The Cure for What Ailed Me

graduating class 54

Photo of my graduating class

She was a beautiful woman, that much I remember. Her dark hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and her pale neck was visible.

I was sitting in Introduction To Theater, a standard survey course at Kutztown University. Being a survey course, there were many students required to take it. KU is, after all, a liberal arts college. So about 250 of us were packed into the stadium seats of the Rickenbach Research and Learning Center theater. Since I was sitting behind this young woman (I say that now; she was probably 19 at the time, just like me), I was sort of looking down from behind her.

cassette-tape-robert-smith

This will be funny in a moment…

I remember clearly sitting down, noting the students around me in passing, and getting out my book and notepad (yes, we used paper back in those days…). Then something extraordinary happened. I saw the girl, saw her pale neck, her dark hair, and her headphones. She was playing a cassette tape on her portable Walkman (again with the age…), and I heard – through her headphones – for the very first time a sound that would change my life for ever. This discovery has echoed down all the years of my life and, to this very day, influences my thinking. That moment, burned indelibly into my mind, marked a before/after moment, and the discovery gave a voice to a heart that had been mute for 19 years. For the first time in my life I was able to understand that I wasn’t the only one who felt the way I did. I was one of many, thousands, millions even, who could feel both pain and joy simultaneously. I was one of many who understood life has so much good, but also so much bad, and they can both be beautiful in their own way. That day, in early September 1989, I heard the first band that empowered me to embrace my pain and to love it unabashedly. That band?

robert smith cure

Robert Smith, lead singer of The Cure

The Cure.

I sat there mesmerized for a while, listening rapt to this music. Then the professor came in, and the girl took off the headphones and stopped the music. It was like cold water in the face, but I had the presence of mind to bend down and ask her “What band was that?” “The Cure” she said. The Cure. I didn’t learn anything that class, and as soon as it was over, I walked across the street to a shop called “Young Ones” which sold used cassette tapes and records. This is another memory I can see as clearly as if I was right there. I didn’t even bother to look through the cassettes, I just walked up to the shopkeeper and asked where I could find The Cure. He showed me, and I promptly bought one of every tape they had. There were three as I recall, but the one I had heard was titled Disintegration, andthe-cure-disintegration-cassette-usa-de-coleccion_MLM-O-77218295_4287 remains to this day one of my favorite albums ever. Twenty five years later, those songs still speak to my soul.

Much has happened since then. I graduated from Kutztown, got a job, got married, had two amazing kids, got divorced, lost people, suffered, learned much about myself, got married again – properly – and realized I had a lifetime to write about. So here I am, moving into a new career, struggling to help my kids do better and wander less than I did. I wonder if they’ve found their “Cure” yet, or if that is yet to come. But it will. I think most people find something that ignites their soul. At least that’s my experience. Most of my friends have some of that spark within them, and I really would hope everyone could experience what I did that February day 25 years ago.happy sad

That moment defined who I was, by helping me understand I was what some would call “sensitive”, which is both good and bad, both positive and negative. In the very excellent Doctor Who episode “Blink”, the character Sally Sparrow says that sad is happy for deep people. I guess I’m deep, then. But whatever I am, I’m not the only one.

Bond, Jamie Bond? Or, the Doctor Wears A Dress

I’ve been reading this morning about several individuals who are championing a female incarnation for Doctor Who. You can read one of the articles herefemale doctors

*Sigh*

Ok, let’s get something straight here. This is the dramatic truth (in my mind, at least) about the Doctor. His fundamental nature which cannot be altered without destroying the character.

He’s Peter Pan.

doctor-who-peter-pan-crossoverExcept for the end of the Rose storyline, where it was revealed she was in love with the Doctor and he was probably in love with her as well, he is a 12 year old boy. He happens to be a 1000 year old 12 year old boy who has a T.A.R.D.I.S. and a sonic screwdriver, but that doesn’t change his fundamental nature. If he were to become a she, what would happen to this fundamental nature?

My guess is, unless handled by a truly masterful series writer – which Stephen Moffat simply isn’t – such a change would at best muddy the waters and at worst dilute the character until he wasn’t enjoyable. If he ever stops being “The Doctor” – whatever that is to you – then the show is doomed.

I want to be very clear that this isn’t a sexist issue for me. I’d love to see female timelords, but unless they get very creative, the writers have closed that door forever. There is only one Timelord, and he is a male.

Yes, when the Doctor regenerated into his current form he did act relieved that he was still a he. But I don’t think you should read too much into this. I don’t believe it was a big foreshadowing of things to come. I think it was funny, and Matt Smith was more than aware of this.

If you want to get very nerdy, when the Doctor regenerates, he’s all sorts of messed up. Perhaps in that moment he wasn’t remembering himself very well, and was just relieved to find anything familiar, be it hands or…other body parts. Just because Matt Smith did something funny in the first 30 seconds of his time playing the role doesn’t mean the fundamental nature of the character should be changed.

Let’s talk about change.

Mr. Moffat has done the show a disservice by much of his writing. I have to say I’m not pleased with where the show has gone under him. I’m not horrified, but I’m not pleased. And one of the biggest changes he’s made is not risking more interesting companions. The majority of the Doctor’s companions under Moffat continue to be women, and the majority of them young and pretty. This is a poor choice. I will say without a doubt that Donna Noble and Wilfred Mott were my favorite 10th Doctor companions. Especially Wilfred. Getting Bernard Cribbins to play a companion was brilliant. Neither of these companions was what you would call young (sorry, Ms. Tate. But you were amazing!), and I enjoyed them both because they had a life before the Doctor. Having all the companions being young, pretty women makes me think the Doctor has some issues he needs to talk to a therapist about.

And yes, this is the same argument I make for an older Doctor as well. Young, beautiful people are a dime a dozen. But people with a couple lines on their faces, they speak of experience. They speak of choices made and roads taken. They have depth to them.

The reason I liked Rose so much is because she became a much richer character by the end of her time. She had earned that depth. The later companions haven’t had the same growth, in my opinion. It’s like the writers don’t want them to grow up.

And all of this discussion about companions is the solution to the “Make the Doctor a Woman” talk we’re hearing today. You wouldn’t consider making James Bond a woman, would you? Bond, Jamie Bond? It just wouldn’t work. If you want strong women on Doctor Who, then he needs strong companions. Find a way to write in another Timelord who happens to be a woman; bring Romana back. Or, give him another companion, Romanaone who isn’t 19 and still getting used to wearing a bra. No offense to Jenna Louise-Coleman, but she’s just a variation on a theme. Perhaps she has the acting chops to prove me wrong, but I’m not seeing it yet. She is just one in a series of pretty young faces.

In fact, bringing Romana back would open up a bazillion interesting stories since they have such history together, and you could tie in so much from the old show.

And what about River Song? Isn’t she basically a female Timelord? Not officially, but in practice she is. And she’s the strongest woman on the show, bar none. Sarah Jane Smith was very strong in her day, and Rose was very strong in her own way, but River is the only one that can constantly go toe-to-toe with the Doctor. Doesn’t she rate in this conversation? I think she does.

But the Doctor, dear friends? I’m sorry. The Doctor, he’s Peter Pan. The Doctor is a boy. Please leave him that way.doctors

Doctor, Doctor!

It’s official. Matt Smith, the actor currently playing the 11th incarnation of the Doctor on Doctor who is leaving. And if you don’t know what Doctor Who is, please learn more here and here. What’s important to understand is that, aside from the USA, most of the English-speaking world has been in love with Doctor Who for 50 years. It’s kinda a big deal.Doctor-who-logo-nine

And please forgive me for taking advantage of my position as a blogger to talk about this show and the changes coming. Thank you for your patience while I ramble a bit.

The trick that has kept Doctor Who fresh for so long has to do with the main character, the Doctor. He is an alien, a Time Lord, who is able to regenerate into a healthy new body any time his old one is damaged beyond repair. He retains the same mind and memories, but  his personality always undergoes a shift. It’s happened 10 times since the show aired in November 1963, and this winter of 2013 it will happen again. Matt Smith has been playing the doctor now for three full seasons – which is a pretty normal run for an actor in the part – and he is stepping down to let a new actor reinvent the role.

doctorwho50So who should be the 12th doctor? Whovians like me are all a-flutter thinking about the nearly limitless possibilities. Almost anyone could be cast, and that’s what makes it so fun. Here are my thoughts, in no particular order.

1) The next actor should remain a man. Some people have been advocating for the Doctor to regenerate as a woman, and I sympathize. But I don’t think it should happen for several reasons. The most simple is this: There is no precedent for it. Never in the show has a Time Lord regenerated in this way, and there’s no good reason to do so now. In a few isolated situations the show has indicated this could happen, such as in The Doctor’s Wife, but it has never happened for this character, and for good reasons. In nature there are rare examples of creatures that can change gender, but nothing so complex as a thinking biped. It’s things like frogs that have that ability, and it’s rare anyway.

Also, although it may increase viewership of the show for a short time, I think it’s going to alienate more people than it draws in. Truth be told, there are fans out there who would be turned off by this often masculine hero suddenly swapping gender. I might not be one of them, but I can see where they stand from where I currently sit.

And finally, having the Doctor regenerate as a female would generate some new laughs and a few interesting story lines, but it sure wouldn’t last three years. The jokes would become old, the gender-bender story lines would wear thin, and in the end not much would be gained. Certainly not much will be added to the character him/herself. It’s just not the right move to make.

2) The next actor could easily have darker skin. I think this would be a good thing, but not if it’s made a focus of the story. It can be mentioned, discussed briefly, then left alone. If the Doctor regenerates in a body that fits our loose definitions of “asian”, “black”, “hispanic” or some other term, we must remember the Doctor isn’t from around here. His planet may have had people with darker pigmentation and varying bone structures, but it just isn’t a “thing”. And I think making a change like this would be great by simply making the change, not playing it up. Look, the Doctor’s black. Now let’s go stop the Cybermen. Period.

3) The Doctor should be older. I know, I know; youth sells. But at least four of the actors to play the doctor have been older when then had the role, and by older I mean over 40. The first three actors to play the part were ALL over 40 at the time, and the first doctor was almost elderly. Now I know times have changed, but this is a part of Doctor Who. Since the revival of the series in 2005 the Doctor has been getting younger and younger, culminating in Matt Smith who is the youngest actor to ever play the part. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved the revived series and I don’t want to harm its chances to stay on the air. But I think the Doctor could benefit by having an older-appearing actor. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, or perhaps it’s because I’m 44 myself, but an older face commands some respect, and it would open up some story lines that haven’t been explored in the present show.

So that’s it. Let the InterWebs know my preferences! Now assuming these three points are listened to by the BBC as they go into casting the role, I’d like to humbly suggest a few actors I think would be fantastic as #12.

adrian lester

#1 Adrian Lester

Maynard_Eziashi_big copia

#2 Maynard Eziashi

Wanted

#3 Terence Stamp

Paul-Barber actor

#4 Paul Barber

lenny henry

#5 Lenny Henry