“Dad and I didn’t have the traditional American father-son bonding ritual of football or basketball to bring us closer together. Science fiction did that for us. We started going to Star Trek conventions when I was 12, and always had a blast together collecting T-shirts, autographs, and memories. Still, it wasn’t until more than 20 years later that I finally talked Dad into putting on a costume for DragonCon. We turned to one of those unforgettable Doctor Who moments that had been on in our living room: the Fifth Doctor waking up in the Fourth’s clothes after the Master tossed him off a 200-foot radio telescope. Sure, Dad’s version of the Master was a little more Roger Delgado than Anthony Ainley, but then, that’s my family: We’ll do it our way rather than the official way pretty much every time.” — Stephen Segal
Very often, there are things that adults like, and things that children like. A great many of these remain separate; worlds that do not collide.
Some things bridge the worlds, things like chocolate, ghost stories, amusement parks, crayons, and puppies. I believe those things are magic because they rekindle, they reconnect, they remind.
The things that children and grown-ups love in common bridge the divide between childhood and adulthood. They exist in a liminal realm where anything is possible and all you need is a good book, or a day to play in the tall grass, or a story by the fire, or a show that transports you into a new world outside the universe.
This weekend our family watched Doctor Who together for the first time. The five of us piled onto the couch. The kids were deliciously scared by some bits and delighted by others. I could tell they felt privileged to watch a “grown-up show,” initiated into the late night television-watching typically reserved for their parents. I had almost as much fun observing their reactions as I did watching the fourth episode of this season.
“Do you know who wrote this episode?” I asked them before it began.
“Neil Gaiman,” my oldest answered. “I heard you talking about it. That’s why you’re letting us watch, isn’t it?”
I nodded. Then it began, and they were silent for the whole thing, hiding beneath the covers that stretched across our laps, peeking out when it was “safe.” My oldest is nearly 8 years-old and spent most of the episode like this:
She was squished up next to me, so I couldn’t get a proper picture, but you get the idea.
This episode was a love letter to the TARDIS, a new addition to the cosmology of the Doctor Who world, and (as Doctor Who should be) it was also an adventure: smart and snappy and delightfully creepy. It’s an episode that I would like to watch again to better catch echoes and allusions I missed the first time.
When it was over, the kids poked their heads up from the blanket and out from behind their hands. I asked them how they liked it. They nodded, serious and a bit frightened.
“We liked it,” they said cautiously. Solemnly. “The spaceship was so cool. Bigger on the inside.”
“Tell me more,” I urged.
*SPOILERS below…sort of*
“I was freaked out by the old guy in the hall and the bloody writing on the wall. Why did there have to be blood?” asked my son, aged 5 1/2.
“I didn’t like the running around the hallway parts,” answered my oldest (the nearly 8-year-old). “And I didn’t understand why they just didn’t hold hands. Then they would have been safe.”
“I didn’t like the door closing between them,” answered my 3-year-old, the Blueberry Girl. “It freaked me out,” she said, parroting her brother.
The conversation quickly turned to how my son would build his TARDIS and where they would travel if they met the Doctor. Then it was time for bed.
Only one of them had nightmares. They all want to watch Doctor Who again.
Like I said: Magic.