Discovery

20130728-181202.jpgI just got back from the beach, where I listened to the audio version of Stephen King’s The Shining. And while I was listening I realized that I had never seen Stanley Kubrick’s interpretation of King’s classic horror novel, at least not from start to finish. The movie is rather embedded in our collective conscious, and many of its scenes (“Here’s Johnny!”) are so ubiquitous as to be fodder for satire. But the movie was new to me so I downloaded it from iTunes and watched it over a two-day period last week. The movie immediately struck me as quintessential Kubrick and a very thought-provoking horror movie.

During my self-imposed intermission I decided to look it up to see if it was considered as complex as it seemed. I was awed by the extensive analysis that’s been done over the years.

So, what does this have to do with Doctor Who? Well, when I asked my friend Jennifer Garlen about it, she gave me some great insight. Jennifer is a subject matter expert on classic movies and has a phenomenal blog at Virtual Virago. During our exchange of Facebook messages about the The Shining she mentioned she loved Doctor Who‘s allusion to the film. And at first I couldn’t think of which episode she was referring to. I finally had to ask my son — who has every episode of New Who memorized — to realize that the episode was “The God Complex.” I’m sure you’ve seen it if you’re a DW fan. But this set my mind off on a tangent. What exactly am I doing, writing about Doctor Who? I don’t review episodes. I don’t pan the show. I haven’t built a wiki or deconstructed “The Name of the Doctor” (yet). But what I have done is use DW as a basis for self-discovery. While there are as many ways to do this as there are people on planet Earth, this approach seems to work for me.

Like the psychological horror of Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick, the intellectual fantasy and science fiction of DW allow me to become introspective, learning a little bit about myself as I watch. And I think this is good for us. In “The God Complex” characters are subjected to hotel rooms that reveal your deepest fear. Could you handle that? Could you handle a room full of spiders, snakes, clowns or dentists? I’m not sure I could, but we all have an amazing ability to face our fears when we need to.

For a family-oriented program Doctor Who has an amazing capacity to scare the living hell out of us (“Are you my mummy?”). And I think this is a component of the show’s strength; but there’s more to it. Doctor Who is spectacularly good at optimistic endings, and this makes the frights bearable, knowing that everything will be okay. This is why I love genre and classic fiction. Too often these days we’re saddled with pseudo-intellectual stories that are ambiguous or inconclusive. If I wanted that I’d simply sit back and watch real life unfold. But for entertainment give me SFFH any day of the week!

After all, any connection between your reality and mine is purely coincidental. :)

Until next time,
Years truly,
Keith

Copyright (c) 2013 Keith Parker

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6 thoughts on “Discovery

  1. Jennifer

    Good thoughts, Keith! I agree with you about the show being scary but bearable because we know the Doctor is there fix whatever has gone wrong. Speaking of DW and classic film, “The Angels Take Manhattan” is a great love letter to classic hard-boiled fiction and film noir. I love it when the writers of the show weave their pop culture passions into a plot. :)

  2. I can relate to the parts in your post about facing our fears, and stories that have ambiguous or inconclusive endings. It reminds me of the time I read “The Lady, or the Tigger.” It wouldn’t matter which door I chose. If I got the Lady, my wife would kill me, and if I got the Tigger, I’d probably want to kill myself in the face of all that incessant, loud, bouncy cheerfulness.

  3. The (in)famous scene from The Shining involves two men in a hotel room, one in a bear suit (or possibly a dog suit?). Shelley Duvall’s character gets only a glimpse of the pair, and is completely terrified. That’s exactly the vibe the DW episode was going for.

    And here’s the clip!

    1. You’re exactly right, and Doctor Who pulled it off. I hadn’t made that connection. Wendy turns the corner on the stairs and is shocked out of her mind (it’s a dog suit, btw). And if you hadn’t read the novel the scene is both shocking and surreal and you’re left saying, “What the hell was THAT?” If you had read the novel it makes a little more sense, or, at least, is consistent with the plot.

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