When I first met the Doctor he had feral gray hair, mad eyes and a cracked grin. This was about fifteen years ago in a Barnes and Noble. I was looking to get into a book series. He was on the cover of these trippy looking paperbacks that lined two shelves at the massive bookstore. That ‘game for anything’ look on his face made me want to dive right into his adventures at once. Only I had no idea where to begin. There had to be fifty books called Doctor Who in front of me. None of them were numbered. Some didn’t even have this insane looking character on the cover. Sadly I put the book back and wandered off to something else that has completely faded from my memory. But the Doctor remained, hiding in an unused part of my mind – waiting.
The next time I saw him was a few years later. PBS was running a marathon of old Doctor Who stories. I remembered the name from that day at the bookstore and decided to check it out. There was the loony bloke running from one of the worst monsters I’ve ever seen in my life. The budget was far too low for me to stomach. Again I put the Doctor away.
I was out of high school when I caught my next glimpse of the Doctor. He was younger. The curly hair had been buzzed. That cracked grin was replaced with an intense stare. And the long scarf had been set aside for a leather jacket. It was a publicity image in a sci-fi magazine. Instead of feeling excited I was utterly confused. That show was still around? Who the hell was this guy? The internet, while common place and a necessity to everyone else around me, was still like black magic to me and I had no way of researching the show. I put the magazine aside, ignorant of what was going on in my head. The Doctor was getting ready.
Regenerate? What’s that mean? Yet another magazine, now a year later, a wiry looking guy with spiky brown hair and a long coat, smiled at me from beside a blue phone booth (I didn’t know what a police box was). The caption underneath it mentioned something about the Doctor regenerating into this dude. I was more confused than ever, now in college, a bit more familiar with the internet, but still unwilling to investigate further. Somewhere I could hear the sounds of engines revving up for a big journey.
My first adventure occurred when I was home sick from work. I was in a big city that I had moved to in order to be with my girlfriend. She left me for my friend. A girl from work was showing interest in me. She had a boyfriend. I was more alone than ever and looking for something to get lost in. I had heard one of my idols, Neil Gaiman, say that he was impressed by Doctor Who because not only was it his favorite show, but it was also his fifteen-year-old daughter’s favorite. That was enough of a recommendation for me to finally sit down and find out just who in the hell this Doctor guy was anyway.
I went to Netflix, found season one, pressed play, and an impossible man from another world burst into my life and took me away through time and space, to anywhere and everywhere. The minute he showed up on screen it was as though a whole other part of me had been unleashed. A rich and amazing world full of nothing but the boldest of possibilities. This wasn’t some neat show that I decided to watch. This was reaching out into the universe and finding your ticket to the life you’d been missing. Like finding an old friend.
Hooked from the start I did everything I could to discover all the wonders this sole survivor of Gallifrey had in his legacy. What I found was similar to the sensation I felt all those years ago in Barnes and Noble. Only instead of being overwhelmed and not knowing where to begin, I was energized and dove in.
A lot of personal heartache followed in the coming years. This is where the Doctor truly came to my rescue. When I wanted to get away from the agony of real life I was able to see him, the outcast, the rebel, the lonely angel, the oncoming storm, the man in the blue box, and be taken away with him. With every viewing I became one of his companions. I shared in each heart break, horror, and victory. His lust for life and the staggering splendor of the universe, his adoration of the miracles humans perform for themselves, his inability to stand down, all fueled me to keep going, to keep fighting.
One of the many joys it gave me in my personal life was something new to get my mom interested in. She and I had loved shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, but nothing was really snagging the both of us lately. I told her about the show, geeking out in the Buffalo snow, waiting for a bus, already getting the hint that just hearing me go on about it was drawing her in. We started to watch together, both of us falling in love with it. It was one of the last things she and I enjoyed together before her passing. I’ll always be thankful for that.
The Doctor had waited for me to find him. All of his incarnations, from the mysterious and grumpy first, to the fun and lonely tenth (and now eleventh). When I finally did, I was regenerated.