I wrote the second fan letter of my life in the fall of 2009.
I lived in a loft apartment for most of that year, in a huge, brick, former textile factory that had been remodeled into shops and studios and industrial-chic lofts. I had one bank of windows, 10 feet tall and 12 feet wide, that overlooked a well-lit parking lot and some gently generic hills. Even at night, light ricocheted around the long, high room. It spilled over the half-walls that made up the second-floor sleeping area and lunged through the galley kitchen until it radiated around the edges of the double hollow-core doors.
I filled my loft with an old table, a couch I picked up for free in the hallway, a hand-me-down yellow jacquard armchair and a bed. I had two pots, two cast-iron pans, a new shower curtain, a new bath mat, and a TV that had been left behind in a friend’s rental property. I hung nothing on the walls but a sprawling branch of lemon verbena I vaguely intended to turn into essential oil.
This was my favorite place in the world.
I’d slog up the four flights of enormous stairs, or slump into the freight elevator, frazzled and dimmed from another day at my job. Halfway down the gargantuan hallway, I’d slide my key into the lock of number 448, turn the tumblers and push open the flimsy doors. I’d close them behind me, turn and feel all my nerve endings relax.
The pleasure of being the only consciousness in
This, I imagine, is how the Doctor of "Doctor Who" feels when he returns to the TARDIS, his time-traveling spaceship. On the outside, the ship is shaped like a bright blue police box circa 1960 London. On the inside, it is vast and ridiculous, big enough for a swimming pool and several packed dressing rooms, which the Doctor needs, as he can regenerate after death -- same abilities, same memories, but different body and personality. He can do this, of course, because he is a Time Lord.
If you know about the Doctor already, congratulations! Hooray for wacky genre television! If not, let me sum up: "Doctor Who" is a British TV series that started in 1963, ran until 1989, then lay dormant until 2005 when the audacious Russell T. Davies rebooted it. The show will start its seventh, or 33rd, season this fall.
The main character is the Doctor, the last of the Time Lords, a time-traveling, god-like alien race from the planet Gallifrey. The Doctor was forced to destroy his people and planet during the last great Time War with the evil Daleks, and he now restlessly roams the galaxies and eons in the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension in Space), a sentient machine that flies through the time vortex, usually with a human companion from the British Isles who always leaves the Doctor in the end.
The whole thing is preposterous. I love it.
There’s a lot of Whovian love in the States these days. Apparently the latest Doctor, the 11th, played by Matt Smith, and his companions, Amy and Rory, appeal to American audiences more than all the other Doctors combined. "Community" features a running, loving Who spoof called Inspector Spacetime. Shonda Rimes, creator of "Grey’s Anatomy," is an avowed fan. I’m sure Congress can’t pass bills because our legislators are too busy watching old episodes and arguing over whether Tom Baker (#4) or Christopher Eccleston (#9) is the best Doctor.
I enjoy the newest incarnation of "Doctor Who," and I’ll certainly watch the new season come fall, but I’m not writing any fan notes. My giddy Who obsession did not regenerate past David Tennant, Doctor #10.
He was the second Doctor in the rebooted series. Thin as a sunflower stalk, with a gelled mop of brown hair over a delicate face that hovered between smirking and sadness, this Doctor announced his presence by falling into a regeneration coma until he was revived by an infusion of black tea. Then, wearing pajamas, bedroom slippers and a robe, he dueled the lying leader of the Sycorax with a broadsword. He won.
Alone in my luscious, nearly empty loft, I’d curl into a corner of my secondhand couch and watch episode after episode, like the one when the Doctor takes companion Rose Tyler to New New York on New Earth where they liberate thousands of clones created and poisoned for medical research.
Or: the Doctor races to save his new companion, Martha Jones, who has been kidnapped by a couple needing a third person in their hovercraft in order to use the express lane, which will cut their journey through gridlocked traffic down to five years, if the monster down below doesn’t eat them.
Or: the Doctor and his new new companion, Donna Noble, travel to Pompeii and discover that it is Volcano Day and that they must cause the explosion in order to vanquish the Pyroviles living in the volcano who intend to colonize the planet.
My goodness, sci-fi TV is fun.
It snowed a lot the year I watched David Tennant as Doctor Who. The drifts and bluffs held me ever more cozily in that loft sanctuary while I traveled the galaxies and eons with him. I loved the Doctor, loved Tennant, his antics and genius and terrible loneliness and big brown eyes, but I was Rose and Martha and Donna. The heart of the show was, like the best genre TV, human: the story of women stuck in flat jobs or messy families or, most painfully, limited understandings of themselves.
Through their fantastical journeys with the Doctor, Rose and Martha and Donna came into their own power, discovered their own great imaginations. There was always a heartbreaking and unfair cost, but no companion would ever trade the wounds and richness of her travels for the small safety left behind.
This is why the companions left the Doctor, though they wanted to stay with him forever. They didn’t or couldn’t need him anymore. (Except for Rose, but the writers resolved her dilemma in the finale of season four.)
So I watched and watched until spring came to my loft, and with it light that was too fresh and bright to allow long television trips inside. That summer, I fell in love. I moved north to my new companion in the fall.
I wrote to David Tennant to say thank you for his Doctoring. He didn’t write back, of course. In the heady year that followed, I stopped watching as much "Who," certainly stopped talking about it so much.
It was OK. The lonely Doctor would have been proud. By that time, I had discovered, courtesy of my husband-to-be, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," which is to say, I had finally become the hero of my own life.
Becky Karush is a regular contributor to the Reformer.