DWM 484 Learning to Let Go

You might possibly recall that Fan Twin and Non-Fan Twin started cubs recently. This is the thing about twins, they reach every milestone at the same time. No going through something once but knowing it’ll be easier next time – just a double dose of everything. Tomorrow they’re off to cub camp for the very first time – which will also be the first time ever they’ve been away overnight apart from staying with relatives. Now, I know they will be so excited by the adventure that they won’t, I hope, even spare a thought for Mummy back at home. It’s Mummy back at home who’ll be the one sobbing I HOPE THEY’RE OK for more than 36 hours straight.

I am a worrier. (Husband will probably think this an understatement.) My time is pretty much divided between either being with my children or worrying about my children if I’m not with them, even if they’re just in the next room (if they’re noisy I worry that someone’s getting hurt. If they’re quiet I worry that someone’s been knocked unconscious). Occasionally I take a small break from worrying to think about Dalek Delegates or Monoids or chocolate, but these moments are rare and sporadic.

Back in the pre-parenting days of July 2004, because I was writing one of the first Ninth Doctor books, I was allowed to see a bit of Doctor Who being filmed (yes, that was fairly exciting, she says mock-casually). The main scene I witnessed was from Aliens of London, where the Doctor brings Rose home only to discover she’s been gone for a year. I loved that scene. It’s clever and funny. Now, I find it terrifying. Jackie had already lost her husband – then she lost her daughter too. She wasn’t even able to grieve, she just had twelve months of terror. Yes, I felt sorry for Jackie when I first saw that scene, but my focus was on Rose. Now when I see it all I can think of is what Jackie must have gone through.

From 1963-1989, pretty much every companion was either an orphan, didn’t get on with their family, or already led a fully independent life pre-Doctor. Did Harry have a mum who wondered why he’d stopped phoning? Did Ian have a dad who spent 1963 to 1965 scared that his son had done something sinister with a fellow teacher and one of his pupils? (I note that neither Tegan’s cousin nor her grandfather cared enough to even enquire in passing exactly why she and Auntie Vanessa had disappeared on the same day. Although at least most companions came home eventually – were there loved ones back in Pease Pottage wondering why Mel went out one day and never returned?) Most of the time we didn’t know if there was anyone left behind, and I suspect we didn’t particularly care – or rather, it didn’t cross our minds. This was necessary – the second you start treating what’s happening in Doctor Who as real, you get into trouble. How can you enjoy the adventures believing that there’s real terror and grief involved? Tegan’s departure annoyed me, with its out-of-the-blue inadequate attempt to add a sense of reality. “It’s stopped being fun, Doctor.” What, only now? You mean all that stuff with the Mara, all those people who died on Sea Base 4, all those deaths due to Cybermen – Adric! – all of that was fun? But in 2005 we were suddenly, properly, introduced to Doctor Who that was placed more in real life than any that had gone before, and it was a culture shock.

My favourite Doctor quote is from Planet of the Daleks: “Courage isn’t just a matter of not being frightened, you know… It’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway.” Back in 2004/5 I’d never have dreamed that my greatest role model would turn out to be Jackie – slightly ditzy, slightly self-absorbed, slightly bitchy Jackie. “God knows I have hated that man, but right now I love him and do you know why? Because he did the right thing. He sent you back to me,” she says in The Parting of the Ways, but she realises, in the end, that Rose will never be happy to be with her while the Doctor is in danger somewhere. So she does the bravest, most selfless thing – she helps Rose return to the Doctor. She might lose her daughter, she might never see her again, but she does it anyway. Courage isn’t just a matter of not being frightened, you know… It’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway.

I realise sending one’s sons off to cub camp is possibly not quite such a big deal as sending a daughter to the ultimate battle against the Daleks (for a start, Akela is an extremely lovely lady who is much nicer than the Dalek Emperor), but it still resonates. I will safeguard my children as much as I can, but ultimately my goal as a parent is to enable them to be utterly, completely themselves, even if I’m terrified inside. Thanks, Jackie.

(Now remind me of this when the time comes for them to go to university and I am a hideous jelly wreck quivering in the corner.)