Doctor Who: i’m enjoying it and that’s nice.

No one is more surprised to see this post than I am, believe me. I have been outspoken about my opinion of Doctor Who, and what I saw as its gentle decline from a show I was thoroughly engaged with online and offline into a show that I no longer enjoyed. I made gifsets and read conspiracy theories about Moffat’s intense story arcs. I remember the frustration over the inexplicable extra floor of Amy’s house. I even watched a countdown timer for the entirety of that Saturday leading up to the series 6 finale. But gradually my interest has lessened and I’ve become increasingly disconnected with the show.

This won’t be an academic essay nor an unbiased review. This is just a run down of my relationship with the show over the seasons, and a lot of that does depend on my headspace at the time as well. Besides I got to hand in my dissertation last week (!!!!!) so I’ve been having some time off. Not really feeling like doing more formal analysis just now. So strap in for an incredibly informal look back at Doctor Who from my perspective.

bill

‘Doomsday’ was the first episode of the show that I watched, ironically. Watching it live with a massive fan who was in tears, I failed to grasp the gravity of Rose being trapped in the parallel world but could still tell it was an emotional moment. From then on, when Doctor Who returned, I watched every Saturday, making sense of what was going on and proceeding to adore Martha and Donna (although later finding out that Martha was unpopular amongst die-hard Rose fans made me angry and predisposed to place Rose nearer the bottom of my Companions list, if I have to make such a list). I had pictures of Ten and Donna on my wall at home but it wasn’t until series 5 started with a regenerated Doctor that I fell in love. I was unsure for the first five minutes but fish fingers and custard meant that by the end of the episode I was on board. The pictures were replaced by a full-on poster of Eleven and Amy floating in space, an investment on my part not taken lightly.

Series 5 is my favourite. I love the fairytale motif that runs throughout it – ‘Amy Pond: like a name in a fairy tale’ still makes me smile and conjures up images from episodes where they just travel around having fun. As far as I can remember the end of series 4 with Tennant had gotten pretty heavy with something about saving the universe possibly so it was something of a relief that whilst the Doctor and Amy still ran around saving the day, they also got really excited by the idea of vampires in Venice or meeting Van Gogh.

There was a sense of wonder and innocence that came from the new beginning for the show, the first time in New!Who where a companion and a Doctor had started together since Rose and Nine. The dynamic between Amy and Eleven was and remains one of my favourite relationships on television ever, pulling between friends and soulmates. It wasn’t perfect. And re-watching can be difficult, depending how much I care about editing or dialogue or exposition on any given day. But that music, I Am The Doctor, will still make me daydream about the Pandorica opening or Matt Smith jumping about the TARDIS in his bow tie.

Series 6 was questionable. The pregnancy story-line grosses me out to this day and the River Song stuff felt contrived. And I’ll be honest, by the time we got to ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’, it had become draining, something I expect from a show like Game of Thrones (which I gave up in season 4 for that very reason) but not from a show about a time-traveller in a police box. After that, everything with Clara and the first seasons of Capaldi blur for me. I didn’t watch all of those episodes and the ones that I did (because I tried) bored me or made me angry. Disappointing Christmas specials came along every year. The lack of diversity and the often-played-for-laughs exploitation of minorities had irritated me for a while but it was combined by Peter Capaldi’s aloofness and anger didn’t gel for me, and his relationship with Clara was uninteresting. Nothing about her character was able to be pinned down; she seemed to change and evolve depending on what the episode required of her that week. My interest dwindled. I didn’t bother catching up with episodes and still don’t know quite how Clara left or the past seasons continued.

But hearing the news that Clara was leaving and a new companion was beginning combined with both Capaldi and Moffat’s exit after this season, I was curious. I felt as though a fresh start for the show would definitely help and half-heartedly hoped for something different to white woman who falls for the Doctor in one way or another, remaining sceptical for fear of the disappointment I’d come to associate with a show that used to bring me a lot of joy.

Suddenly presented with Bill Potts, a queer woman of colour who was to be played by Pearl Mackie, I was taken aback and suddenly, and oddly, excited for the new season. And she has not disappointed. From the first episode with Bill I’ve clutched the person watching with me, loudly proclaiming my love for her. In these three episodes we’ve seen so many sides to her: the student to the doctor’s teacher, the traveller, the guardian, the ability to maintain her own identity despite those who may disagree or discriminate based on their own prejudices, her unapologetic curiosity, her kindness, her tenacity and her sense of humour.

Not only that but the show itself seems to have benefited from this change. The Doctor’s dynamic with Bill is not romantic in any way, moving smoothly between teacher and student to a familial relationship to mutual partners within these episodes. The dialogue is tighter (shout out to the reference to the show’s own whitewashing…) and the plots are simple leaving more room for the audience to care about characters. Although we have the long overarching plot of the vault (and Matt Lucas is there too for a reason), so far I haven’t seen too much evidence of a long complex conspiracy or organisation intent on destroying the universe, leaving viewers confused, frustrated and pointing out massive plot holes. Instead, every week I am excited all Saturday for watching it that night. The show feels pared back, no less ambitious but instead managing to focus, and much more hopeful, the kind of feeling I associated with Nine, Ten and Eleven. I’m really happy that we get to see that same kind optimism come from Twelve too.

Things that have helped my brain lately

I went AWOL for a bit and that’s because life kind of caught up and dissertation took over.

This month’s been kind of trying for me, mental health-wise. In the past, I’ve suffered from both depression and anxiety and, in its current form, a combination of both. Faced with overwhelming change like a looming cloud threatening to burst overhead, my brain has decided to turn on itself. Right now, it kind of feels like I’m scrabbling at the bottom of a pit, trying to dig my way out. Every morning is now a struggle to motivate myself to get out of bed.

This is not because anything bad has happened to me, necessarily. If anything, I am incredibly lucky to have the life I do. The guilt from this privilege however seems to force me down further into the pit so whilst I acknowledge the supportive people around me and the roof over my head, I also need to allow myself the space to feel what I am feeling. I guess, in a way, it helps to remember that I’m not going through anything that others haven’t gone through before. And it helps to remember that people are complex and deal with things differently, and that just because they seem to be succeeding, this doesn’t mean they haven’t seen the bottom of the pit too.

I am getting better at counselling myself, at knowing when I’m catastrophising or filtering or any of the other terms I learned during my university counselling sessions or my visits to the doctor’s. I am slowly but surely finding what helps my brain to renegotiate with itself, usually around 2 in the afternoon that actually, I am capable, I can work today, I am not an awful human being with no talent and no charisma.

This could be a list of self care tips, if you wanted it to be. Currently I prefer to think of them as my ‘ok, stop, you need to calm the fuck down, now go do this for a bit and then come back’ breaks. Very handy for when you’ve altered your dissertation topic for the fifth time that week. Disclaimer: This is not an all-inclusive list.

1) Yoga With Adriene

Yes, I am starting this list with yoga. IF YOU WANT TO CALL IT SELF-CARE, CALL IT SELF-CARE. Anyway,this saved my life a few days ago, when I had some of the worst PMS I’d ever had and was trying to do work in bed. It didn’t really pan out the way I wanted to, resulting in me berating myself for being lazy, never accomplishing anything. My mood dropped and I managed to notice, immediately knowing I needed some kind of exercise. This was a perfect option: I was moving, stretching, but still comforted (by the sheer amount of pillows used in this routine) and finished feeling clear-headed and in less utter pain. I’ve only done a few of Adriene’s videos but no other fitness videos on YouTube make me as keen to do the next one as her. Aside from maybe:

2) Blogilates

Some days I need yoga, some days I just need to move and dance around. As Cassey says in the video, this is the equivalent of turning up music really loud in your room and dancing like nobody’s watching. It’s fun, gets your blood pumping but doesn’t kill you, and I managed to fit it in between class and a skype call with a friend, making me feel even more productive.

3) Chef’s Table France

If I really can’t be bothered moving, then I need to accept that I won’t be, stop beating myself up for that, and do something else. Taking a break to watch a few episodes of something can risk an accidental marathon but watching documentaries has been an alternative for me at the moment (I’ve already written a “Currently” post about 13th). Watching Chef’s Table is such a good way to feel inspired by people who love what they do enough to put blood, sweat and tears into their craft. Watching the France series has kept my brain working as a way to try and improve my French as well as introduce me to new areas of France I’d never seen before and allow me to return to street corners of my beloved Paris (more posts coming soon). It’s a new perspective on the world, showing me something other than dissertation and job applications – sometimes it’s a grilled carrot that changes everything.

4) Baking/Cooking

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In the likely event that I will be influenced by the cooking happening in Chef’s Table, I take to the kitchen. Although I will turn to tubes of Pringles in my time of need, I try to remember how much better I feel making something. Whether it’s noodles or pasta, at least I’ve made it. I’m no chef – in fact I’m very Amy Santiago when it comes to cooking – but I’m trying. So a few new recipes I’ve been making lately include:

  • Frankie Celenza’s EXCELLENT macaroni cheese recipe which has been my go-to for when I need something carby and quick. (Side note: any of the Frankie’s World series has a profound brain-calming-down effect, I highly recommend the one about pretzels. Speaking of which..)
  • Pretzels. I’m currently in the process of adapting a recipe from the Great British Bake Off book, adding to it and changing times etc. It feels good to be able to know how one ingredient can alter an entire pretzel.
  • Soups. My mum always tries to feed me when she visits and last time she brought down three of the biggest sweet potatoes I have ever seen in my life. I’ve been working my way through them, making a variety of soups and again experimenting with flavours. Sweet Potato, Tomato and Basil or Sweet Potato and Carrot are all staples – can’t go wrong.
  • Ruby Tandoh’s lemon wedges from her book Flavour which I highly recommend and from which I need to cook more. I also love the Banana Tea Loaf and other recipes which have slipped my mind for now. The Harry Styles Dutch Baby is happening soon and I’m excited for it.
  • Maverick Baking’s firecracker sausage rolls. Beaut.

5) And finally, if all else fails, rewatch specific episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine that I’ve seen about twelve times already, if not more. Something about this show never fails to help me in some way, even a little bit, out of the pit.

Series 1, Episode 5 – The Vulture: a personal fave. The whole squad works together against a superior (the eponymous Vulture) who keeps trying to steal their cases, they’re a bit tipsy, they take the bus to the scene of a crime and solve the case. Plenty of Jake and Amy banter, even a scene where she calls him a butthead. Rosa basically comes out as bi whilst also finding said superior attractive in a humorously detached way. Meanwhile Terry, Holt and Gina go to a gun range. What more could you want?

So that’s it! I mean, I could go on for longer but I feel as though that would officially get into ‘ok, stop procrastinating, let’s get back to work mode now’. Hope you enjoyed this insight into my brain right now. I’ll be back soon.

Molly.