One time, my friends and I were talking about Doctor Who. This long running science fiction show is ripe for hours of discussion.
One of my friends was a fan of ‘Classic Who,’ episodes that ran from 1963 to 1989. The show was relaunched in 2005, with a lot of changes. One change was to the alien antagonists, the Daleks. My friend went on a tangent about how the Daleks can now fly, and she didn’t like it.
I was confused.
From my point of view, the fact that the Daleks could fly made them more threatening. In the episode Dalek, the characters rush up a staircase and think they’re safe and then – BOOM FLYING DALEK. I love it! I love it! I love it!
One simple addition changed the Daleks from, frankly, comical villains that can be defeated by a flight of stairs to a legitimate threat.
But my friend insisted on her position.
She wasn’t a stubborn fan who hated change. She didn’t think it was a legitimate poor change either. So what was the problem?
She didn’t like it because it scared her. The Dalek was threatening. It was terrifying. The change worked.
My other friend was enraged at how the characters acted in the episode Midnight. This episode is a character-driven psychological thrill.
The titular Doctor is trapped with strangers on a broken down spacecraft, and one of the passengers is possessed by an unknown entity. Fear drives the passengers to act irrationally, eventually they attempt to kill the possessed passenger and the Doctor. It’s a fantastic episode.
My friend was angry because she knew people would act like that in that situation.
Again, the writing had done its job.
I brought my own passion into the conversation. In Midnight, the Doctor is paralysed when the other characters decide to throw him out the plane. The absolute terror in his eyes gives me shivers to this day, the fear of knowing he’s going to die and there is nothing he can do to stop it – I love it, it’s amazing, gimme more…
At which point, my friends gave a collective “That’s f’ed up.”
They weren’t amazed. They were having nightmares.
Likewise, while most people were traumatised by the ending of Avengers: Infinity War, I was like ‘That’s BRILLIANT!!!!”
Not only am I filled with admiration, I’m thinking of ways I can create something just as good, if not better. Books, movies, even games, all become shining examples of what I can become, what I want to become.
But it makes me a little sad too. Because it’s hard for me to ‘get into’ stories.
Often, I’m passive while reading a book or watching a movie. I don’t feel what I know I should be feeling, what I used to feel so strongly when I was a child. Stories are consumed and put aside.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely emotionless! When I read the end of The Man Who Fell to Earth, I was so miserable I went and hugged every member of my family. I was a trembling wreck throughout season 3 of Mr. Robot!
It still happens, but it’s rarer. More difficult.
It takes something truly special to draw that emotion out of me. If I’m not well and truly into a story, I don’t feel that same rage, or fear, or happiness, that comes easily to my friends.
I love to see people’s first-time reactions to fiction I like, see how deeply they fall into the story, how terrified they become when the characters are in danger, how happy they are when their favourite characters find happiness. Even if it’s a movie I consider mediocre, they seem to get so much out of it!
And I miss that.
Header photo by Pixabay.