Monday, January 06, 2014

"Are You My Mummy?": Watching Doctor Who with Kids

So in my ongoing quest to watch my kids watch Doctor Who (allowing me to live vicariously through the hiding-behind-the-couchness that I missed by not watching it as a child), this past week we blew through a bunch of the Eccleston season and I even started watching the "Green Death" Classic story with my son. As I said on Facebook, by the end of the first episode of the story, my son was somehow following it (quite a feat for a 6-year-old when most of it is about environmentalism) and he wanted to know when the monsters were going to show up. Apparently Pertwee's Doctor ending up on a planet where giant spiders and beasts were attacking him wasn't enough. By the time we got to the end of the episode, and the disgusting maggots showed up, the look on his face was priceless. We haven't watched the third episode yet because he was so freaked out.

My son and I watched "Time of the Doctor" two days after Christmas (it was a tough two days trying to avoid Facebook and Twitter!) And when an aged Matt Smith told Clara to stay behind and allow him the victory of her safety, my son immediately burst into tears. Interestingly, during the explosive (literally) regeneration scene up in the tower, he was so transfixed by the destruction of the ships and the Doctor's speech that his emotions weren't quite registering what was happening. But when Matt Smith, now younger, stood on the ship at the end of that episode, and Amelia went skittering by, and Amy descended the stairs, I was trying desperately to keep it together, and not doing a very good job, but then Smith's face glowed, and Clara begged him not to leave her, and my son was an absolute mess all over again. He cried and cried, and cried even harder when Capaldi quite suddenly appeared. "THAT'S my Doctor now?!" he said, and sobbed some more. You never forget losing your first Doctor (I thought I'd never recover from Eccleston, and there was no way I was going to like that Tennant guy, I swore at the time), and for him it was a visceral, horrible thing. I posted this on Facebook, but here he is half an hour after the episode had ended, still crying, still clutching his sonic screwdriver. For the record, I'd only stopped crying just before the photo was taken, so I wasn't doing much better.

Poor little boo.

Ah well, back to scaring the bejesus out of him.

So we moved over to Eccleston so he could see more of that season. He'd only watched "Rose" (as I recounted here), so it was on to the next one. Now, here's the issue when you're dealing with a six-year-old boy who can't quite wrap his head around the idea of time travel: when you watch the episodes out of order, and have seen "Day of the Doctor," where Gallifrey was NOT destroyed, it's really hard to go back and watch "The End of the World" and try to explain why the Doctor seems so broken. "Well, he's just seen his world blown up."

Him: "But he didn't blow it up! Gallifrey is just fine! My Doctor changed that."
Me: "Right, but he doesn't realize that yet. This is the original timeline where Gallifrey was still blown up."
Him: "But if the timeline was CHANGED, the Doctor should remember that my Doctor helped stop it. And wait a minute... this Doctor wasn't there!"
Me: "No, because he was the older Doctor at the time, remember? And he regenerated into this Doctor right at the end of that episode; we saw his eyes start to change, remember?"
Him: "So... if that Doctor regenerated into THIS Doctor, then why can't he remember what he did?"
Me: "Well, when more than one Doctor exists at a time, then they don't remember it... or something. They said something at the end of the episode about how the other Doctors wouldn't remember. Gallifrey is saved, but not in this timeline."
Him: "I don't get it."

Eventually I just said that due to them filming these episodes before deciding to change history, we just have to roll with it. He seemed to accept that, and we kept going.

And then we got to "The Empty Child." The day of "The Day of the Doctor" (that was an awkward opening to a sentence) I was on Space as one of the interviewees talking on the aftershow, and when we were running through the dress rehearsal, we were doing made-up questions and answers. They asked me what my favourite episode was. I couldn't answer that, but I could say what was the first episode that affected me deeply — so deeply, in fact, that I thought I'd never watch it again. And now my kids (yes, for the "Father's Day" episode my 9yo daughter joined us and she seemed rather hooked) were begging me not to skip the next episode. "It's... haunting." "Hunting what?" my son asked. "No, haunting. It leaves an impression on you that haunts you afterwards. I don't know if I want to watch it again. The little boy in it looks a lot like you." Well, THAT did it. Now they HAD to watch the episode.

A little boy, lost and alone during the Blitz in London in 1940, wandering through the streets in a gas mask calling out for his mummy and begging someone to open the door. "I'm scared of the bombs and I just want my mummy." And he looks just like my son, who is the same age. Yeah, I'm all over that one. Can't wait to watch it again and have my heart break into a million pieces when they won't let the little boy into the house. The kids were horrified (about 20 minutes in my son said, with awe, "This is haunting," much to my delight) and loved it all at once, exactly what the best Doctor Who episodes are supposed to do. When the medical doctor's face began to transform into the gasmask, my son covered his face and leapt behind me on the couch so he wouldn't see; my daughter covered her ears and closed her eyes as tightly as she could. My son was upset and angry that they wouldn't open the door for the little boy. My daughter didn't understand how the nanogenes could have done this; they must be horrible creatures, she thought. There was a LOT of explaining on my part. And in the end, the love of a mother overpowers the deformity of the little boy, and all is restored.

One thing I must point out is that by the second episode of the first New season, my son threw his hands up in the air and said, "Is there such a thing as an episode of Doctor Who where someone doesn't die?! Does someone ALWAYS DIE?!" So at the end of this episode, I had an entirely new appreciation for the Doctor leaping about and cheering that just this once, nobody dies. And my son was elated as well. Well, until we cut to Captain Jack's ship and it looked like he was going to go down with the bomb, at which point my son once again threw his hands up into the air and said, "Oh COME ON!!" Hahaha!! (He was quite relieved when the TARDIS showed up and saved the day.)

I'm excited to move him through the ninth Doctor to get to the tenth, and eventually he'll get to see his Doctor show up for the first time. And we'll get to watch the entire thing unfold again. Of course, dreading that moment of the "Time of the Doctor." But by then, I'm sure he'll be completely taken in by Capaldi's Doctor and the regeneration will be much easier to handle. Because of course, I've never cried a second time at Eccleston or Tennant's regenerations, right? :::sniffle:::


Colleen/redeem147 said...

Yeah, I don't get it either.

But that's okay.

Loretta said...

(1) "The Empty Child" is a fantastic episode. Haunting as you say, and truly chilling. Looking back on it now, it really does seem like a triumph that no one dies that time. And it also introduces us to one of the best companions in the modern era, Captain Jack Harkness, who I still believe to be under-served, despite having his own series for a while there. (An opinion I hold because despite how excellent Season 2 and "Children of Earth" were, the final American season of Torchwood was just dreadful. And I would love to see him cross over and interact with a new doctor again.)

(2) I hope that one day, in about 15 years, I actually get to meet your children and discover what awesome people they will have become by then.

Loretta said...

Ooops, my comment above didn't display my name so thought I should point out that the one from "Unknown" about 5 minutes before this is from me. :)

C. David Milles said...

I think that "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances" are the episodes that hooked me (and, later, my wife) as well. They're well-written, creepy, and showcase Eccleton's talents. Ironically, the night my wife watched the episode, our three-year old came in during the night asking for his mommy, and it frightened her a bit.

Over the past year, both of our kids have come to see Doctor Who as part of our lives. They run around imitating Daleks, know all about Weeping Angels and the Silence, and know why bow ties are cool!

Unknown said...

While Who was originally a children's program, it has drastically changed now. Age appropriate programming. Some younger children cannot handle watching it.

Unknown said...

It looks like your fireplace mantle is a showpiece for various geek-nackery. Ours is exactly the same.

Nikki Stafford said...

LOL! I didn't realize the mantle was visible in this picture! Yes, that's the mantle in my office, so it's all my stuff. There's my Mr Pointy Award, Jesse from Breaking Bad, several Daleks, and the French Taunter from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. :)

Page48 said...

"Raggedy Man, Goodnight"

I loved the Matt Smith era, but I think his first season was by far his best. Nothing after that came close to the likes of "The Pandorica Opens" and "The Big Bang".

Efthymia said...

Apparently your kids handled the episode pretty well. "The Empty Child" scared the hell out of me when I watched it, and I was a grown woman.

Nikki Stafford said...

I think there are some things that are harder for adults to take than children. They wouldn't be as affected by a lost little boy as an adult would, but I knew the gasmasks would scare them (hence my warning so they could close their eyes, and they did). I remember stories and poems I read in university that didn't really resonate with me, and reading them later as an adult, I was devastated.

Colleen/redeem147 said...

"While Who was originally a children's program, it has drastically changed now. Age appropriate programming. Some younger children cannot handle watching it. "

Did you ever hear of Mary Whitehouse? BTW - never a children's show, always a family show.

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