After much to-ing and fro-ing, we eventually decided to let the Lad watch some New Doctor.
“Everyone’s frightened of something different,” was part of my rationale.
Partner is freaked out by supernatural and ghostly stuff, like The Empty Child. For me, the Daleks do it. “Who knows what the Lad’s triggers are?,” we said, “Monsters, aliens, Daleks – it could be anything. We’ll just be there for him, and have fun.”
So we did, and he OMGloved the first episode. Mannequins coming alive? Awesome! Living plastic? Neat! Wheelie bins eating people? COOL! It was all good.
It wasn’t bedtime yet, and he begged, and we watched the second episode. When the little metal spiders first started sabotaging the observation platform, he leapt into trying to second-guess their motivation. “So it’s a sacrifice?” he mused immediately. “If the station is going to fry in the sun, they’re all going to fry, but when that happens, the spiders will fry also. Why are they killing themselves to fry the station? Hm.”
The tree-woman’s sacrifice and self-immolation? It didn’t scare him. No worries.
The Adherents of the Repeated Meme? “I just KNEW they were evil!”
Cassandra’s meaty explosion? “Ew.” he said, mildly. “That was gross.”
But at the end of the episode, there were tears. Real tears. Anguish. Why?
The end of the earth.
“Is that really going to happen?” he had asked a few times, through the episode, and we had said “yes”, and explained, in pauses – how many billion years and lifetimes it would be, the fact that humankind may have evolved into completely different creatures, that we may have dispersed through the galaxy, that maybe by then we could even construct whole new Earths to our own specifications. We’ve talked about the Big Bang before, and the formation of the galaxies and solar systems, and I’m pretty sure I had mentioned the other end too – but he’d never really thought about it.
The existential angst was way too much – he was completely overwhelmed.
“I was upset the first time I found out about it, too,” I said. “When I was a child.”
“So why did you let me watch it?” he asked, through the sobs. “If you knew?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he went on, followed by a series of questions about the solar system and its end.
* “Will Mars and the other planets blow up too?”;
* “I don’t want to talk about it – but what about the Sun?”;
* [shocked look] “I hope the other children don’t know. The children at school.”;
* “How long?”
So I answered his questions as best I could, and we cuddled up and read Bad Dog, Marley, and he laughed and laughed, big belly laughs, a little more than he usually laughs during Bad Dog, Marley – a catharsis. And I tucked him in. And he said “What if I dream about it?”
“We’re here for you,” I explained. “Right in the next room. If you need us, let us know.”
post script: there were no nightmares. He did make a point of asking that we not watch the “Previously On…” before we turned on the next episode. He was fine with The Unquiet Dead, despite the spooky zombie theme, and he absolutely loved the Slitheen two-parter. And last night, he watched rapt, not scared, during Dalek – big danger, big emotions, with little action or humour to lighten the mood. Partner wants to skip The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. What do you think?