It was not something I ever expected to see on Marine Parade: the TARDIS, Doctor Who’s time traveling police box, blocking my view of Mauao.
The Doctor poked his head out the door and said, “Ah! The sunny Bay of Plenty!”
“You look older,” I said. “You used to look like Matt Smith, but now you look like a different actor, Peter Capaldi. This is really big news for Doctor Who fans.”
“Yes, galaxy rocking news, just announced this week, very exciting,” said the Doctor.
I said, “I’m looking forward to seeing what new direction your character will take. I’d love to write a column about it. But there are far more important things to think about. Things that actually matter.”
“What could possibly matter more than fantastical adventures in time and relative dimensions in space?” said the Doctor.
“Well, we’ve had some stuff go bung with milk powder which is putting our national image at risk. A new clinic has opened up that is forcing us to decide how we truly feel about abortion. And there’s a spying and privacy issue that’s bugging a lot of people.”
“Ooh, sounds very serious. No Dalek invasions though? I’m assuming even Bay of Plenty residents can recognise a Dalek when they see one? Robot creatures that trundle around on flat surfaces threatening people with toilet plungers.”
“Alien invasions never seem to make it as far as Tauranga,” I said.
“Pity,” said the Doctor. “New brains bring new ideas and new energy. Great minds thrive in cities that foster the arts. Always remember that if you’re looking for a good sort of invasion.”
We went across the road for coffee. He ordered a cup of tea and checked it over with his sonic screwdriver.
I said, “It’s hard to justify giving column space to a British time traveller that not everyone cares about. No offence.”
“I’m not British, I’m a Time Lord!” said the Doctor. “You should know that. You follow the show like a … what’s the word for it … a total nerd.”
I had to admit, I am quite capable of getting very nerdy over my favourite stories.
Everyone gets nerdy over their favourite stories, in their own way. We lose ourselves in books, politics, sports, movies, or whatever story happens to have our attention.
“Don’t underestimate the power of narrative,” said the Doctor. “The American poet, Muriel Rukeyser, said that the universe is made of stories, not atoms.
“It doesn’t matter whether the stories are dressed up in a spaceship or in the business pages or in a rant over a beer at the pub. Stories are what human beings use to make sense of life on this planet.”
He leaned forward, a gleam in his eye. “You humans especially like to create villains for your stories. Once upon a time there was a giant, evil corporation…”
I said, “We do tend to paint the opposition as cartoonish bad guys. Real life isn’t so straight forward though, is it?”
He tapped his spoon against his cup to make it ping. “Narrative!” he announced. “Artificial beginnings, middles and endings. Heroes and villains. There’s no plot to real life. Stories bring order to a messy world.”
We finished our drinks, then went outside to foil an imminent threat against the known universe.
“That was a pleasant diversion,” he said afterwards.
I shrugged. “It was all a bit rushed and muddled by the end. Kind of like the last series of Doctor Who.”
The Doctor winked. “All part of the fun. Never be ashamed to be a champion of stories. Stories are cool.”
He leapt inside his blue box. It groaned, disappeared, and everything went abruptly back to normal.
They say fiction is the lie that tells a truth. If only this had really happened. It would have made a great story.
First published in Bay of Plenty Times 9 August 2013. Reproduced with permission.