Susan is ordinary. That’s the extraordinary thing about Susan.
Last night I watched the very first episode of Doctor Who, an episode titled, “An Unearthly Child,” that was broadcast on the BBC in November 1963, evidently not too many days after the Kennedy assassination. I suspect, given the circumstances, that a fantasy such as this was a welcome relief, even in the UK.
So what did “An Uneartly Child” bring to the table that impressed me last night, approximately 49 years later? It brought a haunting. London fog. Eerie lighting. Suspense that only black-and-white television can deliver. Horror memes. And it brought a feeling that I know the episode’s protagonist, Susan Foreman.
Susan is a very human alien (apologies to Captain Kirk). She simultaneously astounds and confounds, baffling her teachers enough that they follow her “home,” to the junkyard where her grandfather keeps the TARDIS. But I’m impressed with Susan. And I wonder why that is. She isn’t a knockout. She’s not glamourous. She doesn’t seem to have a flamboyant or funny personality. She isn’t even particuarly normal, and yet … and yet she aspires to be. She is a genuis and a thinker — and sometimes the butt of a joke — who loves to groove to rock-n-roll on her transitor radio. Like George McFly in Back to the Future, or even Star Trek‘s clumsy “Charlie X”, Susan shows little outward charisma. (Side note: The actress Carole Ann Ford is actually quite attractive; I’m not being a beauty pageant judge here.) But what Susan lacks in charisma, she makes up for with … charisma. There’s something immenintly compelling about this girl who, of course, is not a girl at all.
This is something I’m going to mull over as I consider my next short story, and it’s an avenue worth exploring when reviewing movies, TV, and books. How can a character be so engaging and yet so … plain? There are millions of Susans in real life. Maybe we’d do ourselves justice by seeking them out instead of the women who grace the pages of Vogue and Vanity Fair. I don’t know. In fact, I know even less than I did, and maybe that’s a good thing. And since I apologized to Captain Kirk, I need to apologze to Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel as well, because I’m going to start looking for Susans, wherever I may find them.
Untill next time,
Peace, from Keith
Copyright © 2012 Alan Keith Parker. All Rights Reserved.