Trick or treat…
It’s October; the month of Halloween. It’s the month that ghouls, ghosts and goblins can run in the streets without getting weird looks. Monsters, aliens, robots… they are all part of the scares that people love and Halloween is the month that embodies the best of those scares. As we all know, Doctor Who is no stranger to monsters! “The monster and the Doctor. It seems you cannot have one without the other.” Doctor Who is about monsters and scary things that make kids hide behind their sofas. We’ll go deeper down that rabbit hole later this month. But I’ll start the month talking about something really scary. Let’s not forget, these creatures are all diffused of their fearsome qualities because they can ultimately be defeated. That’s the Doctor’s role: “…the man that stops the monsters”. But what about those monsters that can’t be defeated? What about those times that all the Doctor can do is survive; live to fight another day?
“When I say ‘run’…”
So we should start October with something really scary. Critical Thinking! No, I’m joking… Or am I? (“…RUN!”)
What I find truly scary is the idea of Parallel Worlds. Maybe that’s because my life is pretty close to perfect. I’m happy to say that almost every alternative I can conceive is bleaker than my own reality. (If anyone wants to offer me the role of the Doctor, you may find the one alternate reality that can beat what I have now!)
We’ve seen parallel worlds in Doctor Who. Inferno and The Age of Steel/Rise of the Cybermen are two prime examples. But what always happens? They can’t be changed – at best, they have to be escaped. We never stay in those worlds for long because they are scary. They represent the “what if’s” that make us uncomfortable. And that’s the thing: monsters can be killed, enemies defeated, power mad rulers overthrown and maniac scientists who scream “nothing in ze world can stop me now”, can in fact, be stopped! But parallel worlds simple are. Sometimes they can be guided (as in Star Trek’s: Mirror, Mirror – “Captain Kirk, I shall consider it!”) but we never see them “corrected”. So, as if ordered by Colonel Manton, we know the best we can do is run away!
What makes them scary? Well if you’re willing to think through the chain of events, like watching dominoes fall, to see where the lines diverge, it is a question of critical thinking.
Maybe there are the worlds where the dinosaurs didn’t get wiped out but that’s so distant, it borders on the esoteric. It’s The Lost World. It almost is too strange to even conceive beyond the realm of science fiction.
How about a world like that in The Man in the High Castle where the Allies lost World War II? Certainly closer to home and terrifying. I’d venture Inferno could have existed in that timeline. The world we live in, controlled by a different regime! We would have been born into that world. I’m sure someone I know is the Brigade Leader!
Closer to home, what about if your mom and dad never meet, one might cease to exist like in the original Back to the Future. More likely, since they both still exist but never meet up, we might just end up being a different person. I might have ended up with dark hair and loving sports (God forbid!). Or my sister might have been named Lauren, which was originally what her name was supposed to be. (I even drew a picture when I was 7 and labeled mom, dad, me and “lauren” before she came home from the hospital with a different name altogether; talk about being blindsided). Maybe I have a brother instead! Or my sister might be older than me (people often think she is anyway; I’m youthful! Sorry sis!) Although in fairness, I had such a monumental influence on my baby sister, and helped her become the wonderful person she is, it would have to be a different person altogether if she were older than me! And she would not have known the answer to certain trivia questions. (“It’s entirely due to my influence, of course, you mustn’t take any credit…”) Perhaps in the alternate universe, her name is Lauren or Jenn or Cassie or Tracie or Gertrude… The “what if’s” are infinite! And that is also too much for the brain to take in! All the different paths those dominoes could have taken to form a totally different image; I feel like running just thinking about it!
Especially if I were a sports fan… that’s the most terrifying of all!
In my own life, I know of one critical “nexus moment” back in 2007 that amazes me because I can see with crystal clarity where the alternate timeline would have diverged and it came down to a simple act, not unlike making a change in the direction of a car… One simple decision might have changed so much: my employment status through 2008, meeting my wife, the home I live in and love, not knowing the kids that are so important to me … everything! Everything also including going to Wales in the summer of 2017, meeting my dear friend Roger in person for the first time and being a part of the resurrection of this very website! And all because I, in effect, did not “turn left”! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I know precisely how Donna felt the moment that she experienced the events of Turn Left. I made the right call, but had I turned the wrong way… I shudder to think!
And that scares me more than Daleks, Weeping Angels, Clockwork Droids and the whole pantheon of monsters the Doctor encounters on his travels.
When was your nexus moment?