Doctor Who and the Six Stages of Grief

You know you’re in trouble when they change the actor playing the Doctor and you are swept away on a stormy emotional sea for the next twelve months. That is what happened to me, though it took a very dull management workshop on change for me to realize it.

(You have to pity a team led by someone who relates all management advice to her Doctor Who experiences, but that’s another issue entirely.)

Remember back. Christmas 2009 and New Year 2010. To the excess of food, booze and pointless gifts, add a double episode. Not just any double episode. We know this is the end of the Tenth Doctor. We know ‘he’ will knock three times. We know the Time Lords are back.

I started 2010 quivering with anticipation. I was genuinely tense and almost physically shaking as ‘The End of Time’ part two began. I feel far less foolish about this than perhaps I should, since my better half goes through a similar experience every time Newcastle United play.

And then it happened, as I knew it would. An explosion of golden light, some painful facial contortions and the freshly hatched Eleventh Doctor appeared on our screens. He did a creditable job with very little dialogue to work with – just a catalogue of body parts (legs, arms, fingers, eyes, nose, chin), a moment to bemoan the lack of ginger hair and the sudden realization of imminent danger. Then the credits rolled and I was left…


I was ambushed by anxiety, fear, a moment of denial and then, yes, anger.

Let’s take a moment to consult Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s classic ‘change curve’. Originally conceived as a way to map the path through grief, it is now used to help managers understand how people deal with large-scale change.

Step one: Shock
Step Two: Denial
Step Three: Anger

Check. Check. Check. At this rate, I’ll be well on my to stability by about January 5th.

No such luck. I had three months to wait before I could spend any time with Eleven (Matt was just too informal, Smith had too many echoes of John Smith – both suggested acceptance that I just didn’t feel. Eleven he stayed for quite some time.)

I didn’t get on with series five. I loved elements of it. I was able to dissect episodes and offer critical analysis with the best of the Ming Mongs. But I couldn’t embrace the Doctor. I secretly loathed his funny, alienesque bone structure. I brooded resentfully on his elbow patches. I sorrowfully recalled the Tennant years. And I bloody hated bow ties.

Bastard. I was now deeply and fully immersed in Stage Four: Depression

In October 2010, I left the UK to spend six months in South East Asia. In January 2011, while in Vietnam, I was desperate enough buy series five on iTunes. It took seven hours to download each episode, but I was recovering from some spectacular food poisoning and I NEEDED SOME WHO!

So began my journey of recovery. Through Vietnam and into Cambodia, I re-watched and re-digested the beginning of the Smith years. After so many months in the wilderness, I re- discovered my funny, sad, angry and, yes, glorious Doctor. I was successfully coming through…

Stage Five: Acceptance

So where am I now? I can safely say I am in the final stage with a vengeance. Wobbly with excitement as ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ burst back into my living room; writing for fanzines; persuading my infinitely generous husband to come to Gallifrey 2012 with me. Yes, I am finally back on the road to normality with…

Stage Six: Reintegration

And I can finally say it. Matt Smith, you are one of the great Doctors. I bloody love you.

This article first appeared in Fishfingers and Custard Fanzine in November 2011