Growing up with Who

*Mild spoilers for DW: The Stolen Earth. Don’t read if you don’t want to know the flavour of the episode*

It’s crazy on how much I adore the series Doctor Who and I’ve tried over and over again to express the best I can why I adore the series. It really isn’t about the an alien who looks awfully cute and travels in a time machine that looks like a police box.

After postponing as much as possible, I finally decided to watch “The Stolen Earth” with my sister. Both Hani and I broke down at the ending, possibly not as much as I did for “Doomsday” but enough nonetheless.

Later on in the evening, I tried to explain again to Eizwan on why Doctor Who resonates for me so strongly. I said  that it had something to do  with the fact that I could watch these characters on TV, fall deeply in love with all of them, the Doctor and his companions and be taken on this incredibly complex and emotional journey, one so emotional that it really felt like someone had taken your heart and ripped it apart. This is, in my mind, the ultimate skill of a story teller, to take the audience on a journey with you, to believe and to love as deeply as the writer/creator does.

This morning, I found on the Guardian, an article analysing the impact of the Doctor’s emotional journey on children. It never occurred to me, as deeply affected as I maybe by the episodes, the kind of impact it had on children. The parents wrote in about how their kids would be unable to sleep at night and parents would spend Saturday evenings calming down their kids’ hysterics.

According to child psychologist Charles Fernyhough,  empathetic sadness, or feeling unhappy because something unhappy happened to someone else, is the most complex of all emotions and parents try their best to shelter their kids from a difficult emotion. Doctor Who, the writer claims, is teaching children a very difficult and sophisticated emotion where their hero goes through devastating tragedy after tragedy. This is in contrast to  most happy endings (or surrealism if you watch Spongebob) in most modern Western fairy tales. I say Western as Japanese anime tend to have a darker flavour to them most of the time.

It’s not to say one is more superior over the other: a Disney fairytale where there’s happily ever after vis a vis Doctor Who, a darker fairy tale where the hero does not get the princess (or in the case of DW, the hero loses the girl to another universe, the only other “family” left in the universe dies etc etc) but I do wonder, what it means to force children to “grow up” so quickly with darker fairy tales. In a world where nine year olds where high heels and make up, do we need them to understand devastation and melancholy so early?

But I am not a parent, so I cannot imagine to comment. If I were a parent, I’d imagine I would love my kids to watch Doctor Who (not because I’m a psychotic fan, that’s besides the point) but to share with them the wonderment of the Who-niverse and the complexity of understanding grief, sacrifice and happiness from a hero who is always optimistic about the future.

….and possibly to scare the hell out of them, because DW is awfully scary.


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