Friday, August 31, 2012

New(ish) to Who

When the London Olympics ended a couple of weeks ago I went into a bit of a funk. What would take the place of all the sport I'd been watching so keenly (and at such odd hours of the morning) for those weeks? For a week or so, as my August ennui reached its summer zenith, I looked at photos of the Olympics. Then, I re-watched a few of the Equestrian events. Finally, true to my Pisces nature, I was distracted by something shiny...the promise of 5 sparkling new episodes of Amy, Rory, River and The Doctor. Yes, boys and girls, it's a new series of Doctor Who. There will be Daleks and Cybermen and even the odd Ood, oh my! 

A little over two years ago I was a Whovian neophyte. (You can read my post, about my emotional reaction to Vincent and the Doctor, at the bottom of this piece.) And now I'd say I'm a bona fide fan(atic). While I still don't consider myself a sci-fi kind of girl, I am a Who kind of girl. And here's why...

Doctor Who is about so much more than space and time and aliens. Sure, we learn that time is "really more of a big ball of wibbley wobbley...time-y wime-y...stuff." But in episode after episode, as the villains and monsters come and go, what remains is constant: friendship, loyalty, love, and a sense of history. Rory, who waits for Amy; Amy who waits for both Rory and The Doctor; The Doctor who always returns for his friends--albeit a little late, sometimes--all reminders of how much better the journey is when you travel with people you love and trust. The entire program is also steeped in the value of memory--there are nods large and small to the previous Doctors and their companions. And in many ways, the mere act of remembering someone can--and does-- make all the difference in the universe. Being remembered matters. Traveling (in every sense of the word) with people who matter to you is important. 

I've cried--more than once--over an episode of Doctor Who. I've also laughed, often, and been made to think. These are good things. And as with Sherlock, another favorite program, it is essential that you are actually present while watching The Doctor. You might very well be surprised at what you see and what you feel. Oh, and don't be put off by the Fezzes and bow ties, any proper Whovian knows that both are cool, as are fish-fingers and custard. 

The new season, featuring the 11th Doctor, starts on Saturday, September 1st on BBC-America. If you've never watched, why not start now? I will warn you, though, be prepared to have your heart break, just a little, now and then. Spoilers? Not here, sweetie. 

And here's my original post from July of 2010...

"I'm not a real sci-fi kind of girl. I much prefer nearly any other genre of film or book to be perfectly honest, but now and then even I am drawn to aliens and time travel. I'd noticed on the BBC that Dr Who was featuring a plot wherein the good doctor and his ginger assistant, Amy, would be visiting Vincent van Gogh in France for an upcoming episode. While I may not be an aficionado of Dr Who, I am fanatical about van Gogh and so I had to watch.

I remember very clearly the first time I saw a real live (you know what I mean...) honest-to-goodness van Gogh at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. I'd never seen anything like that before but I knew I loved it. His frantic, swirling brushstrokes, his love of color and the passion that absolutely flooded out of the painting--it was overwhelming. I then looked at pictures of his other works in the library (no internet back then, kiddies) and learned more about his life and grew to respect him even more. I do love a tortured genius (TE Lawrence is another of my favorite people ever) and van Gogh was certainly that. 

Anyway, back to The Doctor. The episode opened with an exhibit of van Gogh pieces at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris with an uncredited and (as always) brilliant Bill Nighy as an art historian leading some tourists through the show. The Doctor and Amy recognize an alien within the window of one of the paintings (The Church at Auvers) and the travel back in time in the TARDIS to rural France ca1889. 

You'd be correct to assume that while things didn't go exactly according to plan, The Doctor, aided by van Gogh did eventually neutralize the capon-ish looking alien thereby making countryside safe for the villagers once again. But the twist--and what got me all choked up--was the end. Van Gogh was famously unappreciated during his lifetime so during the episode his friends from the future resolve to take him back to 2010 and show him how much his work has meant to the world. It's a little Capra-esque device that might sound cloying, but it wasn't, it was quite poignant. Once in the Musee d'Orsay van Gogh sees the throngs of people gathered to view his work and The Doctor himself even engineers it so Bill Nighy's character speaks to the great humanity and passion he sees in Vincent's work. Upon returning van Gogh to his own time, now knowing how beloved he will be, Amy believes that the artist will now not take his own life at 37 and will accumulate a large, new body of work. The Doctor knows better but they rush back to the museum to find nothing changed...van Gogh having died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the young age of 37. When Amy lashes out that they didn't save him or help him after all, The Doctor replies to her with the comment that all of us have piles of good things and piles of bad things and that the trick is to not let the bad pile outweigh the good one. He reassures Amy that they definitely added to van Gogh's good pile.  A lovely sentiment, to be sure, as to how we impact others, and vice versa, in large and small ways.

So there I was, all choked up over Dr Who--of all things--and half thinking how brilliant it would be to be able to go back, meet and spend time with artists or writers that we admire; the other half of me thinking how wonderful it would have been for van Gogh--and so many other talented artists, writers, poets, dreamers--to have known while they lived that someday the world world would come to appreciate their talents. As with van Gogh, I'm not sure that knowledge would really change anything, but it is an intriguing thought."

1 comment:

Mark Devereux said...

Great post, MIchele! You've captured the spirit of Who-ville perfectly!