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Monday, December 16, 2013

Eleventh Week: A Bittersweet "Geronimo" to My First Doctor


 Our first guest post comes from Ronald Cruz. A published fiction and academic author, Ronald is also an instructor of Biology in Ateneo de Manila University, where he's teaching a class called Biology of Science Fiction (which is exactly as awesome as it sounds) Like a true Whovian, he makes sure to include a bunch of Doctor Who stuff in his classes (where were classes like this when I was in college?) Read what he has to say about his "first" Doctor.

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The Doctor and I had quite a rocky start.

After all, he "died" the first time I met him.

The first episode of "Doctor Who" that I ever watched was "The Impossible Astronaut," the beginning of the sixth series. Anyone who's reading this would of course know what that means. Yes, a few minutes into making the acquaintance of this jovial bow-tied British fellow and his merry band of co-travellers, I watched him get killed.

I wasn't going into the show blind. I have been hearing of this little show since I was very young, and as I was growing up, I was already seeing images of Tom Baker's scarfed Fourth Doctor without knowing who or what he really was (then again, who knows?). I even thought all the while that his name really was Who. Just a few years ago, my good friend gave me a copy of Series 1, extolling its virtues to the high heavens, since she knew that I'm quite a sucker for well-written speculative fiction in literature and the visual media.

I was curious, but I never really got to watch the CDs that she gave me (sorry Sekki!).

Around four years ago, when I was conceptualizing the Biology of Science Fiction class that I've been teaching in Ateneo and as I was immersing myself in more science fiction for my own education, I started hearing about it more. Apparently, the Doctor is a member of an alien species called Time Lord. He can regenerate, which explains all the actors that have played him over the years. And oh, his name isn't Who. No one knows what it is. But I still didn't seriously think about starting the series. I thought about all those episodes that I had missed and what a pain it would be to try to catch up. Talk about a big backlog.

Ever heard teachers say that they also learn from their students? Well, it's certainly true. And in my case, it isn't just patience and temperance and humility that I've picked up. My first batch of Bio of Sci Fi students were already telling me about it and why I needed to watch it, but it was ultimately the more persistent and more dedicated second batch that finally convinced me.

So my brother and I get a copy of the current Doctor's series and we see him die in front of his friends...only to resurface a few minutes later.

Timey wimey.

There was no emotional investment yet, of course, but I think I fell in love right away. Maybe it wasn't the best way to get started, but it certainly wasn't a wrong way, either. After all, with that first episode, I learned about the Doctor's regenerative capabilities, his time-travelling antics, the creepy aliens of the Who universe, and the darling companions. Up to this time, Amy Pond has remained my favourite among them all.

I have watched the seasons of the Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Doctors, and I'm leaning toward David Tennant's Tenth as my favourite incarnation. But Matt Smith's Eleventh is my first Doctor, and no one forgets his first. He was the one who made me love the character and the world in the first place. Eleven with his bow-tie and fez and shiny green Sonic Screwdriver, and his bright smile and smouldering anger. Smith's Eleven is the mischievous friend with a twinkle in his eye, the Doctor you'd want to travel all over the universe with and then have over at dinner with the family afterward. When he realizes at the end of "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe" that Amy and Rory are his family, and he smiles with tears in his eyes at the epiphany, my heart breaks. Heck, I'm tearing up as I write this.

He, above all else, is my Doctor.

A little piece of me will die on Christmas Day as I sit with my fish fingers and custard (non-negotiables this year) watching my Doctor die. Regeneration my arse. Ten himself says in "The End of Time": "Even if I change, it feels like dying. Everything I am dies. Some new man goes sauntering away. And I'm dead." So forgive me for not absolutely looking forward to the 25th. The only consolation I have is that he will leave without the guilt of having destroyed Gallifrey, and with hope in his heart that his next reincarnation will find his fellow Time Lords for him.

There is a scene in the film Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince where the students and staff of Hogwarts raise their wands to the sky in honour of their fallen leader Dumbledore. The oppressed of The Hunger Games have their own tribute to the slain: a three-fingered salute blessed with a kiss. Certainly, when my Doctor dies, I will raise my green Sonic and maybe, if I'm not choking on my sobs, send out a heartfelt "Geronimo, well done, my Doctor."

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