Doctor Who Spoilers! Read at own risk.
“We all change…when you think about it. We’re all different people all through our lives. And that’s okay, that’s good, you’ve got to keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of this. Not one day. I swear. I will always remember when the Doctor was me.” – Eleventh Doctor
Everyone who is a fan of Doctor who knows that one thing is certain; at some point the actor portraying the Doctor; our beloved, wizened, wizard-like, amazing, character, the madman in a blue box that can fly throughout time and space, will change completely. The brilliant move on the part of the producers of the show to keep the show going (indefinitely) is also one of the most heartbreaking things a fan can go through.
For those of you who haven’t seen the show, regeneration works like this: at the moment of your death, every cell in your body completely changes and you even look and feel and act differently, you might even think about things differently because your whole perspective changes. However, you are essentially the same person, the same soul if you will with all your memories. It is a very cool concept and maybe a tiny bit scary too.
The first regeneration scene that I saw was the Seventh Doctor’s transformation into the Eight. Since up to that point I’d only seen some Sixth Doctor and Fourth Doctor episodes, and I hadn’t seen any of the regeneration scenes, I didn’t really understand what was going on. I kind of thought it worked like James Bond, and it does, but its better. Every time the Doctor regenerates, his former self gets a moment, a scene, a monologue, and that defines that Doctor’s time.
I’ll save my thoughts on each and every regeneration for another time, but something that I’ve talked about extensively with a few of my friends who enjoy the show is; other than the face and body changing, regeneration is similar to what many humans experience throughout their lives.
Don’t believe me, just go back and listen to a recording, watch a video or gaze at a photograph from 5 or ten years ago and you’ll probably agree with me that even if you don’t look too different, you can see the difference, especially in our thoughts and experience. Sometimes its dramatic even, like you wouldn’t even like the person you were 10 years ago, but its still you.
It’s a great way to connect with the show and it first dawned on me when the Tenth Doctor regenerated into the Eleventh. Just about every whovian connects with a Doctor and calls them “Their Doctor” and kind of claims them. When you meet another whovian you even start talking about which Doctor you are most like, etc. I have a friend who is a solid Fourth Doctor – he exhibits many if not all of the character traits of the Fourth, I have another who not only shares the Tenth Doctor’s handsome good looks but also many of his personality traits are the same and I could go on. My Doctor is the Eleventh and I’ve never connected with another version of the Doctor more!
A little background: in 1998 I began wearing bowties. I think I was the only person I knew that was 19 years old that donned one, in fact you only saw them on television or media, on either really nerdy looking guys, as a joke, or you saw them in black or white as accessories to formal evening attire (such as tuxedos) oh and occasionally you saw a college professor or older eccentric wearing them. In fact you couldn’t even buy them at the store, at the time only Brooks Brothers carried bowties at our local mall. Not even Macy*s or Bloomingdales had them except for a few formal pre-tied ones.
I was so proud of my originality and they quickly became part of my every day attire and then eventually the bow tie became something people expected to see me wearing, like a trademark.
From the moment the Eleventh Doctor said the words, “I wear Bowties now, bow-ties are cool.” I felt like he was winking at me, and saying, “Yep, that’s right, I’m going to be YOUR Doctor!”
The actor, Matt Smith portrayed the doctor much like what I strive to be in life. He is Kind (almost to a fault) He is funny, enjoys a good time, a good laugh, the company of friends, he is not intentionally self important and he owns up to his mistakes. He’s pretty goofy like myself and he’s also completely in love with life and humanity and tries to defend goodness above all.
Strangely, the bow-ties weren’t the only quirks that I shared with the Eleventh. Anyone who watched the series at that point and had known me for years before started to comment at how much the Eleventh’s personality was reminiscent of mine, (As far as looks go we are dramatically different though) I would like to say that I didn’t adore the comparison but of course, I did. It made it Eleven times easier to suspend disbelief and live vicariously through the Doctor when the Doctor reminds you of yourself!
I know that I’m not the only one out there who relates this way; I know this is a classic kind of associative empathy or something psychological, but its still nice to think about!
It’s been transformative too. Life has a way to kick you in the ass and people have a way of trying to convince you to be something you are not, and I don’t think there’s anything but good intentions behind it but it is a struggle never-the-less. An example of this, going back to the bowties, was how often my mother would say, “You look like a nerd, I wish you wouldn’t wear those things.” I know she wasn’t trying to be mean, she just doesn’t want her son to be perceived as anything negative and she grew up thinking there was something wrong with being Nerdy. She’s very much in tune with popular opinion and well she’s very stylish and in tune with what’s in vogue.
I even remember her reaction when she saw the Eleventh Doctor wearing a bowtie, she turned and saw me beaming at her and then she smiled and in a humorous and somewhat exasperated way, “Now you’ll never stop wearing them!” It was true, and she was right. The Doctor solidified my resolve and only a few short years later, the bowtie is cool (again) and you see a lot more people wearing them.
The ultimate victory at home was when my mother admitted that she liked bowties now and that she thought they looked nice on me (this was, of course, after she saw Justin Bieber and Usher wearing them.) but Whovians know that the Doctor set the trend.
The Eleventh Doctor also wears hats, and in his last episode he’s wearing a wig, again, if you’ve known me, this is a hilarious coincidence. One of my friends called me up after the reveal about the wig in the last episode and said, “Okay, you are writing for the show, just admit it.”
But let’s go back to some real life parallels for a moment. In 2009 I was essentially feeling lost. I had a great job and a great position but I didn’t feel satisfied and in general I didn’t really feel like the direction I was going in was the direction I wanted to go in. The definition of whom I was inside was not the definition most people had of me. It was definitely time for change, for something different. I was in my 30’s and it definitely started feeling like, if I don’t make a change now, I probably never will. The Eleventh Hour was approaching in a sense. It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done but I don’t regret it all. At the same time, the Tenth Doctor (played by the amazing David Tenant) was heading toward his inevitable change into the Eleventh and he knew it was coming. The themes of that season were so poignantly connected to what I was going through that it felt like I was going to regenerate myself. But who would I become? What was I going to be like? Would I retain the best things, my favourite things about myself?
When I left my job at Apple, I started prepping for a trip to Europe that would last 5 months. A walk across Italy, France and Spain (and a few side adventures too.) I remember seeing the premier of the Eleventh Doctor’s episode in Italy, Florence to be exact and I was so excited! I knew at that moment that the Eleventh and I would have a great fan/doctor relationship and it has been true. On the Camino (The walk I was doing) People quickly found out that I was obsessed with Doctor Who and one of the many highlights was when a group of us started being known by nick names, I was pleased to know that mine was, “The Doctor.” I definitely feel like I changed, that I transitioned into a new version of myself; A little older, a little wiser, and more confident, not just pretending to be. Most of all, I really began to like myself.
I’ve continued that journey and the feelings are stronger. Looking back on the last 3 years, they have truly been the best years of my life and I hope that will continue to be the case about every year to come. That’s not to say they haven’t been filled with great trials and difficulty, but they have been filled with love and goodness and an overwhelming sense of purpose and direction.
On December 25th, 2013 my Doctor, said his last words and just like that, like so many other times, he was a new person, a new Doctor but the same old Doctor too. That’s just it, you change but you are the same, the core of you is the same.
I’m not ready to say goodbye to the Eleventh, and I’m definitely not ready to say goodbye to the “Eleventh” version of me yet but I feel a change coming on and that is good. This week’s self portrait is my take on regeneration. This is more or less what it looks like on the show (its way cooler in motion and this is as close as I could get of course) when the Doctor is about to regenerate. Right before a huge explosion of golden energy occurs and It’s a really cool effect and it evokes wonder and awe and a little bit of fear all at once. Funny enough my project 52 is about to come to a close. The next portrait will be the last in this series, and I’m pretty happy and excited. Life is kind of funny, this portrait was supposed to be posted just after New Years.
I took it in front of our old house and old neighborhood on New Years day. We moved to a new place, an apartment, I am excited about it and I love it so far. So, this portrait is also a memory of the old digs. Somehow I couldn’t get the regeneration effect right and also with all the moving there wasn’t any time to dedicate to it. I guess it was meant to be the one before the last.