Monday, November 5, 2012

Whovember: A Man's View- Loss and Grief in Doctor Who

Today, I've got a little something different. I thought it might be really interesting to get my husband to write a few blog posts on Doctor Who since he loves the show too. So he agreed and we get a male's perspective on Doctor Who. To start out his posts, he's decided to write on Loss and Grief in Doctor Who. He's officially taking over!

If Dr. Who has taught me anything in the last few years; it’s how to handle loss and saying goodbye. Case in point: Basically EVERY character (including The Doctor) within the scope of this series is finite, limited, and fleeting. It doesn’t matter how attached you got to Rose Tyler, or laughed at Donna Noble’s antics; there inevitably comes a day when you will have to say goodbye. It’s a cruel double edged sword when it comes to character development to make you love and care for people so much only to have them torn away from you. This can be bittersweet, and sometimes it can just be plain tragic.

Spoilers ahead:

My first experience with this came with Christopher Eccleston’s regeneration into David Tennant’s doctor. This took me by surprise as I didn’t expect this sort of thing to even be possible within the scope of a TV Series. But the person who took the lead role in cultivating my interest a TV series (which my wife can attest is NOT an easy thing to do) had simply vanished before my eyes and been replaced by another. I couldn’t help but feel like David Tennant was the substitute teacher, and like Rose; it was going to take me some time to get used to and learn to trust this newcomer.

Of course this only an example with main characters; there have been countless strong “one off” characters that demonstrate great heroism and noble deeds, and it is no less tragic to bear witness to their end.

It seems that the writers contributing to this series have some kind of twisted intention to wrench at my heart strings after a seasons’ worth of build-up. Of course, I’m talking about Bad Wolf Bay. ‘Doomsday’ is an episode that will live in infamy within the Dr. Who fandom… Where Rose Tyler and The Doctor are suddenly (and permanently) torn apart from each other and locked away in separate unbridgeable dimensions. The raw emotion that floods off the screen during the closing minutes is enough to make anyone reach for a pint of ice cream and cry every tear with Rose as she struggles to say one last goodbye. And the quiet moment spent with The Doctor alone in his TARDIS made me really feel that vacancy (that void, if you will)

The entire time Donna was involved in The Doctor’s story, it’s been played on that Donna was a bit of a nobody. She was a grown woman who still lived with her parents, spending her time researching and chasing down a mystical elusive man in a blue box. It was through her adventures with The Doctor that Donna truly grew as a person; her deeds outshining and far surpassing any expectation that anyone in her life ever had for her.

This is why her story (to me) is the most tragic of all. Because despite everything she did, she will never remember it and - as far as Donna’s concerned – simply ended up right back where she started. It was as if we, the viewers, were entrusted with a dark secret that we could never reveal to our friend for fear that this knowledge would literally burn her alive. Effectively the Donna we once knew… was dead, and it was once again time to say goodbye.

This brings into light the tragedy of being The Doctor. The price of living forever means you will - one day - outlive those you love, and will be FORCED to say goodbye to them one way or another. Every laugh, every tear, every word, and every smile The Doctor shares is overshadowed by this one inalienable truth.

I felt much like this when we were forced once again to say goodbye to The Doctor as David Tennant’s reign was coming to an end. The writers for the show really played on my emotions with this one in the fact that we spent a lot more time getting to know this doctor. And having him actually reflect on what it’s like to regenerate (as in, it felt like dying, and some other man saunters off) made me feel like this really was goodbye. It was bittersweet to see The Doctor get a chance to say some final words to those who were most important to him in his travels; it really felt like a closing to a chapter. Of course, the Ood’s song lulling in the background didn’t help my heart strings at all.

At this point in my Doctor Who fandom, I believe I have been hardened enough to handle the fleeting joys and inevitable tragedies of traveling with The Doctor. This made me accept Matt Smith as The Doctor more easily. I know he won’t be The Doctor forever, and I know going in that I will have to one day say goodbye to Amelia and Rory. But that won’t stop me from laughing and crying with them every step of the way.

How do you all feel? What has Doctor Who taught you about grief and loss?


  1. The episode where Doctor Donna is reverted to just plain Donna is tragic. When she walks into the room where the Doctor is at the end and doesn't know him is completely heartbreaking.

    The Doctor's life is truly a lonely one. No one can remain with him. Not even he remains the same.

    So, what are your thoughts on a possible female incarnation of the Doctor?

    1. I think a female Doctor would be most excellent and would open up a whole new list of things for the Doctor to try. We know that it's possible now and I have a feeling they will try one in the near future.

  2. This post is not only true, but also very realistic. Doctor Who is all about loss and moving on. Even though the show is based on supernatural events, the situations and emotions are as human as you and me. It shows us that no matter who we are or what our situation may be, someone else knows how it feels to lose someone important. A female doctor would definetly shakes things up, but would be brillant.

  3. Wonderful post! One of the things I love about Dr. Who is that the same episode can provoke both laughter and tears. Can't wait to meet the next companion!

  4. I swear that every time the doctor let go of his companion I have cried like a little baby long after the episode was over. However, I have to say that I have not cried for one like I did for Rose Tyler. My heart broke along with hers and then when the doctor found her again in the alternate time, it broke all over again but I was happy with joy when the clone doctor was able to stay with her. Darn the writers and their tugging all the time at my heart strings!


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