tell me that you’ll wait for me

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.

10 thoughts on “tell me that you’ll wait for me”

  1. This is beautifully written and really resonates for me. Especially the part about checking wardrobes.

    We were at a friend’s house, and my then 8 year old son noticed that the friend had gotten a new piece of furniture in their den. “That’s a wardrobe!” he said, and went over to check it out. He opened the door and looked inside, then closed the door and turned around. “I was checking for Narnia,” he explained, looking disappointed. Then he brightened, put on a mock frown, and added, “Darnia!” And we all cracked up.

  2. My daughter has told us if the TARDIS landed nearby, she’d be going with the Doctor.

    She knows that won’t happen but enjoys the fantasy of it. I miss being able to gelieve in something like that that innocently.

    I want there to be a TARDIS with a raggedy Doctor and castle in Scotland teaching magics, and I still occasionally test the backs of wardrobes, just in case.

    But so few people want you to be extraordinary. Too many want you to fit in with them.

    It often feels as though the world is conspiring against letting people be interesting with dress codes and overwork and tiny paychecks. There are too many days when I stop for the day and don’t have any energy to do anything even remotely interesting or creative. No writing, no crafting, some days, not even reading. And those are the days I long for a TARDIS, an owl, a dragon, or a magic wardrobe to take me away, if only for a bit.

  3. but all stories are true, just as you’ve said they are. Truth doesn’t rely on the wooden back of a wardrobe disappearing. While I’ll still crawl in and knock, just to make sure, I know that Narnia never went away. It is there. You can’t take the same way in, is all. And that’s true of all worlds, all times, all stories.

    Do I long for the Doctor to come and whisk me away? No. and I never have, because I cannot take that much more melancholy, and because I have too much work to do here, in this time, and because as you say, all times are now, so I don’t have to go to ancient Rome or to Gallifrey or to New New York to do what one would do there.

  4. You’ve caught exactly why I love Doctor Who. Sure the action and adventure is fun, the wonder of the universe, but when you get down to it my favourite moments on the show are watching Donna with her grandfather, or Rose with Mickey and her mother, or Martha with her rather chaotic family. Amy and Rory is kind of the exception as I really didn’t start liking Rory until he started travelling on the Tardis.

  5. (Ugh, I hit “Post Comment” too early up there.)

    I don’t know if I’ll ever have the words to explain all the ways in which the Whoniverse has helped me understand that my life and the things I long for are not only okay, but beautiful and worth it – but you’ve hit pretty close to home, here.

  6. This post helped me put my finger on something: I’m about to graduate from college and what’s really getting to me about it isn’t the graduate school rejections or the difficulty of finding a job, moving away, etc. — it’s that there’s no Starfleet or Camelot or TARDIS waiting. (And I was about 11 years old right in the midseries Harry Potter mania, so whenever I try to talk about this someone just laughs and tells me they wanted a Hogwarts letter. But not really. And only when they were a kid.)

    I just copied out the last two paragraphs in Sharpie and tacked the paper to my dorm room wall. Partially because the Doctor is never going to come for me either and partially because it might help to remind me that that’s OK.

    And, well, also — it was partially your posts about Torchwood that convinced me to give watching it a try in the first place, and then from there I started watching Doctor Who. And now I’ve ripped through both series and become fannishly obsessed in an alarmingly short interval of time. What I’m trying to say is that I think you’re pretty awesome.

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