Back in October, I wrote an article about the fear of loneliness after a very dear friend of mine changed jobs. Through her, I met her family: her husband, her daughter and her son. Her son, Reza, and I developed an instant bond when for his first visit to our office, somewhere between the age of 9 or 10, he brought a remote control Dalek into our office. I, ready for the potential visit, had a trusty sonic device ready and blasted the Dalek before it got to my cube. Instant chemistry! On Friday, I was invited to their home for a combo birthday/graduation party for Reza before he goes off to college to conquer the world. The Daleks have nothing on him; in fact, they might want to recruit him if they’re ever to have a shot at world domination. Anyway, it got me thinking about that old expression about one door closing for another to open. Now, any of us with children know, all the doors can be open at once and no one will actually close a door but in life, it’s a bit more like an airlock – one has to close for another to open. (Sorry Katrina! Too soon?) I’ve been lucky that in my life, that the door that is opening has consistently improved my life. But new beginnings are strange affairs because, while they can lead to great things, there’s a lot of anxiety about them. We almost always venture forth on our own… or so it seems. We’ve had 55 years with our favorite Time Lord and have had many new beginnings.
We know new beginnings are a bit scary; we never know what to expect. I mean, the Sixth Doctor’s beginning lead to him trying to strangle his companion. The Twelfth may or may not have stolen a coat from a homeless man and thrown a clockwork droid to his death. Sometimes new beginnings are confusing, like when the Seventh Doctor woke up on a table and couldn’t tell the Rani from Mel and struggled to get a sentence out without a few well-placed malapropisms in the process. The Second Doctor was so confused that he didn’t know what happened to him and called the process “renewal”. And the Eighth Doctor woke in a morgue not even sure of who he was! Sometimes those new beginnings are so uncertain, someone has to be there to carry us along, like when the Third Doctor was carried to a hospital and rolled around in a wheelchair after his regeneration. Or the Fifth needed his companions to carry him around in a Zero room cabinet just to give him some shuteye. And the Tenth Doctor needed to be cared for in bed until someone finally thought to give him a nice cup of tea! And then there’s the potential that you go in guns blazing, determined to make the most out of those new beginnings like when the Fourth Doctor ran off in his nightgown and played jump rope with Harry Sullivan. Or the Eleventh Doctor who made a new friend regardless of the rather insurmountable age gap, ate all kinds of new foods, and walked into a tree before finding his swimming pool and saving the world. The War Doctor provides a very interesting perspective on new beginnings. He starts and ends seemingly on his own, but the Sisterhood actually helps him into existence and his former selves see him through the most challenging aspect of his life.
Which brings us to the truth of the matter: through all these changes, we are never alone. It might feel that way like what the Third goes through, cast to Earth on his own, in exile. But before that Doctor even opens his eyes, an old friend is watching over him. Each Doctor has had friends to carry him through. As news is dribbling out about the newest Doctor, to be played by Jodie Whittaker, we know she’s going to have a very large group of friends, even if right now it feels like she’s on her own (and plummeting out of the sky!) This is probably what it feels like to leave everything you know behind, but like the Doctor, we know we can land on our feet in some capacity and everything will be okay! Our friends will be there. As my good friend said of all his friends, the Doctor also stated once “My friends have always been the best of me”. We are the sum total of all of our experiences and a part of our friends travel with us all through our lives. In that capacity, we are never alone. And those friends are just a call away. More importantly, they wouldn’t let us go on our own if they didn’t have the faith in us that we could thrive. The Doctor is no different, as the Fifth Doctor once reminded us: “a man is the sum of his memories.” (I know you’re finishing that quote in your mind!)
I speak from experience! When I went through a major change in my life, it was shortly after Tennant’s regeneration into Smith and like the Doctor, everything changed for me too. There was no way to have anticipated that, at the time, but everything got so much better after that. As Jodie falls into her new role, we don’t know what to expect. It will be completely different. But there has never been a bad Doctor. There may be favorites, but no Doctor has ever done the role badly. There’s a reason for that: while we deal with changes it comes down to how we handle those changes that makes the difference. If we go into it with an open mind, like that ambiguous future, we can make the most out of it. The Doctor ultimately represents hope and wonder and a promise of a better tomorrow. I suspect Jodie will do the same. And San Diego Comic Con is mere weeks away where she will be making her first appearance. There’s bound to be some footage that will come from that. The new Thirteenth Doctor comic book series was just announced. We are on the cusp of a new beginning. Scary, potentially. Hopeful, absolutely.
I was struck by a thought when I was leaving that party: “We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one!” Good advice and I think the evidence is in our favor.
And for my friend Reza, your story has been a great one so far and I suspect it will go on to be even better as the chapters fill in. I’ll take a bit of allegory from the last Doctor with some advice from the first: it may be like falling out of the TARDIS right now, but the Doctor once said: “our destiny is in the stars, so let’s go and search for it.” I know you will… ML