One of my favorite marks of the Doctor’s character is the way they respond to meeting all manner of monsters. When I first began watching Doctor Who this was one of the earliest signs of how different a hero they were than I was used to. Time and again – no matter how scary or threatening or unapproachable whatever the Doctor finds in the universe may appear – their first reaction is never one of fear or judgment. They certainly never attack. Rather, they marvel at its beauty. They are overcome with joy and excitement at seeing something they’ve never seen before. And, if what they encounter appears frightened or injured, they are moved by compassion and offer help. In all this they are a beautifully important model for us, too. As Steven Moffatt, the Doctor Who showrunner for Series 5-10, rightly observed, “There will never come a time when we don’t need a hero like the Doctor.”
As soon as I saw Black Widow last summer I felt this thought wiggling around in my brain. Is it…? Could it be…? Is…is Black Widow now my favorite Marvel movie?! Because I’m me, I certainly couldn’t say definitively. First, I’m not the type of person who can throw a term like “favorite” around lightly. To say I like or love something is one thing. But to say it’s “my favorite” or “the best” or “the greatest” of all-time? That requires a lot of thoughtful discernment for me. Second, there’s this odd reaction/habit within our culture, especially within our fandom cultures, where whatever is newest is automatically the best. It’s new! It’s shiny! It’s the best ever!!! So, while that’s never been me, I wanted to be sure I wasn’t having that sort of reaction when I first saw Black Widow on July 8th. I said I loved it. I said it was easily one of the best films the MCU has to offer. And I said it may be my all-time favorite movie within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Still, I needed time before I could say that with any certainty. Now I know. Black Widow is the best Marvel movie of all-time! And here’s why…
A little over a year ago I wrote a piece reflecting on the seemingly unbearable struggles of pandemic teaching. At the time, I used Tony Stark’s journey through Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame as my frame to help me understand what I was going through and all I was feeling. Writing it was very personal and deeply cathartic. In the end, I survived last year! I didn’t quit! I even managed to find incredible beauty in all the struggle, too. Now I’m a month and a half into a new school year and, well, I thought it would be easier. Yet I find myself pulled down in this dispiriting emotional mire once more. This time Doctor Who offers a more apt lens to frame my experience. Given today is World Mental Health Day – and we’re all struggling in our own ways and we all deserve to be heard and validated in those struggles – sharing this seemed appropriate. When the school year returned, I needed the Doctor. I still do. I think we all do.
We love a good team-up, don’t we? The Avengers. Justice League. Even Godzilla vs. Kong. Part of me expects a movie where Annabelle, the Nun, and La Llorona team-up to haunt Ed and Lorraine Warren (which won’t happened as the Conjuring Universe has more narrative integrity than that and the stories are based on true events (or at least truth-adjacent)). Doctor Who has been doing the multi-Doctor team-up for decades in TV, novels, audio dramas, and comics. But there is a fascinating dimension to different Doctors teaming up that none of these other stories have. When the Doctor encounters other incarnations of the Doctor it’s not just a group of our favorite heroes coming together. Rather they are, in effect, meeting themself at different moments in their life! Can you imagine that?!!? I can’t stop imagining what it would be like if I found myself in the same situation! Can you imagine meeting yourself at different points in your life, some younger than you and some having seen things you’ve yet to see? The idea is captivating and this is exactly what happens whenever the Doctors team-up.
Jason Aaron’s time writing Thor – from Thor: God of Thunder to Thor to The Mighty Thor to Thor (again) to War of the Realms to King Thor – produced the defining version of the character. No one, at least in my humble opinion, has ever done more with Thor nor understood the character, their world, and its theological fertility more than Jason Aaron. Jane Foster lifting Mjölnir to become Thor herself was the heart of Aaron’s run. But for that to happen, Thor Odinson had to find himself unable to lift the hammer. This idea – the idea of Thor being unworthy – ties together much of what Aaron did. Its seeds were sown in his very first arc, as Thor faced the brutality of Gorr the God Butcher. Its actualization would lead to Jane lifting Mjölnir and becoming the mightiest Thor and the greatest of all the gods. Its effects would culminate in Thor Odinson’s climactic battle with Malekith the Accursed during the War of the Realms and it would shape the sort of king Thor would become.
One of many things I love about Doctor Who is how no genre is off limits. The horror genre being a favorite, they visit it’s themes, traits, and tropes often and with great effect. Of allllllllllllllllll the creepy, freaky, unnerving, and haunting scenes I’ve seen play out in Doctor Who – episodes watched or novels read – one scares me more than any other. One disturbs me to the very core of my being. As far as I’m concerned, NOTHING in the history of this show is ANYWHERE NEAR as scary as “Heaven Sent” (S9E11). Recently I read a post Gemma wrote over on Books Beach Bunny titled, “Blogging Confessions: Fear” and it reminded me I had an idea for a post about this episode over the summer…an idea I presume I promptly forgot because it would take me places I’d rather not visit. But, inspired by the courage of her confessional piece, I decided to tackle it. And hey, what’s October for if not scaaaaaaaary things, right?