Every year, without fail, my favorite thing about Gallifrey One is the closing ceremonies. I know that’s a little strange, but I have an innately melancholy nature, and I’m also very cognisant of the degree to which it is often the case that it is only in loss that it is acceptable to speak of love.
Doctor Who is about a lot of things. It’s about the wonder of the universe. It’s about ordinary people getting to be heroes, sometimes at extraordinary cost. And it’s about love, often in ways that are remarkable; Doctor Who often decouples romanticism from sexuality and tends not to privilege any particular type of relationship (familial, friend, business, romantic, sexual) over any other.
All those things make the Whoniverse deeply appealing, not just for the narrative of the the Other reasons much SF/F is often popular, but specifically because it’s often a direct acknowledgment of the complexities of family, longing, and ambition that many other properties simply don’t address (Buffy and Harry Potter, for example, may both be choose your family properties but they are less successful at focusing on interpersonal narratives more often ignored).
But Doctor Who is also about melancholy. It’s about loss. It’s about the wonder of the universe being wonderous because you won’t have it forever. One day, you’ll die. Or the Doctor will leave you behind. One day, all that you’ll have left is longing. And memory. But, just as Doctor Who doesn’t inherently privilege one type of interpersonal relationship over another, it also doesn’t inherently privilege one experiential relationship over another. The moment in which you remember the time you saved the universe is just as important on Doctor Who as the moment in which you saved the universe. That moment in which you long? In which you regret? In which you cry in fondness for a love or adventure or friendship or person that once was, is as valuable as the moment you first discovered all those things.
All Times Are Now, my writing partner and I say. Part of that is about our world-building philosophy and the ways in which we like to tell stories — events echo not just forwards, but also backwards, in time. But part of that is also a sort of emotional worldview that tells us a moment of absence can be just as keenly beautiful as a moment of possession. In fact, they are, quite often, nearly the same thing.
I do a lot of creative and scholarly work about mourning. Often, that feels like the most beautiful thing in the world to me. Sometimes, though, it’s just miserable, or a burden of responsibility for holding other people’s stories I am inadequate in the face of.
Doctor Who often provokes me in me the most wonder when Sarah Jane Smith speaks of the life she once had, when Jack Harkness looks for guidance from the man who once abandoned him, and when Amy Pond tells the Doctor just how long she waited for him.
Some stories aren’t exactly real, no matter what the philosophy of my creative work is, and no matter how hard I try to will them into being. I may still check the backs of wardrobes for portals to Narnia, but it is likely I will never quite believe hard enough to find my way into the snowy forests of the White Witch. The Doctor will, I know I am supposed to know, never come for me.
And yet, the Whoniverse tells me that that’s okay. That my life is no smaller for its terrestrialness, for all the things I’ll never get to do, for all the moments that have passed, and for all the things I’ve lost. Which is why I love the closing ceremonies at Gally. Love. Because more than any other moment at the event, they embody exactly what Doctor Who is about.