Do you guys remember those after school specials in the 80’s and 90’s? The ones where little Timmy goes from being a good kid to a juvenile delinquent after falling in with a bad crowd? And little Timmy’s parents are distraught, asking themselves, ‘Where did we go wrong??’.
Dad, no – those are the bad guys.
This is the exact same story, only instead of me asking where I went wrong with my child, I’m asking where I went wrong with my father. And instead of him falling in with a bad crowd, he chose to love the Daleks.
Allow me to set the scene.
I’ve been a nerd for as long as I can remember. Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, you name it, I loved them all. But I somehow missed out on Doctor Who while I was growing up. It got to the point that I actively avoided watching Doctor Who because I didn’t want to take the time to get into a show that had been going on for 50 years (lazy, I know). But I was in bed sick one day and had exhausted all of my go-to shows on Netflix and with some trepidation I began watching Doctor Who.
All it took was one episode, and I was hooked. I started with Christopher Eccleston, an actor I had long admired, and his 9th Doctor. I often compare being a new Doctor Who fan to being a born again Christian. I was very, very enthusiastic and pushing it onto everyone I knew. But instead of knocking on doors and asking people if they’d heard the word of our lord, I was asking, ‘Have you heard of the Time Lord?’. I suspect that people saw me coming and just pretended not to be home.
Naturally I called my dad to tell him all about Doctor Who. He’s been following me down the sci-fi rabbit hole for years. When I was a kid, he watched Star Trek with me. He even bought a Klingon/English dictonary so that he could insult me in Klingon. When I was a teenager, we watched every single episode of The X-Files together. Even when I was the teenager that knew it all and spent all day, every day fighting with my parents, arguments were suspended during The X-Files, so I was pretty confident that dad would like Doctor Who.
It all started innocently enough. Instead of watching episodes in order, Dad insisted on simply watching episodes with titles that he liked. He dodged a bullet when he told me early on that he wanted to watch the episode ‘Lets Kill Hitler’. My response was something like, ‘NOOOOOOO! Do NOT watch that episode until you’ve watched a LOT more. Trust me.’ He thanked me for that later because if you’re a Doctor Who newbie you’re going to spend that entire episode going, ‘Huh???’. Though it is, of course, awesome when Rory punches Hitler.
All seemed to be going well at first. Dad was enjoying watching several episodes a day and we called each other often, just to discuss plot points. Perhaps I should have suspected that something was off when he started mentioning how cool the Daleks were. But no, I never saw it coming. I just saw that my dad was as excited as I was about discovering Doctor Who.
Slowly, slowly, dad started to make little purchases. A Dalek figurine for his desk at work. A Dalek decal for his truck. Nothing major. But then he started looking for and watching all of the episodes with the Daleks. Even the classic episodes. I started to notice that our conversations were less about how cool the Doctor was and more about how awesome the Daleks were.
If I had lived closer to them, I might have been able to save my dad. But I was in Los Angeles and my parents were in North Carolina. I wasn’t there to see him slip into the dark side.
Soon, I learned, my dad had several Daleks on his desk at work (and on his desk at home). He put more Dalek decals on his truck, and when he ran out of space, he started putting them on my mothers jeep. I can clearly recall a conversation with mom in which she grumbled about being stopped at a light and another car pulling up next to her and saying how cool it was that she was a Whovian. Her response was to roll up her window and slink down in the seat until the light turned green (she never did understand our love of good sci-fi). My dad was even converting the innocent people of his church to the Daleks!
When my parents came to visit us in London last year, my mom was excited to see the sights. Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, all the usual UK tourist destinations. Dad, naturally, wanted to see Doctor Who related things (i.e. Daleks). Unfortunately there aren’t very many Doctor Who sites in London (until next year when the Doctor Who Experience comes to London, yay!), but we did take him to Forbidden Planet and he was able to buy a few Daleks and a giant, framed Dalek comic book cover (that he then had to pay extra to take home on the plane). He scared the poor sales girl by telling her that they needed more Daleks in the store (he’s well over six feet tall and can look intimidating).
Recently things have moved to the next level. Now, not only are there Dalek figurines, Dalek posters and art work, and Dalek stickers on cars, but there are Dalek Christmas stockings, Dalek ornaments on the Christmas tree and a foot tall Dalek alarm clock that wakes you up by screaming ‘EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!’. I was speaking to my parents via FaceTime the other day and dad was, of course, sporting a Dalek t-shirt. But the real shock was my mother, wearing (willingly!) a Dalek Christmas sweater. She even informed me that it had been her idea to buy the Dalek ornaments!
I suspect some form of Stockholm Syndrome.
As I closed my lap top after our call, I turned to my husband and uttered those imortal words:
“Where did I go wrong??”