Whoydensday: New Doctor Who through the eyes of a six year old

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?

Categories: arts & entertainment, education, Science

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28 replies

  1. Oh wow, Lauredhel. I’m glad he has such marvellous parents guiding him through this. The death of the sun- it really is a big, big shocking discovery and one I’d forgotten all about. I’m not sure about the Empty Child. What I really liked about it was the way it overturned the usual features of the ‘evil child’ genre of sf/horror, a particularly nasty set of fear filled projections which I think reflect the way that real children are frequently treated as not quite human. I loved that it stripped away those fears to show the rational and deeply empathetic processes at work, so that neither child or alien could any more be viewed as objects of horror, and one is just left with sadness. It worked for me as a kind of critique of the theme of the ‘empty child’ as it appears in literature and in real life but as to whether it would just be too sad for a child, I’m not sure. I think if either of you have serious reservations then it is perhaps better to hold off for the moment.

  2. Wow. Your kiddo is deep.
    I have to say that Empty Child/Doctor Dances is my favorite. Why? Just the look on The Doctor’s face when he says This time, everybody lives! It is a tough episode, though.

  3. Oh, this is such a great post! 😀
    I remember feeling all scared about the end of the solar system when I was little too– I think I read about it in a children’s encyclopaedia.
    The Empty Child is the only Doctor Who episode that has ever actually scared me– I was so scared that I almost didn’t watch The Doctor Dances, and I was 24 at the time! However, I think that The Doctor Dances wraps it up so beautifully that it shouldn’t be too much of a problem so long as he’s able to watch both of them together– if he feels scared by it later on, you can remind him that the nanogenes fixed everything, and the child was reunited with his mother– and the everybody lives ending is so uplifting that it washes away all the fear. If the kid gets scared more by the existential stuff than monsters, he should be fine, because it ends on an “all’s right with the world” note.

  4. As I wrote when you addressed this before–the death of the sun was something that scared the crap out of me when I was young. I think it’s a matter of what one finds abstract and what one doesn’t–even if it’s several billion years away, the end of all things we know is terrifying.
    As adults, I suppose, we learn to address that fear either through humour or through exploration. But I still have it.

  5. My two junior Grendels have been avid Dr Who watchers from the start of the new series. They are 5 and 6 years old and while they cuddle up to my partner and I during the show they genuinely enjoy it and relate to the characters.
    They particularly liked the Oood, and loved Daleks. They youngest Grendel now has a Dalek of his own which gets brought into battle against his stormtroopers and clone troopers.
    “Desterminate, dersterminate. . .”

  6. Beppie, what did you think of the ‘Blink’ episode?

  7. 🙂 Just forwarded it to the author Dr Phil Plait – since he’s an author that writes about ‘the way the world will end’, I think he’d like to know that young un’s can benefit from his writings… 🙂

  8. Beppie, I’m still freaked out by The Empty Child, and I’m 34. Watching the second part didn’t help me resolve it. My husband and daughter advised me in the strongest terms against watching Blink.
    My daughter, now 11, has watched all of them from the beginning and has had no problems. I think my nearly 4yo has watched a couple of the sillier episodes with her daddy, and has been fine.

  9. Purrdence, Blink didn’t bother me at all, actually. I think I’m one of the few people in the world who wasn’t completely blown away by the ep (mind you, I still liked it– but I was much more enthusiastic about Human Nature/Family of Blood). However, I didn’t actually see Blink until I got it on DVD, as I was in Japan for a conference the week that it aired. By that time, although I hadn’t been spoiled exactly, I knew that it was supposed to be about scary weeping angels, and I’d also heard so much hype about how it was supposed to be “best episode evah!!!11!!!!1!!” that it was probably impossible for it to live up to expectations.
    I think I would have found Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead incredibly scary when I was a kid though– skeletons scared the hell out of me!

  10. Oh how much love I have for this thread! My son and I are HUGE “Doctor Who” fans, and have been since Season 1 of the new series. He was seven when we watched those for the first time, and didn’t have any fears about anything in that season. (So far, the only episode that scared him was “Blink,” which I thought was fantastic, but alas, now I don’t get to watch it anymore unless he’s not around. :D). He adores the Daleks, and we both adore the Ood. Really, we just adore all of it. 😀
    I did think that “The Empty Child” was creepy, but I tend to agree with the others who’ve commented about the happy resolution to those episodes. I’d say give it a try, and if he’s obviously bothered right from the start, you can always turn it off. But C wasn’t bothered by it when he first saw it – hopefully, your Lad won’t be, either.

  11. I was mainline-ing Who when I was FOUR. As long as your chap knows someone is there for comfort and questions afterwards and wants to watch them, why not? The only real trouble you’ll probably have is explaining why Captain Jack likes other boys…
    Deus Ex Macintosh’s last blog post..Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night…

  12. DEM: We’ve been watching Old Who for quite a while; the new Who is rather different. A bit of a thrill is fine, but weeks of nightmares aren’t. The hard part is predicting what will set him off.

    The only real trouble you’ll probably have is explaining why Captain Jack likes other boys…

    That’s the bit I think we’ll have no problem with at all.

  13. Fair enough. At that age I’d be most worried about everyone ‘running away from the strange kid who is contagious’ if he’s also the odd one out at school. But the fact it’s a period piece that ends happily should provide enough distance for emotional safety if you let him watch both at once as Beppie suggests.
    Deus Ex Macintosh’s last blog post..Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night…

  14. DEM, I don’t know about Lauredhel’s Lad’s school, but at my kids’ primary school there were quite a few kids with two mummies or two daddies or who had aunties or uncles who were in that family type. Such families weren’t odd at all.

  15. I’ve been watching series 3 and 4 on Iplayer recently, and I must admit I’ve found many of them terrifying or very sad or both.
    I think Silence of the Library/Forest of the Dead might be a particularly bad one for children – it’s centred around a dead (ish) child, and the bit with Donna’s disappearing unreal children was profoundly creepy. Although I think what might be the worst aspect is the realisation that while in Dr Who’s world death is sometimes cheated, that doesn’t happen in the real world.

  16. Obviously, I need to get out more…

  17. Mr Purrdence and I went as Weeping Angels to this year’s Swancon Science Fiction convention masquerade. We had a marverlous time scaring people.

  18. The End of the World was the first episode of Doctor Who I ever watched and it’s still my favourite. All the Moffat eps scare me, Forest of the Dead in particular! I’ve thought of a number of useless pieces of advice, so I won’t offer any.

  19. Quick, we need a spoiler thread for the Xmas Doctor Who episode…
    Deus Ex Macintosh’s last blog post..You’ve really not been paying attention, have you?

  20. I haven’t chased it up yet! If anyone has a Useful Link, please email.

  21. It’s up on iPlayer.
    Deus Ex Macintosh’s last blog post..You’ve really not been paying attention, have you?

  22. @ Deus Ex Macintosh:
    Only for you lucky ducks in the UK! Curse geo-locking, curse it.

  23. Damn! There IS a hack for it, I’m sure. Will have to wait until Skepticlawyer gets online later today to ask her to browse her dirty-tricks index.
    Deus Ex Macintosh’s last blog post..You’ve really not been paying attention, have you?

  24. Hotspot Shield should do it, if you can connect fast enough to stream.

  25. Thanks so much for all your thoughts on The Empty Child.

    I’ve thought of a number of useless pieces of advice, so I won’t offer any.

    And now I find myself wanting to know what they are!

  26. I thought of maybe testing him out on a few more episodes, but you’ve already done that. Or even watching the rest of the series and skipping those episodes for now, but that would really dampen the experience. Now I’m thinking you should have a go, based on what others have said: he has you two to comfort him, the period setting may well lodge it safely in the past for him and if you’re unaware of any triggers in there for him – and he seems okay with those other episodes you’ve shown him – then you could certainly give it a whirl. Perhaps you could have a bit of a break part of the way through the first ep and see how he’s going? I think maybe even something like Father’s Day could be a pretty upsetting thing for a small kid. Then again, you, naturally, know him better than I do.

  27. This conversation makes me want to have kids.


  1. Metaphysics, Parenting, and the Supernova. — Hoyden About Town
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