The Doctor Will See You Now


Zainab Chaudary is Love Inshallah’s resident geek. Look for her column, “The Geekologist” every third Wednesday of the month!

First rule of Fight Club: you do not talk about Fight Club.
First rule of Browncoats: aim to misbehave.
First rule of Whovians: you never forget your first Doctor.

Every geek has a poison of choice.  Yes, you can fan out over multiple shows and let your mind wander the ‘verse of “Firefly” or the final frontiers of “Star Trek.” But there’s always that one thing you connect with above all others – a show, a character, or a comic book hero. My poison of choice? A little British show about a 900-year old alien Time Lord with two hearts, (mostly) human physiology, and the ability to regenerate himself when on the verge of death: “Doctor Who.”

In 2006, I was working at a bookstore, navigating my way back to a life I no longer recognized after three years of living abroad. Life was different and yet the same, and like the Doctor, the new layered onto the old. When a coworker introduced me to Doctor Who, I recognized something of myself in it, in the man who travels, never ceasing, never stopping, and in the people who travel with him, only to inevitably get left behind.  Like most sci fi and fantasy, it is the fantastical premise that throws universal human-ness into sharp relief and depicts the reality of being human better than any sitcom with a canned laugh track. These shows are unafraid to take risks, and prepare their fan base for anything. Even separation. Even death.

I watched the show with my younger brothers: twins, 11 years younger than I, much hoped-for and loved by a sister who hated being an only child. Over the years, we’d found various ways to bridge the gap in age: when I was in middle school and they were toddlers, it was blanket forts and jeans worn in at the knees from crawling around the carpets of the house with them.

When I went away to college, it was reading Harry Potter books to them on weekends at home. When we moved to a foreign country, it was watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy in a tiny expat-driven English cinema one town over. With them, I was always their age, seeking to bring magic into their lives. Doctor Who became part of that magic, an early summer ritual. Every Saturday afternoon, we’d torrent the show after it aired in the UK, and in the evening, we’d pile onto a sofa pulled up in front of the desktop computer in their room, spending 40 minutes in the thrall of the Doctor and then breathlessly dissecting the episode after.

One of my most beautiful memories with them is of staying up til 4 :00 am one July evening, watching three episodes in a row, then talking until we could see the sun rise behind the trees in the backyard. On that morning, sitting by the windowsill, I thought I could feel the Earth tilt as the Sun rose to meet it.

And then, four years ago, when I lost one of my brothers to an illness that still has no explanation, it all fell apart.

Losing him was like having all the synapses of my brain disconnected and then slowly reconnected in the wrong places. When you lose a loved one, life is agonizing, emotions are numbed, and grief flips everything upside down and inside out. The things you used to love you now abhor. Everything seems too bright and too loud. Time passes both too slowly and too quickly. All you do is wait…

…until you realize that you carry parts of that person within you. Slowly, we grasp that each of us has taken a beloved piece of him and magnified it within ourselves. For me, it was his curious mind, his insatiable dreams, and his love of all things sci fi and fantasy.

Before his passing, he was reading his way through The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He loved Orson Scott Card. He was in the middle of writing a sci fi story of his own in a notebook I bought for his gorgeous imagination. The things we shared during his life are the things I now carry in mine, like a string tied on one end of my heart and tied on the other end to his. It tugs sometimes when I see the trailer for Ender’s Game or read about plans for the new Star Wars movies. It tugs when I remember his smile or the timbre of his voice.

I watch Doctor Who alone now, but with memories of him, of the three of us, of nights spent talking in hushed whispers about the stars. A few months after his death, I finally steeled myself to watch the season finale, in which the 10th Doctor – our first Doctor, the one you never forget – regenerates into the 11th. I spent most of it sobbing uncontrollably – not just because of the show – and lost it completely when the 10th Doctor utters his last line: “I don’t want to go.”

Love is infinite. It’s as vast as the universe and just as mysterious. It grants us enough impatience to propel us into action, and enough patience to wait to be reunited someday, out beyond the stars. The love I have for my brothers – one living, one waiting just beyond sight in another room – is one kind of love. It’s what makes us human and it endures.

The Doctor would approve.

Zainab Chaudary works in politics by day and as a writer by night. Her blog, The Memorist, ruminates upon travel, religion, science, relationships, and the past, present, and future experiences that make up a life. She tweets @TheMemorist

7 Comments on “The Doctor Will See You Now”

  1. SC says:

    Zainab unfortunately I couldn’t relate to almost half of the things you mentioned. I have never watched Doctor Who, read Harry Potter or even Lord of the Rings. The few times one of my friends has convinced me to give any of these a shot I have usually fallen asleep.

    However, I was heartbroken to read your story. I could relate to the bond you hold with your brothers. My brother and I have our moments. We go through moments of absolute hatred towards each other and there are times we tickle each other senseless. It’s terrifying loosing a loved one who you have nurtured and cared for and looked out for all your life. I wish you all the best in your journey through life. May Allah give you sabr and the strength to go through this difficult time.

    • The Memorist says:

      Oh trust me, I’ve put many a friend to sleep by trying to get them to watch the same – it’s not for everyone 😉 All siblings have their moments…it’s important to count our blessings and stop every once in awhile to be grateful for what we have. I’ve recently met friends who have lost more than I have, and I’m in awe of their fortitude. I’m so grateful alhumdullilah to have my brother and my parents, and to have had at least some time with the brother I lost. I pass my time by waiting to dream of him (which happens once in awhile, dreams you don’t want to wake up from), but somehow know that one day (inshallah) we’ll see him again. I take comfort in that.

  2. I ♥ your story! Your experience resonated so vividly with me. Thank you for sharing it. My brother and I lost our father when we were both in elementary school and the after-effect of that loss turned our world upside down as you put it. I projected my anger onto my younger brother who was and is definitely a geek. In high school I used to tease him and his friends when he brought them over on Saturday nights for an all-nighter of Dungeons and Dragons and sci-fi movie marathons. I, on the other hand, was not a geek. No sir! I was a longhaired heavy metal hippie rocker who worshipped groupie girls and bands like Iron Maiden, Rush, The Who and the Rolling Stones on the weekends. But that was twenty-five years ago. We’re father apart than we’ve ever been now that he’s in Boston and I’m in Berkeley. And time has a way of leveling the playing field and bridging the gap even though we’ve grown apart. When we’re not watching our kids at the playground, he and I both pontificate over the merits of front-end application development versus server-side code in our respective jobs as computer programmers. Ouch! I guess we are the same. I should give him a call. I haven’t told him in a long time that I love him.

  3. lolomomosa says:

    This is beautiful. I, too wait to see again someone just out of sight. May your brother’s spirit fly free and happy until you meet again.

    And im an unofficial trekkie and LOVEd Doc who as a kid. You make me want to catch a rerun!

  4. lolomomosa says:

    Reblogged this on At the Foot of the Mountain and commented:
    Love, loss and outer space.

  5. Thank you for writing this honest story. I identified with so much of it. It helped me understand what it was like for my brother to introduce me to science fiction and geekery. I lost him 5 years ago and it’s still hard for me to watch Star Trek, Lord of the Ring, and Battlestar Galactica because it reminds me of him. Watching the end to Battlestar, a show we started watching together but I finished alone, was very painful. I hope sharing this story was healing for you because it was healing for me to read.