My kids know how to manipulate me. Doesn’t matter how busy I am. I could be knee deep in dinner preparations or trying to locate important documents for Tax Season. “Hey Mom, would you watch ‘Dr. Who’ with us?” I drop everything and sit on the couch with them for one or two, — okay, let’s be honest — five or six episodes. We are becoming die hard fans, nearing hyperventilation level geekery each time we spot anything that is Dr. Who related. My sister discovered this last time she took us to a Barnes & Noble. I think we drooled on every single mini Dalek and fingered all the Dr. Who Magazines featuring the last three Doctors on their covers. It wasn’t always this way.
I recall last spring, when I’d vaguely heard of some show with a cult following based on the antics of some rather emphatic British guy and his assorted companions, with a cast of ridiculous aliens in tow. Not my thing at all. I should have known it would become my kids’ thing. And then my thing. And then our thing. And then the mad, bad, crazy world would start to make a little more sense. Which is probably the genius of the show, and why so many people adore it. But this really is not a critique. It’s a story about a family coming together and bonding through shared nerdery.
So last spring my son and I were talking on the phone and he said “Mom, I need you to download this show for me on Netflix so I can watch it when I’m visiting.” I am a noncustodial parent. Not by choice, and not an ideal situation, but I make the most of it by bonding with my son however and whenever possible. He comes to visit for the summer, and we try to strike as many wishes off his list before time is up. So when he started talking about a show he likes, I promised to look it up and got my pen and a sticky note ready.
“What show is it that you want to watch?”
“It’s called ‘Dr. Who’. Have you ever heard of it?” slightly condescending, because adults have NO idea about anything in a preteen’s stratosphere.
“As a matter of fact, I have,” which was about as far as I knew anything about the show, but I tried to be impressive, “AND… I already have it downloaded!” This was true. My son was impressed.
He made me promise not to watch any of the newest episodes before he arrived. No problem! I am not a science fiction fan. But curiosity eventually won the day and I watched the pilot episode from the reboot with Christopher Eccleston. It was a bit campy, but I could understand why my son liked it so I watched the second episode. Before I knew it, I had watched my way well into David Tenant’s stint on the show, chatting with my son on the phone in between episodes. “Oh, you’re watching the old episodes?” slightly condescending again. “Yeah, I don’t like any of those. The special effects are no good. I only like the episodes with Matt Smith.” Okay then. He is apparently an expert.
We talked extensively about ‘Dr. Who’, comparing what we liked and reviled, gushing over favorite characters and exploring plots we would like to see unfold. We discussed episodes to watch together. Then we just started talking about everything else. My son was more open and willing to talk after Dr. Who broke the ice. Now we have something in common, something neutral to dispel any tension and discomfort from external sources.
My daughters took an almost immediate interest in ‘Dr. Who’. I was surprised at first, but we are a family of dreamers. Why not come together to enjoy a show that reminds us to think big, be extravagant, and believe the good guys always persevere? The idea of the Doctor as a theme of kindness, humor, and love has become indoctrinated among my children. One day while feeling ill, I was surprised to find a Lego TARDIS on my coffee table after an afternoon nap. A tiny Matt Smith made of cardboard was propped up next to it. It brought a smile to my face. Best. Gift. Ever. Inevitably, characters from the show show up in my children’s drawings and dioramas. My son’s 3D scene of favorite things included Olaf the snowman from the movie ‘Frozen’ and…the TARDIS. My oldest daughter has been planning the dimensions for her construction project of an actual TARDIS as soon as she finds a box big enough…we are forever on the lookout!
In our home, being active and busy is encouraged. There is always something to do and somewhere to go. Sometimes we are all so busy that conversation becomes a daunting challenge. But when we pause and spend time together enjoying this one show that we all really love, I am reminded that we are all connected by a strong bond. And when my son has to go at the end of the summer, I know that there will still be many conversations. You can argue all day long about the Doctor’s best act of courage and compassion, but I know that it was creating the greatest icebreaker and saving our family from frigid conversation and unfriendly silence for years to come. Thank you, Doctor. Because of you, my family and I will all have so much more to discuss about the great mysteries of the universe.
Post dedicated to my son.