It was Father’s Day. Not “a” Father’s Day, but “the” Father’s Day—the episode of the first season of the sci-fi series’ revival. This is not a spoiler, because the episode aired in 2005. Rose Tyler travels back in time and tries to save her father who died in 1987.
I don’t like science fiction. I mean, I really, really don’t like science fiction. I do not read science fiction, I do not watch science fiction. I walked out of the first “Star Wars” movie on the pretext that my mom was picking me up (before I was driving myself), fell asleep in the movie theater during one of the later prequels in the dead afternoon (I do not even know which one), never saw any of the “Star Trek” movies or TV episodes, and just generally have always appreciated the genre exclusively for its great soporific quality. It’s actually my little prescription-free secret—on long flights, instead of popping Ambien, I watch dreary sci-fi and fantasy movies to fall asleep (unless they are showing the original “Wall Street”—I have never been able to stay awake for more than a few minutes of that movie!)
I had a boyfriend who was obsessed with the original “Dr. Who” (this is not the same terrible college boyfriend, but a fairly nice guy law school boyfriend). He was a geek and of course loved sci-fi. I was (and still am) a geek as well, but I drew the line in the sand at watching bad ‘70s English TV show about a guy with the long scarf, mad hair, googly eyes, and terrible special effects, doing incomprehensible thing for reasons that were passing understanding. I pretty much slept through all the episodes that were shown to me. It may or may not have been the beginning of the end of that relationship.
So having never cared for any of this, and having, in fact, a somewhat self-congratulatory attitude about being intentionally ignorant about this segment of pop culture, I found myself, quite unexpectedly, watching the 21st century regeneration of the good Doctor.
Something happened. Maybe my kids started watching it, and they were old enough to offer a valuable opinion (it happens!). Maybe there was some hype that led to some curiosity. Maybe I pressed the wrong icon on Netflix. Maybe the trailers were good. But still, a couple of seasons have passed, because at the time I started watching, the first of the modern Doctors’ time has already passed.
And so I slogged through the first several episodes on my Kindle. Tiny portable TV that you can watch everywhere, including in the bathroom, but also contains a giant library of books, the Kindle is, to my mind, the most spectacular technological invention of my lifetime. I never wanted to get it, but once it came to me one year as a Christmas present, it was love at first sight. So I was carrying my Kindle around watching sci-fi, and thinking, who AM I? The episode about mannequins coming to life (kind of funny), one about some aliens (definitely stupid!), one about traveling back in time and meeting Charles Dickens (ooh, I like that!), a few more aliens (OK, I think I am going to be stopping pretty soon here, aliens are super-boring to me), and then…
Father’s day…Rose’s father was run over by a car when she was just an infant. She never knew him. Suddenly, she travels back in time with the Doctor and meets her father. Of course, her instinct is to save him and to get to know him. Because, like Rose, I never really knew my father (spoiler alert: he did NOT die when I was an infant, and as of this writing, continues to be very much alive), this story hit me right where it hurt. Except I never expect it to hurt, until it does… Unlike some other deficiencies of my life, I am not super-fixated on having grown up fatherless. I do not know anything different, as simple as that. I grew up without a father, but also without siblings, without a dog, without figure skates (I really wanted figure skates!), but with wonderful neighbors and friends, a cat, a bicycle, etc. I mean, you have some things, and you do not have others, which is the way of the world. But every time I see a show not just about a missing father—because a missing father is merely a fact that in and of itself is not worth mentioning, to my mind—but about a father that was lost and now is found, it touches my heart. Because deep down, all my life, I have hoped, without ever daring to give that hope a name, that I would have a second chance with my own earthly father. And seeing that episode of the heretofore farfetched, phantasmagorical, and often downright silly show, about a girl getting that second chance, made me love all of “Dr. Who. And even the fact that Rose was not able to save her father and live happily ever after with him by her side (because that would wreck the whole balance of time, of course) made me love it even more, because life is never that simple, and father-daughter relationships, and non-relationships, are fraught. But sci-fi is great escapism—and when it’s great drama to boot, well, let the binge watching begin!