me any more.
(My flatmate turns to me; halftime, England V. Germany. “Are you alright?” My sleeve dark, dark grey. My tears: immense. “No,” I say, because nothing can be alright ever again, because Rose and her Doctor are done ; they have parted their ways, and I am broken— )
Television requires investment. It aches for it, solicits it from you at every step. Tune in next week, here’s what’s to come, series-link, boxed set, a seed sown, a tower wrapped in green flame — this is how story works. A beginning. A middle. An End. But the space in between, it needs you there to make it live. It needs to be read, needs to be watched.
Does a story make a sound if it’s never read?
Doctor Who became background. I would tune in, if there was nothing else on, and often forget about it until somebody at work would mention it. Or I’d watch the big moments, the series ends and starts, and wonder at how calmly I took it all. Clara left, Amy left, Rory left, the plot became ever more complicated and the female characters became ever more troublesome and problematic to me, and I — I didn’t care.
But I think I care now; I think I care about what this series might have yet to say to me. ‘Pilot’ sang of something different. Pearl had agency, she had a voice, and oh, how I am down for a Doctor who lectures in a university and lets the smart ones in, the ones who push him, I am here for that story. I am here for somebody who turns to the Doctor and suddenly sees him. The world. The worlds. The everything that life can suddenly be. The way that it always could be, the way that you were always going down, the way that you just didn’t know it yet.
‘Pilot’. The opening episode of a series, but also a plea. Buckle up and ride with us.
And oh, I am there. I am there for the girl who knows that she can make a difference, for the girl with stars in her eyes and I am there for the man who lives and who keeps living and who brings light and fire and flame and hope and pain and sadness and wonder and chips and love.
This is the Who that I will come home for.