Tag: Doctor Who

Asking The Right Questions

Courtesy BBC One

Am I a good man?

It’s a question I’m asking myself on a daily basis. Months after so many people made up their minds that the answer was a resounding ‘NO’, I’m still asking it. I lose sleep over it. I wake up with my guts in knots thinking about it. I find myself disengaged from the world around me, trying my best to lose myself in work, and distracting myself with media and gaming to avoid the question. But I keep coming back to it.

I want to believe that I am. I want to believe that just by asking the question, seriously pondering it, at least shows a glimmer of hope that it might be true. It’s a spark, the embryo of a flame, and if I can hold on to it, nurture it, stoke it with the right questions and breathe life into it gently, it will grow, and maybe shine a light that will show my true Self, even to those who made up their minds.

People can be wrong. I have been wrong. I’m trying to make it right, as much as I can, without imposing myself or pushing for unwanted direct contact or making people uncomfortable. I’m trading my discomfort for the comfort of others. The way I’ve always tried to do, even if it’s proven unhealthy for me. My brain’s wired for that behavior, and rewiring it has proven very, very difficult.

How could I ever put myself over others?

That’s the question this line of thought brings to mind. In moments of weakness, of hypomania, of knee-jerk reactions, I know I can behave rashly, even put what I want or feel above what others want or feel. But how can that be, when the other 99% of my life is spent worrying myself literally sick over what others think and feel? How is that I can, and have, lost my grip on my empathy? Is there a way for me to prioritize myself, my health, my well-being, in such a way that such an awful thing never, ever happens again?

I’m scared. I’m scared of a lot of things. Running out of time, losing what little I have left, failing and falling again to the point I don’t see a way out, with no strength left to save myself.

I’m scared I’ll never fully recover.

I’m scared I’ll lose my way again, in spite of the progress I’ve already made in the Work.

I’m scared that, in trying to prioritize myself, in convincing myself that yes, I am in fact a good man, I’ll get too caught up in my positivity and hype, to the point that my privilege and intelligence and empathy become things I exploit; I’m scared I will truly, thoroughly become something I loathe, that I would never, ever choose to be.

I know people exist who feel no guilt or remorse for the choices they make. The people who twist the facts to fit their own narratives. The people who never check their perceptions against a sequence of events or the proven nature of the people around them. The people who are so wrapped up in themselves they give nary a thought to the feelings or well-being of others. Their only goal is self-advancement; their primary concern is how far they can propel themselves above others. They leave reputations, relationships, communities, even bodies burning in their wake, and they are so myopically focused on their own goals they do not smell the rancid smoke for which they are responsible. And I’m scared of becoming one of them, rather than merely being accused of being one of them.

I’m scared that no matter how ‘better’ I get, it won’t be ‘good enough’. It won’t be proof enough that I’m not who they have said I am, who they may still believe me to be.

Why do the opinions of others matter?

Being honest about my role in the discomfort of others has been taken as implicit confession of guilt towards simplistic accusations. Maintaining distance and holding space has been seen as ‘ghosting’ or disposing of people I still consider important to me. Expounding upon my moments of crisis have been called ‘manipulation’ and ‘attention-seeking’. Asking for help is seen as weakness, and an excuse to scapegoat me, gaslight me, and kick me while I’m down. Openly seeking discussion about my thought processes and unresolved guilt, and fighting the stigma of my bipolar disorder, are categorized as trying to weasel out of taking responsibility for my actions. Why do I care about what people like that think?

Anybody who knows me, who has taken the time to engage with my Self, knows all of that is bullshit. Some who have made efforts in the past to forge a friendship with me that goes beyond public perception have fallen in with the toxic thinking that fueled the ways I’ve been used and abused. Even as some write me off, I struggle to understand them, to imagine them complexly, to comprehend their motivations. Some said what they said to further their own agendas, some reacted out of triggered disgust, and others merely disengaged to avoid dwelling on painful or problematic subjects. Why do I still hold space for them?

It’s been asked of me by people who have shown they truly care about me. True empathy has been expressed by those still connected with me who’ve seen the evidence of the Work but have also been privy to me asking these questions, struggling with these concerns, ruminating over these opinions. Why do I devote any firing of synapses to people who have shown me how little I actually matter? Why do these phantoms take up any space in my head or my heart? Why can’t I just write them off, let them go, move on with my life?

“I know it’s easier said than done” tends to follow those questions, and I know how true that is. Anybody acquainted with the grief that comes with the loss of a close family member or friend knows that it’s not a once-and-done obstacle that you just ‘get over’ and you’re finished, congrats, here’s a medal. It’s cyclical. It comes and it goes. You miss people, you miss them every day, sometimes just in the back of your mind, sometimes like a vice grip on your heart leaving you unable to move. January is particularly hard for me because of grief like that. For me, for a couple of people, the grief is worse because I know they’re still alive. They’re still out in the world. I know they’re hurting. I know they’re dealing with pain, loss, and questions that I understand, that I experience myself, that I might, just maybe, be able to help with.

But I don’t know if I can. I err on the side of caution. And it breaks my heart all over again.

Even if I felt I could, would I? Or would I keep my distance because I’m too scared of fucking it up again and causing more pain and who knows if they’d be open to that sort of interaction anyway?

Should I even be writing this here?

Even now I’m questioning my motivation for putting this out into view of the public. All of this is rooted in my struggle (and occasional inability) to cope with everything that’s atypical of my neurological system. Bipolar disorder, PTSD, social anxiety, the massive guilt complex — it’s no more ‘normal’ than the political situation in our world today. I’m on medication; I’m in touch with professionals; I’m studying meditation, neurological solutions, psychology and everything else that makes up the Work. Writing is a part of it — it’s a part of me — and a contribution I can make towards both my well-being and awareness that helps the well-being of others is to fight the stigma by talking about it.

I know that a lot of this stuff can or would make people uncomfortable if they bothered to read it. Hell, writing it makes me uncomfortable to the point I’ve put off writing it, even longhand in a journal, to say nothing of on this silly blog. Causing discomfort in people in general, especially people I care about — even those who might have stopped caring about me some time ago — falls squarely in the category of ‘shit I don’t want to do.’ For all I know, all of this claptrap about the Work and how I feel and what I’m dealing with may get extrapolated and twisted around into ‘yet another bid for attention’ and thrown into the mental garbage along with the person so many people decided I was, without bringing things directly to me or imagining me complexly. This might challenge those perceptions, which will make people uncomfortable, and much like I do with my guts in asking these questions, they’ll twist themselves around to avoid that discomfort and maintain the illusion that they know exactly what happened and exactly who this or that person was and exactly what the facts are despite not having all of them.

But I also know that without discomfort, there is no growth. And as much as I want to, as deep as I have looked within myself, I have struggled and failed to find the answers for the questions I’m asking. And I have to keep asking questions, deep ones, uncomfortable ones, if I ever want to untangle those knots, heal these wounds, kindle that beacon, progress in this Work. Which brings me to the last one.

Am I asking the right questions?

Right or wrong, for better and for worse, I’m going to be struggling to find the answers for a long, long time.

Tuesdays are for telling my story.

Doctor Who?

Courtesy Resin Illuminati

One of the brilliant concepts built into Doctor Who is the idea of regeneration. When a Time Lord is mortally wounded or exposed to lethal levels of radiation or what have you, they have a final, powerful mechanism for survival. Their body literally rebuilds itself, taking on a new appearance and stature. This also has the side effect of scrambling their memories and personality, at least temporarily. Eventually, a Time Lord returns to their base nature, though somewhat changed due to the experiences of their previous form.

So it is with the Time Lord known as the Doctor. He has existed in 13 different incarnations, from the old and crotchety (his First, when we finally see it) to the young and optimistic (the Fifth). His personality, while it has varied, always skews towards a curious and scientific brilliance, a love for exploration and investigation, an aversion to unnecessary violence, and a deep sense of compassion. Some Doctors do not quite get into sync right away (see the Sixth Doctor… if you dare), and others are saddled with a few too many companions to the point that the drama and antics within the TARDIS can overshadow what is happening outside of it (the Fifth again, as well as the Eleventh).

Which brings us to the Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi.

Courtesy BBC

We’re only a few episodes into Capaldi’s run, but he is already winning hearts and minds, including mine. His appearance and bearing are reminiscent of the Third Doctor, whose tenure featured plenty of acerbic humor and some crackling action. He speaks with a Scottish accent and has a penchant for manipulation and the occasional mind-game, which reminds me happily of the Seventh Doctor. The interior of his TARDIS is lined with bookshelves and feels very utilitarian, while the chalkboards upon which he writes reveal a mind dominated by analysis and procedure as much as his trademark curiosity. He feels like a very intellectual creature, very much mind over matter, and this is also shown in his awkwardness towards physical contact.

To me, the Twelfth Doctor is a breath of fresh air. After two incarnations who were just as physically attractive as they were smart, to the point that their eligibility with and attraction towards their Companions became major plot points, a Doctor focused on the adventure at hand and the puzzles requiring the intellect of a Time Lord to solve is quite welcome. It may be off-putting to those who have only hopped into the TARDIS in recent years, but I would recommend that put-off fans (a) get caught up with the adventures of older Doctors (the Fourth, Fifth, and Seventh in particular), and (b) give Peter Capaldi a chance. He is doing a fantastic job so far, his Companion is doing extremely well and reminding me of the days of Sarah Jane Smith (I’ll do a post on favorite Companions at some point), and the adventures both hearken to earlier days and promise great mysteries and revelations ahead. I’m definitely excited for the new and upcoming seasons of Doctor Who.

Feel free to leave your comments and thoughts on the Twelfth Doctor, whatever they might be!

Who Review: The Tomb of the Cybermen

Okay, this one may be a bit odd. It happens on account of me running out of time to fit in a selection from Netflix or finish any of the games I have going on at the moment. However, a few weeks ago I made the decision to check out some of the earlier incarnations of Doctor Who. I grew up with Tom Baker as my Doctor, but never really looked that hard at the others. I definitely have an interest in seeing more of Sylvester McCoy (because Radagast!) and more of Jon Pertwee’s run, but perhaps the most challenging Doctor to see in action is the 2nd, Patrick Troughton. Many of his stories are incomplete or missing. But one is complete, and available on the Internet to watch, and that’s “Tomb of the Cybermen.”

Courtesy BBC

In this black and white adventure, the Doctor and his companions, Jamie and Victoria, arrive on the planet Telos and come across a human expedition trying to excavate one of the last known locations of the Cybermen, who apparently had died out many years before. They do find the tomb, but it’s covered in traps and pitfalls. Thankfully, the Doctor is willing to help the humans overcome these obstacles, seemingly out of curiosity but also dreading what they will find. His fears are not unfounded; deep within the structure, the Cybermen are anything but dead. They slumber, and at least one of the humans along for this ride is probably going to get it in their head that waking up the slumbering vestiges of an utterly single-minded precursor to Star Trek’s Borg is a great idea.

“Tomb of the Cybermen” was filmed back in 1967, so to call some aspects of the production “kitsch” would be stating the obvious. More than a couple of the extras go for a bit of camp or bombast in their delivery, and the captain of the rocket ultimately fails in delivering his lines with a passable American accent. The sets feel more like stage pieces than anything, but I have to appreciate the use of practical effects like the electrocution trap on the front door of the tomb and the various “ray guns” used during the production. It feels delightfully retro to watch an earnest sci-fi production of 60s British television in the 21st century, which is a horrifically hipster way of saying I didn’t mind the kitsch.

Courtesy BBC
Also, the Cybermats are adorable. I just can’t find them menacing. Look at it!

There’s also the fact that the Cybermen, in this form, are creepy as hell. Restrained by time and budget, these Cybermen do not have the glistening, full metal bodies of the Cybus models seen in modern Doctor Who, nor even the battle-ready chassis seen in later stories like “Earthshock” or “The Invasion.” One could even extrapolate that, to conserve resources, outer armor and implants were stripped from these slumbering Cybermen before they were put into hibernation. Metal bits are secured to men appearing to be covered in gauze, and while at first this might seem comical, one realizes that our intrepid Time Lord and a handful of squishy humans are quickly surrounded by individuals each ten times the equal of several of the intruders put together. And when the Cyber Controller speaks, you see his jaw move, once, to open his mouth, from which comes a very effective monotone that makes him sound like a diabolical Stephen Hawking. Put it all together, and you have villains that, 40 years or more after the fact, still work.

To top it all off, we have the Second Doctor. I find it very difficult to believe that people wouldn’t find him endearing or at least hilarious. A counterpoint to the First Doctor’s somewhat cranky persona of an old professor of physics, the Second Doctor seems more carefree and flippant, but his odd affectations and penchant for playing the recorder (which sadly does not appear in this story) conceal a master of manipulation and the same staggering intellect Who fans expect. He plays with expectations, verbally lures foes into revealing their true natures, is unafraid to admonish other so-called geniuses, and all but laughs in the face of danger. What more could you ask from the Doctor?

Courtesy BBC
Not pictured: Jamie and his amazing kilt

“Tomb of the Cybermen” may not be the best Doctor Who tale I’ve ever seen – that prize still goes to “Genesis of the Daleks” from the classic run and “Blink” from the new run – but it’s still good. While its effects and set dressings have not exactly aged well, its story and characters have, and I found myself wanting to spend more time with the Doctor, his Scottish friend Jamie, and what feels like a more innocent and experimental time for sci-fi storytelling. Unfortunately, as I mentioned, many of his tales remain lost or incomplete. However, I would like to start building up a collection of classic Who tales, because if you want to understand why this character remains so pertinent and endearing despite long hiatuses and changing actors, you need to know Who he is.

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